Treasury targets drug cartel cash

The Treasury Department is moving to freeze the assets of two associates of the infamous drug lord Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera.

All property and interests within U.S. jurisdiction belonging to Ines Coronel Barreras and Damaso Lopez Nunez will be blocked under 1999 legislation known as the “Kingpin Act,” Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced in a notice to be published in Tuesday’s Federal Register.

Coronel Barreras is the father-in-law of Guzman Loera, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, which is responsible for bringing multiple-ton shipments of narcotics from Mexico into the United States, according to OFAC.

Lopez Nunez, also known as “El Licenciado,” is considered the drug lord’s right-hand man and one of the cartel’s top lieutenants. He helped break Guzman Loera out of a Mexican federal prison the same year the cartel boss — now Mexico’s most wanted man — was himself designated as a major drug trafficker under the Kingpin Act.

“Working with our federal law enforcement partners, we will continue to go after the Sinaloa Cartel’s holdings and support structure, wherever they are located,” OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin said.

OFAC has targeted roughly 1,200 individuals and businesses linked to 97 drug kingpins since 2000.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. The Obama administration released new regulations Monday to implement central provisions of President Obama’s healthcare law, including its controversial Medicaid expansion.

The Health and Human Services Department gave states and insurance plans more information about the Medicaid expansion as well as the creation of new insurance exchanges where people will be able to shop for private insurance.

The 472-page regulation aims to streamline the process for determining who is eligible for the expanded Medicaid program, as well as the system for notifying applicants of eligibility decisions.

Cindy Mann, the director of the HHS Medicaid office, said the changes made by this regulation were expected and would not add new costs to states.

The regulation also offers states two options for evaluating whether residents have access to employer-sponsored insurance, and for processing appeals of denied claims.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY. The public-private agency within the Department of Commerce is seeking comment on how to move forward with a project to facilitate the exchange of patient information between healthcare providers.

The agency is seeking advice about how to provide security for the sensitive information.

“The goal for this project is to provide a security platform to enable small healthcare providers to exchange electronic health information in support of the U.S. federal government and the health IT community,” according to a document in the Federal Register. Comments are due March 1, 2013.

FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. The National Jewish Health medical center has weighed in on the FDA’s proposal to extend research and approval for new medications for people who are trying to quit smoking.

The hospital recommended that warnings about high blood pressure and heart disease be omitted from the packaging of the products, but said a warning about elevated heart rates from nicotine should be kept.

There are currently more than 1,500 comments on the proposal, but only 17 have been made public. The comment period ends Jan. 16, 2013.