OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Pressure rising over Medicare Advantage cuts

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), meanwhile, continued its assault against the cuts Thursday with a new poll showing seniors are overwhelmingly satisfied with their Medicare Advantage coverage. The lobby group warned that only 4 percent of the healthcare law's Medicare Advantage cuts have taken effect so far. Read more at Healthwatch.

Cantwell a no? Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) signaled Thursday that she may not support Marilyn Tavenner's nomination to lead the Medicare agency because the federal Basic Health Plan Option, a part of the Affordable Care Act, has not been fully implemented. Cantwell tangled in a Senate Finance Committee hearing with Jonathan Blum, acting principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, asking why regulators have not made further progress on the option. She suggested that regulators see the plan as "somehow against the interest" of healthcare reform.

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“Ms. Tavenner definitely will not have my support," Cantwell said. "I’m interested in the commitment of the administration to live up to the way the Affordable Care Act’s provisions say it should be implemented." See the exchange here.

Nelson chides Medicare over skilled-nursing payments: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), head of the chamber's Special Committee on Aging, criticized the Medicare program Thursday for paying $5.1 billion to skilled-nursing facilities (SNF) that provide less-than-optimal care. The finding was revealed in a report by the Health and Human Services Inspector General (IG), which said that SNFs failed to meet care and discharge planning requirements for about one-third of stays. The report recommended that the Medicare agency strengthen SNF oversight and provide the industry more guidance.

"Spending taxpayers’ money on facilities that provide poor care is unacceptable," Nelson said in a statement. "The government must do a better job of ensuring Medicare beneficiaries receive the highest quality of care." Read the report here

Keeping busy: The House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee is planning two hearings next week, one on the U.S. "entitlement crisis" and the other on the healthcare law's impact on premiums. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), the subcommitte's chairman, has already led two meaty hearing on Medicare physician payment reform and waste, fraud and abuse in U.S. healthcare. Read more from the subpanel's schedule here.

Remember that welfare debate? It's back in Congress as of this week, with a House subcommittee hearing Thursday and a fresh bill to block the Obama administration's welfare waivers. The bill, from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and other prominent Republicans, would prevent the federal government from issuing state waivers under welfare reform. The Obama administration, along with several states, argues the waivers are necessary to test pilot programs that would improve employment outcomes for welfare recipients. Republicans argue the policy would broaden welfare's definition of "work," increasing dependence on government help. Read about the new bill, and the hearing, which took a personal turn for two lawmakers, at Healthwatch.

Let's Keep Moving: The first lady announced a five-year expansion of her anti-obesity program Thursday, ensuring she will remain involved in the debate after she and President Obama leave the White House. In a speech in Chicago, Michelle Obama unveiled the Let's Move Active Schools initiative, a public-private partnership to encourage kids to exercise. The speech kicked off a media tour that will last several days.

"Our goal is ambitious. ... Fortunately, it doesn't take much to get our kids moving," Obama said.

Read more from her speech here.

Friday's agenda

The Alliance for Health Reform will hold a "Medicaid 101" briefing on Capitol Hill.

State by state

Arkansas's unusual plan to expand Medicaid

South Dakota Senate approves longer abortion wait

Chicago violence drives push for more trauma care


Reading list

Whole Foods CEO: Costs will rise under healthcare law

Hospital readmissions for Medicare patients decline

Tenet shows hospitals will cut prices for exchange patients — but only so much

Woman who smoke through hole in throat dies

Same genetic basis is found in five types of mental illness


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Regulators assert new power to seize assets of fraudulent healthcare pools

Bills would halt health law's employer mandate

Rising e-cigarette sales spur call for regulations

Model Christy Turlington talks healthcare on Capitol Hill


Comments / complaints / suggestions?


Please let us know:

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

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

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