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Tracking Washington.

Tracking Washington: A federal advisory committee said that there was adequate evidence that the drug Provenge prolongs the lives of men with advanced prostate cancer, an endorsement that makes it more likely that Medicare will pay for the $93,000 treatment. The Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee voted that it had "intermediate confidence" in the strength of the data that the drug, developed by Dendreon Corp. (Seattle WA), improves survival. The meeting last Wednesday is part of a process in which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is deciding whether to pay for Provenge, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in April. Medicare's action has been controversial, in part because such a review is unusual. Some prostate cancer patients and advocates, doctors and investors in Dendreon say that since the FDA had already decided the drug helps patients, Medicare's review was based more on cost and, in a sense was the beginning of healthcare rationing.

In other news, a one-month deal to delay a 23% reduction to doctors' Medicare pay rates will buy more time for U.S. lawmakers who are seeking to hold off future cuts. Medicare has cost-control formulas that demand the rate cuts. Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the committee's senior Republican, reached an agreement that will postpone the doctor pay cut until Jan. 1 from Dec. 1. Physicians may withdraw from Medicare if the scheduled cuts are imposed, the American Medical Association (Chicago IL) said in a Nov. 15 statement on its web site. Baucus and Grassley said they are working on a one-year solution to provide certainty to doctors and patients concerned the one-month delay is just a temporary reprieve.

And a Democrat and a Republican teamed up in the Senate on Thursday to offer legislation that would give states the flexibility to implement their own healthcare approaches when the federal overhaul goes into full effect in 2014. The proposal by Democrat Ron Wyden and Republican Scott Brown moves up the date when states can apply for waivers from the federal law in order to implement their own approaches. The law, which passed in March, currently allows states to apply for waivers in 2017. Under the Wyden and Brown proposal, states could apply for an exemption from some requirements of the reform law--including the mandate that everyone purchase insurance and the employer penalty for not providing coverage--if they offer an alternative that is considered at least as effective and affordable.
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Title Annotation:TOP STORIES
Date:Nov 22, 2010
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