OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Two healthcare reform lawsuits dismissed

After keeping the healthcare world on edge for months, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals finally issued its rulings Thursday in two lawsuits over the healthcare reform law's individual mandate. So what did the court say about the coverage mandate? Hardly anything, actually.

The 4th Circuit dismissed both suits — one from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and one filed by Liberty University — without ruling on the merits of whether the mandate is constitutional.

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Healthwatch's Sam Baker has more details on the decisions.

Error-free healthcare: Check Healthwatch tomorrow morning for an exclusive interview with Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. AHRQ is a big part of comparative effectiveness research as well as delivery system reform, and Clancy told The Hill she thinks the healthcare system is "ready" to move in a new direction.

Antibiotic resistance: The agriculture spending bill that Senate appropriators unanimously approved Wednesday directs regulators to hurry up with their recommendations for limiting the use of antibiotics in farm animals. The language sets up a conflict with the House, which is seen as more resistant to restrictions. Read the Healthwatch story.

Starch overload: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wants federal regulators to set new standards for public school lunches based on how food is prepared rather than the ingredients used. Public health advocates, however, want to set limits on popular starchy vegetables like potatoes to give other vegetables a chance. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has more.

Enrolling America: A coalition of healthcare advocates and organizations in the insurance, drug and hospital industries announced its intention to launch a massive effort next week to get millions of Americans insured in 2014. "Enroll America" will use nationwide advertising and state-by-state promotions to help enroll the millions of people who will become eligible for insurance subsidies under the healthcare reform law.

AHIP on ACOs: America's Health Insurance Plans says its members can be a big asset as healthcare providers try to set up accountable care organizations or similar efforts to better coordinate healthcare. Recent regulations on ACOs spell out a "shared savings" program designed to give doctors and hospitals an incentive to participate, but AHIP said plans are uniquely able to structure accountable organizations around the unique needs of each practice.

The study of early private-sector coordination efforts was published in Health Affairs.

Health impacts: The National Research Council unveiled a new report offering guidance to public- and private-sector officials on how to evaluate the public health consequences of proposed decisions. It says factoring health and related costs into decision-making is essential to confronting the nation's health problems and enhancing public well-being.

The report comes after the Institute of Medicine in June recommended that local, state and federal agencies consider the potential public health effects of major legislation and regulations such as agriculture subsidies, zoning decisions and education policy.

Water woes: The Government Accountability Office urged the Environmental Protection Agency to combat the surge of pharmaceuticals in drinking water. The GAO report says federal agencies should collaborate and coordinate research on pharmaceuticals and other contaminants in drinking water that present the greatest public health concern.

Friday's agenda

Industry consolidation: The Ways and Means Health subcommittee holds a hearing on consolidation in the healthcare industry and its impact on costs. Chairman Wally Herger (R-Calif.) said the hearing will seek to give lawmakers the information they need to help contain costs for people on private insurance and Medicare.

Markup postponed: House appropriators postponed Friday's mark-up of their health spending bill for FY 2012 because of a scheduling conflict with Transportation appropriators. Read the Healthwatch post.

State watch 

Long-term care scorecard: Minnesota leads the pack in providing good care to its seniors and people with disabilities, according to a new state-by-state scorecard of long-term care, while Mississippi is all the way at the bottom. Even the top achievers "have a long way to go to create a high-performing system of long-term services and supports," according to the report.

The scorecard was put together by the AARP's Public Policy Institute, The Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation. It ranks states using four criteria: affordability and access; choice of setting and provider; quality of life and quality of care; and support for family caregivers.

Minnesota officials welcomed their top ranking but vowed to do even better. 

Likewise, Washington state glowed in its second-place ranking but worried about falling behind because of state budget cuts.

Federal takeover: Montana's commissioner of securities and insurance ripped state Republican lawmakers for their opposition to a state-run health insurance exchange that he says will only result in the feds taking over. 

Fraud fight

Rhode Island man pleads guilty to defrauding Medicaid while he was incarcerated. 

Attorney general wins $38.2 million verdict for Mississippi in Medicaid fraud suit.

Two Houston-area residents have been charged in nationwide Medicare Fraud Strike Force takedown.

Forty-five people and one corporation were charged as part of nationwide operation.

Reading list

Hospitals want Congress to raise the Medicare eligibility age, Politico reports.

Anti-abortion advocates are furious that the Obama administration is contracting directly with family planning clinics in New Hampshire after the state voted to end its contract with Planned Parenthood, reports the New Hampshire Union Leader.

A retired counterintelligence special agent told an anti-communist blogger that Cuba is responsible for a spate of Medicare fraud cases in South Florida.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) raised similar concerns during a Senate Finance hearing earlier this year.

The number of new cancer cases has increased by 20 percent in less than a decade and now stands at 12 million a year, reports the BBC.

Doctors appear to be leaving the lucrative speaking circuit in Massachusetts after hospitals adopted new restrictions on drug industry promotions, the Boston Globe reports.

What you might have missed on Healthwatch

AARP executive to combat high healthcare costs in new role.

GOP candidates' health statements under scrutiny.


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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