Health highlights Friday

For Democrats on the campaign trail this weekend, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius lent some help Thursday, announcing that HHS has mailed more than 300,000 new rebate checks to seniors caught in the Part D “doughnut hole” — the coverage gap in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has encouraged House Democrats to tout the new health reform law throughout the week-long July recess. The latest round of $250 checks to seniors can’t hurt their message. Still, it’s not quite clear how many Democrats are actually hosting the suggested healthcare reform roundtables, which didn’t exactly favor the party last August.

At noon, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Alliance for Health Reform, a nonprofit group founded two decades ago by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), host a Capitol Hill discussion on the ins and outs of healthcare reform implementation. Panelists include Katherine Hayes, a former Senate Finance Committee staffer who’s now with George Washington University’s Department of Health Policy; Gail Wilensky, former head of Medicare who now runs Project HOPE; and Linda Fishman of the American Hospital Association.

The gathering is titled “Health Reform Implementation: When Sausage Making Moves Downtown.”

Elsewhere, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology wraps up a week’s worth of meetings on HIT this morning.