OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Birth-control mandate under attack

Healthwatch has much, much more on the White House’s political problems.

What's in a name? The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a Democratic amendment to strike references to black and women's rights advocates Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass from the title of a bill banning abortions on the basis of sex or race. The amendment's sponsor, John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), immediately used the vote to bludgeon Republicans.

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"The fact that a majority of Republican Committee Members voted to accept my amendment is an admission on their part that this bill never had anything to do with advancing  civil rights," Conyers said. "The bill's sponsors may give this bill any name they choose but it will not hide the fact that it is a unconstitutional attempt to limit a woman’s right to privacy."

The markup has not been formally rescheduled but could resume as early as Thursday.


Thursday's agenda

Lights, camera, oral arguments: The Senate Judiciary Committee marks up bipartisan legislation that would require TV cameras in the Supreme Court. The issue for years has been a priority for many lawmakers, but the high court's decision to take up the healthcare reform law this spring has made the argument for broadcasting oral arguments and the justices' questions even more compelling.

Here's the markup announcement, and here's our story from December on the legislation introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

The House Judiciary has not scheduled a markup.

Pay to play: The House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee holds a hearing on proposed user fees for generic drugs and biosimilar drugs. The panel will also tackle the issue of drug shortages. Here's the internal memo for the hearing.

Be well: Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and actress Mariel Hemingway unveil the National Wellness Week pledge, billed as "seven simple yet vital steps Americans can take to lead healthier lives." Wellness Week runs March 19-25 and involves spas, gyms, yoga and Pilates studios, and wellness businesses from across the nation. The event will take place at 9 a.m. in room 121 of the Canon building.


Reg watch 

Power up: The House and Senate Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bills harmonize rules for the air transport of lithium batteries, says the medical device industry. The fix was sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.), Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.).

"Lithium batteries are an important component of certain medical technologies, and this agreement will harmonize U.S. standards with internationally recognized standards on air shipment of lithium batteries and thereby promote safety and allow timely access to medical devices," Stephen Ubl, president and CEO of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, said Wednesday.

Identity theft: The HHS Office of Inspector General is warning physicians to be careful when they "reassign" their Medicare provider numbers. The warning comes after eight physicians were penalized for violating the Civil Monetary Penalties Law by causing the submission of false claims to Medicare from physical medicine companies.

"The failure of the physicians to monitor the services billed using their reassigned provider numbers resulted in individuals with little to no medical background serving as physical therapy 'technicians,' " the OIG alert warns. "These unlicensed 'technicians,' including retail cashiers and massage therapists, rendered unsupervised in-home physical therapy services to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The physical medicine companies falsely billed Medicare using the physicians' reassigned provider numbers as if the physicians personally rendered the services or directly supervised a 'technician' rendering the services."


State by state

Minnesota's Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is trying to see how far he can get in setting up a state health insurance exchange without the Republican legislature's approval, Kaiser Health News reports.

The Virginia Senate is tackling how — and whether — to set up a health insurance exchange after the House punted.

Report draws lessons of states' experience with sharing health information.


Lobbying registrations 

Ogilvy Government Relations / Advanced Medical Technology Association

Ogilvy Government Relations / Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti / Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

CJ LAKE / Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center (designation as a federally qualified health clinic or rural health clinic)


Reading list

Centrist Republicans — including current Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins — co-sponsored legislation in 2001 requiring health insurance plans that covered prescription drugs to also cover birth control, Think Progress reports.

Doctors report that they're not always completely honest with patients about medical mistakes, Kaiser Health News reports.

An FDA advisory panel rejected 12-1 Amgen's request to allow the drug Xgeva to be prescribed for preventing the spread of prostate cancer to the bones, Bloomberg reports.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Obama administration makes $40 million available to reduce preterm births

Komen vice president resigns over Planned Parenthood decision


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Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com / 202-628-8527

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