The big news in healthcare this week will come outside of the U.S. Congress: Dec. 14 is the final deadline for states to notify Washington if they intend to run their own online insurance markets. The states have been given two extensions on this notification. Still, observers do not expect many more to join the ranks of states that signed up by last month.
But Congress is applying its oversight authority to the process. The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will be holding a hearing on Dec. 13 to discuss the progress of exchange implementation. Republicans on the committee have been critical of the Obama administration for its slow release of key regulations. Two top Health and Human Services officials will testify and can expect to be grilled: Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which oversees the exchanges; and Cindy Mann, director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. State officials will also be testifying-most from states that are refusing to implement their own exchanges.
The Senate Finance Committee will also be holding a hearing on Dec. 13 to examine a perennial source of potential budget savings: seniors and disabled individuals who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. Budget cutters and health policy analysts believe that better, more-coordinated care for this population could mean less costly care.
The Obama administration has launched a pilot program to save money by shifting 2 million of those eligible for Medicare and Medicaid into state-run, managed-care plans, a move that has been heavily criticized by the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee, consumer groups, and experts on both the right and the left.