Kitzhaber with first lady for State of the Union


By Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press writerSALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber will watch President Barack Obama's State of the Union address from first lady Michelle Obama's box, the governor's office said Monday.Kitzhaber spokesman Tim Raphael said the White House extended the invitation Monday morning, presumably to highlight Kitzhaber's health care and education initiatives. He said the governor is honored by the invitation to the Tuesday night speech."The president understands the value of partnering with states to drive innovation, and it's gratifying for our efforts here in Oregon to be recognized," Raphael said.The Obama administration has given Oregon $1.9 billion and a waiver from standard Medicaid rules to help put Kitzhaber's health reforms into practice. The governor says Oregon can improve health and lower costs by managing chronic diseases and preventing avoidable hospitalizations for patients on Medicaid, the health plan for people with low incomes.If Oregon's effort is successful, Kitzhaber says it would be a model for others states to manage the federal health care overhaul. Millions more Americans, will be eligible for Medicaid on Jan. 1 under Obama's Affordable Care Act.The governor also has worked to streamline the education system and improve transitions into and out of the K-12 school system so young pupils are ready for kindergarten and graduating seniors look toward higher education.He's also pushed to improve early-childhood education by tracking results from preschool programs in hopes of replicating the most successful.The agenda Obama will outline Tuesday before a joint session of Congress will include more money for infrastructure, clean energy technologies and manufacturing jobs, as well as expanding access to early childhood education.It's unclear whether Obama will mention Kitzhaber or Oregon in his speech, but the first lady's guests often have ties to a proposal or initiative the president will outline in his address.On Thursday, Obama will press for expanded early childhood education, perhaps going so far as to call for universal pre-school, when he travels to the Atlanta area.Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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