OVERNIGHT HEALTH: GOP bolsters repeal agenda


Mandate targeted: A House Republican introduced a bill Tuesday to weaken the reform law’s requirement for individuals to purchase insurance. http://bit.ly/iaT2SX

Dems propose limited tort reforms: A day after Obama endorsed reforming medical malpractice laws, Democrats offered up reforms smaller in scope than the ones proposed by Republicans earlier this week. The president's suggestion was immediately blasted by trial lawyers' groups Tuesday night. http://bit.ly/dOKGVY

Senate Democrats are still skeptical about tort reform. http://bit.ly/hInMXT

More speech fallout — Medicare jitters: The AARP, a key ally in aiding the passage of healthcare reform, scolded Obama for signaling that he’s open to more cuts to federal health programs. However, centrist Democrats welcomed Obama’s message. http://bit.ly/e6F2c7

More waivers granted: A week after Republicans announced plans to investigate waivers granted to organizations for healthcare reform provisions, President Obama’s health department made public new waivers for more than more than 500 groups. http://bit.ly/exU8KX

Dems slam Ryan entitlement proposals: Democrats on the House Budget Committee used the panel’s hearing on the reform law as a platform for blasting Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget roadmap, in which the GOP rising star calls for replacing Medicare with vouchers in the future. During the hearing, Medicare’s chief actuary said the bill would not lower healthcare costs for Americans. http://bit.ly/fSzFBU

Adviser vague on reform improvements: Top economic adviser Austan Goolsbee provided little insight into what improvements the administration would recommend for the reform law. Goolsbee reiterated Obama’s support for repealing the 1099 requirement for businesses to file paperwork on purchases of at least $600 to each vendor, as well as the willingness to address tort reform. http://bit.ly/fRUBCO

Federal spending up $1T over decade, scorekeeper says: Federal spending on healthcare programs will more than double over from $810 billion to $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. The CBO last year projected health spending would be 6.8 percent of GDP in 2020, but the office this year upped that prediction to 7.4 percent in 2021. http://bit.ly/gkVifW

Repeal 1099 at any cost?: Obama’s call for repealing the 1099 filing requirement got one of the loudest applause lines during his Tuesday night address, but the administration isn’t providing further guidance on how to get it done. There are two competing philosophies on repealing 1099: cut it and ignore the projected $19 billion impact on the deficit, or use unobligated funds to cover the cost. However, as of Wednesday, the administration was staying on the sidelines. 

Tauzin lands at law firm: Former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) joined the Alston & Bird law firm Wednesday, almost one year after stepping down as president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. http://bit.ly/ggrKrC

Cabinet official says no need for Senate vote: Commerce Secretary Gary Locke rejected the GOP’s call for the Senate to vote on repealing the reform law. “There are so many other issues that are before the Congress, there’s no sense in bringing up a measure that doesn’t have the votes and is opposed by the majority in the Senate,” he told reporters on a conference call.

Scholars back reform law: Repealing the healthcare reform law would cause “needless economic harm,” a group of 272 academics wrote to influential House panels on Wednesday. The letter comes a week after hundreds of conservative academics argued the opposite. http://bit.ly/enSkNa

Breast cancer linked to implants:
The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday there is a possible association between saline and silicone gel-filled breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), an extremely rare form of cancer. The agency said it is aware of 60 such cases worldwide.

On the agenda for Thursday:

Pro-reform conference kicks off: Families USA, a major backer of the reform law, starts its annual conference with a star-studded list of Democratic lawmakers and HHS officials. On the roster for Thursday: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (Iowa) and CMS Administrator Donald Berwick. On Friday, President Obama will speak to the conference.

HELP on the way: The Senate HELP committee will hold a hearing touting the reform law’s consumer protections. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Rhode Island Insurance Commissioner Christopher Koller will testify.

Gotta have faith: Sebelius will hold a conference call with faith and community leaders to boost the reform law Thursday afternoon.

HIV/AIDS focus: The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS will kick off a two-day meeting with a focus on HIV incidence and access to care.

Around the Web: 

Following Arizona’s example, more states might seek Medicaid cuts, Bloomberg reports. http://bloom.bg/eJpuP6

The FDA and dairy producers are sparring over milk testing, The New York Times reports. http://nyti.ms/ihtZKW

An appellate court hearing on Virginia's challenge to the reform law will likely take place between May 10 and 13, The Washington Post reports. http://wapo.st/fXOuh5

South Dakota’s legislature rejected a bill that would have declared the reform law unconstitutional, The Associated Press reports. http://bloom.bg/gKlpG1

Kaiser Health News answers some FAQs about selling insurance across state lines. http://bit.ly/c2oTHn

Same-sex partners of Michigan state employees will be eligible for health benefits, the Detroit Free Press reports. http://bit.ly/hSl0pn

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

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