OVERNIGHT HEALTH: A new push against healthcare fraud

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Fraud in Medicare costs about $60 billion annually, according to estimates. Holder praised the Obama administration for previous crackdowns, which have recovered $10.7 billion over the last three years, according to HHS. Healthwatch has more on the story.

Pay for delay primed for SCOTUS:
Could the Supreme Court settle the long legal battle over so-called “pay for delay” settlements between brand-name and generic drug companies? The New York Times says it’s a possibility, following a federal appeals court ruling this month that said the agreements are anticompetitive. The Federal Trade Commission is vehemently opposed to pay-for-delay settlements, in which brand-name companies pay their would-be generic competitors to stay off the market. But the FTC hadn’t had much luck stopping the agreements through the courts until this month’s ruling. Now there’s a split among federal appeals courts, which could be settled at the Supreme Court. The Times story is here.

Who’s using electronic records? The Government Accountability Office released new information Thursday about the use of electronic health records (EHR). Medicare has been offering extra payments to urge doctors and hospitals to make the switch, and GAO said roughly 57,000 collected those payments in 2011. Medicare shelled out $2.3 billion to 761 hospitals and 56,585 healthcare professionals.

Most of the recipients were in the South, and most were in urban areas. Among hospitals, a large majority of EHR money went to acute-care facilities, and most of the doctors receiving EHR payments were specialists. Here’s the full report.

Bath salts bust: Federal officials touted success in their first national operation against synthetic drugs. President Obama recently signed a law to ban the high-inducing chemical compounds sold as bath salts, "Spice" and "K2." The substances have been linked to violent episodes and deaths, and became available in retail stores and online as their popularity increased.

Law enforcement officials made 90 arrests as part of Operation Log Jam, a joint effort by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement and several other agencies. The head of the DEA said the effort disrupted the "entire" synthetic drug industry by targeting retailers and manufacturers alike. Read more at Healthwatch.

'Meatless Mondays' backlash: The Senate Western Caucus is blasting the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for sounding like "an anti-agriculture environmental group pushing their ideological agenda." The controversy started when the USDA endorsed "Meatless Mondays" in an internal department newsletter as a way for employees to reduce their environmental footprint. The recommendation led to colorful responses from several Midwestern lawmakers — on Twitter, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he would have "double rib-eye Mondays instead."

Late Thursday, senators in the Western Caucus said the USDA's "claims ... are damaging to the very industry hit hardest" by droughts and asked the department to clarify "if those values display the proper support for farmers and ranchers during this difficult time."

Friday's agenda
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will deliver remarks at the closing session of the International AIDS Conference.


Lobbying registrations

Hogan Lovellis US / USPlabs


State by state

Republicans in the Arkansas state legislature don’t want to participate in the Medicaid expansion.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is looking at new tools to crack down on providers who abuse their market power

Oregon might change its medical malpractice laws.


Reading list

Washington Post blogger Sarah Kliff finds a Florida woman who has used almost all of the healthcare law’s benefits.

Some survivors of the Aurora, Colo., shooting are hurt by their lack of healthcare coverage, Atlantic Wire reports.

People with Medicare are happier with their coverage than people who have private insurance, The New York Times reports.


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USDA retracts support of 'Meatless Monday' after GOP revolt 



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