March 18, 2010

March 18: Health Care Reform News


Top stories


Democrats Inch Toward Securing Votes for Health Bill

The New York Times

March 18, 2010


House Democrats are inching toward the majority they need to pass health care legislation, giving them added confidence as they work out the last details of the bill and gird for a showdown as soon as this weekend.


Congressional Budget Office Releases Health Bill Estimates


March 18, 2010

The Democratic health care bill would cost $940 billion over 10 years and cut the federal deficit over the next two decades – figures that should help ease the worries of fiscal hawks who have been reluctant about supporting the sweeping measure.

House Dems on Track for Vote on $940B Health Bill

AP/The Washington Post

March 18, 2010


House Democrats are on track for a Sunday vote on sweeping health care legislation that will expand coverage to millions of uninsured while also reducing the federal deficit, leaders said Thursday.


GOP Lawmakers, Candidates Pledge to Repeal Health-Care Legislation

The Washington Post

March 18, 2010


Dozens of Republican lawmakers and candidates have signed a pledge to back an effort to repeal the pending healthcare reform measure should the GOP take control of either chamber of Congress after this fall's elections.


Republicans Plot Ways to Block Health Reform in Senate

March 18, 2010


Democrats might like to think that health care reform is all but a done deal if it clears the House, but the Senate is where Republicans have been plotting for months to sentence it to a painful procedural death.


Health-Care Maneuver Would Spur Challenges (subscription required; full text below)

The Wall Street Journal
March 18, 2010


Democrats point to extensive precedent for the "deeming" maneuver they might use to pass a healthcare overhaul, but Republicans and some legal scholars say the tactic has never been employed for such a major piece of legislation and may be unconstitutional.




The High Cost of Growing Older

U.S. News and World Report

March 8, 2010


No doubt, healthcare is one of the biggest expenses in retirement. Qualifying for Medicare coverage at age 65 quells some cost and coverage worries. But although Medicare is far more affordable than private health insurance coverage for seniors, the government health insurance program still leaves retirees with significant out-of-pocket costs.




Ranking Doctors by Cost-Profile May Not Help Save Money

HealthDay/US News and World Report

March 17, 2010


Less expensive physicians may not help reduce U.S. health-care costs, a new study suggests.


V.A. Is Fined Over Errors in Radiation at Hospital

The New York Times

March 18, 2010


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Wednesday announced its second-largest fine ever against a medical institution — $227,500 — after finding that the veterans hospital in Philadelphia had caused an “unprecedented number” of radiation errors in treating prostate cancer patients.

Federal investigators said the hospital made significant errors, misplacing radioactive seeds, in 97 of 116 procedures involving patients with prostate cancer from 2002 to 2008.

State news


Va. Set to Challenge Federal Health-Care Reform Legislation

The Washington Post

March 18, 2010


Virginia will file a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Democratic healthcare reform bill if Congress approves the measure, a spokesman for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II announced.


Idaho: State Lawsuits Likely Over Health Care Bill


March 18, 2010


If and when President Obama signs legislation revamping the nation’s health care system, several Republican-led states appear likely to fight a key provision of the new law in court.


Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on Wednesday became the first governor to sign a bill setting up a possible court showdown, The Idaho Statesman reported. The new law directs the state attorney general to file suit if a mandate to buy health insurance is part of any federal law that emerges from Congress.


GA: Senate Dems Block Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Opt Out of Federal Health Care

The Atlanta Journal Constitution

March 18, 2010


Democrats in the Georgia Senate sent the GOP a message by rejecting a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed Georgians to opt out of federally mandated health care.


FL: Jackson Health System Stays Afloat by Delaying Bills

The Miami Herald

March 18, 2010


Jackson owes vendors more than $17 million in bills, a situation that could trigger a new governing board.


Report Says State Fails to Monitor Hospitals
San Francisco Chronicle
March 18, 2010

The California Department of Public Health has consistently failed to enforce new laws designed to reduce medical errors and infections at California hospitals, according to a Consumer Union report.


Reform efforts


Twisting Path to 216 for Pelosi

March 18, 2010


Every tough vote has its arithmetic, and health reform is no different.


Health Care Abroad and Reform at Home—Controlling Health Care Costs

The Commonwealth Fund

March 18, 2010


This podcast from The Commonwealth Fund looks at the costs of providing medical services in other parts of the world and considers how health care reform might change the bottom line in this country. The wide-ranging discussion features Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund; Gerard Anderson, professor of health policy and management and professor of international health at Johns Hopkins University; Julian Le Grand, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics; and Jane Hill, professor of health economics at the University of Technology, Sydney.




Putting a Dollar Figure on a Doctor’s Worth to a Hospital

The Wall Street Journal

March 18, 2010


A survey by physician recruiters Merritt Hawkins answers the questions: What’s a doctor worth to a hospital in terms of annual revenue? And what specialties average the most and the least in hospital revenue generation?




Health-Care Maneuver Would Spur Challenges

The Wall Street Journal
March 18, 2010

Democrats can point to extensive precedent for the "deeming" maneuver they might use to pass their health-care overhaul, but Republicans—and some legal scholars—say the tactic has never been employed for such a major piece of legislation, and may be unconstitutional to boot.

"Deeming" means lawmakers' passage of one bill implies their passage of another; in this case, House members are weighing the health-care overhaul passed by the Senate on Dec. 24 along with a package of changes to that bill. The latter includes adjustments such as reducing the tax that would be levied on high-value health-insurance plans.

The House Rules Committee, which has broad authority over how the chamber handles bills, could create a rule that once the House approves the package of changes, the chamber would be "deemed" to have approved the main Senate bill as well. That could allow House Democrats to claim, with technical accuracy, that they never voted for the Senate bill and to avoid association with its unpopular provisions.

Republicans denounced the idea as a sleight-of-hand, with Ohio Rep. John Boehner, the House minority leader, calling it an "outrageous abuse of power."

Democrats said they have no intention of disguising lawmakers' votes on the health bill.

President Barack Obama, in an interview Wednesday with Fox News Channel, said, "I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or Senate. If people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health-care reform."

Both parties have used deeming many times dating back to at least 1933. Under Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich, the House used it to pass a bill in 1996 that gave the president line-item veto power over the federal budget. (The law was invalidated for unrelated reasons by the Supreme Court in 1998.)

However, Republicans contend that it would be unusual to use the maneuver for the health-care bill because of its significance. Some scholars also say it may be unconstitutional, and conservative groups say they are preparing legal challenges should the measure become law.

Michael McConnell , a professor at Stanford Law School, points to a line in the Constitution's Article I saying "Every Bill shall have passed" both houses of Congress to become law. If the House passes the Senate bill and the package of changes in one set, while the Senate adopts each separately, then the two chambers can't be said to have passed the same law, he said.

Other scholars note that the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings over two centuries give Congress broad leeway to determine how it does business and limit second-guessing by courts.

Prof. Michael Dorf of Cornell Law School said he didn't expect deeming to be a problem. "It still will be the case that the legislation had majority support in both houses and signature by the president," he said.

Under the "political question" doctrine suggested by Chief Justice John Marshall in 1803, courts avoid issues that by their nature belong to other arms of government. Another doctrine says that once legislation is authenticated by the presiding officers of each chamber, courts won't review its validity.

Still, courts haven't confronted the deeming rule, said Ronald Rotunda, a law professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. The claim that it is unconstitutional "is a reasonable one, and I wouldn't be surprised if the court bought it," he said.

Tags: health care reform, Health Policy, Health Policy

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