While systemic health reform promises to be a top U.S. policy priority in any new administration, Congress’ first health policy focus in 2009 will be on already identified and targeted health initiatives. Some are time-sensitive measures that demand attention early in the new year. Others are front-and-center concerns that will also command immediate attention. All of these health proposals invariably will become vehicles for a variety of “bite-sized” provisions, either as a means to offset the cost of the underlying proposal (e.g., restrictions on physician-owned hospitals have recently been offered up in this context) or as unrelated provisions seeking a legislative ride to enactment. This article highlights key measures that Congress is likely to consider early in 2009: State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Medicaid, Medicare, health information technology, “follow-on” biologics and the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Health industry stakeholders immediately have opportunities to weigh in on these initiatives and either affect their shape or capitalize on them as vehicles for accomplishing other health-related goals apart from the specific focus of the legislation. In addition, understanding the health legislative and regulatory landscape remains a critical element of sound legal and business strategy and decision-making.
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