KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

A Senate Panel Contemplates Innovations For The Health Care System

At a Wednesday hearing, members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee considered various strategies to make the health system more efficient.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Senate Panel Looks At Innovative Health Care Strategies
No matter how the Supreme Court rules next month on the challenges to the 2010 health care law, there will be a continued focus on making the health care system more efficient, and senators looked at some promising options Wednesday (Carey, 5/17).

CQ HealthBeat: Whitehouse Touts Rhode Island Group Practice As Model For Health Care Redesign
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has taken on the role in Congress of showcasing new forms of health care delivery that save money without undermining quality or access, and of touting the role the 2010 health care overhaul plays in incubating that innovation. But Republican statements at a hearing Wednesday by the challenged the notion that the government can play an effective role in fostering redesign of health care delivery (Reichard, 5/16).

Modern Healthcare: Lawmakers Target Geographic Payment Variations
Creating a new Medicare payment modifier that increases or decreases hospital reimbursements based on their quality and costs would help rein in geographic variations in the program, according to two Democratic senators. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said at a Wednesday hearing on improving healthcare quality and controlling costs by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that they support the creation of a hospital version of the new physician payment modifier included in the 2010 healthcare overhaul (Daly, 5/16).

In other Capitol Hill news, media outlets report on two ongoing investigations: a Senate inquiry into a dental management services company and a probe by House Republicans regarding drug industry support for the health law -

Bloomberg: Dental Abuse Seen Driven By Private Equity Investments
Isaac Gagnon stepped off the school bus sobbing last October and opened his mouth to show his mother where it hurt. ... Isaac’s case and others like it are under scrutiny by federal lawmakers and state regulators trying to determine whether a popular business model fueled by Wall Street money is soaking taxpayers and having a malign influence on dentistry (Freedberg, 5/17).

Bloomberg: Republicans Probe Drugmaker Political Support For Health Law
House Republicans are probing whether the White House and Democrats in Congress were promised political support from drugmakers in exchange for limiting what the industry would be asked to contribute under the 2010 health-care overhaul, according to a memo. Those involved in negotiating the law’s passage are being interviewed by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, people familiar with the investigations said this month. The probe, led by Republicans Michael Burgess of Texas and Cliff Stearns of Florida, has included companies such as Pfizer Inc. (PFE) and the Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group (Armstrong, 5/16).

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