OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Burwell digs in against Republicans

The chief of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not back down during a tense back-and-forth with Republicans on Wednesday, declining to offer the Obama administration's backup plan if a looming Supreme Court case is decided against it.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell did not budge despite a barrage of questions from the two highest-ranking Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee about what the administration would do if ObamaCare subsidies are struck down in 37 states.

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"You're a highly intelligent, charming person, but you've refused to answer our questions, and to me, that doesn't strike me as trying to work with Congress but rather [as] contemptuous of Congress's responsibilities," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said after several minutes of questions. Read more here.

Tenn. won't expand Medicaid: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's plan to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare died Wednesday in the state Senate after it was voted down by the Health and Welfare Committee.

Haslam, a Republican, failed to garner enough support among members of his own party. Only three of the 10 Republicans on the Health panel voted for the plan; the final vote was 7 to 4 against expansion.

The Insure Tennessee proposal was designed to subsidize employer-based healthcare coverage for some workers and place others on the state's Medicaid program, with incentives added for healthy living. Read more here

Surgeon general backs medical marijuana: The nation's top doctor on Wednesday suggested an openness to wider use of medical marijuana, saying the drug might offer some medical benefits. "We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms that marijuana can be helpful," Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told "CBS This Morning."

"So I think we have to use that data to drive policymaking, and I'm very interested to see where that data takes us," he added. His comments follow President Obama's remark last year that marijuana is not "more dangerous than alcohol." Read more here.

Enrollment jumps ahead of ObamaCare deadline: Federal ObamaCare enrollments jumped by about one-third in the last two weeks of January, signaling the start of what experts believe will be a surge of sign-ups before the Feb. 15 deadline. "We're seeing a ramp up of folks that we're encouraged by," said HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan on a call with reporters.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Wednesday that 179,710 people selected plans on the federal exchange between Jan. 24 and 30, compared with 137,298 the week before. The highest number of total sign-ups among HealthCare.gov states is in Florida, where 1.3 million people have picked health plans since Nov. 15, HHS said. Read more here.

Bush backs vaccination: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday joined other Republicans in arguing that parents should vaccinate their children. "Parents ought to make sure their children are vaccinated," Bush told reporters after his speech at the Detroit Economic Club. "Do we need to get into any detail on that?"

Earlier this week, two other potential Republican presidential candidates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), made comments that suggested parents should have a degree of choice on whether to vaccinate their children. Read more here.


Thursday's schedule

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues will meet to discuss the ethics of the Ebola emergency response. 


State by state

Wyo. Senate advances Medicaid expansion bill

Fitch: Indiana's Medicaid expansion positive for hospitals

Audit finds Kentucky health officials overstated Medicaid expenses

Medicaid expansion advocates crowd Missouri Capitol hallways

Utah lawmakers debate if sex with an unconscious spouse is rape


Reading list

Stakeholders encouraged by CMS's plan for Meaningful Use flexibility

Aetna told to correct actions to comply with US pharmacy rules

Hepatitis C drugs, flu squeeze Humana's profits


What you might have missed at The Hill

Senior GOP senator would split HHS

Dem: Anti-vax politicians 'putting us all at risk'

Dem staffers blast legal challenge to ObamaCare subsidies

Vitter claims Congress lied to DC's ObamaCare exchange

 

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