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2-year Medicare pay patch passes House but hits roadblock

The House has approved legislation that delays Medicare physician payment cuts until 2014, while providing 1% pay raises in 2012 and 2013. However, Senate Democratic leaders and the White House rejected the House measure based on several other provisions in the GOP bill, which was passed by a largely party-line vote of 234-193 on Dec. 13. The comprehensive legislative package would extend payroll tax cuts, reform unemployment insurance and permit the construction of a controversial oil pipeline stretching from Canada to Texas. President Obama said that if the House bill were to pass, he would veto it over the pipeline provisions and several budgetary offsets that Republicans use to pay for the new spending in the bill. "Instead of working together to find a balanced approach that will actually pass both houses of the Congress, [the House bill] instead represents a choice to re-fight old political battles over health care and introduce ideological issues into what should be a simp ...

Medicare begins Round 2 of DME bidding

The agency overseeing the Medicare program is moving forward with the expansion of a competitive bidding system to purchase durable medical equipment. The extension of the bidding process for medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies across the country is expected to lower costs and save Medicare and patients more than $28 billion over 10 years. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began registering equipment suppliers for the bidding process on Dec. 5, but it does not expect the new prices chosen during this second round of bidding to take effect until July 1, 2013. CMS introduced the first phase of competitive bidding in nine cities on Jan. 1, 2011. But some lawmakers and health care industry associations have worked to prevent the program from expanding to 91 metropolitan areas. Products open for bidding include oxygen supplies, wheelchairs and power scooters, enteral nutrients, continuous positive airway pressure devices, hospital beds, walkers, and negat ...

More parents requesting alternative vaccine schedules

Research on the safety of delaying childhood immunizations is needed as pediatricians increasingly are faced with requests by parents to follow alternative vaccine schedules, says the author of a new study. Three in four pediatricians in Washington state said parents sometimes or frequently request an alternative immunization schedule for their child, according to the study published online Nov. 28 in Pediatrics. Of those doctors, 64% are comfortable using such a plan. Researchers did not ask pediatricians why they were comfortable following an alternative schedule. But study co-author Douglas J. Opel, MD, MPH, said it's likely that physicians want to maintain a relationship with the family so they can address their vaccine concerns and, in time, fully immunize the young patient. "Pediatricians are in a difficult spot ... because they have to balance two competing interests -- the parent's right to make health care decisions for the child and the pediatrician's obligation to p ...