Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weekend update / Miscellany

The AP reports that this afternoon that "President Barack Obama's overhaul of the nation's health systems is unlikely to be completed by the White House's August deadline, lawmakers said Sunday as Congress turns its attention to other priorities." such as Senate consideration of Judge Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile Modern Healthcare reports that
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said that lawmakers would use a tax on the wealthiest Americans to help pay for a $1 trillion overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.

“We have decided that instead of putting pieces of different revenue-raisers together, that the best that we can move is” a graduated surtax, starting with households that make $350,000, $500,000 and $1 million, Rangel told reporters on Friday.

Each income group would be taxed between 1% to 3%, though details remain unclear.

The tax plan would yield about $540 billion over the next decade in new revenue, he said. Those dollars would be coupled with predicted savings in the Medicare and Medicaid program to pay for most of the comprehensive bill, which is expected to be released on Monday.
Also last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services unveiled the latest version of the useful Hospital Compare website. According to the CMS press release,
Hospital Compare will provide better data on the previously posted mortality rates for individual hospitals, as well as the new data on 30-day readmissions for heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia. Previously, Hospital Compare had provided only mortality rates for these three conditions.

Research has shown that hospital readmissions are reducing the quality of health care while increasing hospital costs. Hospital Compare data show that for patients admitted to a hospital for heart attack treatment, 19.9 percent of them will return to the hospital within 30 days, 24.5 percent of patients admitted for heart failure will return to the hospital within 30 days, and 18.2 percent of patients admitted for pneumonia will return to the hospital within 30 days.

"Providing readmission rates by hospital will give consumers even better information with which to compare local providers," said Charlene Frizzera, CMS Acting Administrator. "Readmission rates will help consumers identify those providers in the community who are furnishing high-value healthcare with the best results."
The Federal Times reports that on Friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee cleared for floor consideration H.R. 22 "which would save the U.S. Postal Service $2.3 billion this year in health care costs. The bill allows the Postal Service to pay health care premiums for its current retirees using a trust fund designated for future retirees."

According to the AP, the Senate, by a 55-36 vote, included in its FY 2010 homeland security appropriations bill (S. 1298) a proposal offered by Sen. David Vitter (R La.) to permit prescription drug imports from Canada. The proposal will be considered by the House-Senate conference committee. I don't think that this is a good idea because our Nation's safe prescription drug supply depends on a closed supply chain and Canada is too small a country to supply the U.S. with prescription drugs.

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