This week: Reform law ruling Monday; 9/11 benefits, food safety still unresolved

A Virginia federal judge is expected to issue a decision on the constitutionality of the new healthcare reform law on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson will decide whether the federal government can require individuals to purchase health insurance, in accordance with the Constitution's commerce clause. Whatever Hudson rules Monday, he said in October the case will wind up in the Supreme Court.

A federal court in Florida will hear oral arguments Thursday on a healthcare reform lawsuit filed by 20 states. In October, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson allowed the lawsuit to challenge two constitutional provisions: whether the law’s individual mandate violates the commerce clause, and whether the federal government can require states to expand their Medicaid programs. 

The Senate will consider the food-safety bill this week after House leaders tucked it into a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Sept. 30. The $1.1 trillion CR narrowly passed the House, 212-206, after House Republicans objected to the legislative maneuver.  Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) is expected to include the CR into an earmark-loaded omnibus bill.

Senate Democrats will try again to pass $7.4 billion in health benefits and compensation to Ground Zero workers after failing a vital cloture vote on Thursday. Senate Republicans held up the bill partially because they want to finalize the budget and Bush tax cuts before dealing with other business. About 60 members on Thursday backed a proposal to include the health benefits bill into the Bush tax cuts extension.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to rule if it will rescind approval of Avastin for advanced breast cancer treatment. Just last week, Britain’s healthcare agency rejected the drug for the same purpose.

Another FDA panel this week will review whether mercury-based dental fillings exceed Environmental Protection Agency-approved levels. 

On Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will host a conference call to gather stakeholder input on the design and development of the Independence at Home Demonstration included in healthcare reform. The project will enable Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions to receive primary care in their homes.

Also on Monday, the liberal Center for American Progress will host a discussion panel on the future of financing and caring for Medicare and Medicaid dual eligibles. Edo Banach, senior adviser for CMS’s Federal Coordinated Health Care Office, will serve as a panelist.

The libertarian Cato Institute will be in the Rayburn House Office Building on Thursday to discuss the GOP budget agenda and how the next Congress should address entitlement spending.