Friday, June 24, 2011

Finally Friday (YAY) Edition

Wow -- what a week! I'm fried. But there's one more day, so here's the news:

Eric Cantor (GOP House Majority Leader) walked out of the debt reduction negotiations yesterday, saying the issue of taxes has to be resolved before he can have further discussions. He said the House does not support tax increases -- period -- and the Dems are insisting on a combination of spending cuts and revenue raisers. The GOP says it's time for President Obama to get involved. No doubt they want him on the record as supporting tax increases going into the next election. On the other hand, Ezra Klein thinks this is about GOP in-fighting as neither Cantor nor Speaker Boehner wanted their fingerprints on a deal that would raise taxes. That puts Boehner in the hot seat -- if he can cut a deal without tax hikes, he's the darling of conservatives; if not, he's going to be criticized loudly by the Tea Partiers. Either way, this is really bad leadership. Forgive me if I'm annoyed that, with our economy on the brink, it's still all about politics.

On the substance, HuffPo reports that Dems are considering offering cuts in payments to Medicare providers in exchange for tax increases. The idea is that it's better to cut payments to providers than to cut benefits. But if you cut payments to providers, fewer of them will participate in Medicare, making it harder for beneficiaries to find doctors. Here's an outline of what kinds of cuts can be made to Medicare without adversely affecting consumers.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of pharmaceutical companies in two cases. First, they said generic drug makers can't be sued for failing to warn consumers of the risk of their drug. Generics bear the same FDA label as the brand name and they can't change it, so, the Court said, the labeling can't be blamed on them. Second, they said that Vermont could not prohibit data mining -- taking pharmacy records and using them to figure out which drugs to market to which doctors. Pharmacies sell data showing what doctors prescribe. The info does not include patient identifying information, but it lets the drug companies know what to pitch to which doctors. The Justices said this is a free speech issue and, thus, Vermont could not curtail it.

The move to electronic medical records is slow, says Politico. This is a central initiative in the health reform law, but doctors and small hospitals are having more trouble getting up and running than anticipated.

And here's the administration's defense of the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is supposed to make recommendations to Congress, which would be binding unless Congress voted against them, on tweaks to Medicare that will save money. Kathleen Sebelius attempts to convince readers that this will not involve rationing, and of course, she's right. The IPAB's recommendations will only take effect if Medicare spending is out of control and Congress doesn't act.

And that's this morning's news. Have a GREAT Friday! Jennifer

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