House Passes Bill to Repeal Medical Device Tax

The House voted 270-146 to pass the PPACA-related omnibus bill H.R. 436, which would repeal the PPACA medical device tax, repeal the ban on the use of tax-free money in flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to purchase over-the-counter medicines without a prescription and allow up to $500 of unspent money in FSAs to be returned to account holders. The $37 billion cost of the bill is offset by requiring individuals to return to the Treasury any PPACA premium assistance tax credits which are made in error. Senate Republicans will attempt to overcome Democratic leadership opposition to take up the bill. The White House issued a veto threat on the bill, objecting mainly to the offset mechanism.

New CMS Data Office

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the creations of a new office, the Office of Information Products and Data Analysis (OIPDA), that is designed to modernize the use and dissemination of data and information as value based purchasing becomes more prevalent under Medicare and Medicaid in the post PPACA world. In another data move, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it asked for the Office of Management and Budget’s  (OMB) approval to collect more information on SCHIP programs in all states leading up to the implementation of the PPACA.

Physician Congressmen Seek to Reform SGR

Republican House Doctors Caucus members Tom Price, MD (R-GA) and Charles Boustany, Jr. MD (R-LA) have announced plans to introduce legislation which would provide for annual Medicare physician payment updates, based on a medical index, over five years during which a new payment system would be developed to replace the flawed current payment system.

CBO Publishes Health Expenditure Growth

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report, the 2012 Long-Term Budget Outlook, which includes estimates that federal health care program spending will increase from more than 5% of GDP today to almost 10% of GDP in 2037 with Medicare growth likely to outpace Medicaid’s. The report also said the high rates of growth cannot continue indefinitely or health care spending would eventually consume all of the United States’ economic output. The White House also issued a report on the President’s executive order mandating the review of regulations in an effort to reduce unnecessary burdens. It said HHS will soon propose new revisions which are estimated to save $4 billion over five years by reducing burdens on hospitals and other healthcare providers.