Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hump Day Headlines

The House passed the Senate's continuing resolution to fund the government through November 18 -- almost the same time as we'll be seeing the super-committee's proposals (if they can agree on anything). It's going to be an interesting Fall. The House GOP don't want an omnibus spending bill, but it looks like that's where the 2012 budget is headed. Leaders say they are making progress. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke tells Congress to stop the partisan fighting and get down to business on the deficit. But there are some in Congress who don't mind if government falls apart -- they vote no on every funding bill, no matter what. It's a bipartisan group, voting no for different reasons, but willing to let the bottom fall out to show what's wrong with the status quo. Part of me says this is irresponsible; part of me says it's brave. The supercommittee's options are less than inviting. Sen. Reid is considering a surtax on millionaires to fund the President's jobs program. And actually, people earning over $100,000 per year are in favor of raising taxes on the rich. Do members of Congress read the same newspapers I do? And here's a good one - the AMA wants the supercommittee to limit medical malpractice suits. As if that will really fix the deficit. Then there are the groups that want the supercommittee to scrap the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Council, which is supposed to help cut Medicare costs.

One of the most important pieces of health reform will be establishing the essential benefits package -- the benefits insurance has to cover as a floor, as basic coverage. The Institute of Medicine is taking a first crack at this -- and here's a forecast of where some experts think this is going.

Don Berwick, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is a brilliant innovator, stewarding many pilot programs that are helping to reduce medical errors and that we hope will help control cost. But Republicans refuse to confirm his nomination. He's currently serving under a recess appointment, but will have to leave at the end of the year. And there is nobody in the United States better suited to this challenge. Another example of politics run amok.

Will the Supreme Court consider the effect of its ruling on health reform on the reputation of the Court? Usually, they don't seem to care much -- there was Bush v. Gore, which stole the election from Al Gore; there was Citizen's United, which allowed corporations to make unlimited political donations. I think this is just conjecture. The Court is going to take the case.

Is the CLASS Act -- subsidized long-term care insurance -- dead? Too soon to tell.

Chris Christie is not running for President -- but he's disturbed by the pundits who questioned whether his weight is a sign of lack of discipline, and claims they are biased. I could have told you people would say things like that about his weight -- people have been saying those things about me my whole life. Is it fair?

Even the mildest stroke can cause disabilities.

Palliative care -- care to treat pain when the patient is terminal -- is growing, slowly.

And that's what I have for you this morning. Have a great day. Jennifer

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