OVERNIGHT HEALTH: More questions about Kagan

BBA melee: Healthcare programs would take a massive hit under the balanced-budget amendment that House Republicans will bring to the floor later this week, according to an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. House Democrats highlighted the findings Tuesday as they ramped up their attacks on the proposed amendment.

The proposal would cut roughly $750 billion from Medicare by 2021, according to the CBPP analysis. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program would lose about $500 billion over the same period.

Healthcare reform = higher prices? The healthcare law might drive up hospitals’ prices, according to a new paper from the National Institute for Health Care Management. The analysis found that hospitals charge 30 to 50 percent more in areas where they don’t face much competition — bolstering the insurance industry’s claim that costs go up as providers consolidate.

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The analysis also says hospitals with “unexploited pricing leverage” might raise their prices for private insurers to make up for Medicare cuts in the healthcare law. And accountable care organizations could further consolidate providers, leading to bigger price hikes, the paper says.

Miller to HHS: HHS is getting some well-placed help as it tries to get state-run exchanges off the ground by 2014 — Oregon insurance Administrator Teresa Miller is joining the department next month as a senior adviser on exchanges. Read the Healthwatch post.

AMA on exchanges: The nation’s largest doctors’ lobby approved new policy positions Tuesday on insurance exchanges. The American Medical Association said states should steer clear of the “active purchaser” model for exchanges, which lets them impose requirements beyond those in the federal healthcare law. Restricting plans’ access to the exchanges won’t help drive competition, the AMA said. Healthwatch has more.

You’ll do it and you’ll like it: The AMA also adopted a policy opposing implementation of the new coding system known as ICD-10, which doctors say is too onerous. CMS said in response that the shift is happening and won’t be so bad.

"Implementation of this new coding system will mean better information to improve the quality of health care, and more accurate payments to providers,” an agency spokesman said. “CMS is giving significant transition time and flexibility to providers to switch over, and we will continue to work with the health care community to ensure successful compliance."

Supercommittee push: With just a week left before the supercommittee’s deadline, AARP said Tuesday it has collected 6.5 million signatures on petitions opposing cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

“Congress needs to make responsible decisions to reduce our nation’s deficit, but they can do so without harming the health and economic security of seniors and future retirees,” the petitions state.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is holding a press conference Thursday urging the supercommittee not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Prescription for error: Medicare prescription-drug plans are supposed to ensure that they only cover drugs for uses the federal government has approved. But the plans often lack the information needed to ensure they’re meeting that requirement, the HHS Office of the Inspector General says. A new OIG report says Part D plans don’t necessarily have the tools they need to verify that the drugs they pay for were prescribed for approved uses.

Food fight: The joint House-Senate agriculture spending bill unveiled Monday night blocks stringent school meal standards, following intense lobbying from the pizza and french fry industries. The spending bill would classify tomato paste on pizzas as a vegetable, eliminate provisions that limit potatoes and other starchy vegetables to two servings per week, and weaken restrictions on sodium. Healthwatch has the lowdown.

FTC head under fire: The conservative advocacy group Americans for Limited Government on Tuesday called for an investigation of Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz. The group criticized Leibowitz’ opposition to so-called “pay for delay” settlements in lawsuits between pharmaceutical companies and said the FTC inspector general should investigate his advocacy on the issue.

The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing Tuesday on Leibowitz’ renomination. Opponents of FTC-backed restrictions on food marketing also took the opportunity to criticize Leibowitz, saying the proposed voluntary rules unfairly target food marketers.


Wednesday’s agenda

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul takes his turn before the House GOP’s Congressional Health Care Caucus. Our bold prediction: he’ll draw a smaller crowd than Herman Cain.

Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) will make an appearance at a Capitol Hill policy forum on access to mental health services for children and teenagers. 

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) will launch "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week" with Consumers Union at 11 a.m. on Capitol Hill. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are also scheduled to attend the briefing by a panel of food-safety experts who will discuss the effects of antibiotics on food production.

State by state

The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff looks at the implications of Florida’s request for a medical loss ratio adjustment.

A legislative panel in Oklahoma adjourned without deciding whether to set up an insurance exchange.

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The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog is suing California’s largest for-profit health insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, over increases in deductibles and cost-sharing.


Lobbying registrations

Venable LLP / Liazon

Thorn Run Partners / TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups

Greenberg Traurig / Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare

Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough / Seniorlink

McDermott Will & Emery / North Carolina Arboretum Society

McDermott Will & Emery / Elusys Therapeutics

McDermott Will & Emery / Vista LifeSciences


Reading list

Pennsylvania's largest health insurance company is launching a private exchange for businesses with fewer than 100 employees, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Businessweek explains why more companies aren't taking advantage of the healthcare law's tax credits.

The New York Times traces President Obama's evolution from criticizing the individual mandate during his 2008 campaign to defending it from a Supreme Court challenge in the midst of the 2012 race.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Administration touts $18 billion success in fraud prevention, announces health efforts

Panel repeals CLASS Act by voice vote

Poll: Doctors support policy once derided as ‘death panels’

Lawmakers introduce compromise 'minibus' spending bill

News bites: SCOTUS edition


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