Healthcare Thursday

Meanwhile… Opponents of the bill are hosting events of their own in hopes of shifting Thursday's media focus away from the newly arrived benefits. 

In that vein, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is ringing in the six-month anniversary with a press call with small business leaders, who will air their complaints with the new requirements in the law.

The Chamber will also release a survey — conducted by the prominent pollsters Frank Luntz and Doug Schoen — outlining the various gripes small businesses owners have with the law.

Top White House officials enter the act: Vice President Joe Biden and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are marking the occasion as well, hosting a conference call to tout the law's benefits for seniors. The discussion, the White House says, will include "an important announcement" on efforts to reduce seniors' prescription drug costs. 

Evoking Newt… GOP leaders on Thursday will officially unveil their "Pledge to America," a legislative wish-list that devotes an entire chapter to repealing healthcare reform and replacing it with Republican alternatives.

Still, the proposed solutions, the New York Times reports, are without many details. "While the document emphasizes a goal of long-term fiscal stability, including reductions in the deficit and a 'path to a balanced budget,' it offers no specifics about changes to big entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, that would be required to achieve such stability," the Times writes.

The early reviews from some conservative commentators aren't wildly enthusiastic either. "It is dreck," Erick Erickson wrote Wednesday. 

GOP leaders will release their Pledge Thursday at a lumberyard in Sterling, Va.

Obama takes on the repeal advocates: President Obama on Wednesday slammed those pushing to repeal healthcare reform, accusing them of putting political gain above the nation's healthcare needs.

"It makes sense in terms of politics and polls," Obama said Wednesday at a healthcare event in Virginia. "It doesn't make sense in terms of actually making people's lives better." 

Top Republicans to check Berwick's pulse: Leading Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee have invited Donald Berwick to appear Thursday at a forum gauging how the Medicare chief has performed so far. 

The lawmakers — including Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) — say they want to examine Berwick's "role and background" as he leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in implementing the largest overhaul of the healthcare system in 45 years.

In case Berwick doesn't show (hint: he's not going to show), the lawmakers also have back-up speakers: Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office; Bob Moffit, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation; and Michael Smith, representing the 60 Plus Association, a conservative alternative to AARP.

Coburn again denies food safety bill: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Wednesday again beat back the Democratic effort to pass sweeping food safety legislation by unanimous consent. The Oklahoma Republican offered an alternative bill, causing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to with his UC request to ponder Coburn's offer.

House panel to examine new meaningful use rules: The House Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday announced a subpanel hearing next week on Medicare's new "meaningful use" rules governing providers as they try to tap incentives for adopting electronic health records and other medical technologies. Witnesses scheduled to appear before the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee on Sept. 30 include David Blumenthal, HHS' national coordinator for health information technology.