Healthcare Wednesday

9/11 first responders healthcare vote expected: The House is expected to vote this morning on a bill guaranteeing medical monitoring, treatment and economic compensation for those who were injured or sickened by the 9/11 attack in New York and its subsequent toxic cloud. A vote on the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act could take place as early as 11 a.m. The bill is expected to get the 218 votes needed to pass; it garnered 255 votes in July when it came up under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage.

The bill would formally authorize health programs that have been appropriated for the past several years. Fifty thousand responders and survivors would be covered by the program over the next 10 years. The bill is sponsored by New York Democrats Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler and Republican Peter King. It would cost about $5 billion.

Grandfathering fight: Meanwhile in the Senate, a vote is expected on Sen. Mike Enzi's (R-Wyo.) resolution of disapproval calling for a do-over on the health reform law's grandfathering clause exempting existing insurance policies from many provisions of the new law. http://bit.ly/aKD7zK

The resolution is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which believes the regulation is too strict and makes it impossible for many businesses to keep their current plans. But the liberal Health Care for America Now is pushing back with a statement this morning calling the resolution a "cynical attempt to score political points and undermine implementation of the Affordable Care Act."

"The Enzi resolution is a backdoor maneuver to give back our health care to  the insurance companies and to deny people many of the benefits of the new health care law, including consumer protections that end the worst of the insurance company abuses," said executive director Ethan Rome. "The Enzi resolution would turn back the clock and allow insurance companies to deny our care and drop our coverage when we get sick. Those repugnant practices are finally illegal, and we should keep it that way."

Sebelius to testify: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to testify this afternoon before the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee. The topic is public health threats, but Republicans will likely grill the secretary on the health reform law and its effects six months after passage. http://bit.ly/9JM2Zx

AIDS and foreign affairs: The House Foreign Affairs Committee holds a full committee hearing this morning on the President Obama's AIDS Relief Plan. The issue is a sore spot with some AIDS advocates who think President George W. Bush's President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is getting shrift under Obama. http://bit.ly/9W1JFP

Continuing resolution pending: The Senate could pass a continuing resolution as early as today. According to an early summary, the resolution: provides for the continuation of a program included under the Child Nutrition Act which will allow for school feeding activities where year-round activities occur; and allows the National Cord Blood Inventory contracts to continue at their current level through the duration of the CR.

Senate HELP mark-up: The Senate HELP marks up two bills in the morning: The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Reauthorization Act of 2010 (S. 3817) and the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2010 (S. 3199).

AHIP weighs in: America's Health Insurance Plans applauded pending regulations for the high-risk pools in comments filed Tuesday. AHIP also sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requesting that federal regulators retain antitrust restrictions on Accountable Care Organizations: ACOs, the letter reads, "will not provide such benefits to consumers if they are mere vehicles for price fixing or aggregating market power, and the antitrust agencies must continue their efforts in this area, using enforcement, guidance, and other tools."

Healthy kids competition winners announced: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and former NFL player Brian Mitchell announce the 12 winners of the Apps for Healthy Kids Competition, launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in March as part of her Let’s Move! Initiative. The competition challenged students and innovators to develop digital tools and games that help kids and their parents improve their health. 

Capps drops cancer bill: Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) introduced the 21st Century Cancer ALERT Act on Tuesday to modernize cancer research, detection and treatment programs across federal agencies and improves collaboration among the various entities conducting research and treatment activities. The bill is the House version of legislation introduced by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)

House Veterans' Affairs health subcommittee takes up veterans' health bills: http://bit.ly/d4HowK

War spending challenged: Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Dr. Linda Bilmes of Harvard University join House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-Calif.) and the executive director of Veterans of Modern Warfare, Don Overton, to announce new figures and analysis on the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are having on the cost of caring for veterans. They'll urge Congress to account for the full cost of war. Filner is calling for fundamental reform to the way Congress funds war spending.

New duty hours approved for medical residents: The board of directors of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) approved new duty hours for medical residents on Tuesday. Based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, the new standards limit duty periods for first-year to 16 hours a day. The new standards will go into effect July 1, 2011. http://bit.ly/aARcqt

The new hours come as consumer and labor groups have been urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assume jurisdiction over the work hours of physician residents — and to put strict limits on what those hours can be. http://bit.ly/9bfCPd

NAIC preparing MLR letter to Sebelius: State insurance commissioners are expected to soon formally ask Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to allow a transition period for the medical loss ratio. Brian Webb of the NAIC said an existing proposal will likely serve as the basis of a letter expected to be sent shortly.

"The NAIC should recommend that the Secretary consult with the insurance commissioner in each state to decide whether to adjust the 80 percent MLR used for the PPACA rebates in one or more years, considering whether the application of an 80 percent MLR is likely to destabilize that state’s individual market," the proposal reads. http://bit.ly/9QLBlE