Monday, January 28, 2013


Happy Friday all – well, Washington saw its first dusting of snow which followed the coldest air temps in two years.  The inaugural was spared the extremes as the clouds lifted after the president’s speech, and the sun began to shine.  Now the real work begins (again) as our elected officials try to get something done on the budget, gun control, and a host of other important subjects.  New cabinet members are being announced and confirmation hearings have begun.  Secretary Sebelius has announced that she plans to remain head of HHS so the health arena should remain steady-as-she-goes!

57th Presidential Inauguration.  Around 1 million people were in Washington to witness President Obama’s second inauguration, up significantly from the original estimates of 400,000 to 600,000.  The president outlined his vision for the next four years and beyond during his inaugural address.  The New York Times has this chart of VIPs up on stage with the president.

‘Profound & Devastating Blow.’  That’s how NIH Director Francis Collins describes the looming sequestration.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has directed agencies to start preparing for the automatic cuts.  They are set to occur April 1st unless Congress takes action. 

Legal Ruling on Unlicensed Stem Cells.  A recent court ruling puts the breaks on use of unlicensed stem cells therapies for conditions, including MS, that many neurologists refer to as the ‘wild West’.

IRS Proposes new Health Regs for business.  Implementation of the Affordable Care Act isn’t only about what the Department of Health and Human Services does, it’s the IRS as well as it proposes new regulations for employer sponsored health plans.

That’ll be 10.3 miles please.  Any Big Mac meal lovers out there (other than me)?  Well, it’s a value meal item making it affordable but any idea how many miles it takes to burn off the calories of a Big Mac and medium fries?  You guessed it – 10.3 miles. 

Charitable Giving.  The ‘fiscal cliff’ deal of a few weeks ago preserved the charitable deduction and in fact, one study indicated that the slight tweak it was given may result in increased donations.  However, many in the non-profit world believe the threat has not passed, but rather, that we may all just be lying in wait for the next battle as the budget war continues.
Social Media Tips from HHS.  The agency has some ideas for effective use of hashtags for promoting health related issues.

Debt Ceiling, Default and Shutdown.  The House passed a 3 month lifting of the debt limit with added incentive that if they don’t get a deal done, Member of Congress will not get paid (I hear bi-partisan cheers throughout the country).  So while an official name of such a deal hasn’t surfaced, the subheader might fictionally read ‘The Congressional Paycheck Protection Act!  Senate Majority Leader Reid said he won’t oppose it and the White House indicated its support as well.  So this will temporarily stop the talk about  whether the United States will default on its $16 Trillion+ debt, whether the constitution enables the president to ignore the debt limit, then of course about how great an idea it is to shut down part or all of the federal government.  (Note – on the last issue, it didn’t work so well in the mid ‘90s for the party in power).

A Looming Thaw?  In a hopeful sign, Senate Minority Leader McConnell has extended a bit of an olive branch to the president, hoping to be able to work together to solve some of our nation’s largest challenges.

Best/Worst Congressional Bosses.  Interesting study about staff turnover in congressional offices.

Telemedicine Red-Tape.  Verizon’s EVP penned this opinion piece for Politico about how red-tape is tying up the advance of telemedicine.

Franklin’s Time Management.  No, not Franklin/Covey, Ben Franklin.  While he hasn’t uttered a word in centuries, his time management advice is probably more succinct now than ever.  The quote in this graphic is ‘By failing to prepare you are prepared to fail’ which is on-the-mark! 

Health Reform Implementation News:

  • gets a facelift: The Obama Administration’s comprehensive website about the Affordable Care Act has a new and improved look.  It seems the term “health insurance exchanges” is out, and  “marketplace” is in!  
  •  What’s your favorite metaphor? Maybe we should be describing health insurance exchanges more like Turbo Tax than Travelocity.   
  •  Really!?!  AZ Governor Jan Brewer’s support for Medicaid expansion in her state sure surprised a lot of people! Will other Medicaid expansion opponents follow suit?    
  •  Coverage Gaps on the Horizon?  Could people transitioning from Medicaid to Medicare in a reformed health care system experience gaps in coverage?   Our friends at the Medicare Rights Center recommend strategies for states and advocates to adopt to help make sure people don’t fall through the cracks unnecessarily. 
  • More proposed federal regulations (aka sleep aids).  The Public Policy Department is working in coalition with other disability groups to review and comment on  a  474-page proposed rule released last week.  As proposed,  state officials would be able to charge Medicaid patients higher cost-sharing for some services than current regulations allow. The proposed rule also affects a wide range of other Medicaid provisions, including appeals of eligibility determinations; coordination between Medicaid and the new health care law's insurance exchanges; the role of counselors to assist people with their coverage applications; procedures to verify employer-sponsored coverage; and the use of updated Medicaid eligibility categories. 
  •   Pre-Existing Condition Take-Aways.  So what lessons did we learn from the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program that could help ACA implementation? 

 See you after the Super Bowl!

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