OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Obama: 'well on our way' to full implementation

President Obama highlighted his healthcare law Wednesday in a speech on the economy, arguing that it will provide security for middle-class families. The president said he and his administration are "well on our way" to fully implementing the healthcare law — another assurance that new insurance exchanges will be up and running on schedule on Oct. 1.

Obama also highlighted positive news about the cost of insurance in certain states' exchanges, singling out New York.

"Now, I know there are folks out there who are actively working to make this law fail," Obama said. "But despite a politically motivated misinformation campaign, the states that have committed themselves to making this law work are finding that competition and choice are actually pushing costs down."

Healthwatch has the full story on Obama's comments.

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Opposition mounts: Obama's defense of the healthcare law came on the same day as some bad polling data for the healthcare law. A new poll from CBS News found 54 percent opposition to the Affordable Care Act — the only recent poll in which opposition passed the 50 percent mark. Likewise, support for repeal reached its all-time high in the CBS poll, at 39 percent.

Healthwatch has the story.

PhRMA on top: PhRMA might be the most effective lobby group in Washington, according to a new survey released Wednesday. Consulting giant APCO Worldwide asked more than 450 policy leaders about 50 major trade associations, trimmed down from a larger list of nominees that was submitted by participants. Respondents in the survey generally agreed that PhRMA — the lobby group for the drug industry — excels in crucial areas. Read more details here.

Improving health IT access: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Wednesday lamented that rural healthcare providers have a harder time paying for and installing health information technology (HIT) systems. In a committee hearing on health IT, Baucus said rural patients deserve solutions to ensure their access to cutting-edge care coordination and technology.

"Rural, critical access hospitals in states like Montana have more trouble than others getting the up-front capital necessary to install HIT," Baucus said in a statement following the hearing. "And hospital-based rural health clinics are ineligible for incentive payments to help them afford technology. Those are problems we have to solve to make sure everyone benefits."

Baucus and his GOP counterpart, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), also emphasized the importance of interoperability as the second stage of "meaningful use" approaches. 

Questions on heparin: GOP lawmakers are expressing concerns that the acquisition of a major U.S. pork producer by a Chinese company could threaten the safety of heparin, a blood thinning drug, in the United States. Republicans wrote to Smithfield Foods, the American company, on Wednesday about how it will handle any pressure from its new Chinese owners to export crude heparin to China. In 2008, dozens of people died after contaminated heparin linked to Chinese manufacturers was imported to the U.S.

"Because the contamination case was never adequately addressed by Chinese authorities, at least some of the bad actors responsible for the adulteration presumably are still operating in the Chinese heparin business," the lawmakers wrote.

Read their letter here.


State by state

Planned Parenthood to pay Texas $1.4 million to settle alleged fraud

Michigan Senate unveils own version of Medicaid expansion

Effort to educate North Dakota's uninsured begins


Reading list

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GAO: Current insurance costs for individual policies vary widely

WellPoint profit jumps as insurer has lower medical costs


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Club for Growth pushes McConnell over health law shutdown threat

GOP delays controversial Labor-Education-HHS bill, but says it is close

Dem lawmaker wouldn't know Obama chief of staff 'if he were sitting here'

PBMs suggest ways to cut Medicare drug abuse


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

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