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Today’s Headlines – May 18, 2012

You made it to Friday. Enjoy your weekend, but first, here are your headlines:

The Wall Street Journal: Geithner Says Austerity Alone Won’t Work
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sharpened the Obama administration’s criticism of Republican fiscal policy in a speech Thursday, pushing back against the GOP on calls for immediate spending cuts and long-term plans for Social Security and Medicare. Geithner offered a broad-based critique of what he called an “economic agenda of severe, immediate austerity, combined with deep, permanent cuts in education and the safety net for retirees” (Crittenden, 5/17).

Politico: Right Infighting Over Health Care
Thirty minutes. That’s the roughly time it took for conservatives to jump all over Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team after the GOP’s game plan for dealing with President Barack Obama’s health care law leaked to the media. … The behind-the-scenes fight among Republicans richly illustrates why House GOP leadership is so cautious, sensitive and calculating when it comes to dealing with the conservative right. POLITICO obtained the email chain, the contents of which show that health care reform remains just as emotional an issue as ever (Sherman, 5/17).

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The Associated Press: Nearly 62,000 ‘Uninsurable’ Patients Could Lose Coverage If The Health Care Law Is Overturned
Cancer patient Kathy Watson voted Republican in 2008 and believes the government has no right telling Americans to get health insurance. Nonetheless, she says she’d be dead if it weren’t for President Barack Obama’s health care law. Now the Florida small businesswoman is worried the Supreme Court will strike down her lifeline. Under the law, Watson and nearly 62,000 other “uninsurable” patients are getting coverage through a little-known program for people who have been turned away by insurance companies because of pre-existing medical conditions. … State officials who administer the federal pre-existing condition plan in 27 states are trying to make fallback arrangements in case the law is invalidated and coverage suddenly terminates (5/17).

Politico: User Fee Bill May Hinge On Drug Tracking System
Perhaps the biggest piece of unsettled business in the massive Food and Drug Administration user fee bill is whether it will include a national system for tracking drugs — an effort to combat the menace of counterfeit medications (Norman, 5/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: FDA Approves Sales Of Generic Versions Of Blood  Thinner By Multiple Companies
Patients taking the popular blood thinner Plavix now have the option of getting a less-expensive pill, following the approval Thursday of the first generic versions in the U.S. That’s because the patent for Plavix, the world’s second-best-selling medicine, just expired. Plavix is taken by millions of people every day to prevent heart attacks and strokes, by preventing platelets in the blood from clumping together (5/17).

The Hill’s Healthwatch Blog: Fury Over Birth-Control Mandate Trails HHS Sec. Sebelius To Georgetown
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will visit Georgetown University on Friday for a speech that has raised Catholic ire in light of the Obama administration’s birth-control coverage mandate. … Leaders in the U.S. Catholic Church have loudly called on the administration to repeal the mandate, and as recently as this week threatened to sue the government barring “prompt” action on the issue by Congress (Viebeck, 5/17).

NPR Shots Blog: Embattled Hospital Debt Collector Taps Politicians For Defense
So what do you do when you’re accused of hitting up sick patients in the hospital to pay their bills — sometimes even before they get treatment? Well, if you’re Chicago-based Accretive Health, under fire by not only the Minnesota Attorney General but key members of Congress and possibly the Obama Administration, you fight fire with fire. You line up your own set of political defenders (Rovner, 5/17).

The New York Times: Report Details Medicaid Overpayments To New York State
The federal government paid New York State $700 million more in 2009 than the state needed to care for residents with developmental disabilities who lived in its institutions, according to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington (Hakim, 5/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Ethics Panel Debates How To Develop Child Protections Against Anthrax, Other Bioterror Threats
Controversy over whether to open pediatric studies of the anthrax vaccine led Sebelius to ask the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to tackle the question. The commission began its deliberations Thursday; recommendations are expected by year’s end. Sebelius made clear that the question is far broader than anthrax. “There are serious ethical issues around the development of medical countermeasures for children” in general, she said (5/17).