OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Virginia opens case in appeals court

Repeal support up: The Obama administration's weeklong focus on healthcare reform apparently didn't do it any favors, according to a new Rasmussen poll. The firm, which tends to track to the right, said support for repealing the reform law jumped from 53 percent to 58 percent over the past week.

Groups urge HHS to block MLR request: New Hampshire's hospital industry and consumer groups want the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reject the state's request for relief from medical loss ratio (MLR) requirements. The new federal rule requires insurers in the individual market to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on actual care services, but the state is asking the threshold be lowered to 70 percent until 2014. Read the Healthwatch story

Commissioners delay broker decision: State insurance regulators have delayed a decision on whether to back a bill to exempt brokers and agents from the MLR calculation. The agents and brokers fear their classification as an administrative expense will significantly damage their commissions. Read the Healthwatch story.

Advocates vs. brokers: The consumer group Consumer Watchdog doesn't like the agent/broker exemption bill. Neither does the American Cancer Society, which warns in a letter to lawmakers that excluding agents and brokers from the calculation would "give insurers an artificially low calculation of administrative expenses which would permit them to reduce the value of medical benefits to policy holders."

Drug shortages up: The U.S. faced an unprecedented shortage of 240 pharmaceuticals in 2010, healthcare experts warned during a Monday conference call. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) used the call to build attention for her bill requiring durgmakers to provide the Food and Drug Administration with early notification of any incident that could cause a drug shortage. The Hill's Julian Pecquet has the story

Generics mean savings: States and the federal government could have saved up to $329 million had they expanded the use of generic drugs, according to a new report from the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Those savings can be even greater when Medicaid expands in 2014 under healthcare reform, the report's author said. Read the Healthwatch post.

Waxman cites tobacco loophole: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) says a tobacco company is circumventing a new Food and Drug Administration ban against clove-flavored cigarettes by producing clove-flavored cigars. Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a Monday letter asked FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to close the loophole to include a ban on clove cigars.

Anti-abortion group keeps up pressure: The Susan B. Anthony List bought TV ads in Washington over the next two weeks to keep up the pressure on lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood in the long-term 2011 spending bill. The ad features a former Planned Parenthood worker who claims to expose the organization's bad intentions. Here's the ad.

Labs don't want regulators to sign off on rule: Clinical laboratories are hoping that federal regulators will scrap a regulation requiring them to show a physician's signature in order to be reimbursed. The signature requirement is aimed to curb fraud and abuse, but the American Clinical Laboratory Association says there's no evidence to back that claim. The Hill's Julian Pecquet has the story.


Tuesday's agenda:

Dems celebrate reform as job creator: The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee is holding a Tuesday afternoon hearing to discuss the positive impact the healthcare reform law has on creating jobs.

Breakfast meeting: The National Home Care and Hospice Association is hosting a breakfast on the Hill with senators Tuesday morning. Those scheduled to attend: Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The association is upset with scheduled cuts to home healthcare and a proposed Medicare co-pay for home health visits. 

More breakfast: HHS and CMS officials will speak Tuesday morning at Union Station during an event hosted by CQ Roll Call and Thomson Reuters. On the schedule: Marilyn Tavenner, CMS principal deputy administrator; Joel Ario, director of HHS' Office of Insurance Exchanges; and Tevi Troy, former HHS deputy secretary under President George W. Bush.


Reading list:

Arizona published final rules on medical marijuana, the Phoenix Business Journal writes.

A new study shows that Facebook may help identify people who are depressed, the Orlando Sentinel writes.

A bill creating a state health insurance exchange advances in the Arkansas legislature, The Associated Press reports.

Liberal naysayers who claim Republicans don't have a healthcare reform plan have forgotten about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)'s 2008 campaign platform, John Goodman writes at the National Center for Policy Analysis.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch:

Several prominent Democrats said the Obama administration's suggestions for cutting Medicaid are "cruel" and "disappointing."

Republicans are raising new questions about how much legal leeway the Obama administration has to fix pieces of the healthcare law.

Forty-six percent think Planned Parenthood's federal funding should be left alone, while 42 percent want to cut it. 

Four former Cabinet secretaries are signing onto a bipartisan effort to tackle the nation’s growing obesity problem.

Healthwatch looks at the week ahead in healthcare news.


Comments / complaints / suggestions? Please let us know:

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

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