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House panel schedules Ebola hearing

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A House Energy & Commerce subcommittee will be asking top U.S. health policymakers whether America’s hospitals and health care workers are adequately prepared for Ebola patients.

The committee’s oversight subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on Ebola for noon Thursday.

The witness includes public health officials such as Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

The list also includes Dr. Luciana Borio, assistant commissioner for counterterrorism policy at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Robin Robinson, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; John Wagner, the acting assistant commissioner at the Office of Field Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer at Texas Health Resources.

The subcommittee staff says lawmakers want to know what the country has learned from the Ebola cases in Dallas, and whether the current containment strategy is appropriate.

Lawmakers will also be asking whether they can help speed the development of Ebola treatments and diagnostics.

The Ebola outbreak could be of interest to health insurers, if it increases hospital expenses and, ultimately, leads to new claims. A serious outbreak could also increase mortality enough to be of interest to life insurers. In the past, the life industry has considered Ebola to be one of the factors that could increase mortality to catastrophic levels.

A severe, prolonged Ebola outbreak might reduce hospitals’ ability to participate in Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) quality reporting programs or reimbursement pilot programs, or for HHS to move ahead with efforts to have the U.S. health care system move to the ICD-10 diagnostic code set.