OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Tavenner tapped for CMS (again)

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) also said he hopes Tavenner gets a hearing before the Finance Committee.

Healthwatch's story on the nomination is here.

Bishops weigh in: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said Thursday that it remains opposed to the Obama administration's contraception mandate, arguing Catholic institutions will have "second-class status" under the policy despite recent tweaks to its rules.

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"Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few," Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, said in a statement.

The Health and Human Services Department announced slight changes to the contraception mandate last week, but did not change the substance of the requirement that most employers offer contraception in their healthcare plans.

Healthwatch has more on Dolan's reaction.

Déjà vu: Some of the measures proposed by President Obama following December’s Newtown massacre bear a striking resemblance to recommendations made after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting spree, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers said Thursday. The group of six members of the Energy and Commerce Committee wants to know what became of the George W. Bush-era proposals to better identify and treat people with mental health problems. Read the rest of the story at The Hill's RegWatch.

About that CBO report:
The leading Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee slammed healthcare reform as a failure Thursday, citing Tuesday's Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that predicted that 7 million people will lose employer-based healthcare coverage as a result of the law. Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) urged President Obama to "work with Congress to repeal" the Affordable Care Act and "accept that this law isn't the right solution." Democrats note that anybody who loses employer-based healthcare coverage will have the opportunity to purchase new insurance through the law's exchanges. Read The Hill's write-up of the CBO report here.

Subsidy fight: Republican senators are pushing the White House not to allow subsidies under healthcare reform for plans jointly run by employers and unions. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that labor leaders were preparing to ask the Obama administration to expand subsidies in order to benefit union workers.

"Concerns about rising premiums are driven by policies in [the Affordable Care Act]," senators wrote. "Rather than considering a diversion of subsidies not remotely contemplated in the statute, perhaps the concerns being raised by union plans should be cause to revisit the taxes, fees and other policies that drive premium increases."

Read the story and the WSJ follow-up here and here [subscription req'd]. 

More on mental health: House Democrats' task force on preventing gun violence also released a series of policy principles Thursday, including universal background checks and "closing the holes in the mental-health system" to ensure access to treatment for anyone who needs it. Read the statement here. The move came on the same day that a bipartisan group of senators introduced a mental health bill alongside "Silver Linings Playbook" director David O. Russell. Healthwatch covered the bill here.

Don't forget the deductible: A new study found that about 40 percent of U.S. health plans are not prepared to comply with the Affordable Care Act because they do not include deductibles in calculations for annual out-of-pocket limits. HealthPocket, Inc., a consumer resource on health insurance, found that 36 percent of all health plans had higher costs than will be permitted under healthcare reform.

"While the average out-of-pocket costs limit nationwide falls within [Affordable Care Act] guidelines," said HealthPocket head of research Kev Coleman, "there are still thousands of plans that need to improve their out-of-pocket costs for 2014."

Read more about the report here.


State by state

Congressmen ask NC House to reject Medicaid bill

ND Senate OKs bill regulating abortion providers

Michigan's House Speaker rules out transvaginal ultrasound bill

Q&A with Neb. governor on tax cuts, Medicaid


Lobbying registrations

Crossroads Strategies / WH Interactive


Reading list

Rural hospitals face challenges in changing environment

Pfizer breakup talk stoked by discount to drug stocks

Southern diet, fried foods, may raise stroke risk


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

CMS: Obama health law yielded billions in Rx savings

GOP, Dems call for repeal of $30 billion medical device tax

FDA releases guidance for new Alzheimer’s drugs

Breastfeeding on the rise, says CDC

Insurer: No talk of seeking 'ObamaCare' delay

Sessions warns Lew's nomination to Treasury at risk over Medicare trigger

House Republicans push for long-term 'doc fix'


Comments / complaints / suggestions?


Please let us know:

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

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

Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch

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