House W&Ms Committee Curtails PPACA Subsidies

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 23-12 to pass H.R. 2576, legislation amending the PPACA to count Social Security benefits as income for purposes of determining low-income person eligibility for Medicaid and health insurance exchange premium tax credit subsidies beginning in 2014.  Proponents argued that, unless the change was made, some early retirees receiving Social Security benefits could be made eligible for Medicaid.  Opponents said that about 500,000 people could lose their eligibility for the subsidies.

House Narrows PPACA Benefits

On a near party-line 251-172 vote, the House passed H.R. 358, legislation amending the PPACA to prevent coverage of abortion services under health insurance plans to be offered on state exchanges and that receive federal subsidies. It would also strengthen conscience protections for hospitals and medical providers.

PPACA Petition Filed with Supreme Court

Adding to the number of petitions to the Supreme Court to hear PPACA cases, last week Liberty University and two individuals filed a petition asking the court to review a decision by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate.  The lower court said the mandate’s financial penalties amount to a tax and that the court does not have jurisdiction to rule on whether the mandate is constitutional because the federal Anti-Injunction Act requires U.S. residents to wait to oppose a tax until after it is collected.

Senators Seek Goals of Public Health Fund

The PPACA Prevention and Public Health Fund took another hit at a Senate HELP Committee hearing during which Senators Pat Roberts and Sheldon Whitehouse asked the HHS Assistant Secretary for Health to explain what performance measures the agency used to determine the success of disease prevention strategies financed under the Fund.  The $15 billion Fund has been criticized as lacking specific goals and Senator Roberts suggested the Super Committee would likely ask for how the $1.25 billion already allocated has been used and for what specific purposes.

Joint CMS/FDA Review of Medical Devices

CMS and the FDA announced they have begun accepting submissions for a new voluntary pilot program for a parallel review of medical devices for Medicare coverage.  They also issued procedures for participation and guiding principles they will follow during product review.  The agencies said the intent of a parallel review is to reduce the time between FDA market approval and CMS national coverage determinations for medical products.  In related news, eight Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced a series of ten legislative proposals entitled “Saving American Jobs and Saving American Patients” which are intended to reform the FDA medical device review process in order to protect innovation.

Risk Adjustment Database Opposed

Several House Republicans, led by Rep. Tim Huelskamp, wrote Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers suggesting that his committee withhold funding for the claims database under the HHS rule “Standards Related to Reinsurance, Risk Corridors and Risk Adjustment” issued pursuant to the PPACA directive.  They said the rule would require the use of raw claims data which could include extremely sensitive private health care information, such as they type of care received, the amount paid for services, demographics, etc.

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