OVERNIGHT HEALTH: SCOTUS tees up health 'case of the century'

The Supreme Court confirmed on Monday that the lawsuits over healthcare reform are about as important as lawsuits get.

It was no surprise that the court agreed to hear the suit filed by 26 sates and the National Federation of Independent Business. But the court went further than that — it granted hearings in every element on the case and set aside nearly six hours for oral arguments. Legal experts say that could be the longest hearing in decades.

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The way the court handled the case underscores just how important it is, and how big of a role it could play in the 2012 elections. Healthwatch’s Sam Baker has much more on the court’s decisions, the political implications, and the reaction from both sides of the healthcare debate.

Among the biggest surprises in the court’s order Monday was its decision to hear the states’ challenge to Medicaid. They say the healthcare law’s Medicaid expansion is “coercive” and unconstitutional, but lower courts have uniformly rejected that position. Healthwatch has more on the Medicaid issue, too.

Also check out our breakdown of the five and a half hours set aside for oral arguments, and our post on the fact that Justices Elena Kagan and Clarence Thomas did not recuse themselves from the case.

Tide turning? The individual mandate is consistently one of the least popular elements of the healthcare law — remember just last week, when voters in Ohio voted overwhelmingly to disapprove of it? But a new CNN poll says attitudes might be changing.

More than half of those polled — 52 percent — said they support mandatory healthcare, compared with 47 percent who said they oppose it. That’s a reversal from June, when the same poll found 44 percent support for the mandate and 54 percent opposition.

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Innovative healthcare: The Department of Health and Human Services on Monday made available $1 billion for innovative healthcare projects that can start hiring quickly. Healthwatch has more.

Shout down: Protesters interrupted Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Scott Serota at a Chamber of Commerce event to demand a single-payer system. Watch the C-SPAN video here.


Tuesday's Agenda

Losing CLASS: The House takes its first whack at the healthcare law's long-term-care CLASS Act when the Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee marks up legislation to repeal the program. Healthwatch has more on that fight — and what it means for Democrats — here.

The program's defenders aren't giving up. Several dozen groups signed on to a letter urging committee members to vote against repeal.

A separate memo from Advance CLASS, the group that's trying to build private-sector support for the voluntary program, warns members that "while repeal may seem like an 'easy' vote because the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has put CLASS implementation on hold, the reality is this vote could make the difference between continuing to look for solutions for a pressing financial problem facing American families or putting that work off for decades."

Tax credits for all some: The Ways and Means Committee Oversight panel holds a hearing on whether the healthcare reform law's small-business tax credits are providing meaningful help for employers to purchase insurance for their workers. Two Treasury officials — Russell George, inspector general for Tax Administration, and Sarah Hall Ingram, commissioner of the IRS's Tax Exempt/Government Entities Division — are slated to testify starting at 10:30 a.m.

Medical devices: The Senate HELP Committee holds a hearing on the approval process for medical devices. Congress is getting ready to reauthorize the user fees that pay for the medical device regulators amid industry criticism that the current process is too burdensome.

FDA at a crossroads: The Union of Concerned Scientists and George Washington University host a day-long conference on the future of the Food and Drug Administration. Health experts will examine challenges the FDA faces in fulfilling its public service mission, including potential reforms, issues related to patient safety, drug efficacy, scientific integrity, structure and funding. FDA Commissioner keynotes at 9 a.m. Here's the agenda.

Minibus, maxifuss: The Senate votes on another "minibus" spending bill that includes money for the State Department and Foreign Operations. Controversial healthcare issues include Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) amendment to reinstate the Global Gag Rule banning funding for family planning organizations involved in abortion; other abortion-related amendments are expected to come up.

More generics: The generic medicine lobby hosts a briefing on bipartisan legislation to incentivize states to use more generics in their Medicaid programs.


Bill Tracker

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus, joins lawmakers and advocates for people with disabilities Tuesday to unveil the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. The bill would allow parents of children with disabilities to save for their child's future without jeopardizing their access to benefits.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) introduced legislation along with Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) that would shift Medicare's "pay-and-chase" payment system to the credit card industry's predictive modeling technology to prevent paying fraudulent Medicare claims (H.R. 3399). The Fighting Fraud and Abuse to Save Taxpayer Dollars Act (FAST Act) was introduced earlier this year by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.). 

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has two bills to "expand and intensify" Down syndrome research at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (S. 1840 and 1841).

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Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has legislation requiring a five-year strategic plan for the Department of Veterans Affairs's Office of Rural Health to improve healthcare access and quality for veterans in rural areas (S. 1849).

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has bills to enhance medical surge capacity and reauthorize various programs under the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (S. 1854 and 1855).


State by State

The North Dakota House defeated legislation to create a state-run insurance exchange.

Wisconsin's state budget committee approved $225 million in Medicaid cuts.

Anti-abortion advocates distrust the Democratic district attorney who's handling a Planned Parenthood probe in Kansas.


Fraud Fight

A Maryland cardiologist was sentenced to more than 8 years in prison for implanting unnecessary cardiac stents in order to defraud Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.

The two managers and operators of a Florida halfway house company pleaded guilty to a Medicare fraud kickback scheme that funneled patients through a fraudulent mental health company.


Reading List

Conservative commentator Linda Chavez laments the missed opportunity of the CLASS Act.

The progressive organization Common Dreams blasts Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas for attending a fundraiser last week sponsored by law firms representing opponents of the healthcare reform law.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Week ahead: Supreme Court announces review of healthcare challenges

CDC launches antibiotic tracking system in hospitals

Abortion-rights groups take heart from win over Mississippi 'personhood' law


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