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February 7, 2013 | By Paul West, Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Some of the nation's most prominent Republican governors have moved to embrace a key feature of President Obama's healthcare law, providing a significant boost to the administration and highlighting a fissure inside the GOP on an emerging campaign issue. At stake is the goal of expanding health insurance under the Medicaid program, one of two main ways the law is to provide coverage to those who lack it. Starting in 2014, the law broadens Medicaid to cover people who earn up to about $15,500 a year, but under last year's Supreme Court decision upholding the law's constitutionality, states have the option of rejecting the expansion and the federal money that comes with it. Opponents wanted to unite all Republican governors against participating in the Medicaid expansion; they have lined up 15, including Rick Perry of Texas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
February 2, 2013 | By Noam N. Levey, Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Healthcare for the nation's poor, once viewed as especially vulnerable in this era of budget cutting, has emerged as a surprisingly secure government entitlement with as much political clout as the Medicare and Social Security retirement programs. Even as President Obama and congressional Republicans gear up for a new budget battle, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, which together provide coverage to more than 1 in 5 Americans and almost 1 in 3 Californians over the course of a year, appear off-limits despite their huge price tag. The president protected Medicaid in 2011 when Congress and the White House slashed $1.2 trillion in federal spending, including on Medicare - the healthcare plan for seniors and disabled people - as part of a deal to raise the nation's debt limit.
January 15, 2013 | By Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a vocal opponent of President Obama's healthcare reform law, surprised her state this week by announcing that she would embrace a key component of the law. Now she faces having to sell the idea to a Republican-controlled Arizona Senate and House, which will probably give some sort of pushback. Her spokesman, however, predicted that lawmakers would agree to expand Medicaid coverage because of the federal funds provided for the effort. "Gov. Brewer believes that when lawmakers take a step back and take a look at these numbers they're going to come to the same conclusion … to get this passed," spokesman Matthew Benson said Tuesday.
January 8, 2013 | By Jon Healey
After pushing to cut Medi-Cal spending in each of his first two years in office, Gov. Jerry Brown now has to decide whether to seek to expand it by billions of dollars -- largely, but not entirely, on Washington's dime. A new report from researchers at UCLA and UC Berkeley suggests that the expansion might actually pay for itself through higher tax revenue and lower spending in other state programs. The researchers' cost estimates are just that, estimates, so there's no guarantee that things would work out as well for the state as their model suggests.
December 14, 2012
Looking for ways to slow the growth of entitlement programs, budget negotiators in Washington are considering making seniors wait two years longer to qualify for Medicare - from age 65 to 67. Many Republicans have endorsed the idea, noting that Medicare beneficiaries now live far longer on average than they did when Congress created the program in 1965. The problem with the proposal is that it wouldn't save the federal government much money overall, even though it might cut Medicare's costs.
December 11, 2012 | By Noam N. Levey, Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration stepped up pressure on states Monday to guarantee insurance for all their low-income residents in 2014 under the new healthcare law, warning governors that the federal government would not pick up the total cost of partially expanding coverage. "We continue to encourage all states to fully expand their Medicaid programs and take advantage of the generous federal matching funds to cover more of their residents," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a letter to governors.
December 2, 2012
In a bid to cut the state's healthcare bills, the Brown administration will begin shuttering the Healthy Families insurance program for low-income children on Jan. 1. More than 850,000 kids will be shifted over the course of the year into HMOs that participate in Medi-Cal, California's version of the federally subsidized Medicaid program. It may be too late now for the Legislature to rescue Healthy Families from its untimely and potentially disruptive end, even though lawmakers are heading to Sacramento on Monday to begin a special session devoted to healthcare issues.
November 8, 2012 | By Noam N. Levey
WASHINGTON - With President Obama and congressional Republicans turning to address the looming budget crisis, a coalition of consumer groups, labor unions and major employers is pushing new approaches to control federal health spending without cutting benefits for seniors and others who rely on Medicare and Medicaid. The plan, released Thursday by the National Coalition on Health Care , includes several potentially controversial proposals such as a new penny-per-ounce federal tax on sweetened beverages and tougher penalties on under-performing hospitals.
October 24, 2012 | Los Angeles Times
Retired social worker Nina Nestor got an all-too-familiar phone call last week: Her prescription refill was ready at her CVS store in San Clemente. Trouble is, the 83-year-old cancer patient didn't ask for the refill or numerous others that CVS pharmacists filled this year without her permission. "The pharmacist told me after two weeks they put it back in stock and reverse the billing," Nestor said. "But I wonder about that. " Government officials share her concerns. Allegations that the pharmacy giant has been automatically refilling medications without patient consent - and possibly overbilling insurers and government programs for unused medicine - have sparked four government investigations in recent weeks, the most recent by the U.S. Justice Department.
September 11, 2012
Re "Know what cutting Medicaid would do," Sept. 9 Michael Hiltzik makes some good points, but there is a larger issue. The battle over our commitment to Medicaid is part of the war over our nation's healthcare system. Today, our patchwork system of Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance (including PPOs, HMOs and indemnity plans) has imposed extraordinary administrative requirements on healthcare providers, with physicians being the most affected. Their time is increasingly devoted to administrative demands at the expense of patient care; escalating healthcare costs result.
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