OVERNIGHT HEALTHCARE: Burwell confirmed as HHS secretary

The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Sylvia Burwell as the next Health and Human Services secretary on Thursday.

The director of the Office of Management and Budget easily crossed the majority threshold with a 78-17 vote as more than 20 Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues to seal the deal.

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Burwell is taking over the reins from Kathleen Sebelius who faced scathing criticism from Republicans over her handling of the botched HealthCare.gov launch last year. http://bit.ly/1rOZMfm

Among the Republicans who voted against Burwell’s nomination were senators who are considered top contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) all voted against Burwell’s confirmation, along with 14 other senators, some of whom are facing tough reelection fights this cycle and next.

While Burwell received widespread praise from Republicans, some used the vote as a symbolic opportunity to express their opposition to ObamaCare. http://bit.ly/1l9GwUU

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who is facing a tough reelection campaign in his home state also voted against Burwell’s nomination.

“Sylvia Burwell is a smart and skilled public servant. But her embrace of ObamaCare calls her policy judgment into question,” McConnell said on the Senate floor before the vote.

“And when it comes to the task of implementing this ill-conceived and disastrous law, the president may as well have nominated Sisyphus. Because, as I indicated, Ms. Burwell is being asked to do the impossible here,” he added. http://bit.ly/1p04C7I

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health said Thursday it was scheduling a hearing on June 12 to talk about ObamaCare titled “The President’s Health Care Law Does Not Equal Health Care Access.” http://1.usa.gov/UfZ9NB

MENTAL HEALTH BILL MAKEOVER: House Republicans are trying to salvage a controversial mental health reform bill in a piecemeal manner to make it more palatable.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee indicated Thursday that it would divide the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act into narrower measures in an attempt to pass individual provisions that are not controversial.

The announcement deals a serious blow to the bill and its author, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who has argued that only dramatic and comprehensive reform would serve to help people with serious mental illness. http://bit.ly/1p05aKG

SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has proposed legislation to create a new special inspector general position whose sole purpose would be to oversee the Affordable Care Act.

Roberts is up for reelection this year and faces a primary challenge in August. He said his bill would consolidate multiple agencies' oversight of the law's rollout.

Based on Roberts’s proposal the inspector general would have authority to review the functionality of HealthCare.gov, the costs of premiums, the effect of the requirement on businesses to offer health insurance for full-time employees, and how the Internal Revenue Service collects penalty payments from people who don't have insurance. http://bit.ly/1jX9ra5

BILL TO STOP O-CARE SUBSIDIES: After reports that ObamaCare may be overpaying for subsidies to a million enrollees, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn), reintroduced a bill that would halt all payments until a system is put in place to verify income eligibility in all insurance applications.

A report Wednesday found a million people who signed up for ObamaCare are at risk of having to pay back parts of their subsidies because the information they provided in their applications doesn't match data from federal records.

“These improper payments are the predictable result of President Obama’s reckless decision to move forward with a program that was never ready,” said Black. “We knew that paying out subsidies without first confirming that someone was eligible would become a nightmare for American taxpayers, and these reports confirm our concerns.”

The House Ways and Means subcommittee on health and oversight is scheduled to convene a hearing on the issue on June 10. http://bit.ly/1rPoigx

CBO GIVES UP: In a little-noticed footnote from April, the Congressional Budget Office said it will continue to assess the effects of the ObamaCare exchange subsidies and the Medicaid expansion, but will stop measuring the fiscal impact of other provisions of the law.

"The provisions that expand insurance coverage established entirely new programs or components of programs that can be isolated and reassessed," the office wrote.

"In contrast, other provisions of the Affordable Care Act significantly modified existing federal programs and made changes to the Internal Revenue Code... Isolating the incremental effects of those provisions on previously existing programs and revenues four years after enactment of the Affordable Care Act is not possible." http://bit.ly/1kBs7Rh

 

STATE BY STATE:

Michaud proposes oversight agency for Maine DHHS: http://bit.ly/1tLI2NQ

Nationwide, W.Va. second in Medicaid expansion: http://bit.ly/1hhnVGZ

State hires contractor to clear Vermont Health Connect backlog: http://bit.ly/1xeDhRh

Va. Health Board meeting on abortion-clinic rules draws strong opinions: http://wapo.st/1hCoFHf

 

READING LIST: 

Parents of mentally ill adults frustrated by privacy law: http://bit.ly/1jT2iHM

CBO: 87 percent of uninsured can avoid O-Care mandate tax: http://bit.ly/1kNZvjh

Opponents of health law turn to faith-based nonprofits to cover medical expenses: http://wapo.st/1xeGy3d

US orders farmers to report deadly pig virus cases: http://reut.rs/1xeEA2S

 

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED AT THE HILL: 

VA nominee withdraws: http://bit.ly/1nTwOcF

Advocates: Medicaid expansion would most benefit working poor: http://bit.ly/1p07zFj

Health agency warns against marijuana use: http://bit.ly/1p085TN

Report: Insurance premiums grew by double digits before ObamaCare: http://bit.ly/1pJjIyh

Hillary Clinton taking blood thinners: http://bit.ly/1oy4mZV

Uninsured rate holds at record low in survey: http://bit.ly/1hClwXN

Cassidy to tout O-Care opposition in first ad: http://bit.ly/Sd7vn9