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House Energy and Commerce Committee Health System Reform Mark Up Completed Before Recess

by Joan Trombetti, Writer | August 02, 2009
* Medicare benefits: Rep. Gene Greene (D-Tex.) offered a block of amendments, all of which were adopted, addressing certain Medicare benefits. One amendment addressed payment for post-mastectomy external breast prosthesis garments. A second amendment adds "presence of impairments" to the assessments for patient-centered and population-based quality measures. The Greene amendments also require the HHS Secretary to report to Congress on Medicare barriers to abdominal aortic aneurysm screening and other preventive services approved by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. In addition, the Secretary would be required to make the education of physicians and patients about the risk factors for abdominal aortic aneurysm a priority.
* Medicare payments: An amendment by Rep. Ed Whitfield (Ky.) was adopted to place a moratorium on Medicare payment reductions for several interventional pain management procedures covered under the ambulatory surgery center fee schedule.
* Pharmaceuticals: An amendment by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) was adopted that would prohibit current settlement agreements between brand-name and generic pharmaceutical companies, where brand companies pay a significant sum to the first generic company that files to challenge the brand company's patent. The Federal Trade Commission would be conferred with enforcement authority to regulate such agreements. Another amendment, offered by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), was adopted that would confer the FDA with authority to establish an abbreviated pathway to approve biosimilars for market.
* Affordability and cost containment: Amendments offered by Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) were adopted to require savings generated through various provisions in the bill to be used to make premiums more affordable for lower income people in the exchange. The amendment offered by Rep. Baldwin would also require the Secretary of HHS to adopt operating rules for specified electronic transactions and to establish a unique health plan identifier system, and would mandate the use of electronic funds transfers under Medicare by 2015. An amendment by Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R-Ga.) that was rejected would have required the Secretary to develop a methodology that ensures that any savings to Medicare resulting from the Medicaid and Medicare Improvements included in the bill and amendments shall be used solely for the purpose of improving the affordability of health care for Medicare beneficiaries.