OVERNIGHT HEALTH: GOP drops plan to tie O-Care to debt ceiling

House Republican leaders have concluded that they cannot pass an increase in the debt ceiling without help from Democrats, abandoning plans to tie legislation either to ObamaCare or the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

GOP leaders had been looking at pairing legislation boosting the debt limit with either an authorization of the pipeline or rolling back a portion of ObamaCare. But after presenting those ideas to members and huddling Wednesday, they determined neither would receive 218 votes from House Republicans.

That left Republican leaders with no clear alternative to addressing the debt limit, which the Treasury Department has said needs to be raised by the end of February.

One idea that emerged as a potential option was a repeal of so-called “risk corridors” included in ObamaCare, which provide temporary subsidies to insurance companies that could face higher costs as they begin covering sicker people under the new healthcare law. Republicans argued the plan, which could include government funds if an industry pool of subsidies runs dry, amounts to an “insurer bailout.”

But that plan did not gain momentum in the last several days, leaving Republicans at an impasse. Read more at The Hill.

Ryan decries 'poverty trap': House Republicans argued Wednesday that a new Congressional Budget Office report shows the healthcare law is making the "poverty trap" worse, while Democrats countered that the GOP is completely misreading the CBO's findings.
The two parties sparred at a House Budget Committee hearing the day after the CBO found that over the next decade, ObamaCare will lower full-time employment by the equivalent of 2.5 million workers.

The CBO report said more workers — particularly those with low incomes — will choose to reduce their hours or leave their jobs because they now have health insurance, and that this reduction in the labor supply will lower economic growth, shrink the tax base and raise the deficit. The Hill's On the Money blog has more.
O-Care ad targets moms: A new national television ad is urging the mothers of young adults to talk to their children about health coverage under ObamaCare. The 30-second spot, released Wednesday, is the latest move by the Obama administration to encourage the young and healthy to sign up for the health insurance exchanges.

The ad also represents a serious bid for publicity for ObamaCare on the part of federal health officials. The commercial will air until March 31 on prominent cable channels with a large female viewership, including ABC Family, Oxygen and Lifetime. Healthwatch has the details.

Food taxes: A coalition of food industry trade groups is urging the Obama administration to abandon its plan to impose a new set of “regulatory taxes” on businesses to help pay for a national food safety overhaul. The administration’s top food safety official testified Wednesday in support of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of proposed user fees related to food facility registration and imports.

The additional funding would allow the Food and Drug Administration to impose a series of regulations drafted in the last year under the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act. The regulations together represent the largest food safety update in 70 years, but FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor told lawmakers that the agency lacks the funding to impose them. The Hill's RegWatch blog has the story.

State by state

Washington House passes abortion insurance bill

Missouri cites problems with feds' Medicaid referrals

Idaho lawmakers again reject Medicaid expansion

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