OVERNIGHT HEALTH: IPAB gets a reprieve

Abortion politics spill over: Republicans on a government watchdog panel ripped into the Obama administration Thursday after it rejected a $2.5 million anti-human-trafficking grant for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Republicans say requiring grant applicants to cover abortion counseling is discriminatory and violates conscience rights. Others — including the ACLU — say taxpayers shouldn't be funding groups who impose their beliefs on victims in their care, for example, by refusing to respond to a request for abortion counseling. Healthwatch has more on the contentious issue here.

No subsidies for you: Can people take advantage of the healthcare law's insurance subsidies if they live in a state where HHS operates the exchange? The IRS says yes. Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDrug prices are declining amid inflation fears The national action imperative to achieve 30 by 30 Financial market transactions should not be taxed or restricted MORE (R-Utah) says no. He said Thursday that the IRS has overstepped in its rules on the subsidies. The healthcare law only makes them available through a state-run exchange, he argued, not the federally run fallback. Healthwatch has the details.

This issue was directly addressed in the guidance HHS released earlier this week. HHS said its regulations "are clear on this point and supported by the statute." And the department noted that in scoring the healthcare bill, CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation both assumed the subsidies would be available in every exchange.

Drugged kids: Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperProgressive groups ramp up pressure on Feinstein Senate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office Rick Scott threatens to delay national security nominees until Biden visits border MORE (D-Del.) released a Government Accountability Office report he ordered that concludes children in foster care are prescribed dramatically high levels of psychotropic drugs. Carper led a hearing Thursday urging states to adopt best practices.

"There are best practices in use in some states that really do work in helping foster children," he said. "Every state should be adopting them or tailoring them for adoption." Here's the GAO report.

IOM slamed: More than 2,400 doctors and other health professionals are urging the Department of Health and Human Services not to listen to the Institute of Medicine as it defines essential health benefits. The essential benefits rule, which might not come out until next year, is one of the most important regulations HHS will issue. Even some supporters of the Affordable Care Act have made the case for starting with a small package. But the latest protest says HHS should mandate much more comprehensive coverage, and accuses the IOM's essential-benefits panel of having financial conflicts of interest. Check out the Healthwatch story.

Part D: The cost of prescription drugs for low-income seniors is two times higher than other seniors, according to a new Congressional Budget Office report. CBO looked at total drug spending — including spending by the federal government and seniors. Drugs for the average senior cost $1,800 per year, while seniors who receive Medicare's low-income subsidies averaged $3,600 per year.

PhRMA Foundation funding:  A drug industry foundation will pony up $500,000 to create two graduate certificate programs in comparative effectiveness — the study of which treatments are most effective. The PhRMA Foundation awarded $250,000 each to Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington.

State by state

The Nebraska legislature isn't likely to move an exchange bill during the 2012 session.

Access to mental-health services falls short in California.

But in Iowa, state lawmakers are pleased with an effort to improve the mental-health system.

Fraud fight

An Ohio woman was sentenced to 18 months in jail for Medicaid fraud.

The owner of a Florida nursing home plead guilty to an illegal Medicare kickback scheme.

Reading list

Privacy breaches are increasing because hospitals are cutting corners on protecting their records, Bloomberg reports.

In a long interview with The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff, House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorBottom line Virginia GOP candidates for governor gear up for convention Cantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' MORE (R-Va.) continued to heap praise on Marilyn Tavenner.

Kaiser Health News analyzes the consistent growth in healthcare jobs.

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Obama pledges additional $50 million in funding on World AIDS Day

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Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com / 202-628-8527

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