OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Senate repeal vote coming

HHS makes staff changes at health reform office: Former Missouri Insurance Commissioner Jay Angoff is leaving his post at the head of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO). He'll now serve as a senior adviser to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, focusing on health insurance coverage and cost issues and working with states and federal agencies to foster competition.

Taking Angoff's place as director of CCIIO is Steve Larsen, the director of the CCIIO's Office of Oversight, where he led efforts to draft rate review and medical loss ratio regulations.

Abortion hearing announced: A House Judiciary Committee subpanel announced it will hold the first hearing on H.R. 3, a bill that would establish a permanent, government-wide prohibition on federal subsidies for abortion and for healthcare plans that cover abortion. The hearing will be held Feb. 8.

Bipartisan innovation boost: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) introduced their "Innovate America Act," which seeks to streamline regulations and boost education and exports. Their two states are national leaders in medical device technology. 

Device industry likes it: "The 'Innovate America Act' includes many thoughtful policies that will help maintain American competitiveness, including provisions to identify and remove regulatory barriers that undermine innovation and the growth of exporting industries like the medical technology industry," Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) President and CEO Stephen Ubl said in a statement.

War over bidding: One month since the beginning of Medicare's competitive bidding program for Durable Medical Equipment in nine metro areas, the American Association for Homecare says patients are reporting myriad problems.

Problems include difficulty finding a local equipment or service provider; delays in obtaining medically required equipment and services; longer than necessary hospital stays due to trouble discharging patients to home-based care; far fewer choices for patients when selecting equipment or providers; reduced quality; and confusing or incorrect information provided by Medicare.

Biomedical industry takes off in California: The industry is poised for growth in 2011 despite increasing global competition, says a new PwC report

Blue Shield caves on premiums: Blue Shield of California has announced it will comply with the state insurance commissioner's request to delay for 60 days rate increases that were scheduled for March 1. The insurer had come under fire for proposing premium hikes of up to 59 percent in the individual market. 

Protesters claim victory: Nurses, consumer groups and Blue Shield policyholders noted that the insurer caved on the 60-day delay on the same day they protested the hikes. The protesters are supporting a bill that would authorize the insurance commissioner to review rate hikes and reject excessive increase before they become effective.

Haley Barbour coming to Washington: Mississippi's Republican governor (and possible presidential candidate) will address the Federation of American Hospitals' 2011 Public Policy Conference on March 1.

Other scheduled speakers include Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Medicare administrator Don Berwick and Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Consumer groups oppose tort reform: Two dozen consumer and patient safety groups penned a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) expressing their opposition to the GOP's tort reform bill. The letter also makes recommendation for reforming medical liability laws.

Higher aspirations: Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), who chairs the House Appropriations health subpanel, will challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) for his Senate seat.


Wednesday's agenda: 

Health reform constitutional? The Senate Judiciary Committee debates the question two days after a federal judge in Florida ruled it wasn't. The hearing will make for a fascinating legal debate, even if it has next to no effect on future rulings.

Panelists arguing for the law include John Kroger, Oregon's liberal attorney general, as well as Walter Dellinger, acting solicitor general under President Clinton, and Charles Fried of Harvard Law School. Republicans have invited Randy Barnett of Georgetown University Law Center and Michael Carvin, a partner with Jones Day.

Medical device outlook: AdvaMed will hold its annual press briefing on the medical device industry's 2011 agenda.


Reading list:

Despite the Florida ruling, health companies are pushing ahead with plans to implement the reform law, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The White House compiles comments from legal experts criticizing the Florida decision.

Lawmakers started receiving their health benefits on Tuesday, The New York Times reports.  

In a move jabbing the individual mandate, Republican lawmakers in the South Dakota state legislature want to force individuals over the age of 21 to buy a gun, Raw Story reports.

The Supreme Court battle over healthcare reform may boil down to how Justice Kennedy rules, USA Today reports. 

GOP presidential candidates hailed the Florida ruling, the Associated Press reports. 

New York's governor proposed nearly $1 billion in Medicaid cuts, CNN Money reports. 


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Healthcare reform supporters have begun to seek alternatives to the unpopular individual mandate. 

The Florida ruling boosts Arizona's case for a Medicaid waiver, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) argues.  

Anti-abortion groups are using a new undercover video to make their case for legislation that would bar federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

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

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