Pressure increased on the Bush administration to alter the Medicare payment formula for physicians, as 89 senators signed a letter asking that Part B drugs be removed from the formula. The letter, organized by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and sent to the White House, said removing Part B drugs would stabilize annual physician updates. CMS Administrator Mark McClellan, however, has said his agency may not have the regulatory authority to remove the drug component. Separately, legislation to repeal the sustainable growth rate formula is expected to be introduced in the House on Thursday by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.).
In other healthcare legislative news, the House voted 263-165 to pass a bill that would allow trade associations and other business organizations to pool members across state lines to buy health insurance. A companion bill is before a Senate committee. The House has passed similar legislation several times in recent years. While the Bush administration supports such association health plans, the managed-care industry argues such plans would harm consumers by creating a separate insurance market exempt from state regulations. -- by Tony Fong