OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Senate to vote on Ryan Medicare plan

The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan, giving Democrats another chance to put their GOP counterparts on the record supporting Ryan’s controversial Medicare proposal.

Senators will devote six hours to the budget debate Wednesday and vote on four Republican proposals — including Ryan’s. His plan, which passed the House on a party-line vote in March, would partially privatize Medicare. Some of the program’s federal funding would be converted into subsidies that seniors would use to buy private insurance.

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Democrats charge that the plan would “end Medicare as we know it,” but the GOP is largely united behind the proposal, saying it’s the only serious way to avoid Medicare’s looming insolvency. The Hill has the story on Wednesday’s Senate votes.

GOP blueprint: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal laid out a loose healthcare platform for the Republican Governors Association (RGA) on Tuesday. It’s mostly a list of familiar GOP priorities — privatizing Medicare, block-granting Medicaid, allowing private insurance companies to sell across state lines, and allowing people to buy coverage through organizations like churches.

“We need Republicans in Washington to stop viewing health care as simply a Democratic issue and to stop thinking they have achieved victory when they merely adopt a cheaper version of the Democratic plan,” Jindal wrote.

Although much of the policy blueprint is familiar, it also includes this line: “Finally, those needing help to afford their care should get that help via refundable tax credits to subsidize the cost of private coverage rather than building another government-run health plan.”

President Obama’s healthcare law provides refundable tax credits to help low-income people pay for private insurance. Although it expands Medicaid, the law does not create a new public plan. An RGA spokesman did not respond when asked to what that line is referring.

Bishops threaten lawsuit: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops threatened to sue the Obama administration over its birth control coverage mandate Tuesday.

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The warning came in 20 pages of comments submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services related to a forthcoming accommodation for religious organizations not exempted under the original mandate. Lawyers for the bishops group called the likely measure insufficient because it will probably not apply to individuals who object to birth control — only explicitly religious organizations like Catholic hospitals and schools.

Read more at Healthwatch here.

Anti-Alzheimer's ambitions: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released what is being hailed as an ambitious plan to fight Alzheimer's disease in the United States. The plan calls for the development of new prevention and treatment approaches by 2025 and invests in Alzheimer's research, including two major clinical trials, and training for doctors.

"These actions are the cornerstones of an historic effort to fight Alzheimer’s disease," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

Healthwatch has the details.

Zero stars: Medicare’s effort to push seniors toward high-quality plans is not working, according to a new study from the American Action Forum. The group said rating Medicare Advantage stars with one to five stars isn’t serving Medicare's goals and could even be counterproductive. The paper singles out time lags as a problem, saying plans receive bonus payments for past years' performance, making it hard to change their practices to keep up with the government's expectations. Healthwatch has more.


Wednesday's agenda

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on reforming the healthcare delivery system.

The Congressional Mental Health Caucus will hold a briefing to commemorate Military Mental Health Awareness Day. Military agencies will also participate in a Mental Health Fair, which will showcase the latest mental health techniques.

HHS is making an "important Affordable Care Act announcement" at 1 p.m.


State by state

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is calling for deeper cuts to health programs in his revised budget, California Healthline reports, and advocates are fearing the consequences. 

In Massachusetts, Senate Democrats rejected Republicans' call to postpone debate on a healthcare reform bill, the Boston Herald reports.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) could create the state's health insurance exchange with an executive order, The Associated Press reports.

An Athens, Ga.-based OBGYN wrote that a fetal pain bill to become law in the state on Jan. 1 is medically unsound. See more at the Athens Banner-Herald.  


Lobbying registrations

National Association of Spine Specialists / National Association of Spine Specialists

Strategic Health Care / Centering Healthcare Institute

Foley Hoag LLP / PharmaJet

Brown Rudnick LLP / United Concordia Companies, Inc.

S.O.A.R. / S.O.A.R.


Reading list

Wrongful birth lawsuits — where parents sue a doctor for failing to warn them about fetal problems — are on the rise, and some states are working to ban them. NPR has more.

Americans' sleepwalking rates are higher than some expected, Fox News reports.

And in case you missed it, makers of sunscreen are getting more time to comply with new disclosure rules, The Associated Press reported.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Sanders bill aims to lower HIV drug costs

Genachowski to push wireless devices for medical use 

Dem calls GOP freshman’s support for Planned Parenthood ‘opportunism’

Sen. Leahy hopeful that John Roberts will vote to uphold health law



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

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

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