OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Medicare cuts up in the air

Meanwhile, Energy and Commerce Democrats made it clear they'd fight tooth and nail to avoid massive cuts to healthcare entitlements proposed by the GOP. On Thursday, they sought to turn a routine review of the committee's accomplishments into an indictment of Republicans' healthcare agenda, and introduced a slew of amendments requiring the committee to examine the effects of the Republican budget on Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has the story.

The feisty markup follows similar battles in the Education and the Workforce and Oversight and Government Reform committees.

Two wins for Pharma: The Supreme Court delivered two wins for pharmaceutical companies on Thursday. The justices ruled 5-4 that patients can't sue over the warning labels on generic drugs, a decision that shields generic manufacturers from lawsuits that their brand-name counterparts still face.

The court said federal law pre-empts lawsuits over generics' labels, as the drugs are required to maintain the same labeling as the brand-name products they copy. So lawsuits charging that a generic should have unilaterally changed its label are essentially asking the companies to violate federal law, the court said. Healthwatch's Sam Baker has more on the decision.

Separately, the court handed down a 6-3 ruling striking down a Vermont law that bans the sale of doctors' prescribing information. Data-mining companies buy doctors' records from pharmacies, then sell that information to drug companies. The drug makers then use it to tailor their marketing to specific doctors.

Vermont outlawed that practice, which data-mining firms and the drug industry challenged as a violation of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court struck down Vermont's law on Thursday, saying the state couldn't adequately justify its limits on commercial speech. A copy of the decision is here.

Problems with TRICARE: The healthcare program for veterans and their families is part of several provisions of the House Defense spending bill with which the White House is raising "problematic policy and language issues." The House passed the rule for the bill on Thursday, 251-173.

According to the Statement of Administration Policy, the bill's prohibition of TRICARE prime increases for one year "would hinder implementation of the TRICARE proposals included in the President's Budget. The Administration understands this language was added inadvertently, and requests that it be deleted from the report."

Appeals complaint: Consumer advocates aren't happy with revised regulations on the process for filing appeals when insurers deny claims. Healthwatch's Sam Baker has more.

Reach them while they're young: The Institute of Medicine is urging that efforts to prevent childhood obesity begin as early as birth. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has more.

No place like home: A new Avalere Health study finds that providing home healthcare post-hospitalization results in fewer readmissions, saving Medicare an estimated $670 million over three years.

Testing, testing: A three-year, $111 million program to expand access to HIV testing has provided nearly 2.8 million HIV tests and diagnosed 18,432 individuals who were previously unaware of their HIV infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

Tackling Alzheimer's: The House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights held the first-ever hearing devoted to the Alzheimer's pandemic on Thursday. At the hearing, the nation's leading Alzheimer's organizations called on the United Nations's General Assembly to include Alzheimer's within the agenda for the landmark summit on Non-Communicable Diseases being held this September.

Friday's events:  

The Ways and Means Committee marks up its report on legislative and oversight activities — its version of the Energy and Commerce meeting that turned heated on Thursday.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) holds a news conference at 11 a.m. on the Capitol grounds for HIV/AIDS Testing Day. Possible speakers include White House Office of HIV/AIDS Policy Director Jeffrey Crowley.

Lobbying registrations:

Law Offices of Marc Shapiro / Pozen (pharmaceutical research and development)

The DEH Group / American Health Care Association (long-term care facilities)

The DEH Group / California Association of Health Facilities (nursing homes)

Barbour Griffith & Rogers (dab BGR Holding) / Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company (biopharmaceutical company) 

Wiley Rein / American Optometric Association (children's vision care)

Reading list

Time examines presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty's shifting rhetoric on health insurance exchanges.

The Illinois attorney general sues a medical imaging company in the wake of a ProPublica investigation.

Former House Democratic leader — and current healthcare lobbyist — Dick Gephardt weighs in against the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Poll: Public overwhelmingly rejects GOP Medicare plan.

HHS announces $10 million for workplace prevention programs.

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