Nation briefs for January 11


Damage-control worries followed NJ lane closings

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Officials squabbled about media leaks and worried about bad publicity in the days after lane closings near the George Washington Bridge caused huge traffic jams that now appear to have been politically orchestrated by members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, documents released Friday showed.

In the documents, officials appointed by Christie seemed more concerned about the political fallout than the effects of the gridlock in the town of Fort Lee during four mornings in September.

The thousands of pages were released by a New Jersey legislative committee investigating the scandal, which could haunt Christie’s expected run for president in 2016. The documents mostly involve the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that operates the bridge.

Lawmakers are looking into allegations Christie loyalists engineered the tie-ups to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

The documents showed the traffic mess created tension between New York and New Jersey appointees at the Port Authority, with the New York side angrily countermanding the lane closings.

Samson called that possibility “very unfortunate for NY/NJ relations.”

On Thursday, Christie moved to contain the damage from the scandal, firing his deputy chief of staff, cutting ties to one of his chief political advisers and apologizing for the traffic jams. Two Christie appointees at the Port Authority resigned last month as the scandal unfolded.

Christie denied any involvement in the lane closings, and the two batches of documents released Wednesday and Friday do not implicate him.

Proposed Medicare change stirs worries

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a move some fear could compromise care for Medicare recipients, the Obama administration is proposing to remove special protections that guarantee seniors access to a wide selection of three types of prescription drugs.

Advocates for patients are sharply criticizing the idea, but the Medicare prescription benefit’s first administrator said greater availability of generic drugs might allow for some protections to be safely eased.

The three classes of drugs — widely used antidepressants, antipsychotics and drugs that suppress the immune system to prevent the rejection of a transplanted organ — enjoyed special “protected” status since the launch of the Medicare prescription benefit in 2006.

That meant the private insurance plans that deliver prescription benefits to seniors and disabled beneficiaries must cover “all or substantially all” medications in the class, allowing broad access. The plans can charge more for costlier drugs, but they can’t just close their lists of approved drugs, or formularies, to protected medications.

In a proposal published Friday in the Federal Register, the administration called for removing protected status from antidepressants, antipsychotics and immunosuppressant drugs.

 

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