After a fairly quiet Congressional recess, the Senate is expected to address pending cuts to physicians that treat Medicare patients when they return this week. Before Congress left town, the House voted to postpone the 21 percent payment cut for 19 months. However, other health care benefits, such as an extension of COBRA, which helps unemployed individuals retain their former employer’s health insurance, and enhanced federal payments to states for Medicaid were removed from the bill prior to House passage. Conservative Democrats voiced concern over the provisions because they added billions of dollars to the deficit.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the availability of $60 million in Affordable Care Act grants to states and communities to help individuals and their caregivers better understand and navigate their health and long-term care options. The Administration on Aging and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will work collaboratively towards an integrated approach that focuses on the unique needs of seniors, disabled Americans and their caregivers as they seek health care and long-term care. Funds will be available to states, area agencies on aging, State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, and Aging and Disability Resource Centers.
The Congressional recess did spark debate within the blogosphere over a New York Times article that critiqued the Obama Administration’s use of data from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, an influential research body that has demonstrated geographic variations in the amount of care that hospitals and doctors provide. The article suggested that the research was only a map of the quality of care provided across the country and could not be used to justify wasteful spending or inefficient care in the health care system as a whole. Jonathan Skinner and Elliot Fisher, leaders of the Dartmouth Project disputed the Times article stating that it had misrepresented the facts.