First Edition: January 10, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about Jack Lew, who is President Barack Obama's pick to head the Treasury Department and has a record of protecting Medicaid and the safety net.

Kaiser Health News: 'The Matrix' Meets Medicine: Surveillance Swoops Into Health Care
In this Kaiser Health News piece, Michael L. Millenson writes: "In an inconspicuous control room at the Sioux Falls, S.D., headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, nurses keep round-the-clock watch on motion and humidity sensors in the living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms of elderly men and women in five states" (Millenson, 1/9). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Governors' Group Highlights Health Care In 2013 Outlook
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Shefali S. Kulkarni reports: "As governors gear up to deliver their state-of-the-state addresses later this month, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the National Governors Association spoke Wednesday about the broader policy challenges facing all states in 2013 — and sure enough, health care was among the major issues both mentioned" (Kulkarni, 1/10). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Aide Is Treasury Pick
In 2011, as political leaders were designing the spending reductions that would begin this year if a larger deficit-reduction deal wasn't reached, some Republicans wanted to cut Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor. Mr. Lew bluntly interrupted to say Medicaid was off the table, prompting a GOP aide to hang up the phone, according to a person familiar with the exchange. Several months earlier, during a debate over government funding, the usually-even-tempered Mr. Lew stormed out over a dispute with Republicans about what numbers both sides should use as their "base line" for negotiations (Paletta and Hook, 1/10).

The Washington Post: Obama Selects White House Chief Of Staff Jack Lew To Head Treasury
Ideologically, Lew is a deficit hawk, and he thinks Obama should be pursuing an aggressive effort to slow the growth of the federal debt. But he has deep roots in Democratic politics, and in previous negotiations he has passionately resisted efforts to slice the social safety net, particularly Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor (Goldfarb, Tankersley and Cillizza, 1/9).

The New York Times: Obama's Pick For Treasury Is Said To Be His Chief Of Staff
If Mr. Lew is confirmed in time, his first test as Treasury secretary could come as soon as next month, when the administration and Congressional Republicans are expected to face off over increasing the nation's debt ceiling, which is the legal limit on the amount that the government can borrow. Mr. Obama has said he will not negotiate over raising that limit, which was often lifted routinely in the past, but Republican leaders have said they will refuse to support an increase unless he agrees to an equal amount of spending cuts, particularly to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security (Calmes, 1/9).

The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: Nancy Pelosi's Claim That The GOP Would Raid Medicare For Tax Cuts
We are reluctant to re-litigate the rhetoric of the 2012 presidential campaign, but this comment by Rep. Nancy Pelosi about the House GOP budget jumped out at us. We had frequently written during the campaign about the misleading claim by Mitt Romney that President Obama had gutted more than $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare. And yet here was Pelosi claiming Republicans had used the "same money" to fund a tax cut, compared to Democrats, who she said had used the $700 billion to "increase benefits to seniors." To alter a common expression, what's good for the gander is good for the goose. Is Pelosi playing the same kind of rhetorical games? (Kessler, 1/10).

The Washington Post: Leading HHS: Saying Focused On The Goal Requires Teamwork, Innovation And Inspiration
As deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Bill Corr is responsible for the operations of the government's largest civilian department. He most recently served as executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and previously served for 12 years as counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Health and the Environment. Corr spoke with Tom Fox, who is a guest writer of the Washington Post's Federal Coach blog and vice president for leadership and innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up the Partnership's Center for Government Leadership (Fox, 1/9).

Politico: States Struggle With How To Sell Their Exchanges
From Pandora radio to those paper coffee cup sleeves to the neighborhood laundromat, states are searching for creative ways to advertise their new health insurance exchanges to people who may not know much about how to get covered next year under the health care law — and who may not like what they’ve heard (Cunningham, 1/10).

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog: Appeals Court Rejects Challenge To Abortion Clinic 'Buffer Zone'
A federal appeals court upheld a Massachusetts law that creates a buffer zone around abortion clinics, rejecting an interesting First Amendment challenge that took inspiration from the  Supreme Court's 2010 campaign-finance ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Wednesday's ruling marked the second time in recent years the Boston-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit backed the 2007 law, which makes it a crime to linger within a 35-foot radius around the entrances, exits and driveways of abortion clinics (Palazzolo, 1/9).

The New York Times: Flu Widespread, Leading A Range Of Winter's Ills
The country is in the grip of three emerging flu or flulike epidemics: an early start to the annual flu season with an unusually aggressive virus, a surge in a new type of norovirus, and the worst whooping cough outbreak in 60 years. And these are all developing amid the normal winter highs for the many viruses that cause symptoms on the "colds and flu" spectrum (McNeil and Seelye, 1/9).

USA Today: 700 Cases Of Flu  Prompt Boston To Declare Emergency
Boston health officials have confirmed 700 cases of flu — 10 times the number for the entire flu season last year. … The Boston declaration is meant to drive home the message about the danger of flu and the necessity of getting vaccinated, said Nick Martin, communications director at the city Public Health Commission. … The hospitals in Boston have been overwhelmed, said Jim Heffernan, chief of primary care at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. His hospital is full, he said, the emergency room "overflowing because there aren't enough places to put people. It just snowballs" (Weise and Eversley, 1/10).

NPR: U.S. Ranks Below 16 Other Rich Countries In Health Report
It's no news that the U.S. has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than most high-income countries. But a magisterial new report says Americans are actually less healthy across their entire life spans than citizens of 16 other wealthy nations (Knox, 1/9).

The Wall Street Journal: Americans Die Younger Than Peers
The study by the federally sponsored National Research Council and Institute of Medicine found the U.S. near the bottom of 17 affluent countries for life expectancy, with high rates of obesity and diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease and arthritis, as well as infant mortality, injuries, homicides, teen pregnancy, drug deaths and sexually transmitted diseases (Radnofsky, 1/9).

Los Angeles Times: Through New Budget, Brown Maps Out Sweeping Change In California
Brown's proposed budget will outline his plans for expanding health coverage under the new federal healthcare law, which is set to require increased coverage beginning in January 2014. The law will put hundreds of thousands of new enrollees into California's public insurance program, but the governor has raised concerns about what that will cost. In addition, Brown has said the state may reduce the roughly $2 billion it gives to counties to care for the uninsured, amid objections from advocates and county officials (York and Megerian, 1/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: NJ Gov. Christie Says He’s Willing To Discuss Tougher Gun Laws Along With Mental Health Issues
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday that he’s willing to have a conversation about stricter gun laws, but says policymakers also must address the mental health system, improve access to drug treatment and look at the impact of violent video games (1/9).

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