OVERNIGHT HEALTH: CMS nominee appears set for easy confirmation

Healthwatch has more from Tavenner's hearing Tuesday.

Budget day: The White House will release President Obama's long-awaited budget proposal Wednesday. Its exact healthcare proposals haven't leaked, but liberal advocates are already furious over Obama's decision to include the provision known as "chained CPI," which would change the way Social Security benefits are calculated and ultimately reduce seniors' payments. Otherwise, the president is expected to hew closely to his past proposals on Medicare — including calls for reducing payments for prescription drugs and charging wealthier seniors a higher premium.

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The budget probably won't include any substantial cuts to Medicaid. Although Obama has proposed Medicaid cuts in the past, top White House officials have said those proposals are now off the table as the administration pushes states to adopt the healthcare law's Medicaid expansion.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to brief the press on the budget at 2 p.m.

Cancer cuts: Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) is stepping in with a bill to cancel the sequestration cuts that have forced cancer clinics to turn away new patients. Ellmers introduced a bill Tuesday to reverse the cuts and restore funds that have already been cut. Because of the way the sequester was applied, cancer clinics have been hit with steep reductions in their Medicare payments that have forced them to turn down new patients — and could make them close their doors altogether.

"As an unintended consequence of sequestration, millions of Americans are facing delayed care for life-saving treatments," Ellmers said in a statement. "As of April 1st, these cuts began being implemented. By dropping this bill today, we are ensuring that everything can be done to prevent these cuts from going into effect."

A copy of the bill is here.

Today in abortion politics: Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signed a new law requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges, drawing criticism from advocates who described the move as the latest in a flood of anti-abortion-rights regulations around the country.

Alabama has four licensed abortion clinics, and they will have 180 days to comply with the new law once it takes effect this summer. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized Bentley in a statement Tuesday and vowed legal action "if necessary" to block the new rules.

"In yet another state, extremist politicians have passed a law trying to outlaw access to abortion," Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. "Alabama has become the latest state to attempt to rob women of the opportunity to make the best decisions for themselves and their families." 

Excellence in Mental Health: A group of senators called on their colleagues Tuesday to pass the Excellence in Mental Health Act as an amendment to gun legislation. The bill, unveiled in February, would expand access to federally qualified mental health centers at the community level and order the facilities to offer a standard range of services, including support for families and 24-hour crisis care.

At a press conference, senators said the measure answers the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"With more veterans coming home and living with mental illness, it is more important than ever to make sure they have access to quality mental health care," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). "We need to support our troops and veterans with more than just words — we need to support them with our actions."

Votes on gun legislation are expected in the Senate Thursday. Read more about the bill at Healthwatch.

McConnell under fire: Democratic campaign officials demanded that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) apologize Tuesday after a secret tape revealed that his campaign considered attacking a potential opponent's struggle with depression. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) blasted the Senate Republican leader after Mother Jones published audio of a private strategy meeting in which a McConnell aide criticized actress Ashley Judd as "emotionally unbalanced."

"It is beneath the office of Minority Leader to engage in this kind of trivial politics," said DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil in a statement. "[McConnell] should apologize to the millions of Americans who suffer from depression and don't believe it’s a laughing matter."

Read more from Healthwatch.

Wednesday's agenda

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold an executive session to consider the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act.

The Brookings Institution's Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform will host a panel discussion on physician payment reform featuring Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is holding a congressional call-in day to weigh in on the Obama budget.

The National Health Collaborative on Violence and Abuse will hold a briefing on the role of healthcare providers in preventing violence and avoiding its associated costs.


State by state

Jindal won't seek to follow Arkansas on Medicaid

Ohio House set to strip Medicaid expansion from Kasich budget

Alaska Senate set to vote on abortion bill

Lobbying registrations

Van Scoyoc Associates / Sterilucent

Liberty Partners Group / Lee Memorial Health System

Twenty-First Century Group / Resverlogix Corp.

The LIVESTRONG Foundation / self-registration

Thompson Coburn / Innovate Wireless Health

Zoetis / self-registration

Pier Strategies / Armstrong Atlantic State University

Peterson Group / HPS Group (on behalf of Rare Disease Therapeutics)

The Russell Group / Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

LNE Group / GOJO Industries

Law Office of Edward D. Kalman / National Association of Long Term Care Hospitals

Law Office of Edward D. Kalman / Calvary Hospital

Drinker Biddle & Reath / American Nurses Association

Banner Public Affairs / Express Scripts

Thorn Run Partners / National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare

The Michael Lewan Company / Brown Rudnick (on behalf of Medtronic)

Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman / Texas Health Resources

Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman / Lafayette General Medical Center

Ms. Rebecca Halkias / Temple University Hospital System

AbbVie / self-registration

Gorshein Strategies / Association of Independent Doctors

Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies / Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare

Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies / Kidney Care Council

Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies / Fresenius Medical Care

M. J. Simon & Company / Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access


Reading list

Obama budget includes $235 million in new mental health spending

Insurers see promise in pay-for-performance plans

African-Americans have higher risk of Alzheimer's, study shows


What you might have missed on Healthwatch


Sebelius: ObamaCare rollout tougher than White House expected

Poll: Majority backs limits on prescribing pain meds

Secular groups say Obama exemptions for contraception rule are too lenient

Bill to repeal device tax gains majority support in House

House hearing will scrutinize federal employee health plan

HHS opens applications for ObamaCare 'navigators'


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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