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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Planning To Diet?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Planning To Diet?'" by Bob and Tom Thaves.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

TRYING TO DECIPHER THE INSURANCE MARKETS

Tale of two co-ops
One comes undone; one still works.
What does it all mean?

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. Number Of People Shopping For Health Plans On Spanish-Language Version Of Healthcare.gov Lags Behind Hopes

News outlets also report on a range of issues related to the health law's implementation, including an upcoming IRS reporting deadline for large and mid-size businesses, as well as how the cancellation of plans causes consumers to scramble and how the rise in premium costs is creating financial pressures for some.

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 HealthCare.gov 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 cuidadodesalud.gov 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 Richmond Times-Dispatch: Employers Face Affordable Care Act Reporting Deadline
Human resource advisers to large and midsize businesses are sounding the alarm at approaching deadlines for meeting IRS requirements under the Affordable Care Act. The requirements had been postponed for a year, but employers have to submit forms to full-time workers by the end of January and report to the IRS by the end of March. (Martz, 11/29)

The Chicago Tribune: Blue Cross Cancellation Sends Consumers Scrambling
Rick Jago talks about his doctor at Northwestern University in emotional terms. The 57-year-old Homer Glen resident credits Dr. Jyoti Patel with saving his life after he was diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago. He sees her every six months to make sure the cancer hasn't returned. "I love this woman," said Jago. "The only woman I love more than her is my wife." What he's not in love with is his health insurance. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is canceling his PPO plan at the end of the year. The big insurer offered to transfer him to another health plan, but there's a problem. Patel is not in the network. (Sachdev, 11/27)

The Charlotte Observer: Rise In ACA Premiums Pushes Some Consumers To Seek Cheaper Health Insurance Options
Fall always is a busy season for Norma Jean Rector, a SouthPark insurance benefits adviser. But this year, the third for open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, more customers than ever are begging for help to find affordable health insurance. “In the two years past, there was interest,” she said, “but not like this year.” North Carolina’s health insurance rates under the ACA are going up as much as 50 percent on some policies next year. While experts debate the reasons for the spike and critics continue to question the value of “Obamacare,” some consumers and insurers are taking dramatic steps to contain their costs. (Garloch and Murawski, 11/26)

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports on the latest efforts by Kentucky's governor-elect to unravel the state's health law implementation while other news outlets offer ACA-related developments -

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 Chicago Tribune: Health Care Options Grow As Physician Shortage Looms
The Association of American Medical Colleges projects that the nation will face a shortage of 12,000 to 31,000 primary-care physicians by 2025. So it’s no wonder you may be finding it harder to find a doctor or to schedule an appointment with the one you have. What’s fueling this problem? The baby boom generation pouring into older age, an aging physician workforce preparing to retire and an estimated 30 million Americans joining the ranks of the insured since enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. What that means is that you may not be seeing a doctor at all the next time you go for health care. (Kraft, 11/28)

The San Antonio Express-News: Students Go Mobile To Educate Community About Health Insurance
Navigating health insurance can be confusing, especially for people obtaining coverage for the first time through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Students at the University of Texas Health Science Center wanted to help, so they created a mobile phone app to help educate Bexar County residents about health coverage. The SA Access app is available in English and Spanish for iOS and Android and can be downloaded free at SAAccess.com. (Belasco, 11/26)

The Dallas Morning News: Texas Taking Part In Obamacare Program To Help Disabled Adults Live Outside Institutions
Texas consistently ranks at or near the bottom on funding services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But there’s a new pool of money rolling out that could help change that. It comes from Obamacare. It’s an entitlement program. And Texas is one of five states taking part, thanks to legislation by one of the state’s most conservative senators. (Taketa, 11/28)

5. Collapse Of Co-Ops, Other Signs Of Market Instability Draw Concerns From Across The Spectrum

The demise of New York's Health Republic is the most recent health insurance co-operative to come undone, though some -- like a Connecticut co-op -- offer a different story.

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 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)

Kaiser Health News: A Tale Of Two Obamacare Co-Op Insurers: One Standing, One Falling
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)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. GOP And Dems Still Divided Over Budget Issues As Deadline For Passage Approaches

Funding for the federal government expires on Dec. 11, and the parties are at odds about policy riders and funding decisions that could be part of the bill to keep the government running.

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. (Taylor, 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)