Senate Immigration Bill Would Ease Restrictions On Foreign Health Workers

On Capitol Hill, several legislative efforts are moving forward on health issues. Among them is an effort by the Massachusetts delegation to keep bonus Medicare payments for the state's hospitals, while House Republicans are looking for another way to deal with a bill to fund high-risk insurance pools. In addition, a Senate measure is advancing that would increase scrutiny On compounding pharmacies.

Modern Healthcare: Immigration Bill Seeks To Ease Rules For Foreign Health Workers
After 30 hours of debate over a three-week period, the Senate Judiciary Committee has passed a bipartisan immigration bill that would seek to strengthen the country's healthcare workforce by making it easier for foreign health professionals to work in the U.S. The panel voted 13-5 on Tuesday to approve the sweeping Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (PDF) that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced last month. In all, the committee considered 212 amendments in the bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he would like to bring to the floor for debate in June, "sometime soon" after Congress returns from a weeklong Memorial Day work period (Zigmond, 5/22).

Boston Globe: Mass. Tries To Retain $250 Million For Hospitals
The Massachusetts congressional delegation, after holding a rare emergency meeting Wednesday, launched what could be a final effort to preserve more than $250 million in bonus Medicare payments to the state's hospitals that critics call the "Bay State boondoggle." But the prospect of holding on to the windfall is dimming. The Democrat-controlled Senate voted earlier this year to end the payments, enacted under President Obama's health care overhaul law and which come at the expense of most other states. A similar bill was introduced in the Republican-led House this week (Jan, 5/23).

Reuters: Senate Committee Advances Drug Compounding Bill
A U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation that would increase federal oversight for companies that compound and sell sterile drugs across state lines. The proposed legislation was introduced in response to a meningitis outbreak last fall that killed more than 50 people and sickened more than 700. The outbreak was traced to contamination found in steroid injections made by the New England Compounding Center (Dye, 5/22).

Kansas City Star: With Roberts' Backing, Bill To Reform Pharmacy Compounding Heads To Senate
A U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday passed bipartisan legislation that would fundamentally change how large-scale pharmacy compounding is practiced in this country. Also Wednesday, the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee issued a report showing that poor compounding practices have persisted even since last fall, when a meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroid injections killed 55 people and sickened about 700 (Morris, 5/22).

CQ HealthBeat: Rejected High-Risk-Pool Bill To Get Another Chance
A month after House Republican leaders were forced to pull an unpopular health care law revision from the House floor, bill sponsor Rep. Joe Pitts said he expects to see a modified version under consideration again in "a couple of weeks." The reworked measure appears designed to mollify critics in the GOP rank and file who argued that the bill, as introduced, would have, in effect, just bolstered the president's signature health care law rather than repealed its provisions (Dumain and Ethridge, 5/22).

And, during a recent hearing -

McClatchy: Medical Company Declines To Answer Senate Questions On Medicare Billing
The president and chief executive officer of a medical equipment company invoked the Fifth Amendment at Senate hearing Wednesday, declining to answer questions about aggressive marketing tactics used to sell scooters, sleep apnea machines and other home medical supplies to Medicare recipients who may not need or want them. Jon Letko of U.S. Healthcare Supply LLC, based in Milford, N.J., exercised his constitutional right not to incriminate himself at the hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight (Wise, 5/22).

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