OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Governor Christie will expand Medicaid

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie became the eighth Republican governor to sign up for the healthcare law's Medicaid expansion — another big win for the Obama administration. Christie said in a budget address Tuesday that although he still opposes the Affordable Care Act, the Medicaid expansion is the right move for his state.

"Let me be clear, refusing these federal dollars does not mean that they won’t be spent. It just means that they will be used to expand health care access in New York, Connecticut, Ohio or somewhere else," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Christie's move is especially important because he is a top contender for the 2016 presidential race and is already on uneasy terms with the conservatives who dominate Republican primaries. But Christie has been setting himself up as a centrist open to working with President Obama — a reputation his Medicaid announcement will likely bolster, for better or worse.

Healthwatch has the story on Christie's decision.

MA melee: The insurance industry continued to fight back aggressively Tuesday against proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage. America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) released a new report showing that MA plans could suffer a total cut of nearly 9 percent if the latest reductions are finalized on top of cuts already included in the Affordable Care Act.

“The impact of these cuts is real; it’s not speculative,” AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni told reporters. AHIP's report said MA plans would have to come up with $50 to $90 per beneficiary per month in premium increases or benefit reductions to make up for the cuts.

Healthwatch has the details.

Big divides remain on Medicare: Republicans and Democrats were pretty far apart Tuesday during a Ways and Means Health subcommittee hearing on possible changes to Medicare's benefit structure. Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) argued that Medicare is a confusing, inefficient maze of differing benefits and cost-sharing levels.

"No private insurance company in its right mind would design and offer a benefit that looks like this. And given a choice, most seniors wouldn’t accept it," he said.

But Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), the panel's top Democrat, pushed back on changes to the program, and said the Affordable Care Act has already made a down payment on important reforms.

"Benefit restructuring specifically to generate savings — whether in the name of deficit reduction, paying for other initiatives, or simply masquerading as 'reform' — is bad policy and bad politics," he said.

Testimony from the hearing is available here.

The latest from GAO: Government auditors weighed in Tuesday on the long-term deficit impact of the Affordable Care Act. Not surprisingly, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the law's overall effects on U.S. healthcare spending — and the deficit, by extension — depend on whether its cost-containment measures last over the next several decades. Assuming the law is enforced as is, the U.S. deficit will decline 1.5 percent as a share of the economy over the next 75 years, according to the GAO.

But if the cost-curbing provisions are repealed, the deficit will increase by 0.7 of gross domestic product, the study said. The Senate Budget Committee's top Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), jumped on the figures Tuesday to argue that the healthcare law will cost $6.2 trillion over the next 75 years. Read more about the report and Sessions's view here and here.

Bill highlight: Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Rep. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation Tuesday to strengthen government data collection on the types and amounts of antibiotics used in farm animals. The Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act would require drug makers and poultry, swine and livestock producers to disclose more information about antibiotic use in animals to the Food and Drug Administration. Read more about the bill here.

On the rise: The last three decades saw a slight increase in advanced-stage breast cancer among younger women, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The analysis found that the incidence of advanced breast cancer among women ages 25 to 39 rose from 1.53 in 100,000 in 1976 to 2.9 in 100,000 in 2009. The totals come out to about 250 cases per year in the 1970s and more than 800 per year in 2009, according to The New York Times. Researchers could not explain the apparent rise, but cautioned that the cancer cases involved had already spread to other organs, making them more likely to be fatal. Read more at the NYT.

Wednesday's agenda

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on animal drug user fees.

The House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee will hold a hearing on fighting waste, fraud and abuse in government healthcare programs.

Republican House members will hold their "Conversations with Conservatives" event.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on ways to strengthen Medicare.

Advocates with rare-disease groups will storm Capitol Hill to protest the sequester and regulatory hurdles that force clinical trials off-shore.

The Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance will lobby members to support continued federal funding for research on the condition. Tuberous sclerosis affects as many as 25,000 to 40,000 people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.


State by state

Wis. Democrat says he talked with GOP on Medicaid deal

NC lawmakers vote to bar Medicaid expansion

Branstad to seek federal IowaCare waiver


Lobbying registrations

W Strategies / AbbVie

Sconset Strategies / Freeman Allergy

Asset & Equity Corporation / Mount Olive College


Reading list

Rep. Price doubles down on state-based QIOs [free reg. req'd]

Generics may help close Medicare gap coverage in mentally ill

Do bariatric surgery restrictions improve outcomes?

FDA halts trials of Amgen drug in children, cites death

Swiss Red Cross cuts blood supply to broke Greece


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Michelle Obama credits Let's Move with declining childhood obesity rates

Analysis ties local pharmacies to Medicare savings

Senate panel approves nominee for HHS general counsel

Sessions: Healthcare law will add $6.2 trillion to deficit over 75 years

'Gluten-free' labeling rules head to White House

Advocates urge US to maintain global health funds

Device makers to 'double down' against health law's tax



Comments / complaints / suggestions?

Please let us know:

Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351

Elise Viebeck: eviebeck@thehill.com / 202-628-8523

Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch