OVERNIGHT HEALTH: GOP debt plan includes Medicare cuts

House Republicans released their "counteroffer" Monday to President Obama's proposal for avoiding the looming "fiscal cliff." The GOP plan doesn't have much in the way of detail, but Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hinted at a framework that involves politically risky cuts to Medicare.

GOP aides told reporters they're looking for $600 billion in savings from healthcare programs — twice what they want to cut from other mandatory programs. Policies to help reach that total could include raising the Medicare eligibility age — a change Obama has endorsed in previous budget talks, over the objections of many rank-and-file Democrats — as well as greater means-testing in Medicare.

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Those two ideas alone would likely fall short of $600 billion, and the White House has already said Obama won't discuss GOP-backed cuts to big pieces of his signature healthcare law. 

The Hill has the story on Monday's proposal.

SCOTUS weighs hospital payments: Healthcare will be back in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday. The justices are slated to hear oral arguments in a case that deals with the rules for payments made to Disproportionate Share Hospitals, who get extra money because they deal with a larger-than-average share of uninsured patients. SCOTUSBlog has a comprehensive explanation of what's at stake in the case.

Dreams of health insurance: The children now known as DREAMers — youths whose parents came to the U.S. illegally — can stay in the U.S. without threat of deportation, but they can't get healthcare here. A group of House Democrats thinks that ought to change. 

They're gathering signatures for a letter criticizing Obama for denying DREAMers access to Medicaid as well as the new insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act. Among the Democrats' arguments: letting the DREAMers into the exchanges would bring in even more young, healthy customers and furthering the ACA's goal of using healthy patients to offset the costs of guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Healthwatch's story is here.

About the children: Most states maintained or improved the number of eligible children receiving healthcare through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program over the last several years, according to a new study by the Urban Institute and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Urban Institute analyzed government data to find that the number of children eligible for public insurance programs but not enrolled fell 10 percent between 2008 and 2010. Report authors suggested that the findings contain lessons for officials facing the giant task of enrolling new Medicaid participants under the healthcare law. 

Under fire: Health groups criticized Nickelodeon Monday for promoting unhealthy foods to children in its commercials and using its characters. The health coalition pushed the popular kid's network to implement strong nutrition standards for foods marketed across its platforms and by personalities like SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.

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"The majority of foods marketed to children remain of poor nutritional quality. The [federal Institute of Medicine] concluded that marketing puts children's health at risk," the groups wrote. Read more on the letter at Healthwatch.

Bank on it: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that people on Medicare have saved $5.1 billion on prescription drugs since the passage of the healthcare law — the Obama administration's most recent push to highlight the reform's more popular provisions. HHS estimated that almost 2.8 million seniors have saved an average of $677 on medications so far this year. Medicare's open enrollment period ends Friday, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius encouraged beneficiaries to "look at their health and drug plan options for additional value." Healthwatch has more.


Tuesday's agenda

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will hold a hearing on recovery from Hurricane Sandy that could touch on the disaster's health impact.

Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Reps. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) will hold a press conference promoting their bill to help law enforcement process rape kits.


Bill tracker

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced a bill meant to modernize technology in the healthcare industry. The Healthcare Innovation and Marketplace Technologies Act would clarify regulations related to wireless health, create grant programs for new health technologies, distribute loans to clinics and practices to improve their tech infrastructure and establish workforce retraining programs. 


State by state

Texas Democrats see path to Medicaid expansion

NY Gov. to push for new taxes on liquor

Colorado gains resources to reject premium hikes

Poll: NJ voters support doctor-assisted suicide


Lobbying registrations

Thomas Bruderle / Eye Bank Association of America

Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh / Manillaq Association


Reading list

Could competition make health reform more expensive?

FDA, medical device industry form research partnership

CDC says US flu season starts early, could be bad

Study: Hospice rules may keep away patients


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

House to follow Senate, vote to strike 'lunatic' from US law

Poll: Voters don't want nursing homes cut in cliff deal

Report: Medical PACs abandon DesJarlais for future bid


Comments / complaints / suggestions?

Please let us know:

Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351

Elise Viebeck: eviebeck@thehill.com / 202-628-8523

Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch