Melissa Attias

Suspending Obamacare Taxes May Fuel More Calls for Change

President Barack Obama’s willingness to sign a year-end spending package that suspended more than $30 billion worth of taxes mandated by the 2010 health care law will energize opponents’ efforts to further alter his signature legislative achievement, though the most significant changes may have to wait until after the elections.

The omnibus funding and tax package made the biggest legislative revisions yet to the law by placing a two-year moratorium on the “Cadillac” tax on high-cost employer health plans and an excise tax on medical devices and suspending a levy on insurers for one year. The revenue-raisers helped cover the cost of the law’s insurance coverage expansion in the 2010 overhaul.

Suspending Obamacare Taxes May Fuel More Calls for Change

President Barack Obama’s willingness to sign a year-end spending package that suspended more than $30 billion worth of taxes mandated by the 2010 health care law will energize opponents’ efforts to further alter his signature legislative achievement, though the most significant changes may have to wait until after the elections.

Omnibus Bill Could Shape E-Cigarette Regulation

Electronic cigarette manufacturers are pushing hard for a policy rider in the year-end catchall spending bill that would shield them from a costly, time-consuming Food and Drug Administration approval process.

The FDA last year proposed the first-ever regulations for e-cigarettes, a growing market estimated by Wells Fargo Securities to be worth around $3.5 billion in 2015. Under the proposal, e-cigarettes that were on the market as of Feb. 15, 2007, are exempt or “grandfathered” from the agency’s review process. FDA officials stated they don’t have the authority to change that date, which was in the 2009 Tobacco Control Act.

Omnibus Bill Could Shape E-Cigarette Regulation

Electronic cigarette manufacturers are pushing hard for a policy rider in the year-end catchall spending bill that would shield them from a costly, time-consuming Food and Drug Administration approval process.

Component of Mental Health Bill Could Expand Medicaid Payments for Psychiatric Hospitals

Congress is weighing whether to allow psychiatric hospitals to bill Medicaid for up to 20 days of care each month for adult patients, signaling a potential shift in lawmakers’ views about institutionalizing people with serious mental illnesses.

The plan, outlined in a broad bill to overhaul the mental health system, would loosen restrictions that have prevented the federal-state health insurance program throughout its entire 50-year existence from paying such facilities for most services. Pitched as a way to address a shortage of beds to care for patients that might otherwise end up homeless or in prison, the proposal is reviving a long-running debate over whether treatment should be administered in the community or in institutions. It also reopens the question of whether states should be allowed to shift some of the financial cost of operating psychiatric hospitals to the federal government, as they can for other medical facilities.

Component of Mental Health Bill Could Expand Medicaid Payments for Psychiatric Hospitals

Congress is weighing whether to allow psychiatric hospitals to bill Medicaid for up to 20 days of care each month for adult patients, signaling a potential shift in lawmakers’ views about institutionalizing people with serious mental illnesses.

Upton Unsure of Reconciliation for Planned Parenthood Defunding

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton expressed uncertainty Thursday about whether budget reconciliation can be used to defund Planned Parenthood, one of the options that Republicans are considering to starve the family planning group of federal funds, appease unhappy conservatives and still avoid a government shutdown.

Patients' Rights Questions Hang Over Mental Health Debate

Congressional efforts to overhaul the mental health system have more momentum than at any time since the 2012 shooting at a Newtown, Conn., school by an unbalanced young man. But a push to tie millions of dollars in funding to states’ willingness to force some people with serious illnesses into outpatient treatment programs is complicating prospects for a consensus.

CMS Confirmation May Bring Back Health Care Fight

President Barack Obama’s nomination of Andy Slavitt to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — he’s acting administrator now — leaves Senate Republicans weighing how to orchestrate the confirmation process in their favor.

Repealing Health Law Under Dynamic Scoring Increases Deficit, CBO Says

The Congressional Budget Office estimated Friday that repealing the health care law would increase the federal deficit by $137 billion from fiscal 2016 to 2025 using a dynamic score, compared to $353 billion under traditional scoring practices.

Conservatives Push for Fully Paid 'Doc Fix' Deal

Momentum is building among conservative senators to scrap an exemption from budget laws in the House-passed "doc fix" deal, a move that would pressure Congress to offset $141 billion of the package's cost not currently paid for later this year, outside groups say.

GOP Planning 'Temporary Bridge' if SCOTUS Strikes Obamacare Subsidies

Ahead of Supreme Court oral arguments tomorrow in a case that could remove subsidies on federally-run state health care exchanges, Sen. John Barrasso outlined a plan Tuesday three Senate Republicans released Sunday to provide transitional relief to individuals while granting broader authority to states over health insurance markets.

Fears of Chaos Mount Over Obamacare Case

There’s no shortage of dire predictions about what would happen if the Supreme Court strikes down the system for awarding subsidies to people seeking insurance under the 2010 health care law.

Some E-Cigarette Makers Support a Ban

E-cigarette companies took a beating from Senate Democrats at a hearing last year focused on their marketing practices, but LOGIC Technology President Miguel Martin said some brands — such as his own — are taking steps to be responsible.

Democrats Renew Press for Curbs on E-Cigarettes

Democrats are renewing efforts to protect children from the potential harm of electronic cigarettes, but the main event will come on the regulatory front if the Food and Drug Administration meets expectations and releases a final rule this year.

Pharmacist-Congressman Looks to Fill Drug Stores' Wish List

Pharmacists have a new voice in Congress now that one of their own has been elected to the House, and he’s planning to be a “driving force” behind their top legislative priority, along with repeal of the health care law.

Murray Announces Intent to Take HELP

Patty Murray confirmed Friday that she plans to succeed Tom Harkin as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee next year, where she is expected to play a prominent role defending the health care law and trying to forge compromises on stalled education policy.

Texas Democrat Seeks Top House Health Committee Post

Texas Democrat Gene Green appears poised to take the top Democratic slot on the House Energy and Commerce panel that handles health legislation next year after current ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. takes the top Democrat spot on the full committee.

Clinton Library Papers Show Kagan Dropping an F-Bomb

Papers from the Clinton White House released Friday detail much of the behind-the-scenes legal work of the White House as President Bill Clinton dealt with multiple scandals and controversies in his second term.

CDC Chief Pledges to Improve Safety After Biohazard Lapses

A recent incident during which staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was potentially exposed to anthrax is part of a larger pattern of “an insufficient culture of safety,” Director Thomas R. Frieden told a panel of House lawmakers Wednesday.  

Frieden faced sharp questions from Republicans and Democrats about how the June incident and other episodes such as the shipment of influenza strains contaminated with a deadly flu virus to a Department of Agriculture laboratory were able to happen, as well as what steps are being taken to prevent future problems. Pennsylvania Republican Tim Murphy, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, called the lapses sloppy and inexcusable. And Diana DeGette of Colorado, the top Democrat on the panel, said it was “an alarming series of failures.”