House Passes Health Legislation

Last week the House passed the following bills: H.R. 1509, the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2011, which would require HHS to establish “cost-effective procedures” to ensure that Social Security numbers are not displayed on Medicare identification cards (GAO is also directed to study whether smart card technology can be used for such ID cards); H.R. 6672, legislation to reauthorize certain programs under the Public Health Service Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to public health security and all-hazards preparedness and response;  and S. 1440, the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, which is designed to reduce preterm labor and delivery and the risk of pregnancy-related deaths and complications due to pregnancy, to reduce infant mortality caused by prematurity, to provide for a National Pediatric Research Network, including with respect to pediatric rare diseases or conditions and to reauthorize support for graduate medical education programs in children’s hospitals.  

IVIG and NDAA headed to the White House

H.R. 1845, the Medicare IVIG Access Act passed the House on Wednesday, December 19th under suspension of the rules by a vote of 401-3.  The bill establishes a 3-year demonstration project providing Medicare coverage for items and services related to in-home administration of intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) for beneficiaries with primary immunodeficiency diseases (PIDD).   The bill was amended to include provisions from the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers (SMART) Act which empowers Medicare to provide settling parties with the amount of their Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) repayment obligation during the settlement process.  The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent on Friday, December 21st. The House and Senate also passed the conference report on H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which extends funding for DOD health programs.  Both bills now go to the President for his signature into law.  

HHS Okays More State-Based Health Insurance Exchanges

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it has given conditional approval to plans for state-based health insurance exchanges submitted by Minnesota, Rhode Island and Delaware (a so-called partnership exchange to be operated jointly by the state and federal government). After Friday’s deadline for states to declare their intentions regarding whether they will establish health insurance exchanges, HHS said that 18 states and the District of Columbia will establish their own exchanges, 7 states will help run partnership exchanges and 25 states will allow the federal government to operate a federal default exchange in their states.

PCORI Approves CER Awards

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) announced that 25 entities will receive a total of $40.7 million over three years as part of first cycle of primary research funding.  The awards relate to: improving health care systems; communicating and disseminating research; addressing disparities; and assessing prevention, diagnosis and treatment options.

HHS Approves School-Based Health Center Awards

HHS announced that 197 school-based health centers have been awarded more than $80 million in funding to improve access to health care for school-age children.

HHS Asks Courts to Hold Off on PPACA Contraceptive Coverage Rulings

HHS announced that the agency will issue new regulations in January-March next year with respect to the PPACA requirement that plans include certain contraceptive coverage.  HHS said that the new rules will give further accommodation to employers having a religious affiliation or viewpoint.  As a result the DOJ has asked that the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismiss cases brought by Wheaton College in Illinois and Belmont Abbey in North Carolina which maintain that the requirement is unconstitutional.

CMS Provides SCHIP Bonuses

CMS announced that 23 states have been awarded a total of $306 million in FY 2012 Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) performance bonus awards for improving children’s access to health coverage.

NIH Revises Grant Application Process

In an effort to balance the grant review process and encourage diversity in the biomedical research field, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it will: launch a pilot program that removes all identifying information from grant applications; provide research opportunities for minority undergraduate students; provide $50 million annually for minority undergraduate and graduate students in the field; and establish a mentoring program to help minority students and researchers beginning their careers.

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