OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Medicare and Medicaid are turning 47

This month marks the 47th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, and House Democrats jumped at the chance to commemorate the programs with singing, speeches and cake on Wednesday. Members came in and out of the small event as the House held votes on a bill to allow a full audit of the Federal Reserve. Several participated in a round of "Happy Birthday."

Taking the podium before a small audience, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) praised Medicare and joked about getting older, undergoing his first colonoscopy and getting on the AARP's mailing list.

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"When it's a choice between Medicare and coupon care, I don't think there is any, any choice here. It is Medicare for all of us," he said. "For those of us who have grown seeing our grandparents, our parents soon us benefit from having Americans invest in ... our own healthcare, we should be fighting for that day and night."


President Obama issued an official proclamation celebrating the programs in 2010. "Medicare and Medicaid support longer, healthier lives and economic security for some of the neediest among us," he stated. "We must continue to keep [them] strong for the millions of beneficiaries who rely on these vital safety nets."

Healthwatch has more from the event. 

We’re a happy family: Reports of discord among the Supreme Court justices is “absurd,” Justice Antonin Scalia said in an interview with NPR that aired Wednesday. CBS News reported that relationships among the justices were strained by the court’s healthcare ruling, specifically Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to change his vote and uphold the Affordable Care Act. Hogwash, Scalia said.

"That's just not the way justices of the Supreme Court behave, going into pouts. I mean that — it's absurd," he told NPR. "If you can't disagree, even vehemently, on the law without taking it personally and getting angry at the person, you ought to look for another job."

Healthwatch has more from the interview.

O’Connor defends Roberts: Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that judges do not owe a loyalty to the political party of the president who nominated them — an implicit reference to conservative backlash over Roberts. The chief justice, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, was accused of “betraying” conservatives, and some pundits questioned whether he should have been nominated.

Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked O’Connor whether such rhetoric can threaten the judicial branch’s independence.

“It’s unfortunate, because I think comments like that demonstrate only too well the lack of understanding that some of our citizens have about the role of the judicial branch,” O’Connor said.

Video of the hearing is available here.

Chamber hits health votes: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a new round of ads Wednesday attacking Democratic senators who supported healthcare reform. The Chamber’s latest ads target Sens. Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jon Tester (Mont.), and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) as well as Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) over their support for the healthcare law.

The Hill has details.

Clinical services from abroad?: The healthcare industry has started to outsource clinical services, continuing a trend that began with record-keeping, according to the Los Angeles Times. The paper found that some major insurers are farming out jobs in pre-service nursing — where an insurance nurse helps determine a patient's course of treatment — to India and the Philippines. "With financial pressures intensifying and the uptake of electronic record-keeping accelerating, analysts ... see more consolidation and outsourcing ahead" for insurers and hospitals, the report stated.

Critics called the trend dangerous for U.S. workers and patients. Read more.

High-deductible plans on the rise: Insurance plans with low premiums and high out-of-pocket costs are catching on, according to new data from America’s Health Insurance Plans. The industry trade group said 13.5 million people are enrolled in high-deductible plans, and enrollment has grown steadily every year. The market for high-deductible plans is also shifting away from individual consumers and toward large employers. Read the Healthwatch post.

Thursday's agenda
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on the Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorization.

State by state

Poll: Healthcare costs remain a struggle for Calif. voters.

Planned Parenthood wins federal funds to replace money cut by GOP-led N.C. legislature.

Arizona doctors seek to block law banning some abortions.

Cases of whooping cough in Minnesota most in 65 years.

Lobbying registrations

Troutman Sanders Public Affairs Group / Columbus State University

Reading list

Democrats, Republicans: Everybody cuts Medicaid.

AIDS experts: Focus on pregnant women is not enough.

Widespread use of prescription steroids draws worry.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

HHS: Health law has saved seniors nearly $4B on medications.

Study urges more effort to combat hospital readmissions.


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