First Edition: February 27, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about N.J. Gov. Christie's decision to pursue the health law's Medicaid expansion.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: House Panel Examines Nuts & Bolts Of Changing Traditional Medicare
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and Jackie Judd discuss a Tuesday Capitol Hill hearing during which House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady, began examining options for cost savings in traditional Medicare (2/26). Read the transcript or listen to the audio.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Americans Uncomfortable Around Mentally Ill Despite Acknowledging Discrimination
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jordan Rau reports on a new poll exploring public views on mental illness: "The public has a contradictory view of mental illness, according to a new poll. While most Americans believe people with such ailments are the victims of prejudice and discrimination, a substantial portion of the public say they have qualms about working in the same place or having their children attend a school where someone with a 'serious' mental illness is employed" (Rau, 2/27). Check out what else is on the blog.

Los Angeles Times: Boehner: Time For Senate To Get To Work And Stop Sequester
The $85 billion in cuts were designed as a last-ditch strategy to bring both sides to the negotiating table on a broad deficit-reduction plan. But without an agreement, the cuts, also known as the sequester, are poised to take effect. Up to 13% from defense and 9% from other domestic accounts will be cut in the remaining seven months of the fiscal year, vacuuming about 750,000 jobs from the economy. Social Security and the Medicaid health program for poor and elderly Americans are spared, and cuts to Medicare are capped (Mascaro, 2/26).

The New York Times: Austerity Kills Government Jobs As Cuts To Budgets Loom
But this time is different. Growth has remained sluggish and millions remain unemployed even as the federal government, riven by partisan differences, has largely turned its attention to deficit reduction. Mr. Bernanke, like many critics of sequestration, said the government could not ignore the need to reduce its annual deficits and curtail the growth of its debt. But he said short-term cuts would worsen those problems by slowing the economy. Moreover, sequestration mostly spares Medicare and Medicaid, the health care programs that are the primary reason federal spending is projected to increase. Congress and the administration, he said, should "introduce these cuts more gradually and compensate with larger and more sustained cuts in the future" (Appelbaum, 2/26).

The New York Times: Christie Says He’ll Take U.S. Money To Expand Medicaid
The expansion, which the governor described in his annual budget address to the Legislature, would provide health insurance to 104,000 of the poorest 1.3 million residents currently living without it, though some groups say the number could be higher. Mr. Christie emphasized that it was a financial decision, not a philosophical shift; if New Jersey did not take the money, he said, the federal government would give it to other states (Zernike, 2/26).

Politico: Chris Christie's Obamacare Move Risky For 2016 Election
New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s reversal on accepting the Obamacare Medicaid expansion was a political no-brainer for a politician running for re-election in a blue state this year. But the move has uncertain implications for Christie as a potential 2016 contender who is already taking darts from some conservatives over his bona fides (Haberman and Nather, 2/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Gov. Chris Christie Agrees To Expand Medicaid In NJ, Still 'No Fan Of Affordable Care Act'
Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday that he would expand Medicaid health insurance coverage to more low-income New Jersey adults as part of President Barack Obama's health insurance overhaul — all while making it clear he's "no fan of" the president's program (2/26).

The Washington Post's WonkBlog: Report: Chris Christie Will Support Obamacare's Medicaid Expansion
Taken together, these eight states will extend Obamacare's coverage expansion to 3.2 million Americans, according to this analysis from the Urban Institute. They will take in a cumulative $90 billion in federal funds to do so. The quick succession of governors to come out in favor of this part of the Affordable Care Act suggests that, when it comes to the Medicaid expansion, the lure of federal dollars may trump anti-Obamacare politics (Kliff, 2/26).

Politico: The Repeal Obamacare Chorus Quiets
Washington's repeal-Obamacare crowd is feeling a little lonely these days, abandoned by an increasing number of Republicans who have bowed to the political reality that the law isn’t going anywhere anytime soon (Haberkorn and Allen, 2/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Biotech Drugs Still Won't Copy
Much anticipated knockoff versions of costly biotech medicines are facing delays and obstacles that could cost patients and health systems billions in missed savings (Weaver, Whalen and Rockoff, 2/26).

Politico: Oregon Governor touts New Medicaid Model
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber used the just-completed National Governors Association winter meeting to try to get his colleagues to think not just about cutting or expanding Medicaid — but about reinventing it (Martin and Kenen, 2/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Ark. Governor Vetoes Bill Banning Most Abortions At 20 Weeks, Citing Constitutional Concerns
Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe on Tuesday vetoed a ban on most abortions in Arkansas at 20 weeks into a pregnancy, setting up an override fight with a Republican-controlled Legislature that has been pushing for more restrictions on the procedure (2/26).

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