Monday, July 13, 2009

Big Day Expected Tomorrow

Modern Healthcare reports that the House healthcare reform bill will be introduced tomorrow. “It is our plan to introduce legislation tomorrow,” [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi said, adding that it won’t be the final product, but rather a version that could still be shaped as it goes through the committee process. “It’s just the beginning.” The Wall Street Journal notes that "With few Republicans, if any, expected to support the legislation, Democrats, who control the chamber with a 255-178 majority, can't afford major defections in their ranks [such as the Blue Dogs]. They need 218 votes to ensure passage."

Meanwhile Reuters reports that "U.S. health insurers are in talks with the Senate Finance Committee to reach savings in the the federal Medicare program of $100 billion over a decade, a source familiar with the talks said on Monday." Unquestionably, Medicare costs need to be reduced, but I don't understand how Medicare savings translate into the enormous funding necessary to cover the uninsured. Reuters also reports this evening that "Through the first nine months of fiscal 2009, the [federal] government has racked up a $1.086 trillion deficit. That compares with a shortfall of only $285.85 billion in the comparable year-ago period, underscoring the sharp deterioration in the U.S. fiscal picture."

While waiting for a doctor's visit this afternoon, I was watching a Senator on C-SPAN argue for the creation of a pathway for bio-generic drugs. The Wall Street Journal reports this afternoon that "blood is boiling" on Capitol Hill over the issue of the appropriate exclusive rights period for the brand name manufacturer of the biologic drug. The industry wants 12 to 14 years. Rep. Waxman advocates five years, and the White House proposed seven years. The Wall Street Journal points out that Sen. Ted Kennedy (D Mass), Sen. Patty Murphy (D Wash), and my own Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D Md) are siding with the biotech industry. The Wall Street Journal reports that "Leaders of the Health [Education and Labor] Committee [which Sen. Kennedy chairs] are trying to avoid a public showdown over the issue and may not produce a formal proposal until there is more unanimity on their panel, industry representatives and Senate staffers said." That's unfortunate as there are real savings to be had in biogenerics.

OPM posted federal worksite wellness resources on its website today. I did not realize until today that every federal agency has an employee assistance program. "Basic EAP services include free, voluntary, short-term counseling and referral for various issues affecting employee mental and emotional well-being, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems, and psychological disorders."

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