Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.
"Skinny" Repeal Fails
Following an action-packed 24 hours in the Senate, the latest attempt to repeal Obamacare failed to garner enough votes to pass after three Republicans voted "no" Thursday, making the vote 51 to 49.
The so-called "skinny" repeal would have scaled back some of the more controversial provisions including the individual mandate requiring all Americans to have health insurance coverage or pay a fine, and the employer mandate, which requires the same of companies with 50 employees or more, among other changes.
The latest vote marks the third failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), passage of the bill would have led to 16 million people losing their health insurance by 2026, with insurance premiums increasing by 20 percent.
Following the vote, the AMA issued a statement displaying cautious optimism. "While we are relieved that the Senate did not adopt legislation that would have harmed patients and critical safety net programs, the status quo is not acceptable," said AMA President David O. Barbe, MD.
"We urge Congress to initiate a bipartisan effort to address shortcomings in the Affordable Care Act."
Barbe said the first priority should be stabilizing the individual insurance marketplace to "achieve the goal of providing access to quality, affordable health coverage for more Americans."
CMS Changing Medicare Cards
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to help fight identity theft and safeguard taxpayer dollars. The new cards will debut in 2018, and start reaching beneficiaries in April.
According to CMS, the cards will automatically be mailed to all 58 million current beneficiaries, who don't need to do anything special to receive one. The new cards will feature a randomly assigned Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) made up of 11 letters and numbers, and a person's benefits won't change under the new MBI.
"Anyone saying they are going to charge you for a card is a scammer," Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego told AARP. "In the case of CMS, they will never need you to tell them what your Medicare card number is because they already know it."
Florida to Pay Legal Fees in "Docs v. Glocks" Case
Florida has agreed to pay $1.1 million in legal fees to lawyers who sued the state over a 2011 law that prohibited physicians from talking to patients about gun ownership, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta held that the law violated the First Amendment rights of the plaintiffs. Under the law, doctors could have been censored, fined, or penalized through the loss of their license to practice if the Florida Board of Medicine found they violated the law, according to the Brady Center.
Governor Rick Scott (R-Fla.) approved the reimbursement to lawyers who represented doctors and medical organizations in the case known as "Docs v. Glocks," according to the New York Times.
Scott, along with Florida's Republican legislature, pushed the restrictions through in 2011, becoming the first state to try to restrict the First Amendment rights of doctors to discuss guns and gun safety with their patients.
"Florida taxpayers just paid $1.1 million because of the gun industry's unconstitutional, anti-truth agenda designed to increase gun sales at any cost — including children's lives," Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Center, said in a statement.
Quote of the week:
"NO" – Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the "Skinny Repeal" bill.