OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Fight taking shape before Ryan unveils budget

A look into the doughnut hole: Medicare on Monday set 2012 parameters for the so-called "doughnut hole" in its prescription drug benefit. Medicare will pay 75 percent of the cost for prescription drugs up to $2,930, and it will pick up 95 percent of the tab after $4,700. Thanks to healthcare reform, seniors will continue to get a 50 percent discount on drugs that fall into the doughnut hole, and Medicare will gradually bump up the discount over 10 years. 

Comings...: GE Healthcare today announced that John Schaeffler will head the company's government relations. Schaeffler earlier worked for GE Healthcare as a senior manager of government relations for five years.

...and goings: A day before Ryan's Medicare proposal, Barbara Kennelly announced she is stepping down as president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. The former nine-term Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut is ending a nine-year run with the organization. Executive Vice President Max Richtman will serve as acting CEO. 

Bipartisan group backs bill to prevent prescription drug abuse: Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) introduced a bill Monday that would revise Food and Drug Administration standards to ensure that prescription painkillers are used only for severe pain.

Former GOP HHS secretaries argue for data access: Tommy Thompson and Louis Sullivan urged the Supreme Court to take a lenient stance on the commercial use of stripped-down patient information. The high court will decide on the constitutionality of a Vermont law that bans the commercial use of de-identified patient data.

The Vermont law, Thompson and Sullivan write with the Healthcare Leadership Council, "makes it harder, not easier, for healthcare professionals to identify and reduce the substantial variations that exist in the delivery of healthcare services and the considerable health disparities that affect the lives of many Americans.”

Can better transportation lower healthcare costs? That's exactly what the American Medical Association (AMA) wants to find out in a study for the Federal Transportation Administration. A lack of transportation resources is a barrier to care for about 2.6 million adults, which means health conditions can worsen as people put off care provider visits, the group said Monday. The AMA, which is doing the study with Easter Seals and LogistiCare, is expected to report its findings in late 2011.


Tuesday's agenda:

E&C votes on defunding measure: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will vote on several bills to end healthcare reform's automatic long-term appropriations. The bills include: unspecified funds for state-run health insurance exchanges, an $18 billion prevention and public health fund, grants to build school-based health centers, $75 million in grants for personal responsibility and education programs and $230 million for teaching health centers.

Waste and abuse ... again: There's been a handful of hearings this Congress on waste and abuse in government healthcare programs, and the Oversight Committee's health panel makes it one more on Tuesday. Gerald Roy, Health and Human Services deputy inspector general, will paint a bleak picture of the government's efforts to combat fraud. About 270,000 Medicare beneficiary numbers have been comprised, and fraudsters can steal more than $1 million in 90 days with those numbers, he'll testify.

“Throughout my tenure at OIG," Roy will say, "those who wish to steal from our program have enjoyed unfettered access to Federal health care programs.”

Zeke checks in: Ezekiel Emanuel, who until recently was a top health adviser to President Obama, will deliver a keynote speech about economic incentives for prevention at the 8th Annual World Health Care Congress in the National Harbor. 

Chamber focuses on wellness: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will look at how businesses are incentivizing health and wellness through workplace health programs. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) is scheduled to speak.


Reading list:

A new poll finds that 52 percent of Californians support the healthcare reform law, the San Francisco Chronicle writes.

Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler argues Ryan's Medicare plan is similar to state-run health insurance exchanges created by Democrats' healthcare reform law. Rick Ungar, writing for Forbes, makes a similar argument. 

A North Carolina hospital agreed to pay nearly $2 million to settle improper billing allegations, The Associated Press reports

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) isn't a big fan of the public employee union's proposal for overhauling healthcare benefits, the Star-Ledger reports

New York City's health department is putting the kibosh on unhealthy eating in the office, the New York Daily News reports.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch:

The Obama administration granted almost 130 waivers in March for a single provision of the healthcare reform law. 

Fifty-six health groups called on the Obama administration to protect healthcare reform's prevention fund.


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

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