OVERNIGHT HEALTH: House adopts tighter abortion restrictions

Safer foods: The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday issued its first regulations related to the food-safety bill that passed at the end of last year.

The first rule strengthens FDA's ability to prevent potentially unsafe food from being sold by allowing the detention of food the agency believes has been produced under unsanitary or unsafe conditions. Prior to the law, FDA could only detain food if it had credible evidence that a product was contaminated or mislabeled in a way that presented a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death. 

The second rule requires anyone importing food into the United States to inform the FDA if any country has refused entry to the same product, including food for animals.

Safer foods, redux: A new Government Accountability Office report outlines ways the Agriculture Department could make foods served at schools safer.

AARP goes to battle: The seniors' lobby launched a national campaign Wednesday urging lawmakers to reject massive cuts to Medicare and Social Security as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling. 

The multimillion-dollar campaign seeks to fight against proposals that contain arbitrary limits, caps or triggers. It includes a national television ad along with grassroots and online activities. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has the story.

Appeals briefs filed: Plaintiffs in the 26-state challenge against the healthcare reform law filed their briefs in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday. Florida, the lead plaintiff, argued that the law unconstitutionally infringes on individual freedoms, exceeds Congress’s enumerated powers, and coerces the states in violation of the 10th Amendment. The National Federation of Independent Business, a co-plaintiff, also filed a brief challenging the law.

Federal Judge Roger Vinson ruled Jan. 31 that the entire law should be struck down after finding its individual mandate unconstitutional. The appeals court is scheduled to hear oral arguments June 8. Read the Healthwatch post.

Say hi to the new guy: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has hired Patrick Conway from Cincinnati Children's Hospital to be its new chief medical officer and director of the Department of Health and Human Services's (HHS) Office of Clinical Standards and Quality. Read the Healthwatch story.

Medicare auditors recoup $237.8 million: Private contractors working for the Medicare agency recouped $237.8 million in the six-month period that ended in March, according to a new report from CMS. Healthwatch has more here.

Infections study: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius marked the 12th anniversary of the Institute of Medicine's landmark study on hospital-acquired infections with a speech commending a growing public-private partnership launched last month.

"Today, I’m proud to say that more than 2,500 partners have signed on, including more than 1,200 hospitals," she said in prepared remarks. "But what really sets this partnership apart from previous efforts is how eager they were to join. There was negotiating or arm twisting. When we reached out, the typical response was: where do I sign up?"


Thursday's agenda: 

Early start: Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) starts the morning with an 8:30 Health Affairs breakfast event at the National Press Club.

As Camp wraps up, the press club will host Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) as they help launch Cervical Cancer-Free America.

SGR overhaul urged: Three of the nation's largest physicians groups will tell Congress on Thursday that Medicare needs to overhaul over the next five years the way it pays for care.

The groups are scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Health subpanel about proposals to replace the dreaded Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, which calls for deep cuts to Medicare payment rates. Republicans and the administration have vowed to repeal the formula this year, but doing so would cost almost $300 billion. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has more.

Sebelius on the Hill: The secretary briefs the House Education and Workforce Committee Thursday morning on the "Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services."

Let's fix healthcare: The Senate HELP Committee looks at health quality and patient safety. Testifying will be Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and officials from Mercy Cedar Rapids Hospital and Denver Health.


Reading list: 

Fifty-seven percent of women disagree with new U.S. health task force recommendations that most women in their 40s don't need mammograms, HealthDay reports.

Florida hospitals and nursing homes will see a $700 million cut in Medicaid payments under the state's proposed budget, writes the News Service of Florida.

Three-fourths of Americans have no plan to meet healthcare costs in retirement, according to a new Sun Life Financial survey reviewed by ProducersWeb.com.

A skin-care firm is shamelessly offering Virginia editors $100 for every reader the newspapers get to buy the firm's products, according to the Poynter Institute.

Noted medical reporting critic Gary Schwitzer gives four stars to stories on addiction vaccines and tailored medicine.

No, Mars isn't proposing broccoli M&M's.


Comments / complaints / suggestions? Please let us know:

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

Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351


Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch

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