OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Ryan, Wyden to release Medicare plan

Abortion showdown: The GOP presidential candidates burnish their pro-life credentials Wednesday night during Mike Huckabee's so-called "abortion forum" in Iowa. Healthwatch will be watching as Newt Gingrich, Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannBachmann won't run for Franken's Senate seat because she did not hear a 'call from God' Billboard from ‘God’ tells Michele Bachmann not to run for Senate Pawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota MORE, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry try to one-up each other with anti-abortion rhetoric.

Separately, Gingrich on Wednesday signed onto the "personhood" anti-abortion-rights pledge; Mitt Romney says the issue should be left up to the states. Healthwatch's Sam Baker has more.

Wasted funds? Critics are accusing Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) of wasting more than $100,000 in federal tax dollars on what critics call a "sham" analysis of how to implement President Obama's healthcare reform law in her state. This also raises questions about what other Republican-led states are doing with their healthcare reform grants. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has more.

Training hospitals: The nation's main hospital groups are leading the charge against payment cuts in the payroll tax bill, but training hospitals have their own concerns. In a letter to Senate leaders, the Association of American Medical Colleges writes that proposed cuts to hospital outpatient departments would:

• Result in a median loss of $5.5 million per year for hospital-based clinics;

• Have a disproportionate impact on teaching hospitals and the patients they serve, who often are more complex and have a higher severity of illness; and 

• Result in a total loss of nearly $300 million per year across the academic medical center community.

Healthcare fund exhausted: The healthcare law's program for early retirees is an example of the law's broader flaws, House Republicans charge. 

"If the Administration exhausted an entire $5 billion budget approximately three times faster than estimated, what does that portend for the accuracy of the cost estimates cited in support of the other expensive aspects of the trillion dollar health care reform law?" House Energy and Commerce staff asked in a memo Wednesday. Healthwatch has more here

Safe tobacco: An expert panel on Wednesday recommended high standards for allowing tobacco companies to market their products as low-risk. Read the Healthwatch post.

Worried docs: We already knew that doctors by and large don't much like the healthcare reform law, but a new Deloitte survey offers more specifics: only 27 percent of respondents feel the law is likely to actually reduce costs by increasing efficiency. About half believe there will be decreased access to healthcare due to hospital closures, while 73 percent believe the influx in newly insured consumers will overload physicians and result in longer ER wait times.

Thursday's agenda

The House Committee on Small Business holds a hearing on the healthcare reform law's medical loss ratio and its impact on insurance agent jobs and customer service.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging holds a hearing on "Parting the Clouds: Implementing the Physician Payments Sunshine Act."

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) meets to discuss payments for hospitals, dialysis, surgical centers, skilled nursing facilities, home health and medications for low-income seniors.

The RAND Corporation holds a congressional briefing on "Global HIV Programs at the Crossroads." The discussion will focus on a recent RAND report outlining policy options and recommendations for the path forward.

The American Health Care Association releases a new report that details "the real-life effects of significant Medicaid underfunding of nursing facility care."

State by state

Florida's Medicaid managed care program is under fire.

Oregon is moving full speed ahead with its healthcare reform plan centered around accountable care organizations.

HHS's decision to delay a ruling on changes to Wisconsin's Medicaid program blows a Dec. 31 state deadline.

Lobbying registrations

McGuireWoods Consulting / State of Oregon: Oregon Health Authority

Reading list

Eighty percent of businesses surveyed by the benefits management industry leader HighRoads say they won't drop coverage in 2014 because of the healthcare reform law.

New York's new law banning mail-order pharmacy mandates will spark a "race-to-the-bottom generic price war," DrugChannels opines.

What you might have missed on Healthwatch 

CDC: 2.5M more young people covered under Dems’ healthcare law

Health law's backers launch online 'Obamacare' game

House approves two-year Medicare 'doc fix'

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