Healthcare Friday

Medical loss ratio inches forward: A panel of the National Association ofInsurance Commissioners approved model medical loss ratio regulations on Thursday, paving the way for a final vote next week.

Concurrently, the NAIC sent Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a letter outlining several factors that need to be addressed as the guidelines are implemented. Issues highlighted in the letter include: solvency and competitive markets; phase-in of MLR limits; methods of rebate payment; and the application of the MLR to expatriate policies.

Meanwhile, America's Health Insurance Plans wrote to the NAIC raising concerns that the current draft proposal will create unintended consequences and not achieve the expected goals. In particular, AHIP wants a broad definition of "activities that improve health care quality" that will be counted as medical care when calculating the medical loss ratio.

Health reform lawsuit moves forward: A federal judge in Florida on Thursday ruled that challenges to the healthcare reform law's individual mandate and its Medicaid expansion can proceed.

The widely expected ruling does not mean that Florida Northern District Senior Judge Roger Vinson agrees that the law is unconstitutional, only that the arguments against it can't be dismissed out of hand as the Obama administration had requested. Vinson threw out four other counts having to do with taxation and requiring states to enforce the law. Read The Hill's story:

The White House expressed optimism that the law will be upheld.

Angle says no to mandates on insurance companies: Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle said she's against forcing health plans to cover anything in her first debate with Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday night. 

"What we have here is a choice between the free market and Americanism," she said. "The free market will weed out those companies that don't offer as many choices and don't have a cost effective system."

Pediatric HIV/AIDS: Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and 'Makeover Manor' Host Dee C. Marshall join forces today to kick-off the annual fundraiser for Pediatrics AIDS/HIV Care, Inc., the only organization in the DC area devoted exclusively to vital support services for children and adolescents living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

CDC marks Latino AIDS Awareness Day: This year's message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is "Save A Life; It May Be Your Own" urging Hispanics/Latinos to get tested for HIV.

HHS engages Elmo: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today joins with representatives from the Ad Council, Sesame Street, and the New York City Health Department to unveil a new national public service advertising campaign designed to encourage families and children to take steps to protect themselves this flu season. Prior to the announcement, Sebelius will participate in a hand-washing demonstration with children and Elmo.

Breast cancer awareness touted: Second Lady Jill Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius host a conference call with women’s groups and breast cancer survivors and advocates today to discuss the importance of screenings and early detection services, such as mammograms and related benefits under the new health reform law.

On the same topic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that it had invited 15 individuals to serve on the Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young women, a federal advisory committee established by the new law.

Ohio elections panel rules on health reform ads: A three-member panel of the Ohio Elections Commission on Thursday ruled in favor of Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) in his complaint against the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. Driehaus had sought to block billboard ads claiming his vote for the health reform law was a vote for taxpayer-funded abortion, which Democrats say is inaccurate. The panel’s 'probable cause' finding means there will be another hearing to determine if the group broke Ohio law that bars making false statements in campaigns.

Children and disasters report criticized: The national organization representing emergency physicians on Thursday criticized a new report claiming that only 6 percent of emergency departments are properly equipped for children. The real number is closer to 90 percent, the American College of Emergency Physicians said in a statement taking issue with a new report delivered to the White House and Congress by the National Commission on Children and Disasters.

Read the report:

Boehner signs repeal pledge: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday became the highest-ranking lawmaker to sign a conservative pledge to repeal and replace the Democrats' health reform law. Revere America, a Washington-based conservative group named after the 18th-century Boston patriot, sent its repeal pledge to all members of Congress and the candidates challenging them this election season. Twenty-one Republicans have endorsed the motion, with Boehner leading the pack.

Tougher coal dust rules proposed: The Obama administration on Thursday proposed to halve the legal limit for miners' exposure to coal dust. The administration's proposal would cut the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for coal dust from 2 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air — a standard that's been in place since 1972 — to 1 mg/m3.

Democrat claims credit for blocking coal bill: A powerful coal-country Democrat is taking credit this week for single-handedly blocking legislation to rein in mountaintop removal coal mining — a process popular with Appalachian coal companies, but one that's also linked to cancer and other health threats. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) said the bill — which would prohibit companies from burying Appalachian streams under mountains of mining waste — would have passed long ago except that his seniority on several key committees has allowed him to block it.