SCALIA REPLACEMENT: ‘NO’ MODERATE — President Barack Obama on Tuesday said that he would nominate “someone who is indisputably qualified for the seat” and indicated it would be someone both parties would support, Pro’s Jennifer Haberkorn reports. When asked at his press conference if that means a moderate, the president quickly clarified, “No.”
One issue that will undoubtedly be raised is abortion. So far, none of the major names circulating for the Supreme Court — Judges Sri Srinivasan, Patricia Millett and Paul Watford — have a history of ruling on abortion cases.
Clinton uses Texas abortion case as a wedge: Hillary Clinton is using the opening on the court to aggressively talk about abortion rights and other issues that rile up her base and closely align her with Obama, POLITICO’s Gabriel Debenedetti writes. One key case: Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which centers on Texas’s restrictions on abortion clinics. Oral arguments are next month.
“We’re going to continue to push,” Clinton told a Reno crowd on Monday, “because some of the decisions in the court awaiting final review have to do with the very restrictive regulations put on Planned Parenthood and access to safe and legal abortion in Texas.”
WELCOME TO WEDNESDAY PULSE — And the only debate tonight is which Republican town hall to watch: CNN has Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, while MSNBC snagged Donald Trump. (Your author’s solution: Split-screen.) As always, send tips to email@example.com or @ddiamond on Twitter.
FDA UPDATES BLOOD DONATION GUIDELINES FOR ZIKA — The FDA is recommending that individuals at risk of Zika infection avoid donating blood for four weeks as part of new guidelines issued on Tuesday.
MICHIGAN HHS UNDER REVIEW — Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday announced that his ongoing review of the toxic water in Flint would include a hard look at the role of his state’s HHS department. “There are challenges in that agency also, and that is something we are making a review of,” Snyder told reporters.
** A message from the Coalition for Medicare Choices (CMC): 2 million CMC seniors are fighting to protect Medicare Advantage. Carol Berman of Florida is one of them. She believes that without her Medicare Advantage plan, she would be disabled. Her dream is to see her two grandchildren grow up. Carol will use her vote to support Medicare Advantage. Learn more: bit.ly/1PMHeDD **
CMS SCRUTINY OF INDIANA MEDICAID EXPANSION COULD SIDELINE COPYCATS — Republican policymakers opposed to the traditional Obamacare expansion have pointed to Indiana’s alternative version as a promising model. But CMS notified Indiana officials in the fall that it will conduct its own analysis of the state’s expansion model — which charges premiums to some at the risk of disenrollment, among other novel requirements.
CMS and former Obama administration officials say they need to make sure Indiana isn’t hindering access to care, especially as Republicans in other states look to replicate elements of its program. Rachana’s story for Pros.
ICYMI: PRIVATE MEDICAID MARKET IN MOMENT OF TRANSITION — The private Medicaid space is in a period of upheaval, Pro’s Paul Demko reports. Centene is acquiring Health Net for $6.8 billion, creating the largest Medicaid insurer in the country, and Molina Healthcare has announced nine acquisitions in the last year too.
But state officials in Iowa and elsewhere have questioned whether the changes in the Medicaid market ultimately benefit patients. Paul’s story for Pros.
MERCATUS: MEDICAID PROVIDER TAXES ARE EXPENSIVE ‘GIMMICK’ — A new study from George Mason’s Mercatus Center contends that taxes on health care providers — which 49 states use to partially fund Medicaid — are driving up health costs.
“Provider taxes shift costs from states to the federal government, but they also raise overall spending by lowering the relative price of Medicaid expenditures to states,” author Brian Blase argues in an accompanying Forbes op-ed. Blase concludes that moving Medicaid toward a defined contribution model would reduce the incentive to deploy provider taxes and ultimately improve cost control.
FIRST IN PULSE: SURVEY OF SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS FINDS PERSISTENT OBAMACARE FEARS — According to a new TriNet survey of more than 1,000 small business owners, 55 percent of respondents say the Affordable Care Act has hurt their business rather than helped it. And 81 percent of respondents say they’re seeking more government assistance to stay compliant with the health law’s regulations
BALTIMORE ENLISTS RESIDENTS IN OPIOID FIGHT — The city, which has issued a public health emergency over opioid overdoses, today will launch a new phase of its “DontDie.org” campaign: online naloxone training, designed to allow all city residents to get certified in delivering the life-saving medication. The city last year trained 7,000 people on how to administer naloxone, including in public markets and in drug court.
AROUND TOWN: HHS this morning kicks off a two-day meeting of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics. At 10 a.m., John Donvan and Caren Zucker discuss their new New York Times bestseller, “In A Different Key: The Story of Autism,” at the National Press Club.
Meanwhile, the Healthcare Leadership Council at noon in the Rayburn building unveils its report on six steps to transform health care. Also at noon, AHIP holds a briefing in the Russell building on Medicare Advantage.