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.

Bipartisan Bill Aims to Allow States to Test Different Health Coverage Plans

Georgia Republican Tom Price and Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin implored staffers from both sides of the aisle to back a House bill to allow states to act as laboratories where lawmakers could test methods to reduce the number of uninsured Americans. The bill, introduced by Price and Baldwin in July, would allow states to propose health care coverage plans to a newly created commission, which would in turn compile a slate of proposals and submit them to Congress for expedited consideration.

HSAs Attract Wealthier Americans, GAO Says

A report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that while health plans associated with health savings accounts (HSAs) attracted enrollees with generally higher incomes—a common complaint about the plans—the data it examined on age differences were "inconclusive." GAO also said the data on which the study was based were too limited to allow conclusions about HSAs generally.

McClellan Announces He'll Leave Top CMS Post by Early October

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Mark B. McClellan notified agency employees by e-mail that he plans to step down from his post by early October, saying he wants to spend more time with his wife and children. McClellan said he's thinking about affiliating at least temporarily with a Washington, D.C. –area think tank, but wouldn't confirm a published report that he'll take a position with the American Enterprise Institute.

MedPAC Members Going 'Crazy' Mulling New Ways to Control Doctor Spending

With Medicare physician spending rising fast while doctors face years of sharp payment cuts, Congress is vexed about how to pay doctors in the program. Lawmakers are worried that spending growth is unsustainable, but are concerned that without lots of new spending to erase payment cuts, doctors could bail out of the program.

Pay-for-Performance Measures Could Reduce Cost and Improve Quality of Care, Analysis Says

Costs, complications, and deaths associated with hospital stays could be reduced if hospitals followed certain steps to ensure patients received high-quality care, according to an analysis conducted by an alliance of not-for-profit hospitals, known as Premier Inc., with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

'Plenty of Time' to Pass IT Bill Before Break, Deal Says

House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Nathan Deal, R-Ga., said that there is "plenty of time" before a break for midterm elections for Congress to pass legislation fostering the adoption of health information technology. One sticking point is whether to preserve House language that would exempt hospital donations of information technology to physician practices from prosecution under federal anti-kickback laws.

Senate Panel Examines Competition's Role in Health Care Costs

Market consolidation among health care insurers is boosting insurers' profits while driving up costs and hurting the quality of patient care, physicians told the Senate Judiciary Committee. But a witness for the insurance industry said that "vigorous competition" exists among health care insurers and that health plans are working to promote more transparency in terms of quality and cost—efforts that will benefit both providers and consumers.