KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Shutdown Concerns Loom As Lawmakers Spar Over Spending

The House Energy and Commerce Commitee, as well as other House panels, worked yesterday on various spending cuts and policy items with an eye on budget reconciliation. The GOP-led effort, which has very little chance of being taken up by the Senate, could lead to "a long summer of political skirmishing." 

Politico: Government Shutdown On The Horizon?
Plunging ahead along party lines, the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a set of Republican-backed spending targets that break with the August debt accords by demanding more than $27 billion in additional savings from non-defense programs. The 28-21 vote sets up a long summer of political skirmishing, all leading to what could be another government shutdown fight Oct. 1 when a new fiscal year begins and the GOP must come to terms with the White House and Democratic Senate (Rogers, 4/25).

Politico Pro: E&C OKs Cuts To Health Reform, Medicaid
The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a package of nearly $115 billion in projected health care savings Wednesday night, voting to send the measures to the House Budget Committee to meet the panel's deficit reduction targets. Even though the committee's package has no chance of being taken up by the Senate, the approval by voice vote ensures a protracted fight among provider groups, Medicaid advocates and champions of the Affordable Care Act who aligned against the cuts (DoBias, 4/25).

The Hill: Democrats Push Women's Health Amendment In Fight Over Spending Cuts
House Democrats sought Wednesday to force a committee vote on women's healthcare, an issue they hope will mobilize women voters this fall. The maneuver came during a sprawling markup in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is debating a slew of spending cuts that could be included in next year's budget. Committee Republicans want to repeal a fund, established in President Obama's healthcare law, that covers preventive services. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) offered an amendment that would have repealed most of the fund while leaving intact funding for women’s healthcare services (Baker, 4/25).

CQ HealthBeat: Panel Backs Reconciliation Bill That Would Target Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
A House panel on Wednesday approved a budget reconciliation measure that would cap certain damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, limit attorneys’ fees and establish a statute of limitations for filing health care cases. The Judiciary Committee approved 16-14 the draft bill, which would cut federal spending by $39.7 billion over 10 years. Ted Poe of Texas was the only Republican to vote against the measure (Holden, 4/25).

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Competing Prescriptions For Medicare's Financial Health
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey and Marilyn Werber Serafini join Jackie Judd to preview this week's House hearings on Medicare and to dig into the details of the Medicare trustees' report (4/25). Watch the video or read the transcript.

CQ HealthBeat: GOP Pushing To Allow Health Savings Accounts To Be Used To Pay For OTC Medications
House GOP lawmakers and stakeholder groups on Wednesday pushed for the repeal of a provision in the health care overhaul that places restrictions on using tax-preferred accounts to pay for over-the-counter drugs, despite concerns from a Democrat that they lack a proposal to pay for the costs. The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight held a hearing on Wednesday afternoon on the impact of the provision, which prevents people from using money from their health savings accounts (HSA) or flexible spending arrangements (FSA) to buy over-the-counter drugs without a prescription. The limitation took effect Jan. 1, 2011, and excludes the purchase of insulin (Attias, 4/25).

Meanwhile, on the Senate side -

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Franken's Push To Allow Canadian Drugs Falls Short 
An attempt by Sens. John McCain and Al Franken to let Americans buy cheap Canadian drugs failed to make it out of committee Wednesday on a close vote. The push reprised fruitless tries by some members of Congress to give people in the United States more affordable alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Critics have raised questions about counterfeit or unsafe drugs. The debate, which dates back at least a decade, drew strong talk from McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Franken, a Minnesota Democrat (Spencer, 4/25).

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