OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Obama pledges to implement mental health law

President Obama said Wednesday that long-awaited rules on mental healthcare will be part of his administration's effort to curb gun violence. Obama's gun-control plan calls for the issuance of final rules to implement a 2008 law that requires insurers to cover mental healthcare, putting it on equal footing with physical health.

Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) had pushed for the final rules to be part of Obama's gun-control package. They praised the move Wednesday.

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"I'm pleased that, after years of pressure from myself and other legislators, the White House announced today that it will finally implement that law, which will allow millions of Americans to access the mental health care they need and deserve," Franken said in a statement.

Healthwatch has the story on Obama's recommendations.

ACA and guns: Another piece of President Obama's gun-control package deals with the Affordable Care Act, clarifying that doctors can talk to their patients about gun safety. Why would that come up? Because of a provision that says doctors can't require their patients to disclose whether they own guns.

The healthcare law specifies that "wellness and prevention" activities may not include requiring patients to disclose whether they own a gun. It also says HHS cannot use the health law to collect information about gun ownership.

Obama clarified Wednesday that doctors can still discuss gun safety with their patients. And conservatives aren't happy.

"With earlier and on-going efforts by the Obama Administration to invade personal liberties by collecting sensitive patient data, we should now be concerned that the Administration wants to reassure providers that they can ask – and record information – about patients’ gun ownership and storage of firearms. It seems that there is no end to the Administration’s efforts to conduct citizen surveillance in the exam room," Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said in a statement.

Revolving door: The House Energy and Commerce Committee's chief counsel on health issues will join BGR Group as a vice president on Feb. 1, the firm announced. Ryan Long had held his position since July 2006, and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) praised his serve as "tireless" and "valuable" in a statement Wednesday. Long began on Capitol Hill in the offices of former Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). He will focus primarily on life science and biotech issues at BGR, the firm said.

Mackey strikes again: This time, it's "more like fascism." That's what Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said Wednesday about the healthcare law in an interview with NPR. "Technically speaking, it's more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn't own the means of production, but they do control it, and that's what's happening with our healthcare programs and these reforms," he said. Read about Mackey's previous criticism of the Affordable Care Act at Healthwatch.

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