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Health

Saturday, February 14, 2009

States secured about $90 billion for Medicaid, the joint state-federal program that provides health insurance to Americans at or near the poverty level. The funding represents a 6.2 percent increase in the federal contribution for 27 months, with bonuses for states with higher rates of unemployment and foreclosures.

Laid-off workers who can purchase employer-sponsored health insurance, known as COBRA, will be eligible for discounts. The legislation provides $20 billion in subsidies for 7 million people. The government will cover 65 percent of the cost for up to nine months.

About $2 billion will be directed to community health centers -- $1.5 billion for renovations and Internet access and $500 million for actual care.

One of the more controversial health provisions is $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research to assess the relative merits of different treatments. Supporters say the research leads to science-based medical decisions. Opponents say it is a step toward rationing.

Prevention programs, such as immunizations, will receive $1 billion, while projects to fill medical-worker shortages will get $500 million.

-- Ceci Connolly

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