OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Food fight over Obama's burger habit, school bake sales in Mass.

The call on Obama to quit taking foreign leaders like Britain's David Cameron on outings involving hot dogs came from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). 

The group's nutrition education director, Susan Levin, cautioned that foods containing processed meat "kill more Americans every year than tobacco does." 

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"The White House would never set up a photo op showing the president buying cigarettes," she said, "so why is it OK to show him eating a hot dog?" 

Obama is known to occasionally frequent Washington, D.C.-area burger joints such as Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va., and Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill, and tends to receive press attention when he does. 

Some point out that the president appears to have lost weight since taking office, but nevertheless, Levin said, he "has a responsibility to watch what he eats in public." 

In the Bay State, meanwhile, a law will take effect in August that limits students' access to junk food starting 30 minutes before school and ending 30 minutes after.  

This includes bake-sale fundraisers — and no, much of the blogosphere is not happy. 

An editorial at conservative online clearinghouse Townhall dubbed the move the "Nanny State Gone Wild."

"Crudites won’t cut it when the bills come due on athletic equipment and band trips," wrote Townhall Web editor Kate Hicks. 

"Who wants obese children?! No one; but that doesn't mean it's the government's job to police what children eat.

"After all, the occasional bake sale … [is] hardly the cause of the nation's love handles." 

Schools in eight other states, including Texas and Mississippi, have taken steps to limit the types of foods available at school bake sales, according to Bloomberg Businessweek

And the federal Department of Agriculture is expected to release guidelines on food sold at schools but outside of cafeterias sometime this year, reports have said. 

An official with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health asked for understanding from families that are upset. 

"We’re at a place in Massachusetts where one-third of our kids in schools are either overweight or obese," Dr. Lauren Smith, the department's medical director, told The Patriot Ledger newspaper. 

“Clearly [the policy] is to really create an environment in schools where kids have an opportunity to make choices among healthy options." 

'Doc fix' coming up: Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Joe Heck (R-Nev.) proposed a permanent "doc fix" in a bill preventing a cut to Medicare provider reimbursement rates on Jan. 1. The measure would repeal the current Sustainable Growth Rate and give providers a small boost in payment rates for four years while directing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide a new menu of payment models. Funds for the reform would come from war savings. Read more here

GOPer defends Planned Parenthood: House Republican freshman Rep. Robert Dold (Ill.) introduced a bill to prevent states from cutting off federal public-health funds for Planned Parenthood and other family-planning organizations because they provide abortions in addition to preventive care.

"Access to to care shouldn't be jeopardized simply due to discrimination … based on separate services that [providers] choose to offer," he said at a press conference. 

NARAL Pro-Choice America gave Dold a score of 30 in 2011 on issues related to abortion rights. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), by comparison, received a score of 100. Read more from Healthwatch here.

Administration gives three cheers for the health law: Health and Human Services touted the Affordable Care Act's influence in three different areas of health policy and preventive care: it boosted Medicare payments to doctors in 2011, is paying for new and improved school health clinics now, and will raise Medicaid service fees in 2013 and 2014. 

Both the school clinics and the Medicaid developments will affect children's health. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) praised the Medicaid fee boost in particular, calling it an "historic victory for children's access to quality healthcare." HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised the healthcare law for "helping keep kids healthy."

Painkiller payoff? Are medical groups like the American Pain Foundation promoting wider use of pain medications because of their financial relationships with drug companies? That's the question Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are raising with a newly launched investigation. Baucus and Grassley sent letters to several drug makers and medical groups requesting information about their financial ties and the increasing use of painkillers.

“When it comes to these highly-addictive painkillers, improper relationships between pharmaceutical companies and the organizations that promote their drugs can put lives at risk," Baucus said in a statement.

Money on the table: Millions of small businesses missed out on tax breaks they could have gotten under the Affordable Care Act, Families USA said Wednesday. The group said more than 3 million employers were eligible for the law's small-business tax credit in 2011 — compared with 360,000 businesses that the White House expects will actually get the credit. Healthwatch has the story.


Thursday's agenda

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will continue marking up the "Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Reform Act of 2012." 

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a roundtable on Medicare physician payments with former administrators of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on work and family issues in commemoration of Mother's Day. 

The Healthy Schools Campaign will co-host a briefing with the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming on efforts to serve chicken raised without antibiotics in the public school cafeterias in Chicago. Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) are the event's honorary hosts. 


State by state


Half of all counties in the United States have no practicing OB/GYN, according to a new study. HealthDay has more.

All 25 medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado warned by federal officials for being within 1,000 feet of schools have closed. The Denver Post has the story

California officials are seeking an end to federal oversight of the state's prison healthcare system, KPCC News reports.

Changes to Missouri's Medicaid managed care business are prompting lawsuits, KCUR reports.


Lobbying registrations

Kountoupes Consulting / Philips Healthcare


Bill tracker

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) introduced legislation (H.R. 5646) to "prohibit funds appropriated for the Department of Homeland Security from being used to pay for an abortion." 

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation (H.R. 5647) to "eliminate discrimination and promote women's health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers ... limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition."


Reading list

Breakthrough drugs would get a faster and cheaper approval process under both versions of a funding bill for the FDA, Reuters reports.

The FDA has shorted drug approval timelines but focused more on cancer drugs than on obesity and heart disease treatments, according to a new study. Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News has the scoop.

More than one-third of women's health practitioners in religious hospitals have felt a conflict between the institution's faith and patient care, a new survey found. Kaiser Health News has the story

The FDA is leaning on medical device makers to ensure that children can receive smaller X-ray doses during CT scans and other tests, Kaiser Health News reports.

A columnist in Utah wonders: Because the state mandates a three-day wait prior to an abortion, why not a three-day wait prior to having sex, too? Read the piece at the Salt Lake Tribune


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