Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) is expected to be confirmed as new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week, a committee spokesman said. Barton would replace Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who has resigned the chairmanship and said he won't seek re-election to Congress. The Energy and Commerce Committee writes Medicaid policy, presides over health policy issues, such as quality and the uninsured, and shares jurisdiction over Medicare with the House Ways and Means Committee. Barton was nominated to the post last week by a House steering committee.
In other Washington news, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has called for a federal probe into whether states' use of consulting firms to increase federal Medicaid payments is leading to fraud and abuse. In a letter to HHS and the General Accounting Office, Grassley said investigations in Georgia and New Jersey may point to a national problem. HHS' inspector general's office is reviewing whether New Jersey inappropriately received some $41 million in Medicaid funds, while the CMS is examining an $84 million contract Georgia awarded to a consultant to maximize the state's federal funding. -- by Jeff Tieman and Tony Fong