OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Burwell on the hot seat

All eyes will be on Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Thursday as the likely replacement for Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius faces her first confirmation hearing.

The event, hosted by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, will shed light on how much Republican opposition Burwell can expect as she moves through the process. A handful of rank-and-file Republican senators have already expressed support for her, signaling that the confirmation battle may lack the rancor that normally accompanies healthcare debates in Congress.

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Burwell currently serves as the White House budget director, a position in which she's been commended by both Republicans and Democrats. But there are still many questions about how she would run HHS, a vastly larger and more politically contentious institution.

Republicans are expected to use the hearing to further hammer the healthcare law, though GOP lawmakers have been quieter on the issue in recent weeks. Read The Hill's past coverage of Burwell's nomination here, here, and here.

Hearing debacle: Republicans struggled to land punches against ObamaCare in a hearing Wednesday, as responses from insurance companies deflated several lines of questioning. Democratic lawmakers were emboldened to defend the Affordable Care Act with renewed vigor and levity, creating a dynamic rarely seen in the debate over ObamaCare. Adding to the irregularity, exits on the Republican side at a subcommittee hearing led by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) allowed multiple Democrats to speak in a row and let heavy Democratic criticism of Republicans go unanswered, a contrast with the heated exchanges of last fall. Read more here.

80 percent and up: Major health insurers said Wednesday that at least 80 percent of the people enrolled in their ObamaCare plans have paid their first premium, contrary to a report by Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee. In total, four out of five companies represented said more than 80 percent of their new customers had paid. The fifth, Cigna, did not offer an estimate. The Hill breaks down the numbers here.

Saving money: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated Wednesday that a new rule aimed at killing unnecessary or out-of-date Medicare regulations will save providers $3.2 billion over five years. The rule loosens certain physician supervision and scheduling requirements and eliminates what officials called a redundant data submission protocol for transplant centers. Read more of the regulation here.

GOP plays “Where’s Sebelius?”: Republicans criticized HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ absence from a Senate budget hearing Wednesday to discuss the agency’s funding. While other HHS heads were present at the meeting, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee, said he decided not to invite her to the meeting as she would soon be leaving her position. Read more here.

Senators want abortion bill vote: Thirty-three Republican senators have written to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) asking him to call a vote on a controversial late-term abortion bill. The senators are pushing for passage of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) bill which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy expect for cases of incest, rape or to save the life of the mother. Read more here.

Saving lives and money: An HHS report Wednesday says ObamaCare helped save 15,000 lives at hospitals around the country and taxpayers $4 billion in its first year of implementation. According to the agency, the benefits were a result of private-public partnerships developed under the new healthcare law. The study also found 560,000 fewer hospital injuries in 2011 and 2012, compared to 2010. Read more here.

 

THURSDAY’S SCHEDULE:

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a nomination hearing for Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services Secretary.

The Cato Institute will hold a discussion on ObamaCare.

 

STATE BY STATE:

Obamacare czar wants to make single-payer happen in Massachusetts

Louisiana anti-abortion bill advances

Illinois sets deadline for insurers to submit Obamacare applications

W.Va. governor restores some social services funding he previously vetoed

 

LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS:

Hawk International, LLC / The Chanda Plan Foundation

Gephardt Group Government Affairs/ Delos Living

Rampy Northrup LLC/ Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc.

Rampy Northrup LLC/ National Retail Federation

Rampy Northrup LLC/ Quest Diagnostics Incorporated

 

READING LIST:

Workers would rather save up for retirement than pay for health care

Obama health nominee's first task? Ward off new crises

Eight things you can do today to help stop the spread of killer ‘superbugs’

Chamber of Commerce makes ad buy supporting pro-business Republicans



WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED AT THE HILL:

DEA crackdown targets synthetic drugs

After Google win, NARAL goes after Yahoo ads

 

Please send tips and comments to Ferdous Al-Faruque, dannya@thehill.com, and Elise Viebeck, eviebeck@thehill.com.

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