OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Healthcare a major focus in 2012 campaigns

“Why are you so obsessed with ending Medicare?” Duckworth asked Walsh during the debate, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Walsh said the program is going broke and that the Ryan plan would save it.

“If you’re going to continue down this road as the president is and say, ‘I’m just going to ignore Medicare,’ you, my dear, are ending it as we know it,” he replied.

The Sun-Times has more from the exchange here.

Dems concerned about lead poisoning: A group of House Democrats blasted Republicans Monday for budget language that pared back an effort against lead poisoning. In a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 27 members pressed the agency to adopt a new exposure standard that would make more children eligible for treatment in spite of overall cuts to the prevention program.

"We understand that these budget decisions have put the agency under great constraints, but we urge ... that the CDC does not allow politics to get in the way of adopting a threshold that would protect our nation’s children," the lawmakers wrote to CDC Dr. Director Thomas Frieden.

The new exposure threshold was recommended by a CDC advisory committee in January. It would cut the amount of lead necessary in the body for a poisoning diagnosis by half. Healthwatch has the story.

Polis bill would affect pizza served in schools: Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced a bill Monday to stop the amount of tomato paste used on a child's slice of pizza from counting as a serving of vegetables in school lunches, arguing that the standard effectively qualifies pizza as a vegetable.

Legislative language passed last year blocked stricter school nutrition standards proposed by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and allowed one-eighth of a cup of tomato paste — roughly the amount used on a slice of pizza — to count as one serving of vegetables.

Polis called the decision "absurd" and blamed both Congress and the frozen food lobby. Corey Henry, vice president of communications for the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), argued in response that tomato paste has "significant nutritional value" and is "packed with Vitamins A and C and rich in fiber, potassium and antioxidants." He added that AFFI members provide pizza to schools that is "calorie and portion controlled, made with whole grains, and rich in fiber with reduced levels of fat and sodium."

Polis said he hopes the measure can be included in this year's farm bill. Read the Healthwatch post.

New hires: The law firm King and Spalding is adding two new attorneys to its healthcare practice. The firm has hired Donna Thiel, whose areas of expertise include Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, and Theresa Weir, who focuses on regulatory consulting. The Blog of Legal Times has the firm’s statement.

Tuesday’s agenda

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusObama cabinet official: Clinton White House doubled down on 'abusive behavior' John Roberts has tough job of keeping faith in Supreme Court Price was a disaster for HHS — Time for an administrator, not an ideologue MORE will roll out a national plan to combat Alzheimer’s. She’s speaking at the National Institutes of Health at 10:30 a.m.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is holding a subcommittee hearing on the high cost of HIV/AIDS drugs. The Health subcommittee is chaired by Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSchumer: Franken should resign Franken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (I-Vt.), who has proposed a new way of rewarding companies for developing new drugs.

The National Coalition on Health Care will hold a Capitol Hill briefing on private-sector efforts to control healthcare costs.

State by state

Legislators in Maine are preparing to make deep Medicaid cuts.

Rising obesity rates are driving a big jump in healthcare spending in Utah.

Business groups are helping Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) as he pushes for Medicaid cuts.

Reading list

Congressional Republicans are working with the Romney campaign on a healthcare “replacement” plan, but still don’t intend to offer a comprehensive bill, The Washington Times reports.

Cheaper healthcare can also be better healthcare, former Medicare Administrator Don Berwick says in a Boston Globe op-ed.

The Washington Post notes that Republican governors are (still) delaying work on insurance exchanges as they wait for the Supreme Court.

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

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

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