Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'Heart Of The Matter'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Heart Of The Matter'" by Ron Morgan.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

CONSUMERS: WHEN IT COMES TO COVERAGE, READ THE FINE PRINT

Changes in health plans...
Higher out-of-network caps...
Caveat emptor!

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Capitol Hill Watch

5. Senate Set To Vote On GOP Measure To Unravel Health Law

The measure, which is likely to land on President Barack Obama's desk and be greeted by a veto, would eliminate the health law's individual and employer mandates, medical device tax and so-called Cadillac tax. It also would cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The Associated Press: Senate Set To OK Republican Bill Unraveling Health Care Law
Republicans are pushing toward Senate approval of legislation demolishing President Barack Obama's signature health care law and halting Planned Parenthood's federal money, setting up a veto fight the GOP knows it will lose but thinks will delight conservative voters. The White House promised a veto Wednesday, saying the bill would "take away critical benefits and health care coverage" from families. With Republicans lacking the two-thirds House and Senate majorities needed for a successful override, the measure became a political messaging battlefield as both parties looked toward the 2016 presidential and congressional elections. (Fram, 12/3)

Politico: McConnell Boxes In Cruz, Rubio On Obamacare Repeal
Mitch McConnell is close to pulling off a feat that at first seemed impossible: Coax Ted Cruz and antagonistic conservative groups to back his strategy to repeal Obamacare. For weeks, Cruz, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate and chief McConnell nemesis, and conservative Sens. Mike Lee and Marco Rubio threatened to vote against a House-passed bill dismantling the health care law, insisting that it didn’t go far enough in the Republican quest to finally send a sweeping Obamacare repeal to the White House. (Kim, Everett and Haberkorn, 12/3)

The New York Times: Senate Set To OK Republican Bill Unraveling Health Care Law
GOP lawmakers suggested the bill could serve as a bridge to a new Republican health care law. Though Obama's overhaul was enacted five years ago and gets tepid support in public opinion polls, GOP members of Congress have yet to produce a detailed proposal to replace it. Democrats say repeal would destroy a program that has reduced the number of uninsured Americans by around 16 million, let families' policies cover children until age 26 and guarantees coverage for people with pre-existing illnesses. (12/3)

Los Angeles Times: After Many Failures, GOP Poised To Pass Affordable Care Act Repeal Bill
Republicans understand that Obama will veto any measure to undo his signature domestic policy accomplishment. But that doesn’t matter. As the party in charge, Republicans believe they owe it to the constituents who put them in office to force the issue. But yanking millions of Americans off health insurance may be easier as a campaign slogan than a policy initiative, and Thursday’s vote to pass a repeal bill from the Senate was proving difficult until the final gavel. (Mascaro, 12/3)

CBS News: Senate Begins Debate On Obamacare Repeal Bill
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Thursday, which the White House said President Obama would veto. The legislation would eliminate Obamacare's individual and employer mandates, the medical device tax and the so-called Cadillac tax. It would also cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for one year after an anti-abortion group released videos over the summer showing officials discussing the transfer of fetal tissue. (Shabad, 12/2)

6. Negotiations On Spending Bill Threatened By Policy Riders, National Security Issues

Congressional leaders have only 10 days to reach an agreement to avert a government shutdown.

The Washington Post: Policy Fights Heat Up In Spending Negotiations
Democrats on Wednesday rejected a proposed spending bill deal from Republicans due to concerns over policy riders GOP lawmakers want to attach to the must-pass legislation, leaving congressional leaders with fewer than 10 days to reach an agreement to avert a government shutdown on Dec. 11. ... Democratic lawmakers and aides said the problematic policy riders in the Republican offer include proposals to ... Give health care providers the right to object to providing certain services that go against their religion, better known as a “conscience clause;” ... Strip family planning funding from organizations like Planned Parenthood; ... If any of those provisions appear in the final omnibus, they would be deal breakers, according to Democratic aides. (Snell and Demirjian, 12/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Congressional Spending Bill Gets Entangled In Syria Refugee Measure
The GOP emphasis on national security has, for now, supplanted Republicans’ focus earlier this year on stripping federal funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of America in the spending bill, likely avoiding a standoff with Democrats over the women’s health organization. ... On the spending bill, House Republicans planned to confer Thursday morning over their strategy. Although the latest GOP proposal didn’t include language defunding Planned Parenthood, some conservatives are expected to mount a campaign to do so, or to include other antiabortion measures. But with many of those lawmakers expected ultimately to vote against the spending bill, GOP leaders have tried to use other methods to target Planned Parenthood. On Thursday, the Senate is expected to pass a bill tied to the budget process that defunds Planned Parenthood and repeals much of the 2010 health law, but would be vetoed by the president. (son and Lee, 12/2)

The Hill: Dems, Obama Battle Over Health Law's 'Cadillac' Tax
Democrats are growing more confident that they’ll win their battle with the White House over whether to include the repeal of ObamaCare’s “Cadillac” tax on high-cost insurance plans in a package of tax extensions both parties want to approve before the end of the year. Unions have long wanted to kill off the tax, and they have new leverage with Democrats readying for next year’s election, when labor’s support will be crucial for the party. (Jagoda and Ferris, 12/3)

7. Speaker Ryan To Push Work Requirements For Safety Net Programs

Elsewhere, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid intends to force a vote on an amendment to keep guns away from people convicted of violating a law meant to ensure access to abortion clinics.

The Associated Press: Speaker Ryan Calls For ‘Bold, Pro-Growth Agenda’
New House Speaker Paul Ryan is calling for tough work requirements and cuts to safety net programs as he sketches a vision for congressional Republicans for 2017 and beyond. In a speech Thursday that his staff is billing as his first major address, the Wisconsin Republican who took over the House gavel just over a month ago says Republicans must go beyond trying to undo President Barack Obama’s agenda, “as if we could time-travel back to 2009.” (Werner, 12/3)

Politico: Harry Reid To Force Vote On Gun Amendment
Senate Democrats plan to force a vote on keeping guns out of the hands of people convicted of violating laws protecting the entrances of health care clinics. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has introduced the amendment, which would ban gun ownership by people who have been convicted of misdemeanors under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a 1994 law meant to prevent violence and harassment at abortion clinics. (Haberkorn, 12/2)

Also, 9/11 first responders fight to keep their federal health care help, and some mental health care advocates reaffirm their opposition to proposed legislation in Congress --

North Carolina Health News: Advocates Reaffirm Opposition To Mental Health Bill
Advocates for people living with mental health and substance use issues reaffirmed their opposition to the federal “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.” The legislation is more commonly known as the “Murphy bill” for its sponsor, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), a psychologist. Opponents object to provisions in the bill they believe would restrict the privacy of people with mental health issues and their freedom to determine their own future. They also believe the bill would deprive people of care that advances recovery. A primary point of contention in the Murphy bill is the funding of incentives for states to implement assisted outpatient treatment initiatives, which allow a court official to order outpatient services as an alternative to institutionalization. (Sisk, 11/30)

Administration News

8. Obamacare, Expensive New Drugs Drive Up 2014 U.S. Health Spending

Health spending last year grew by 5.3 percent to more than $3 trillion, which is the biggest jump since 2007.

The New York Times: Health Spending In U.S. Topped $3 Trillion Last Year
Health spending in the United States last year topped $3 trillion — an average of $9,500 a person — as five years of exceptionally slow growth gave way to the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid and private insurance coverage, and as prescription drug prices resumed their sharp climbs, the government said Wednesday. Health spending grew faster than the economy in 2014, and the federal share of health spending grew even faster, as major provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect. Total spending on health care increased 5.3 percent last year, the biggest jump since 2007. (Pear, 12/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Growth In U.S. Health-Care Spending Picks Up
The return to more robust growth after a slowdown in spending had been anticipated by economists. Still, it is likely to add to criticism that the 2010 health law isn’t doing enough to rein in costs. The report, based on 2014 government numbers and published in the journal Health Affairs, follows five consecutive years where average spending growth was less than 4% annually. The rate of growth is closely watched because the Obama administration has initiated changes in health-care delivery to help restrain spending. The administration said the faster pace of growth is still below levels before the law, a sign the ACA is working. (Armour, 12/2)