Washington Health Policy Week in Review

Washington Health Policy Week in Review is a weekly newsletter that offers selected stories from the daily newsletter CQ HealthBeat.

Democrats Just Say No to Medicaid Commission

House and Senate Democrats said they would not appoint members of their party to a commission charged with finding $10 billion in cuts to Medicaid, the federal–state health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt will appoint up to 15 voting and 15 non-voting members to the commission, while lawmakers of both parties were asked to appoint eight members to serve in non-voting positions.

Experts Predict Gainsharing Legislation Could Move by Summer

Experts were split on the outcome of allowing doctors and hospitals to share the savings from treating patients more efficiently, a concept known as "gainsharing," which the experts said would either revolutionize the health care industry or undermine patient care. The concept is gaining attention on Capitol Hill, with the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Finance Committee sponsoring legislation (S 1002) that would have the secretary of Health and Human Services establish criteria for when hospitals and physicians could engage in such arrangements.

'Integrated, Incremental' Strategy Needed to Advance Health IT, Group Says

Interest in improving the quality and safety of health care and moving forward with health information technology are at "an all-time high" but a well-integrated approach is needed to keep the momentum going, according to a new report from the eHealth Initiative. The report, titled "Parallel Pathways for Quality Healthcare," outlines what the group describes as an "integrated, incremental" strategy to help create a safer and more efficient health care system. Any incentive program focused on quality should also include some level of incentive to improve the quality of health information technology, the report notes.

Report: Change the System to Cover Millions, Save Billions

A series of changes to the nation's health care system could provide health care coverage to the 45 million Americans who do not now have it while trimming billions off the nation's health care bill, according to a report released by the National Coalition on Health Care. The group, a non-partisan alliance of more than 90 organizations, found that system-wide savings would begin soon after the changes were phased in and by the tenth year would save $125 billion annually.

Ways and Means Questions Nonprofit Hospitals' Tax Status

Invoking the infamous bank robber Willy Sutton, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., led his panel through an examination of the nonprofit hospital sector. "I think it's obvious if we begin an examination in this area—the old Willy Sutton motto of 'Why do you rob banks? He said 'That's where the money is,'" Thomas said in his opening remarks. The session was part of the panel's ongoing series of hearings on charities and the breaks they receive under the tax code.