OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Senate Dem 'hopes' for individual mandate alternatives

CMS reorganization: The Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, created by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the reform law’s insurance provisions, will move from the department into the Medicare agency, according to a letter from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The new office will be known as the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. Kaiser Health News was the first to report the change.

A GOP described the move as political, saying HHS is trying to protect the office from being defunded by the GOP. However, an HHS source rejected the aide's claim. "As we move from the policy and reg writing stage to the operational stage of implementation, it makes sense to put these functions in HHS operating divisions," the source said.

New CLASS Act office: HHS will also create a new office responsible for overseeing the CLASS Act, a new long-term insurance plan created by the reform law. That office will be within the department’s Administration on Aging, according to a second letter.

Once again, 1099 repeal floated: Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) re-introduced a bill repealing the reform law’s 1099 tax provision Wednesday afternoon, according to his office. Repeal of the provision, which requires business to report supply purchases of $600 or more per vendor, has the support of both parties, the president and the business community, but Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on how to fund repeal. http://bit.ly/g64NP7

Similar to Baucus plan: The Lungren bill does not offset the $19 billion cost of repeal. A similar measure pushed by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) failed the Senate, 44-53, in the lame-duck session.

GOP targets IPAB: Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), the new Republican Policy Committee chairman, said Republicans will defund the Independent Payment Advisory Board — a Medicare panel created by the reform law tasked with making spending proposals. Republicans said the board provides too much power to unelected bureaucrats and will enable healthcare rationing. http://bit.ly/hPkoLH

Anti-abortion groups set agenda: The Susan B. Anthony List on Wednesday announced that it is mobilizing its 280,000 grassroots activists to pressure lawmakers to vote for repeal when it comes up for a House vote next Wednesday. http://bit.ly/dLszJC

Abortion rights group launches anti-Boehner effort: The abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America on Wednesday launched a new website called StandUpToBoehner.org. The site allows supporters to take an oath to support abortion rights and have their location pinpointed on a map of the United States. http://bit.ly/f7gDGH

Cabinet heads push back against repeal: Three Obama department chiefs urged Congress not to undo the reform law in a Wednesday letter. The secretaries, including Sebelius, emphasized the reform law’s consumer protections. http://bit.ly/fgZ0WZ

GOP rejects letter’s claims: A memo from the Republican Policy Committee says the secretaries’ claim of lower premiums is false. The committee also criticizes the administration for celebrating an insurer’s 9.8 percent rate hike.

"What happened to the $2,500 reduction in premiums candidate Obama promised, such that an increase of 'only' 9.8 percent is considered an accomplishment?" the memo said.

Obama spokesman downplays repeal talk: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that talk of Republicans trying to repeal the healthcare reform law is "a bit of huff and puff." http://bit.ly/hNQEwJ

Sherrod Brown agrees: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a top Republican target in 2012, said GOP repeal efforts are a “colossal waste of time.” Brown doesn’t have a GOP challenger yet, but his poll numbers are below 45 percent. http://bit.ly/ggSOR9

‘Death panel’ provision removed: The Obama administration will remove a brand-new Medicare policy that had reignited the "death panel" debate from last year's healthcare fight, according a report. The reversal comes a week after some conservatives accused the Obama administration of trying to sneak through a regulation after failing to gain congressional support. A provision for end-of-life planning was not included in the final healthcare overhaul after former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and other conservatives said it supports government-run "death panels." http://bit.ly/f91okt

Hospitals hit with $6.3 million fine for false claims: Seven hospitals in six states have agreed to pay more than $6.3 million to settle allegations that the healthcare facilities submitted false claims to Medicare, the Justice Department announced. The claims have to do with kyphoplasty, a minimally-invasive procedure used to treat certain spinal fractures that often are due to osteoporosis. The hospitals are in Florida, Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama. http://bit.ly/h05Cy2

New CRS reports: A new Congressional Research Service report explains changes to health savings accounts under the reform law. A second report reviews federal powers to oversee healthcare.


On the agenda for Thursday:

Dem push for repeal amendments: House Democrats will pressure the GOP to allow amendments to the repeal bill in a bid to force up-or-down votes on popular patient protections in the bill. Republicans are pushing for a closed vote, saying the American people want them to act quickly on repeal. http://bit.ly/fRcoaJ

Housing announcement: Sebelius and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will make a funding announcement Thursday morning on a program helping nearly 1,000 non-elderly Americans with disabilities to live independently.

Global AIDS relief meeting: The Scientific Advisory Board of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief will hold its first meeting on Thursday. Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, will attend.


Around the Web:

MedPAC finds regional differences in health spending, The Wall Street Journal reports. http://on.wsj.com/fGaKxA

Illinois is delaying recommendations on how to implement the reform law to wait for the state legislature’s Medicaid proposals, the Associated Press reports. http://bit.ly/gkGCE9

Researchers say providing health insurance to employees improves work performance, UPI reports. http://bit.ly/hO61qR
 
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