Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Update

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a/k/a the Super Committee has received over 175,000 suggestions from the public. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's majority and minority members separately and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's members jointly submitted their recommendations as well. The Senate Committee and the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee endorsed OPM's proposal to place FEHBP prescription drug benefit contracting under the agency's control. The Republicans on the House Oversight Committee were silent on the issue. The Washington Post observes that "It’s unclear how much the avalanche of advice will help the “'super committee.'” The Super Committee's deadline for making its deficit reduction recommendations is November 23. The current continuing resolution funding the federal government expires on November 18.

The AMA News reports on the medical profession's efforts to convince the Super Committee to repeal the sustainable rate of growth formula for setting Medicare Part B reimbursements to doctors and to enact medical liability reform. According to the AMA News, "Overhauling the SGR actually would raise spending projections and increase the amount of reductions the debt panel would need to find elsewhere. But failing to account for an SGR repeal only masks future deficit problems, the Obama administration and others have argued." Unless Congress acts to extend the current freeze or actually reforms the SGR by the end of this year, doctors will receive a 30% cut in pay from Medicare Part B. It will be interesting to see whether the Super Committee addresses this hot topic.

Last Thursday, NCQA issued its annual state of health care quality report. The findings included

  • PPO performance is catching up with HMO performance. For the first time in the 15-year history of this annual study, NCQA publicly compares HMOs with PPOs across all measures of care. HMOs were first to embrace quality improvement, but PPOs are gaining ground.  

  • Health plans’ performance has improved substantially over time.  Insurers’ commitment to measurement, transparency and accountability has made care better over long periods. 

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