OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Anti-fraud efforts win the spotlight

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Thanks to the farm lobby, the US is stuck with a broken ethanol policy MORE (R-Iowa), a member of the group, said that "every dollar that goes to waste, fraud or abuse doesn’t help a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary." 

“The practitioners in the field who know how the system works should have the chance to weigh in with their tips and proposals.

"Congress needs to hear from these individuals directly and have an open discussion about things we haven’t tried or considered. The expertise of those who work in health are every day can go a long way toward preserving tax dollars for these programs and the many people who rely on them.”

On the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, administration officials talked up the effectiveness of current anti-fraud efforts, include a partnership between the Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice Departments that focuses on false billings in Medicare.

The latest bust by the so-called anti-fraud "strike force" netted 107 individuals who now face charges of submitting bills to Medicare for treatments that investigators allege were "medically unnecessary and often never provided."

The amount of money involved in the takedown came close to half a billion dollars, officials said.

"Health care fraud is not a victimless crime," said FBI Deputy Director Joyce.

"Every person who pays for health care benefits, every business that pays higher insurance costs to cover their employees, every taxpayer who funds Medicare — all are victims."

The Hill has the full rundown here and here.

Piping up: Four Democratic senators lamented a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found that $1.3 billion in government revenue is lost when the tobacco industry labels roll-your-own tobacco as pipe tobacco.

“Tobacco manufacturers have once again found a way to skirt the law in order to continue peddling their dangerous product," the group said.

"Congress instituted tax increases and established tobacco cessation programs to help encourage Americans to quit this harmful habit, and these efforts have proven effective. However, due to this tax loophole, tobacco companies are still able to make cheap tobacco products available, which may discourage some smokers from quitting."

The senators were Tom HarkinTom HarkinDemocrats are all talk when it comes to DC statehood The Hill's 12:30 Report Distance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday MORE (D-Iowa), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats turn on Al Franken Minnesota's largest newspaper calls on Franken to resign Democratic senator predicts Franken will resign Thursday MORE (D-Ill.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Planned Parenthood R.S.V.P.: Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeThe nearly 60 Dems who voted for impeachment Lobbying world Dems aim to elect Conyers replacement on Judiciary this month MORE (D-Texas) has invited leaders from Planned Parenthood to discuss women's health and the future of the family-planning organization in Texas, which has withdrawn funding for its preventive health services.

A district court judge on Monday issued an injunction against a Texas state law withdrawing Planned Parenthood funds. An appeals court quickly reversed that decision Tuesday.

The law in question is aimed at barring public funds for organizations that provide abortions.

The Jackson Lee event will take place Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at Riverside Health Clinic in Houston.

Bennet touts PREEMIE Act:
In response to a report showing that premature births in the United States occur at levels similar to developing countries, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Schumer downplays shutdown chances over DACA fight MORE (D-Colo.) pointed to legislation he has introduced with colleague Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal MORE (R-Tenn.) to help stymie the trend through "research and education."

Preterm births are "far too common in America," Bennet said in a statement.

"The sad facts are that this is a larger problem in the United States than in many other countries, and there’s still so much we don’t know about preventing them. But there are measures we can take to reduce them and to improve care for infants."

The Preemie Reauthorization Act (S. 1440 and H.R. 2679) was introduced in July 2011 and would promote evidence-based standards in maternity care. 

Fitness industry swarms the Hill: Advocates from the fitness industry held meetings with more than 40 offices on Capitol Hill Wednesday asking for support for policies that promote exercise.

One such bill would allow money from tax-advantaged health savings accounts to go toward exercise equipment.

The push was led by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.

Thursday's agenda

The Bipartisan Policy Center holds its annual conference on the physician workforce.

State by state

New Hampshire lawmakers killed a bill that would have blocked the state from setting up an exchange.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, threatened to veto the state's budget if it cuts Medicaid.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is asking business leaders to back his proposed Medicaid cuts.

Reading list

One hundred thousand Facebook users are now display their organ donor status in their profile, thanks to a new tool, The Associated Press reports.

The percentage of premature births in the United States looks similar to figures from developing countries, according to a new study. The New York Times has more.

Taking Vioxx poses a heart risk, according to new research. The Wall Street Journal has the story.

What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Accretive, the embattled medical debt collector, barred media from its shareholder meeting.

Comments / complaints / suggestions? Please let us know:

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

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

Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch