Monthly Archives: September, 2010

ONC awards funding for final extension centers

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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has awarded $9.8 million in funding to stand up the last of its regional extension center (REC) programs in California and New Hampshire. CalOptima Foundation received $4.7 million to assist doctors and providers in Orange County adopt electronic health records, and ONC awarded Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative $5.1 million to aid providers in New Hampshire.  A total of 62 centers now span across every region in the country. Over the next two years, $677 million will be disbursed incrementally to support the RECs as they help priority primary care providers achieve meaningful use.   ONC also announced expanded coverage areas for existing…

One senator's procedural obstacle could shut down government

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Things might get tricky over the next few days. This was part of an article in Roll Call. The idea is that the House and Senate “hot line” bills toward the end of a legislative session, and they are all voted on by unanimous consent. However, if one senator objects, the Senate must go through complicated and time consuming procedural votes requiring a 60 vote super majority. So what’s going on exactly? Sen. Jim DeMint warned his colleagues Monday night that he would place a hold on all legislation that has not been “hot-lined” by the chamber or has not…

Contract confusion

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A little fuzzy on the distinctions between various types of federal contracts? Don’t feel bad, because some federal contracting officers are, too, according to a Federal Register notice published today. In a jointly filed proposed rule, the Defense Department, NASA and the General Services Administration indicate that they are trying to correct the mistaken impression among contracting officers “governmentwide” that the fixed labor rates in time-and-materials/labor-hour contracts make them “fixed-price type contracts.” In fact, as the Government Accountability Office reported last year, time and materials contracts are considered high-risk because the contractor’s profit hinges on the number of hours worked.

Health care reform, explained in one handy cartoon

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Confused about the health care reform bill? You’re not alone. According to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health care policy research organization, 53 percent of Americans say they still don’t know what the health care bill means. And confusion is growing — that number is 8 percentage points higher than in August. Considering the complexity of the matter, rabid politicking, and the spin thrown around over the last year or so (death panels, anyone?), it’s not surprising so many Americans are in the dark. But Kaiser has recently released a video that hopes to…

What gridlock? Postal dedications on the rise

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While Congress might be having trouble scheduling, debating and passing numerous pieces of legislation, it seems one of the few bills that has not suffered are the resolutions to rename postal facilities. These resolutions have been on the rise for more than 13 years. In the 105th Congress spanning 1997 to 1998, there were 9 resolutions. In the 108th Congress from 2003 to 2004 there were 117. In the years 2007 to 2008 there were 169. There have been 111 in the current Congress. 1997-1998 9 1999-2000 46 2001-2002 92 2003-2004 117 2005-2006 135 2007-2008 169 2009-2010 111* *So far…

Bike share program for feds on the way

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Feds, are you itching to go for a bike ride? The government has just what you’re looking for. The federal government has teamed up with the District of Columbia’s Capital Bikeshare program to provide employees easy access to bicycles in Washington and Arlington, Va. The Office of Personnel Management said the deal will eventually allow feds round-the-clock access to 1,000 bikes at 114 stations. OPM hasn’t said yet what the government’s corporate partnership is going to mean in terms of group rates, or when the program will start, but we’ll post more details when they’re available. OPM Director John Berry…

Royalty-in-kind program winding down

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RIK, RIP. That’s the message from the Interior Department accompanying its next-to-last annual report about the “royalty-in-kind” program tarnished by repeated scandals. The program, dating back to 1998, allows energy companies to pay royalties to the federal government with oil and gas instead of cash. After Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced last year that he was shutting it down, the program officially ends this Thursday, when the final contracts expire, the department said in a news release. For fiscal 2009, the initiative generated benefits estimated at $23 million “depending on various assumptions regarding markets and administrative costs,” the newly issued…

No deal yet on USPS retiree health payment

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It’s down-to-the-wire time again for the U.S. Postal Service as it seeks congressional help in dodging much of a $5.5 billion payment due next Thursday into its retiree health benefit fund. “We’re in discussions with committee staff,” USPS spokesman Gerry McKiernan said today. While a continuing budget resolution is a likely vehicle for a partial waiver,  he said, “there’s nothing definitive yet.” Last month, the Postal Service warned of a cash crunch if it had to make the full payment, which is required under the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Under similar circumstances last year, Congress allowed the Postal…

Colbert testimony turns surreal (but was that ever in doubt?)

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Stephen Colbert’s appearance before a House committee hearing on migrant workers got off to a weird start this morning. Right off the bat, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., tried to kick Colbert out of the hearing, but Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., insisted he stay. His opening statement featured the same absurd leaps in logic and clever wordplay he employs night after night on his show, and had some very funny lines. (For example: “My great-grandfather did not travel across 4,000 miles of Atlantic ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants. He did it because he killed a man back in…

Congress approves SEC records exemptions repeal

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Congress has given final approval to legislation shutting down controversial Freedom of Information Act exemptions for the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to its sponsor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. The measure now goes to President Obama. The exemptions, tucked into the financial services overhaul enacted in July, allowed the SEC to withhold some records gathered from hedge funds and other financial entities that it regulates. Without the new provisions, SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro argued, such entities could be reluctant to cooperate during examinations out of concern that sensitive records could become public. But critics said existing FOIA exemptions were adequate…

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