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KHN First Edition: November 30, 2015


First Edition

Monday, November 30, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

And here's today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

WEB BRIEFING FOR MEDIA: On Wednesday Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. ET, KHN will host an interactive web briefing to help reporters explore new ways to cover caregiving issues. Interested? Register now.

Kaiser Health News: A Tale Of Two Obamacare Co-op Insurers: One Standing, One Falling
Colorado Public Radio's John Daley and WNPR's Jeff Cohen, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, report: "Thousands of Americans are again searching for health insurance after losing it for 2016. That’s because health cooperatives — large, low-cost insurers set up as part of Obamacare — are folding in a dozen states. The failure of Colorado’s co-op has hit Rick and Letha Heitman hard. They are currently customers of the Colorado HealthOP, which is closing up shop at the end of the year. The couple, who own a contracting business, say the co-op proved to be a life-saver when Rick was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer last spring." (Daley and Cohen, 11/30)

The New York Times: Instability In Marketplaces Draws Concern On Both Sides Of Health Law
The latest turmoil in health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act has emboldened advocates on both sides of the political spectrum, providing ammunition to conservatives who want to shrink the federal role and liberals who want to expand it. UnitedHealth Group rattled federal officials when it announced last week that it was losing money in the insurance exchanges .... Those concerns followed the collapse of 12 of the 23 nonprofit insurance cooperatives .... In addition, insurance markets in many states are unstable. Premiums are volatile. Insurers say their new customers have been sicker than expected. And the law is as divisive as ever. (Pear and Goodnough, 11/27)

The Washington Post: Little Headway In Attracting More Hispanics To ACA Health Coverage
The number of people shopping for medical insurance on the Spanish-language version of is lagging behind last year's interest, even as the Obama administration urges Hispanics to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Federal figures released Wednesday show that about 153,000 people used during the first three weeks of the current enrollment season for ACA health plans, down from 244,000 during the same period a year ago. (Goldstein, 11/25)

The Wall Street Journal: New York Health Co-Op’s Collapse Hits Physicians
Mount Kisco Medical Group PC, in the Hudson Valley, provided care to more than 13,000 patients who used Health Republic Insurance of New York. But the insolvent insurer, which the state and federal regulators shut down in September, left the Mount Kisco medical practice with millions of dollars in unpaid claims, said Scott Hayworth, a physician and the group’s president and chief executive. (Ramey, 11/27)

USA Today: Health Republic Is Latest Health Care Co-Op To Go Under
About 200,000 New Yorkers will see their Health Republic policies expire on Monday, marking the demise of the 12th health insurance co-op established under the Affordable Care Act. That's more than half of the 23 consumer operated and oriented plans that were created with federal loan money to promote competition on the state online exchanges selling insurance under the 2010 health care law. The 12 co-ops, which received $1.2 billion in taxpayer-funded loans, failed for a variety of reasons (Tumulty, 11/29)

The New York Times: Kentucky, Beacon For Health Law, Now A Lab For Its Retreat
Over the last few years, Kentucky captured the nation’s attention as the only Southern state to wholly embrace the health care law .... Now, with [Gov.-elect Matt] Bevin promising to “repeal the expansion as it currently exists,” Kentucky may become a laboratory for the kind of rollback that the law’s opponents have so far only dreamed of. Nationally, both parties saw the governor’s race as a crucial political test for the Affordable Care Act months after it survived a second major challenge before the Supreme Court. Republicans were elated by Mr. Bevin’s sound defeat of Jack Conway, the state’s Democratic attorney general, seeing it as a blatant rejection of the health law and proof that it remains a giant liability for Democrats heading into 2016. ... For Democrats, Mr. Conway’s loss illustrated the challenges they may face motivating voters in next year’s presidential and congressional races, not least those the health law is helping. (Goodnough, 11/27)

The Associated Press: Race To Settle Budget Fight Means Resolving Policy Disputes
Republicans have laced the spending bills with add-ons that take on Obama's health law, new environmental regulations, and the 2010 Dodd-Frank law tightening oversight of the financial services industry. If history is any guide, Obama and Democrats — whose votes will be needed to pass the catch-all spending bill — will ward off most of them. But lots of lower-tier issues are in play. (Taylor, 11/28)

The Associated Press: Congress Returns To Looming Deadlines On Budget, Highways
Lawmakers are returning to Capitol Hill to wrap up work on the budget, highway funding and taxes, an end-of-the-year stretch that will test the standing of Republican leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan with the GOP's tea party wing and its anti-establishment presidential candidates. There are less than two weeks until a deadline to pass a $1.1 trillion catchall spending bill to fund Cabinet agencies and avoid a holiday season government shutdown. If the process doesn't go smoothly, a last-minute temporary funding measure would be required to keep the government open when the current stopgap funding measure expires Dec. 11. (11/30)

USA Today: Congress Faces Raft Of Issues In Spending Deadline To Avoid Shutdown
For Congress, the next two weeks are all about figuring out how to keep the government open. But that debate is about far more than Planned Parenthood and Syrian refugees. The federal government is running on a stop-gap funding bill that expires Dec. 11 because Congress has not yet passed legislation to fund federal agencies for 2016. ... Beyond the riders, Congress is now weighing changes in funding for hundreds of programs across the federal government, many of which have not been reconsidered in years. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that handles the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, noted his panel boosted funding for National Institutes of Health to conduct research on Alzheimer's, anti-microbial resistance and other priorities, but it did so by cutting funding for the National Labor Relations Board and other programs more popular with Democrats. (Singer, 11/29)

Politico: Mental Health Bill Collides With Guns — Again
The spate of mass killings over the past year reignited mental health reform efforts in both chambers of Congress. A bipartisan bill is gaining momentum in the Senate, with the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions likely to take it up early next year. The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health recently approved a similar bill, and Speaker Paul Ryan this month said on “60 Minutes” that he wants Congress to move ahead on mental health. But the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, has been working behind the scenes to drum up support for his own mental health legislation, which includes language endorsed by the National Rifle Association. (Ehley, 11/29)

The Washington Post: Abortion Rights Groups: Political Rhetoric Contributed To Shooting
To many abortion rights advocates, it seemed only a matter of time before something like this happened. Ever since the summer, when an antiabortion group accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal tissue, threats against the organization had escalated to unprecedented levels, abortion providers say. They stepped up collaboration with the FBI and local police and stiffened security at clinics. But on Friday, their worst fears came true: A man walked into a health center in Colorado Springs and opened fire. (Somashekhar, 11/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Planned Parenthood Shooting Escalates Abortion Debate
The shooting Friday at a Colorado Springs, Colo., Planned Parenthood clinic that left three dead reverberated among activists, lawmakers and presidential candidates already entrenched in clashes over abortion. The suspect in the attack, Robert Lewis Dear, told authorities “no more baby parts” after being apprehended, said a law-enforcement official. Antiabortion activists this year released undercover videos in which Planned Parenthood officials spoke about the group’s provision of fetal tissue from abortions for use in medical research. Abortion opponents use the phrase “baby body parts” in discussing the videos and accused Planned Parenthood affiliates of “selling” them. Planned Parenthood officials denied wrongdoing but said they would stop taking reimbursement for the cost of supplying the tissue. (Radnofsky, Karmin and Frosch, 11/29)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Under Fire Literally And Figuratively
The fatal shootings at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic are the latest in a long history of violence at clinics that provide abortions and doctors who perform the procedure. Police aren't saying what motivated this most recent shooting. The attack comes as the nonprofit endures criticism from anti-abortion lawmakers and renewed protests outside clinics since a group of abortion opponents released videos they claimed showed the organization negotiating fetal tissue sales. (Melley and Crary, 11/29)

The New York Times: Shooting At Planned Parenthood Adds To Challenges For Congress
Even as the authorities say they remain uncertain what precisely led a gunman to attack a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs on Friday, a comment attributed to the suspect by a senior law enforcement official — “no more baby parts” — fed directly into an already high-pitched controversy over Planned Parenthood and its practices. (Calmes, 11/29)

The Washington Post: It’s Not Known Why A Gunman Stormed A Planned Parenthood, But Abortion Providers Often Face Attacks
If the shooting Friday is determined to have been specifically an attack on Planned Parenthood, it would have been in a long line of attacks on abortion providers over the years. It has been six years since anyone was killed in connection with the abortion debate, but attacks on clinics and doctors are fairly regular, according to a list maintained by the National Abortion Federation, a pro-abortion rights organization. Over the past 20 years, there have been an average of 257 incidents a year directed at abortion clinics and staff, and an average of 139 over the last five years. The bulk of those incidents are vandalism and trespassing, although the total also includes shootings, bombings and assaults. (Ehrenfreund, 11/28)

The New York Times: Obama Says ‘Enough Is Enough’ After Colorado Shooting
President Obama responded angrily on Saturday to the mass shooting that took three lives, including that of a police officer, at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs over the Thanksgiving holiday, calling the country’s recurring outbreaks of gun violence “not normal.” “We can’t let it become normal,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough.” (Martin, 11/28)

The New York Times: 3 Are Dead In Colorado Springs Shootout At Planned Parenthood Center
A gun battle erupted inside a Planned Parenthood center here on Friday when a man armed with an assault-style rifle opened fire and began shooting at officers as they rushed to the scene. The authorities reported that three people were killed, a police officer and two civilians, and nine were wounded before the suspect finally surrendered more than five hours after the first shots were fired. (Turkewitz and Healy, 11/27)

The Associated Press: Long Wait Times Plague Social Security Disability Process
Overburdened administrative judges are working through huge caseloads of these appeals all over America, but Miami has the country's longest average wait for a hearing, at 22 months. And while they wait, many slip into poverty, burdening their families and dragging down the economy. Experts blame aging baby boomers for the backlog, which piled up after the Social Security Administration got $1 billion less in funding than it sought for more staff. (Kennedy, 11/28)

The Associated Press: What To Know About 'BernieCare,' Saunders Health Overhaul
The most ambitious "repeal and replace" health care plan from a presidential candidate comes from Sen. Bernie Sanders, not from a Republican. The Vermont independent who's seeking the Democratic nomination has been chastised by front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton for espousing an all-inclusive, government-run system. It's called the "single-payer" plan, loosely modeled on how health care is financed in Canada and most of Western Europe. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/27)

The Washington Post: GOP Contenders Are Talking About Drug Abuse, But Racial And Partisan Rifts Persist
[M]any GOP presidential candidates are calling for an end to one of its central tenets — by agreeing with Democrats to treat low-level drug offenders rather than incarcerating them. The Republicans are selective, however, about who is deserving of their compassion. Several GOP presidential contenders have advocated treating the nation’s growing heroin epidemic as a health crisis, not a criminal one. But most stop short of advocating the same approach to other drug laws, notably those involving marijuana and crack cocaine, which disproportionately affect African Americans. (Phillip and Zezima, 11/27)

The Washington Post: GOP Contenders Nearly Silent On Colorado Springs Shooting
The Republican presidential field, which for much of the year has been full-throated in its denunciations of Planned Parenthood, has been nearly silent about the shooting in Colorado at one of its facilities that left a police officer and two others dead. In contrast, all three of the leading Democratic contenders quickly issued statements in support of Planned Parenthood. (Tumulty, 11/29)

The New York Times: Ted Cruz Surges In Iowa, Powered By Outsider Fervor
Among Mr. Cruz’s admirers at the general store was Terri Bennett, 43, of Knoxville, Iowa, who said she caucused for Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008. “We watched him filibuster Obamacare, and I said, ‘I wish he’d run for president,’ ” Ms. Bennett said. Outside, a local pastor, Joshua Verwers, waited to pray with Mr. Cruz, whom he called “one of the few running who are still biblically qualified to hold office,” along with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. (Flegenhaimer, 11/29)

The New York Times: Working To Lower Drug Costs By Challenging Questionable Patents
J. Kyle Bass made a fortune in the financial crisis when his hedge fund, Hayman Capital Management, bet big against subprime mortgages. Now Mr. Bass is wagering against pharmaceutical companies that he says exploit the patent system, keeping drug prices — and their profits — in the stratosphere. He has a formidable colleague in the effort: Erich Spangenberg, a man who became reviled in Silicon Valley for bringing lawsuits against technology companies that he contended had infringed on a patent. By mid-November, the firm had filed 33 requests for patent reviews, targeting 13 drugs from a dozen companies. (Morgenson, 11/27)

The Associated Press: Turing Reneges On Drug Price Cut, Rival’s Version Sells Well
After weeks of criticism from patients, doctors and other drugmakers for hiking a life-saving medicine’s price more than fifty-fold, Turing Pharmaceuticals is reneging on its pledge to cut the $750-per-pill price. Instead, the small biotech company is reducing what it charges hospitals, by up to 50 percent, for its parasitic infection treatment, Daraprim. Most patients’ copayments will be capped at $10 or less a month. But insurers will be stuck with the bulk of the $750 tab. That drives up future treatment and insurance costs. (Johnson, 11/26)

Politico: Ar Over Soda Taxes Coming To A Polling Place Near You
Government do-gooders and conservatives who are worried that America is becoming a nanny state have one more thing to fight about in 2016: soda taxes. Public health advocates, flush from victories in Mexico and Berkeley, California, are plotting to bring voter referendums and legislation to tax soda in as many as a dozen U.S. cities in 2016. It’s all part of an international strategy backed by billionaires in New York and Texas, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to reduce consumption of sodas, juices and other sugary drinks in the fight against spiraling rates of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases. (Bottemiller Evich, 11/29)

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Supervisors Choose Mitch Katz To Head Health Agency
Los Angeles County supervisors have officially announced that Dr. Mitch Katz, who heads the county hospital system, will run a new health super-agency that contains the hospital system and the departments of mental health and public health. Katz's selection was seen in county circles as a foregone conclusion, but the supervisors formalized the decision in a closed-door meeting Tuesday. (Sewell, 11/25)

The New York Times: Cuomo To Highlight New York’s Progress In AIDS Fight
Prescriptions for Truvada, a drug that protects against H.I.V. infection, have more than tripled since summer 2014 among people enrolled in Medicaid in New York State. Separately, the transmission of H.I.V. infections from mother to child dropped to zero in the state for the first time since the AIDS epidemic began. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, will highlight both statistics in a speech at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Tuesday as part of World AIDS Day, portrayed as signs of progress toward the ambitious goal he announced last year to effectively end the AIDS epidemic by 2020 in the state that was once its epicenter. (Bernstein, 11/29)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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