America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), meanwhile, continued its assault against the cuts Thursday with a new poll showing seniors are overwhelmingly satisfied with their Medicare Advantage coverage. The lobby group warned that only 4 percent of the healthcare law's Medicare Advantage cuts have taken effect so far. Read more at Healthwatch.
Cantwell a no? Sen. Maria CantwellMaria CantwellSpeaker’s office: No energy bill this year Overnight Energy: Dakota pipeline standoff heats up Obama rescinds Arctic offshore drilling proposal MORE (D-Wash.) signaled Thursday that she may not support Marilyn Tavenner's nomination to lead the Medicare agency because the federal Basic Health Plan Option, a part of the Affordable Care Act, has not been fully implemented. Cantwell tangled in a Senate Finance Committee hearing with Jonathan Blum, acting principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, asking why regulators have not made further progress on the option. She suggested that regulators see the plan as "somehow against the interest" of healthcare reform.
Nelson chides Medicare over skilled-nursing payments: Sen. Bill NelsonBill Nelson House passes water bill with Flint aid, drought relief Fight over water bill heats up in Senate Overnight Tech: Big win for Samsung over Apple | Trump to sit down with tech leaders | Trump claims credit for B investment deal MORE (D-Fla.), head of the chamber's Special Committee on Aging, criticized the Medicare program Thursday for paying $5.1 billion to skilled-nursing facilities (SNF) that provide less-than-optimal care. The finding was revealed in a report by the Health and Human Services Inspector General (IG), which said that SNFs failed to meet care and discharge planning requirements for about one-third of stays. The report recommended that the Medicare agency strengthen SNF oversight and provide the industry more guidance.
"Spending taxpayers’ money on facilities that provide poor care is unacceptable," Nelson said in a statement. "The government must do a better job of ensuring Medicare beneficiaries receive the highest quality of care." Read the report here.
Keeping busy: The House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee is planning two hearings next week, one on the U.S. "entitlement crisis" and the other on the healthcare law's impact on premiums. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), the subcommitte's chairman, has already led two meaty hearing on Medicare physician payment reform and waste, fraud and abuse in U.S. healthcare. Read more from the subpanel's schedule here.
Remember that welfare debate? It's back in Congress as of this week, with a House subcommittee hearing Thursday and a fresh bill to block the Obama administration's welfare waivers. The bill, from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and other prominent Republicans, would prevent the federal government from issuing state waivers under welfare reform. The Obama administration, along with several states, argues the waivers are necessary to test pilot programs that would improve employment outcomes for welfare recipients. Republicans argue the policy would broaden welfare's definition of "work," increasing dependence on government help. Read about the new bill, and the hearing, which took a personal turn for two lawmakers, at Healthwatch.
Let's Keep Moving: The first lady announced a five-year expansion of her anti-obesity program Thursday, ensuring she will remain involved in the debate after she and President Obama leave the White House. In a speech in Chicago, Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaObamas post last Christmas card as first family The Hill's 12:30 Report Depleted Dems look to Senate for 2020 nominee MORE unveiled the Let's Move Active Schools initiative, a public-private partnership to encourage kids to exercise. The speech kicked off a media tour that will last several days.
"Our goal is ambitious. ... Fortunately, it doesn't take much to get our kids moving," Obama said.
Read more from her speech here.
The Alliance for Health Reform will hold a "Medicaid 101" briefing on Capitol Hill.
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