health action 2009

Bills in Brief

It took over a decade for health care reform to lose its Clinton-era-induced taboo status - but 2009 could be the year Congress approves sweeping changes to health care.

While lawmakers rev up for large-scale reform, though, some smaller health bills seeing action include:

SCHIP. Congress head butted with Bush the past two years over expanding State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which covers low income children who aren't low income enough to qualify for Medicaid. Having lost the battle in '07 and '08, lawmakers put SCHIP at the top of their agenda in '09, passing an expansion of coverage to 4 million additional children (up from 7 million) at an additional cost of $32 billion. (WP)

Cigarettes & the FDA. The House passed a bill that would put tobacco regulation into the hands of the Food and Drug Administration, allowing the agency to set rules on what goes into cigarettes and onto cigarette marketing. After a last-ditch filibuster attempt to hold up similar legislation, senators are expected to pass an FDA cigarette bill of their own the week of June 8. (NYT)

Food Safety. House Democrats are also fashioning a bill that would give the FDA more clout over food manufacturers, requiring the agency inspect all food plants at least once every four years. (NYT)

Generic biotech drugs. The FDA could also get a stronger hand in okaying generic versions of high-tech biologic drugs (which are made in living cells). Both chambers have introduced bills that would halve the time generics could come onto the market, which could save the government - and insurers - billions in drug costs. (NYT)

e-Health care. Congress started working a couple years back to push through a bill that would get health records out of file cabinets and into more easily accessible data bases. But even though e-healthcare enjoyed strong bi-partisan support, it took the spending momentum of the '09 stimulus bill to fork up the cash needed to get hospitals and docters in line - and online. 

Updated June 6, 2009

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