KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Sen. Harkin Prepares Sweeping Public Health Legislation To Combat Obesity

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin is -- for the sixth time -- introducing legislation to combat obesity in children and adults across America using a host of new programs.

Modern Healthcare: Harkin Offers Sweeping Public Health Bill Again
For the sixth time, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee introduced sweeping legislation to strengthen the nation's public health with provisions that aim to combat chronic disease and encourage healthier lifestyles in schools, businesses and communities. Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) bill calls on several Cabinet departments and federal agencies to implement a host of recommendations, and, in some cases, work together to achieve those goals. The legislation would require HHS to issue and update physical activity guidelines for all ages every 10 years; provide tax credits to businesses that offer comprehensive workplace wellness programs; and mandate that the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Agriculture department release recommendations for standards in food marketing to children (Zigmond, 1/22).

The Hill: Harkin Health Bill Orders Stack Of Federal Prevention Efforts
A new bill from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) would order more than 30 federal actions to encourage healthier living, from a penalty on certain tobacco manufacturers to targets for sodium reduction in U.S. foods. Harkin, who leads the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, described the bill as a comprehensive step forward for preventive health care in the United States (Viebeck, 1/22).

In the meantime, Republicans again take aim at the health law's individual mandate as well as repealing the "Sustainable Growth Rate" and ask the White House to issue regulations to expose financial relationships between doctors and the health care industry --

The Hill: GOP Bill Would Repeal Health Law's Individual Mandate
Republican senators introduced a bill Tuesday to repeal the unpopular individual mandate in President Obama's signature health care law. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced the measure, dubbing it the "American Liberty Restoration Act." They said the mandate is an assault on constitutionally protected freedoms -- despite the Supreme Court's ruling last year that upheld the mandate as constitutional (Baker, 1/22).

The Hill: Grassley Pushes White House On Sunshine Act Regs
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) urged the White House Tuesday to finalize long-overdue regulations that would expose financial relationships between doctors and industry. The letter to Jack Lew, President Obama's chief of staff, is Grassley's latest move to pressure the Obama administration to release final rules for the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (Viebeck, 1/22).

Medpage Today: SGR Repeal To Get Hard Look In New Congress
Repealing the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for physician reimbursement under Medicare will likely be a high priority for the new leader of a key congressional health subcommittee. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who took over as chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee as the 113th Congress kicked off this week, wants to work with the House Energy and Commerce Committee to craft legislation to permanently repeal the SGR and replace it "with a reliable physician reimbursement formula that rewards quality," the congressman wrote in a news release. He said he hopes to "push structural reforms this session to preserve Medicare and reduce Medicare fraud" (Pittman, 1/22).

And a former Senate Democrat will lead a national insurance group --

Politico: Ex-Sen. Ben Nelson Leads Insurance Commissioners Group
Former Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, one of the key figures in passing the president's health care law, is being tapped to lead the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the group announced Tuesday (Millman, 1/23).

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