MEDICAID BLOCK GRANT: A new 50-state study by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured assessed the impact of the idea proposed by Congressional Republicans to repeal the national health care law and replace it with a Medicaid block grant to states. The study says that plan would force as many as 44 million poor and disabled Americans out of the program over the next 10 years. Close to 60 million people receive Medicaid coverage now; the national health law is expected to expand that number to more than 70 million, with the federal government paying most of the costs.
HEALTH LAW TRIAL: A federal court in Virginia launched the first appellate hearings in the legal case against the national health law last week. Expected to take five weeks, the first day's proceedings focused on contradictory federal court rulings last year in Richmond and Lynchburg. In the case, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, a Republican, charged that the law's requirement that almost everyone purchase health insurance exceeds the powers granted to the federal government under the U.S. Constitution. A Richmond judge agreed and ruled the entire law unconstitutional; a Lynchburg judge upheld the law. If the appeals court's proceedings move quickly, the U.S. Supreme Court could review the health law case in its next term, The New York Times reports .
MAINE REVAMP: Maine lawmakers passed a health insurance exchange law last week that goes beyond the requirements of the federal health law. In addition to allowing a health insurance market that would allow small businesses to form groups to get cheaper insurance, the law will allow residents to purchase insurance from companies based in other states. Among its most controversial provisions, the bill would let insurance companies charge as much as five times more for older residents than younger, healthier residents. The Republican-backed proposal also would lift restrictions on how far insurers can require policy holders to travel for care, the Bangor Daily News reports.
ROMNEY ON HEALTH CARE: In his first policy speech in his presidential campaign, GOP hopeful and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney staunchly defended his state's health care law — and its requirement that everyone purchase health insurance — despite party opposition, The Boston Globe reports . "A lot of pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake," Romney said. "But there's only one problem with that: It wouldn't be honest." Romney stopped short of endorsing the federal health law, which was patterned after the Massachusetts plan, saying President Barack Obama's health care law should be replaced with a state-based overhaul of the nation's health care system.