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Beltway Buzz: Spring has Sprung in Washington

Beltway Buzz: Spring has Sprung in Washington

April 28, 2014 0 Comments

The Beltway Buzz is CCA-DC’s monthly recap of healthcare related happenings in the District.

  • Out with the Old, In with the New: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced she will resign her post, in a move that ends what The New York Times calls “a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act.” No word yet if she’s heading to Tahiti for R&R, but she sure earned a vacay. President Obama will nominate Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell as her replacement. A 48-year-old Harvard grad and Oxford-educated West Virginia native, the Administration hopes Burwell will bring “intense focus and management acumen to the department” as it continues to roll out the health care law. Forbes suggests Burwell’s confirmation hearing could be rocky. Wanna know why? Read more here.
  • Show Me the Money: Think your doctor is overpaid? The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released physician payment data on April 9 and it wasn’t pretty. The largest Medicare biller, Salomon Melgen, received nearly $21 million from Medicare in 2012. Or as Bloomberg points out, 64 times the average income for his field. Overall, it’s important to note that the data isn’t all suspicious. The report details how $77 billion in federal health care funding was spent in 2012. Many physicians may accept a large number of Medicare patients or specialize in costly procedures. Others may be choosing more expensive drugs over lower cost equivalents. Go ahead, take a look.
  • Makin’ Moves: America’s Health Insurance Plans’ staffer Robert Zirkelbach is movin’ on up! Starting May 5, Zirkelbach or “Z” as we prefer to call him for simplicity’s sake will serve as senior vice president of communications for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “Z” is highly regarded for working with the Obama administration to usher in the Affordable Care Act. Read more here.
  • So Many Hospitals, So Little Time: Overly curious about hospital mergers? Us too! Luckily, the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals have joined forces to deliver infographics, reports and other resources that showcase the impact hospital mergers are having on communities nationwide. Check it out here.
  • Behold the Power of a Tweet, Surgeon General Update: The nomination of young, yet controversial, Dr. Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General is on the backburner until after the November elections, following the Administration’s decision to back off in the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA is up in arms (pun intended) after Murthy described gun violence as a public health issue. One time. Via Twitter. In 2012. Don’t be surprised, folks. After all, it’s Washington.
  • Hallelujah, We’ve Got a Doc Fix!: Unrelated to CMS’ data release, U.S. physicians have been in a celebratory mood since President Obama signed a short-term “doc fix” bill that will stop scheduled payment cuts for physicians under Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). No, it’s not a hormone! SGR is the method used by CMS to control spending on physician services. The Washington Post points out that Congress has voted 17 times in the past 11 years to approve a doc fix. Without action, doctors who treat Medicare patients would see rising costs. Wanna learn more? WaPo tells you everything you need to know about the doc fix here.
  • Update on the ACA: The news keeps rolling in, so we’ll keep you up to speed. Here’s the latest of what’s happening:

  • POTUS’ Successful 11th Hour PR Push: Obama is trying to win PR Week’s next “Healthcare Campaign of the Year,” pulling out all the stops last month in an effort to encourage enrollment – and it worked with 7.1 million impressions…we mean, enrollees. In addition to a cameo on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and a 16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered bracket, there is an interview you shouldn’t miss: Between Two Ferns with actor Zach Galifianakis. Best Obama quote: “No, no, not invisible, invincible. Meaning that they don’t think they can get hurt.”
  • Final Enrollment Numbers…Wait, It’s Not Over Yet: As Super Seniors say, “Better Late Than Never!” The end of open enrollment (March 31) ushered in a “special enrollment” period for all the last minute shoppers who encountered technical obstacles in advance of the March deadline. April 15 is the official last day. As of April 10, KSebelius said 400,000 more people had signed up, putting the running total at 7.5 million enrollees. Stay tuned for the final numbers.
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