Friday News Dump: Wonkbites

by Adrianna McIntyre

I should’ve known it was going to be a busy week for health policy news when a meteor crashed through Siberian airspace. There’s totally a statistical correlation. I mean sure, n = 1, but whatever. Take a look at the evidence:

  1. @sam_bakerFlorida flip-flops [/bad sandals pun]: Leading headlines this week, Republican Governor Rick Scott announced that he’ll participate in the Medicaid expansion—though he only committed to three years, and only so long as the federal funding obligations are fulfilled. It also bears note that the expansion still needs to pass the Florida legislature, though the medical lobby might be strong enough to overcome remaining opposition. This is a bigger win for the Obama administration than any other conservative state because Florida brought the original lawsuit (which it won) claiming that the Medicaid expansion was a coercive overreach of federal power.
  2. Sequester? I barely knew her: If Congress doesn’t reach a deal before March 1—one week from today—$85 billion of automatic federal budget cuts are scheduled to go into effect. What’s that mean for health folk? These cuts may be felt pretty painfully by the FDA, CDC, and Indian Health service. Medicare providers could see reimbursements docked up to 2%. Medicaid has been entirely sheltered, but state officials remain concerned that they still stand to lose help from the federal government; funding for the ACA is not explicitly exempt from the cuts. And biomedical research funded by the NIH would take a big hit. Organizations like the AMA and AHA are also pessimistic about effects on health care jobs. One week. Gird your loins (and twitter accounts).
  3. Putting brains on brains: President Obama is planning to unveil a decade-long research effort on the human brain. The endgame? To map the brain like we’ve mapped the human genome. It’s a lofty goal to be sure, but has huge implications: think diseases like Alzheimer’s, which is expected to pose huge burdens (socially, economically) in the future.
  4. Pills and bills: If you have time to settle in for a long read, bump this TIME Magazine piece to the top of your queue. Or you can cheat and still sound appropriately wonky at happy hour: scroll to the bottom of the page for a three-and-a-half minute video summary.
  5. What would you do with $3 million of Mark Zuckerberg’s money? He—along with a few other Silicon Valley elite—are dividing $33 million among eleven scientists whose efforts focus on “curing intractable diseases and extending human life.” The studies being funded range from research in cancer therapy to identifying human disease genes to studying “synaptic guidepost molecules” (I majored in neuroscience and I’m still not sure what that means, but it totally sounds impressive).

Thoughts on the news or our coverage? Leave them in the comments!

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Adrianna is a graduate student in public policy and public health at the University of Michigan.
Follow her on Twitter @onceuponA or subscribe to the blog.

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