OVERNIGHT HEALTH: GOP eyes healthcare law for offsets

No opening is too small: Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee continued its markup Wednesday of proposed cuts to include in next year’s budget — including the prevention fund. Democrats resisted each of the proposed healthcare cuts, and chose to focus their prevention defense around a familiar theme: women’s health.

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Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) offered an amendment to repeal most of the prevention fund but preserve money for women’s healthcare services. Healthwatch has the lowdown on the latest effort to pit female voters against the GOP.

Unintended consequences: One piece of the Energy and Commerce package would end up expanding “ObamaCare.” The panel’s cuts include a measure that would let states cut Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is now prohibited under the Affordable Care Act. But, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), those cuts would shift more people into newly created insurance exchanges. Once people lost their public coverage, they’d be eligible for subsidized private coverage under the new law.

If Congress passed the enhanced Medicaid and CHIP flexibility, it would also spend $1.7 billion more on subsidies through Obama’s healthcare law, CBO said. But that’s if it passed on its own — other parts of the Energy and Commerce package would drive people out of the exchanges, so the total spending would still fall. The irony of the Medicaid component, however, wasn’t lost on healthcare advocates.

The change “would put the future of CHIP in jeopardy with children either losing coverage entirely or, ironically, move into less comprehensive coverage in the health insurance exchanges that Republicans have fought against,” the children’s advocacy group First Focus said in a statement.

User fees advance: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved a must-pass Food and Drug Administration bill Wednesday, clearing the way for a vote on the Senate floor. The bill would reauthorize user fees that the FDA collects from the drug and medical device industries.

Healthwatch has the story.

In the House, the Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee will vote on its version of the FDA bill May 8.

CMS questioned on anti-fraud contracts: Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.), chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Oversight, sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) acting administrator Marilyn Tavenner Wednesday raising questions about Medicare anti-fraud efforts.

A notice from the committee stated that CMS spends more than $1 billion annually on anti-fraud contracting but does not measure contractors' results consistently.

"[I]t is essential that Congress conduct oversight to ensure CMS is engaging in these efforts effectively and that taxpayers are getting value for the over $1 billion that is spent," Boustany wrote.

Obama talks medical marijuana crackdown: President Obama answered questions about his administration's apparent change of course on prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries in a wide-ranging interview to be published in Rolling Stone.

"I can't nullify congressional law," he said. "I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana — and the reason is, because it's against federal law."

Obama sought to address criticism from troubled supporters who remember his comments — in 2008 — that he would not use federal resources to "try and circumvent state laws about medical marijuana." 

Healthwatch has the details.


Thursday's agenda

The National Quality Forum meets to discuss "Best Practices in eMeasure Implementation."

In Boston, the New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI) holds its "Innovation Conference." 


State by state

Massachusetts could overhaul its healthcare system in May, the Boston Herald reports.

The New Hampshire Senate tabled a bill blocking public funding for abortion providers after some warned it could jeopardize the state's Medicaid program, The Associated Press reports.

State senators in Missouri have chosen not to intervene in a contract dispute involving the state's Medicaid system, The Associated Press reports.


Bill tracker

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) introduced legislation "to provide for a national program to conduct and support activities toward the goal of significantly reducing the number of cases of overweight and obesity" in the United States. (H.R. 4604)


Reading list

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will face a protest by Catholics over cuts to social programs when he arrives at Georgetown University Thursday for a lecture, The Hill reports.

A new study finds that few doctors consider themselves rich, according to Kaiser Health News.

The Supreme Court's verdict on healthcare reform will have a strong effect on Americans with HIV, The Associated Press reports.

Data in California find a drop in patient deaths after heart bypass surgeries, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In Canada, a legislative committee on Thursday will consider when human life begins, according to CBC News.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Dems, Republicans spar on tax advantage for over-the-counter medications

Hospitals say Medicare agency overlooked looming cuts

Kucinich: Death of healthcare law would increase Medicaid fraud



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Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351

Elise Viebeck: eviebeck@thehill.com / 202-628-8523

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