OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Opposition to reform law falls ahead of vote

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

On the agenda for Tuesday:

Repeal debate begins: The House on Tuesday will kick off seven hours of debate on a bill to repeal the healthcare reform law a day before the chamber is scheduled to vote on the measure. The debate and vote were delayed by a week in the wake of last weekend's Arizona shooting. Lawmakers have called for toned-down rhetoric in light of the tragedy. 

House Dems stage reform law hearing: House Democrats will kick off the repeal debate by staging a hearing on Tuesday where individuals will testify in favor of consumer protections included in the reform law. The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee – not an official congressional committee – is billing the event as an opportunity to hear from individuals who benefit from the reform law’s consumer protections. Dems have criticized the GOP for rushing through a repeal vote without holding any hearings, but Republicans say the November elections proved that Americans want the House to quickly repeal the bill. http://bit.ly/fYgofB

Abortion debate expected: A looming debate on federal funding for abortions will challenge lawmakers’ calls to tone done political rhetoric in light of the Arizona shooting that left six dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz) critically wounded. After Wednesday’s repeal vote, the House will vote on a resolution that instructs committees to propose replacement pieces including provisions that “prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions and provide conscience protections for health care providers." http://bit.ly/hfCC7k

Former leaders launch bipartisan health initiative: A bipartisan group of former congressional and state leaders on Tuesday will launch a new health project focusing on state-based initiatives. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) project will be announced by former Senate majority leaders Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and former Gov. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio). The BPC made headlines in June 2009 when it offered a bipartisan blueprint for healthcare reform. http://bit.ly/gMdhGF

Liberal budget group challenges GOP on CBO score: The left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities on Tuesday will counter the GOP’s dismissal of the nonpartisan congressional scorekeeper’s projection that repealing the reform law will add $230 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. House Republican leaders, contending that the reform law will increase the deficit, said the Congressional Budget Office reached that conclusion on the account of Democrats’ “budget gimmickry.”

Conservative groups to boost reforms: Several conservative associations will propose replacements for 10 provisions included in the reform law. For starters, the groups will propose repealing the individual and employer mandates in place of a “generous” tax subsidy for individuals to obtain insurance. Groups appearing at the Capitol Hill event include the National Center for Policy Analysis, American Action Forum, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute and Cato Institute.

Ways and Means get new Medicare staffer: Brett Baker, the former director of regulatory and insurer affairs for the American College of Physicians, starts with the Ways and Means Committee Tuesday. He'll be working with the health subcommittee Republican staff handling Medicare Part B issues.

Monday’s health news:

Strong opposition to reform law drops: As House Republicans plan to repeal the healthcare reform law this week, strong opposition to the law fell to the lowest levels in more than a year, according to a new poll. Thirty percent strongly oppose the reform law, the lowest percentage since September 2009, when Congress was still crafting the legislation. http://bit.ly/ebo2Ix

Sebelius ties healthcare reform to MLK: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusThe House needs to help patients from being victimized by antiquated technology Obama cabinet official: Clinton White House doubled down on 'abusive behavior' John Roberts has tough job of keeping faith in Supreme Court MORE said the Obama administration’s healthcare efforts are a “fitting tribute” to Martin Luther King, Jr., because he decried health disparities in America. "With the passage of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, we took the most important step to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities that our nation has seen in the last 40 years," Sebelius said. http://bit.ly/ef1WUX

Clyburn also makes King connection: Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the No. 3 House Democrat and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said King recognized healthcare disparities was a problem.

"In 1966," Clyburn said Monday on Fox News, "Dr. King spoke to a healthcare committee, and he said at that time that he thought that there was nothing that was as bad, when it comes to citizens' access to freedom in democracy, than our health care system."

Group targets Dem 'no' votes: Anti-reform group DeFundIt.org is calling on 13 House Democrats who voted against the reform law to be “intellectually consistent” by voting for its repeal. However, just two have said they will support the GOP repeal bill on Wednesday. http://bit.ly/fXxTUM

Rep. says study needed before action on mental health:
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), a psychologist and co-chairman of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, said lawmakers must do their due diligence on mental health policy before taking action in response to the Arizona shooting tragedy. http://bit.ly/dYuabj

GOPer targets MLR regs: Republican Conference Secretary John Carter (Texas) is trying to build momentum for a Congressional Review Act (CRA) challenge to a recent regulation that requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars (85 percent in the large-group market) on healthcare services. With the Senate set to block the full repeal bill, the GOP will attack Obama administration regulations in attempt to weaken the reform law. http://bit.ly/eBYU73

Law professors come to reform’s defense: More than 100 law professors are teaming with left-leaning groups to defend the reform law’s requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance. A federal judge struck down the so-called individual mandate last month, and a federal judge in Florida may do the same this week. Two other federal judges have already upheld the individual mandate. http://bit.ly/hbgkHZ

Around the Web:

In the aftermath of the Arizona shooting, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism MORE (R-Ohio) has toned down rhetoric on the repeal bill, CNN reports. http://bit.ly/e6HmXF

North Dakota’s insurance commissioner is asking the state legislature to provide him with powers to enforce new federal regulations implementing the reform law, the Associated Press reports. http://bit.ly/dMRjcb

British Prime Minster David Cameron vows to modernize his country’s state-run healthcare system while cutting public spending, Bloomberg reports. http://bit.ly/dKUHr5

Liberal pitbull Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) says in the New York Daily News that he welcomes the GOP’s repeal effort as a second chance to defend the reform law. http://nydn.us/fTp8Kx

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

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