OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Appeals court upholds healthcare law

The 2004 Democratic presidential candidate said he's one of the few Democrats who likes the recent McKinsey survey that found that more than 30 percent of businesses were likely to shift their workers onto healthcare exchanges starting in 2014. In making his comments, Dean said he agreed with Republican strategist Karl Rove's stated support for giving workers tax credits to buy insurance.

The two were speaking at the biotechnology industry's 2011 international convention in Washington. Also on the panel were former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoGOP chairman seeks ‘sufficient’ funding for EPA watchdog office Ernst, Fischer to square off for leadership post Trump calls into Senate GOP lunch to discuss North Korea MORE (R-Wyo.). Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has the blow-by-blow.

Medicare cuts to pay for trade? The American Medical Association (AMA) is raising issues with reports that cuts to Medicare payments for diagnostic imaging could be used to pay for pending trade legislation. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has recommended steep payment reductions for such tests.

"The AMA strongly opposes a proposal to use significant cuts to Medicare payments for diagnostic imaging to offset the cost of a trade agreement," said AMA President Peter Carmel. "The stability of our Medicare system should be a top priority for policymakers — not a bargaining chip for unrelated negotiations."

Mine operator faulted: The operator of a West Virginia mine that exploded last year, killing 29 men, could have prevented the disaster, federal investigators said Wednesday. The Hill has the story.

Dealing with pain: The Institute of Medicine called for a coordinated, national public-private effort to transform the nation's approach to pain management and prevention. Chronic pain affects 116 million American adults and costs the nation up to $635 billion each year in medical treatment and lost productivity, according to a congressionally mandated report.

The report offers a blueprint for transforming the way the nation addresses pain prevention, care, education and research. It was immediately hailed by a coalition of stakeholder groups.

"We hope that this landmark report sounds the siren call for greater attention to pain issues by both public- and private-sector policymakers and by the nation as a whole," they said. "We hope the recommendations of the report lay a clear path toward much-needed improvements in pain research, care, education and treatment."

Straight from the source: Medicare might be able to save on durable medical equipment by buying straight from the manufacturer, says a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requested by Rep. Pete Stark (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Health subcommittee.

"I requested this report because it’s always seemed to me that we could get a better deal by going right to manufacturers, just like the federal government does today when they buy vehicles," Stark said in a statement. "This GAO report shows that additional savings may be possible, while still ensuring quality and access to care. I’ve written to the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation and asked that they review this report and consider testing the potential for manufacturer-level competitive bidding for these medical supplies in Medicare." Read the letter here.

Heparin probe: Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee expanded their probe into tainted heparin from China by asking 10 drug companies to share their knowledge of the Chinese heparin industry and supply chains. The three-year investigation into the blood-thinning drug has put the Food and Drug Administration on the defensive.

The letter was sent to: APP Pharmaceuticals; Amphastar Pharmaceuticals; Momenta Pharmaceuticals; Siegfried USA Inc.; Sagent Pharmaceutical; Sanofi Aventis; Drug Source Company LLC; Global Pharma Sourcing LLC; Pacific Rainbow International; and Sandoz.

Thursday's agenda:

Obesity vs. free speech: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts a panel discussion to draw attention to proposed food marketing restrictions aimed at curtailing childhood obesity. The event will feature a Northwestern law school professor who has written about the First Amendment ramifications of anti-obesity efforts under consideration by the Interagency Working Group (made up of the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Peter Orszag's comeback: Remember him? The former White House budget director testifies at 10 a.m. before the Senate Finance Committee about the key issues driving the federal deficit.

Drug decision: The Medicare agency is due to decide whether to continue paying for the costly prostate cancer drug Provenge after a yearlong review that critics have said is a step toward rationing. The agency is expected to decide to pay for the drug if it's used according to the label, notes a recent New York Times article.

Lobbying registrations:

Stanton Park Group / Home Health Advocacy Coalition

Stanton Park Group / American TeleCare

Reading list

An FDA panel rejected the use of Avastin to treat breast cancer, reports The New York Times.

What you might have missed on Healthwatch:

Stem cell bill gets Republican champion

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Comments / complaints / suggestions?

Please let us know:

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

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

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