State is granted health-law ‘waiver’

The federal government will allow Indiana to operate its own health program temporarily, Gov. Mike Pence (R) said Tuesday, making it the first state to receive such a major exception this year under President Obama’s signature health-care law.

Indiana is one of the Republican-led states that rejected the federal government’s incentives to expand the Medicaid health program for the poor and declined to set up an exchange to allow consumers to shop for insurance.

The exception granted Indiana, known officially as a “waiver,” is the first major ruling by the federal government on applications from that state, Iowa and Arkansas, seeking permission to make changes to health programs that involve federal law.

Indiana’s request extends an existing program, while Arkansas and Iowa want to use funds available under Medicaid expansion to provide subsidies for buying insurance on the new state-based exchanges. These exchanges will open next month to sell insurance for 2014.

— Reuters

Legislators approve Medicaid expansion

Michigan lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a measure that would make more low-income adults eligible for Medicaid, positioning the state to become the largest controlled by Republicans to support a key component of the new federal health-care law.

In a bipartisan 75 to 32 vote, the House approved expanding the government health insurance program to almost a half-million Michigan residents within a few years, nearly halving the state’s uninsured. The Senate voted on the plan last week.

An estimated 320,000 are expected to be eligible in late March if the federal government approves the plan.

Gov. Rick Snyder (R), for whom Medicaid expansion was a major priority, will sign the measure after returning from a 10-day trade trip to Asia.

— Associated Press

Tex., Miss. rebuff same-sex couples

The Texas National Guard refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits on Tuesday despite a Pentagon directive to do so, while Mississippi will not issue applications from state-owned offices. Both states cited their respective bans on gay marriage.

Tuesday was the first working day that gays in the military could apply for benefits after the Pentagon announced it would recognize same-sex marriages. The Defense Department had announced that it would recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal after the Supreme Court decision that threw out parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Texas and Mississippi appeared to be the only states limiting how and where same-sex spouses of National Guard members could register for identification cards and benefits, according to an Associated Press tally.

Officials in 13 states that also ban gay marriage — including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Oklahoma — said Tuesday that they will follow federal law and process all couples applying for benefits the same.

Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, wrote to service members in a letter obtained by the AP that because the Texas Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, his state agency could not process applications from gay couples. He urged affected service members to enroll for benefits at a federal installation in the state and listed 22 bases operated by the Defense Department in Texas.

— Associated Press

New sentencing ordered for rapist

A Montana judge has ordered a new sentencing hearing for a former teacher who received just 30 days in prison for raping a student who later killed herself.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh said in Tuesday’s order that a two-year mandatory minimum prison term for Stacey Rambold appears to be required under state law.

Baugh has faced widespread condemnation from women’s rights activists, elected officials and others for saying Rambold’s 14-year-old victim was “older than her chronological age.” He later apologized.

— Associated Press


Baby Veronica transfer delayed: A 3-year-old Native American girl known as “Baby Veronica” will not immediately be transferred from the custody of her Oklahoma biological father to a South Carolina couple who adopted her, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled. The ruling made Friday means Veronica will stay for now with her biological father, Dusten Brown, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation.

— Reuters