Scrutiny of the Veterans’ Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics continues this week. Last week, the Senate voted to approve H.R. 3230, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014, a bill that was negotiated by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and John McCain (R-AZ). This week, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on motions to go to conference and instruct conferees on the Senate amendments to the legislation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also opened a criminal investigation into the accusations that officials at the VA manipulated waiting lists for care.
It remains unlikely that the Senate Committee on Appropriations will consider the FY 2015 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education spending bill, as members are reluctant to take votes on politically volatile amendments during an election year. Last Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, approved the $156.8 billion spending bill for FY 2015 by voice vote.
Sworn in last week, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell is already receiving pushback on implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on the Budget, and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, wrote a letter to Secretary Burwell cautioning her that enforcing the risk corridor provision in the health reform bill would lead to an unlawful transfer of taxpayer dollars to insurers.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, June 17: The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance will hold a hearing titled “Protecting Consumers from False and Deceptive Advertising of Weight-Loss Products.”
- Wednesday, June 18: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Non-VA Care: An Integrated Solution for Veteran Access.” The House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s (MedPAC) June Report to Congress.” The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing titled “Aggressive E-Cigarette Marketing and Potential Consequences for Youth.”
- Friday, June 20: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Review of Awarding Bonuses to Senior Executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
MDH and Low-Volume Hospital Payment Adjustment
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced changes to the payment adjustment for low-volume hospitals and to the Medicare-dependent hospital program under the hospital inpatient prospective payment systems. The Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, enacted on April 1, 2014, extends changes to the payment adjustment for low-volume hospitals and the Medicare-dependent, small rural hospital program through March 31, 2015. The changes announced address only the second half of fiscal 2014, through September 30, 2014.
Joy Pritts, the chief privacy officer of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), will step down on July 12. Pritts, a former Georgetown University law professor, has held the position providing advice to the Secretary and National Coordinator on HITECH privacy and security programs since February 2010. The ONC has not yet named a replacement.
MACPAC June 2014 Report to Congress Released
The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) released its June report to Congress. The report focuses on four specific issues facing Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): the future of CHIP, the role of Medicaid in providing assistance to long-term services and supports, efforts utilized to promote population health, and administrative capacity in meeting growing responsibilities. The report also includes a statistical supplement.
MedPAC June 2014 Report to Congress Released
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) released its June report to Congress. The report focuses on how Medicare’s differing policies across fee-for-service, Medicare Advantage, and accountable care organizations might develop and affect beneficiaries, providers, and taxpayers. In addition, the report addresses financial assistance for low-income beneficiaries and the impact on medication adherence on health spending.