OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Virginia judge rules healthcare mandate unconstitutional

Welcome to The Hill's evening roundup of the day's health policy news and advance look at tomorrow's schedule.


Monday's health news: 

As was widely predicted, a federal judge in Virginia ruled Monday that the healthcare reform law's individual mandate is unconstitutional. Judge Henry Hudson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia stopped shy, however, of overturning the whole law, and restricted his ruling to the mandate that people buy insurance starting in 2014 "and directly-dependent provisions."

Next stop: Supreme Court. The case is widely expected to end up before the Supreme Court, as are several other lawsuits against the Democrats' reform law — including a 21-state lawsuit in Florida whose oral arguments will be heard Thursday. Incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in a statement Monday called on the Obama administration to request that the courts skip the appeals process and send the issue straight to the high court.

Republicans ecstatic: Notable among the Republican victory declarations was Sen. Orrin Hatch's immediate response. The Utah Republican, who supported an individual mandate when Republicans proposed the idea in 1994, fears a Tea Party challenge in the 2012 primary. http://bit.ly/g3c29Q

White House unimpressed: The Obama administration quickly responded with a blog post calling the decision a "narrow ruling" that was "just one of many recent rulings on similar cases that have come down in recent months." http://bit.ly/dY9nTZ

Judge has ties to pro-repeal firm: Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee, is a passive investor in a conservative law firm whose clients include reform opponents, The Huffington Post has pointed out. http://huff.to/aTWlpL

IRS issues drug tax guidance: The Internal Revenue Service on Monday released guidance on the healthcare reform law's tax on drug makers. The tax, which should raise about $2.3 billion a year, will target branded prescription drug sales of more than $5 million to Medicare and other government programs. http://bit.ly/dKm3OP

Doctors seeking $200M owed by Medicare: Doctors are asking the Medicare agency to quickly explain how it will dole out $200 million in overdue reimbursements following "a highly disruptive year" for physician payments. Healthcare reform enacted this year called on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reimburse doctors retroactively to Jan. 1, 2010, on several provisions, including extending the floor for a Medicare payment scale used to determine relative costs of practicing medicine in specific locations. http://bit.ly/e8LB5F

Top Democrat vows to defend reform's health savings: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Monday that Democrats' strategy to reform entitlement programs includes "sticking to the cost-control provisions we passed in the health care bill." Republicans vow to repeal the law, but Democrats say that would add to the federal deficit. http://bit.ly/gZBnXT

IPAB defined: Hoyer's remarks about the Democratic agenda for the next Congress comes as the Congressional Research Service released a 37-page analysis of the reform law's Independent Payment Advisory Board. The controversial provision would propose cuts to Medicare payments if the federal government's healthcare costs grow too fast.

Obama breathes easy with passage of childhood nutrition bill: Failing to pass his wife's priority would have had him "sleeping on the couch," the president said Monday as he signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The $4.5 billion bill expands free lunches and makes school lunches more nutritious. http://bit.ly/eqJnhf

CMS seeks input on Independence at Home: CMS held a listening session with stakeholders on Monday to seek input on a provision of the healthcare reform law that creates an "Independence at Home Demonstration." The demo will test a payment incentive and service delivery model that relies on home-based primary care teams designed to provide better and cheaper care.

Report issues recommendations on "dual eligibles": Two liberal groups on Monday released a plan to deal with the soaring healthcare costs of poor older Americans who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. The plan's five principles: start with a well-designed healthcare delivery system; ensure strong beneficiary protections; engage dual eligibles and their families in program design; ensure combined Medicare/Medicaid funds to enhance healthcare delivery; and establish a culture of quality improvement. http://bit.ly/f7scCS  


On the agenda for Tuesday

Baby boomers and the reform law: The pro-healthcare-reform Commonwealth Fund will release a report in the morning outlining how 18.3 million people ages 50 to 64 will benefit from the new law. The biggest help to this population will come in 2014, when they will be able to access comprehensive insurance through expanded Medicaid and subsidized private insurance through insurance exchanges, the organization said.

Health IT year in review: The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology will kick off a two-day review of the agency's progress in 2010. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CMS Administrator Donald Berwick and ONC head David Blumenthal are scheduled to speak Tuesday.


Around the Web

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) outlines GOP repeal strategy on Fox News: "We know that the president would veto that when it gets to his desk but we need a test vote so we know where people stand and we can start marching down through the appropriations bills, every one of them, putting language in them that prohibits any of the funds that are appropriated from being used to either implement or enforce Obamacare." http://bit.ly/eNmTWG

Maine doctors will urge the newly elected governor and attorney general not to join efforts to repeal healthcare reform, the Portland Press Herald reports. http://bit.ly/dQ9IfW

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Please let us know:

Julian Pecquet : jpecquet@thehill.com / 202-628-8527

Jason Millman : jmillman@thehill.com / 202-628-8351