OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Budget wars rage on

The Hill has more on House appropriators’ plans.

Meanwhile, the Energy and Commerce Committee meets Wednesday morning to vote on its recommended healthcare cuts. Each committee has to send the Budget Committee a list of potential spending cuts under its jurisdiction, and Energy and Commerce has pulled together several of its longstanding priorities, including deep cuts to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Background on the panel’s recommendations is here. The markup begins at 10 a.m.

Arizona could cut Planned Parenthood: A bill cutting off public money for Planned Parenthood is ready for the signature of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) after the state Senate passed it Tuesday. Because Arizona already bans public funding for abortions, the new measure would cut off state contributions to Planned Parenthood's preventive care services. Proponents argued that an all-out ban is necessary to ensure no state funds go to abortions, while opponents lamented that the measure would disproportionately affect low-income women.

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Planned Parenthood, under attack in several Republican-led states, estimated that 19,000 Arizona women would be affected by the defunding bill. Abortion has been a hot issue in the state, where Brewer recently signed a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks. Last year, she also signed a bill barring the use of a state income tax credit for charitable contributions to Planned Parenthood.

New rules for hospital quality: The Medicare agency moved Tuesday to begin penalizing hospitals when they re-admit patients they’ve already treated. Cutting down on re-admissions is one part of the Affordable Care Act’s effort to improve the quality of healthcare while also reducing costs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed regulations Tuesday to implement the law’s re-admissions penalties, along with a series of other quality-improvement measures.

CMS also proposed Medicare payment rates for certain hospitals. Hospitals will see a 2.3 percent payment increase above inflation, CMS said. The regulations are available here.

Hef on healthcare: Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner weighed in Tuesday on the tangle of related debates over contraception, Planned Parenthood funding and abortion. The Republican position on those issues amounts to a “war on sex,” Hefner wrote in a Playboy editorial.

“If these zealots have their way, our hard-won sexual liberation — women’s rights, reproductive rights and rights to privacy — lie in peril,” Hefner wrote.

The Hill has the story.

Employers shifting slowly: Employers are slowly scaling back their healthcare benefits, according to a survey released Tuesday. About 57 percent of U.S. workers got health insurance from their employers in 2010, down about 3 percentage points since 1997. Fewer employers are offering benefits, and fewer employees are choosing to enroll — but employer-based insurance is still by far the largest source of coverage in the country. Healthwatch has the details.

SCOTUS confidence: The Supreme Court arguments in late March did not change the public's view on healthcare reform, though confidence in the justices and their approach has risen since last month, according to the latest Kaiser tracking poll. Healthwatch has more from the poll.



Wednesday’s agenda

The journal Health Affairs holds a briefing on trends in adoption of health information technology.

Two House Oversight subcommittees will hold a joint hearing on healthcare fraud. Witnesses include Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Medicaid Director Cindy Mann.

The Small Business Committee’s Healthcare panel holds a hearing on an annual report identifying substances that might cause cancer.

The Senate Health Committee holds a hearing on legislation to reauthorize the Food and Drug Administration’s user fees — a bill Congress has to pass by the end of September.

The House Ways and Means Committee will examine the healthcare law’s restrictions on tax-preferred accounts such as Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts. The law prohibits the use of HSAs to pay for over-the-counter medicines, unless a doctor prescribes them anyway.

Premier and the Alliance for Non-Profit Healthcare will host a briefing on accountable care organizations in the private market.

A coalition of patient advocacy groups holds an event on Capitol Hill to highlight the issue of drug shortages.


State by state

A proposed state health plan in South Carolina would not pay for abortions in the case of rape or incest.

Violent sex offenders may no longer find places in Iowa nursing homes.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signed a bill addressing prescription drug abuse in the state.


Lobbying registrations

Barbour Griffith & Rogers / Executive Health Resources


Reading list

The Supreme Court's decision on healthcare reform could prompt chaos in the Medicare program, NPR reports.

Medicare trustee Robert Reischauer recently applied for the program, Kaiser Health News notes.

Cholesterol levels in the United States continue to drop, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Associated Press has the story.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

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Protest by Catholic activists may hamper Obama reelection bid



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