OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Ryan/Wyden Medicare plan panned

As for the plan itself, the big change from Ryan’s earlier proposal is that the traditional Medicare program would still exist. The new version also includes some new consumer protections, such as a requirement that private Medicare plans offer the same benefits as the government-run version. And it also changes the rate at which subsidies for private coverage would increase. The government’s assistance would grow at the same rate as the overall economy, plus 1 percentage point. Healthwatch has the details here.

You can read the white paper here.

AARP unsure: The seniors' lobby didn't take a firm position on the Wyden-Ryan proposal Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT
"The white paper, as crafted, leaves many of the details unclear, but even at this high level obvious risks come to mind," AARP said in a statement. "We want to make sure Medicare remains a viable and affordable option for our seniors. At this time, too many details of the proposal lack clear definition. We need more information to comment on the proposal further."

Florida rejected: The Sunshine State joins four others whose requests for a waiver from President Obama's healthcare law have been rejected. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has the latest on the Medical Loss Ratio fight here.

The rejection comes as the House Small Business Committee's Oversight panel held a hearing on the medical loss ratio's impact on small businesses.

"The MLR is likely to deter small insurers from entering the market and hasten the exit of established ones," Investigations, Oversight and Regulations subcommittee Chairman Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said in opening remarks. "Instead of protecting consumers, the MLR may dissuade insurers from making investments in anti-fraud, anti-waste, customer service and transparency tools because they are considered administrative, and those costs must be kept low."

Please reconsider: Separately, the Louisiana Department of Insurance asked HHS to reconsider its decision last month to reject the state's MLR waiver request.

"Preserving competition is essential in order to afford consumers protection through competition," Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon wrote. "I truly believe that the best way to control health insurance costs is through competition in the private sector."

Home care workers get protections: President Obama personally announced new regulations extending minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers. 

"The nearly 2 million in-home care workers across the country should not have to wait a moment longer for a fair wage," Obama said. "They work hard and play by the rules and they should see that work and responsibility rewarded. Today’s action will ensure that these men and women get paid fairly for a service that a growing number of older Americans couldn’t live without."

Republicans disagreed.

"Once again, the administration is pursuing new regulations without regard for the potential unintended consequences," House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and Workforce Protections subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said in a joint statement. "The president's goal is commendable, but the likely result of this new rule is reduced hours for home care workers and higher costs for taxpayers. Moreover, our nation's elderly may pay the greatest price in the form of more costly services and fewer opportunities to obtain the care they need in the comfort of their own homes." Healthwatch has the background story here.

Slimming down: The obesity rate among New York City's K-8 public-school students declined by more than 5 percent over the past five years, the CDC announced Thursday. The numbers mark the largest documented decline to date in a large city in the United States. 

"I'm not aware of a large community actually reversing obesity anywhere in the world, other than in famine situations, obviously," CDC Director Thomas Frieden told The Hill. Read more here.


Friday's agenda

The Department of Health and Human Services makes an announcement about the healthcare reform law. The call is widely expected to concern Essential Health Benefits, which health plans will have to cover if they want to be sold on federally subsidized insurance exchanges starting in 2014.

The Medical Payment Advisory Commission meets to discuss hospice, inpatient rehabilitation and long-term-care hospital services.

The Food and Drug Administration holds a public meeting on user fees to fund the review of applications for generic biologic drugs, also known as biosimilars. The meeting will be on the FDA’s White Oak Campus in Silver Spring, Md.


State by state

Maine Gov. Paul LePage is under attack for his proposal to kick 65,000 Maine residents off the state's Medicaid rolls.

The Idaho Department of Insurance proposed a state-run health insurance exchange whose board would be dominated by the insurance industry.

Members of South Carolina's healthcare reform planning board insist they reached their own conclusions following report that Republican Gov. Nikki Haley ordered their findings.


Lobbying registrations

Roberti White / IntraOp Medical Corporation (intraoperative Radation Therapy)

Roberti White / Xoft (Manufacturer of Electronic Brachytherapy (eBx) systems)

Downey McGrath Group / Microdermis Corporation (Specialty pharmaceutical company)


Reading list

Hospital errors go undiscovered as the U.S. abandons routine autopsies, ProPublica reports

The NIH recommended strict limits on research using chimpanzees, The Associated Press reports.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch 

Gingrich moves away from electronic health records.

Rep. Neal: I support CLASS Act.

House unveils $69.7B HHS bill that funds abstinence.

GOP candidates slam Obama, Planned Parenthood at abortion forum.


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