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KHN First Edition: December 4, 2015


First Edition

Friday, December 04, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: New Guidelines Boost Diabetes Screening For Overweight Adults
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "More people who are overweight or obese may get screened for diabetes under new guidelines released this week by a panel of prevention experts. Those whose blood sugar is higher than normal now can be referred to nutrition and exercise counseling without paying anything out of pocket for it." (Andrews, 12/4)

The New York Times: Bill To Repeal Health Law Passes Senate
The Senate approved legislation on Thursday night that would repeal President Obama’s landmark health care law, a goal of Republicans since the law was adopted in March 2010. The measure, which would also halt federal financing for Planned Parenthood, will now be sent to the House, which adopted a different version last month. The bill is ultimately expected to pass both chambers, but faces certain veto by Mr. Obama. (Herszenhorn, 12/3)

The Associated Press: GOP Pushes Bill Unraveling Health Care Law Through Senate
The bill would be the first to reach Obama's desk aimed at demolishing his 2010 health care overhaul, one of his proudest domestic achievements, and halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood. Congress has voted dozens of times to repeal or weaken the health law and repeatedly against Planned Parenthood's funding, but until now Democrats thwarted Republicans from shipping the legislation to the White House. (12/3)

Los Angeles Times: Under GOP Control, Senate Finally Passes Bill To Repeal Affordable Care Act
But yanking about 17 million Americans off health insurance may be easier as a campaign slogan than a policy initiative, and Thursday’s long-awaited vote to pass a repeal bill in the Senate – a first -- proved difficult until the final gavel. Even the mass shooting in San Bernardino briefly threatened to derail the Obamacare debate as Democrats took over the floor Thursday to push several gun control amendments. Senate Republicans blocked the Democratic gun-related amendments and narrowly approved the measure to repeal Obamacare by a vote of 52-47. The measure has one more stop at the House before being sent to Obama’s desk. (Mascaro, 12/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood, Gut Affordable Care Act
The Senate on Thursday passed legislation to strip Planned Parenthood Federation of America of federal funding for one year and repeal large chunks of the Affordable Care Act. The vote on the bill, known as a budget reconciliation measure, is symbolic because President Barack Obama is expected to veto it. ... Republicans spent weeks hammering out the strategy targeting Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act. The legislation aims to deal with GOP objections to ACA and Planned Parenthood through reconciliation rather than the omnibus spending bill, where a standoff with Democrats could again raise the specter of a government shutdown. (Armour, 12/3)

Politico: The Real Reason For The Obamacare Repeal
Republicans on Capitol Hill are sending their long-sought Obamacare repeal on a kamikaze mission to the president’s desk. The GOP has big reasons to move ahead with a doomed mission: to force the president to veto the bill, to fulfill a promise to its base and to lay the groundwork to truly repeal Obamacare under a Republican president in 2017.It’s not just optics. Republicans are carefully constructing a legislative strategy, based on Senate rules and precedents, to make it easier to unravel the health law in 2017 if a Republican wins the White House. (Haberkorn, 12/3)

USA Today: Senate Votes To Repeal Key Obamacare Provisions, Defund Planned Parenthood
Democrats say the 2010 Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — has helped 17.6 million Americans gain medical coverage and has stopped insurance companies from refusing to insure patients with pre-existing conditions. "Everybody knows (repeal) is a gesture in futility," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., before the vote. "Let's move on from repeal and start making the Affordable Care Act work even better for the American people." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obamacare has raised health care costs, limited patients' ability to choose their doctors, and hurt the already struggling middle class. (Kelly, 12/4)

The Washington Post: Senate Passes Obamacare Repeal, Planned Parenthood Defunding Bill, Putting Republicans On Record
Even before the vote occurred, Democratic operatives seized on it as evidence that the GOP-led Congress is too extreme. “The Republican-led Senate is spending the last few hours of its unimpressive working year to attack the health care services American women and families in every single state rely on,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee national press secretary Lauren Passalacqua. “Next fall, voters will remember how their Senators ignored the problems that actually demand Congressional action to wage a dangerous ideological crusade.” (Snell, 12/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Forwards Effort To Repeal “Cadillac Tax”
In a 90-10 vote, lawmakers voted for the inclusion of an amendment axing the tax as part of a larger bill that would make deep cuts to stipulations in the Affordable Care Act. The tax, set to go into effect in 2018, would require businesses and municipalities pay a 40% tax on the excess cost of health care plans that exceed government-mandated thresholds. ... The Congressional Budget Office estimates the tax would raise a total of $87 billion by 2026, which will help defray the costs of the sweeping Affordable Care Act. President Barack Obama previously indicated he would veto legislation that would weaken the law. Albeit a small part of the nearly 1,000-page ACA, discussion of the tax is on the rise as the start date looms. (Johnson and Murphy, 12/3)

The Washington Post: Pelosi: Republicans Have Already Caved In Spending Fight Over Planned Parenthood
The Republican push to strip Planned Parenthood of federal health-care funding, which nearly prompted a government shutdown in October, appears to have been abandoned in the latest round of congressional spending negotiations. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told Reuters on Wednesday that Republicans “had purposefully taken the Planned Parenthood language out” of their latest proposal for a massive government spending bill that must be passed ahead of a Dec. 11 deadline. (DeBonis, 12/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans Resist Democrats’ Call For Tighter Gun Control
Republican leaders on Thursday resisted Democrats’ calls to tighten gun-control laws following Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., saying they prefer to focus on overhauling the country’s mental-health system. ... In the Senate, Republicans blocked Democrats’ gun-related amendments to a health-care bill. One amendment, defeated in a 48-50 vote, would have expanded background checks to all gun sales online and at gun shows, with the goal of flagging people with criminal or mental-health histories that disqualify them from gun ownership. ... The president is expected to veto the underlying bill repealing large chunks of the health law. GOP leaders reiterated their call, first made after last Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, for a focus on mental health. (son, 12/3)

The Washington Post: Senate Rejects Gun Control Amendments Offered Following San Bernardino Shooting
The Senate on Thursday voted down two gun control proposals put forward by Democrats in response to this week’s deadly shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in a series of votes that highlighted the intractable party divide over how to respond to gun violence. The Senate rejected a measure from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to expand background checks for guns purchased online and at gun shows on a 48 to 50 vote and an amendment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to prevent individuals on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms on a 45 to 54 vote. The amendments were offered to an Obamacare repeal package currently being debated in the Senate and they needed 60 votes to be adopted. (Snell and Demirjian, 12/3)

The New York Times: Ryan Throws Down Republican Gauntlet In Outlining House Agenda For ’16
Still, even as Mr. Ryan was promising a forward-looking agenda, the Senate approved a budget reconciliation bill that would repeal Mr. Obama’s landmark health care law — a goal that Republicans have pursued since the law was enacted in March 2010. The reconciliation measure faces a certain veto when it arrives at the White House. ... A bigger test now looms in negotiations over an omnibus spending measure, which must be adopted before a Dec. 11 deadline to prevent a government shutdown. While it seems unlikely that Mr. Ryan would want to disrupt his early momentum by risking a politically disastrous shutdown before Christmas, the negotiations over the bill have become ensnared in recent days by Republican demands to attach dozens of policy amendments that are opposed by the administration. (Herszenhorn, 12/3)

Los Angeles Times: Speaker Paul Ryan Tries To Shift GOP Message From Gloom To Hope
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is not running for president, but as he delivers a speech Thursday loaded with the cheery conservatism of Ronald Reagan, it's hard not to imagine some Republicans wishing he would. ... "If you don’t have a job, we want you to be confident that you can find one — and take it. If you do have a job, we want you to be confident that that job will pay well. We want students to know that all that school — and all that debt — will be worth it. We want seniors to know that all those years of hard work — and all those years of paying taxes — will be rewarded. Medicare and Social Security will be there when you need them," he will say. (Mascaro, 12/3)

Reuters: House Speaker Ryan Wants Obamacare Replacement, Welfare Cuts
House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday that Republicans next year will unveil a plan to replace Obamacare in its entirety, as part of a "pro-growth" agenda that he believes should also include cutting welfare programs and taxes. Ryan said even if President Barack Obama will not sign them into law in his last year in office, the Republican majority in Congress must produce proposals to demonstrate "what our ideal policy would be looking forward to 2017 and beyond." (12/3)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Speaker Ryan Calls On GOP To Offer Detailed Election-Year Policy Plans
Republicans have pledged before to offer a detailed GOP alternative to the 2010 health law. In January 2014, then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said Republicans would vote on a detailed GOP health-care plan. While Republicans have proposed potential alternatives to the 2010 health law, the party has yet to coalesce around a particular plan. The House has voted dozens of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And the Senate was expected to vote later Thursday on a measure that would undo large chunks of the health law, which President Barack Obama will veto. (son, 12/3)

The Washington Post: What’s The Connection Between The Baltimore Riots And The Affordable Care Act?
Deember is the month in which many people enrolled in “Obamacare” must reassess and renew their plans. As they do so, it’s a good time to evaluate the politics and economics behind those health-care costs. Hospitals and health care keep cities employed. Take away hospital and medical care jobs, and you are removing one of the engines of economic hope for urban areas. But the need to add jobs is directly at odds with the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s commitment to—well, to affordable health care. (Guian McKee, 12/3)

The Associated Press: Anthem, Cigna Shareholders Approve $48B Tie-Up
A $48-billion deal that would create the nation's largest health insurer inched closer to completion after shareholders of both Anthem and Cigna voted in favor of a buyout. The companies said that nearly all of their shareholders approved the deal, announced last July, when Blue Cross-Blue Shield coverage provider Anthem said it would pay $103.40 and a portion of its stock for each Cigna share. The boards of both companies have already approved the deal, and shareholder backing was widely expected, but the acquisition still has one more key hurdle to clear. (12/3)

NPR: Is Prescription Opioid Abuse A Crime Problem Or A Health Problem?
Although many people know someone who has abused prescription opioids, people still think of opioid abuse as a criminal justice issue more than a health problem, a study finds. Illegal drug dealing is mentioned most frequently in news stories as the cause of prescription painkiller abuse, and two-thirds of abusers in are shown as being actively involved in crimes, according to an analysis by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (Shute, 12/3)

The Washington Post: Va. Hospitals Do About-Face, Giving McAuliffe Medicaid Bargaining Chip
Virginia’s hospitals reversed their position this week on a controversial bed tax, potentially giving Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) a path to the top priority of his administration: Medicaid expansion. Members of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association have traditionally resisted efforts to pay additional fees, but a tax on beds — also known as a provider assessment — would draw down a federal match. (Portnoy, 12/3)

Reuters: Illinois Judge Keeps Chicago Retiree Healthcare Case Alive
A lawsuit challenging Chicago's move to save money by phasing out lifetime subsidized healthcare for its retired workers can move forward in part, an Illinois judge ruled on Thursday. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil Cohen found that a portion of a constitutional claim in the lawsuit can proceed, according to Clint Krislov, an attorney for city retirees who filed the lawsuit. The ruling cited a 2014 Illinois Supreme Court decision that public sector workers' healthcare benefits are protected by the state constitution's pension clause. (12/3)

The Associated Press: Restaurant Group Sues NYC Over New Salt-Warning Labels
New York City's new warning label for salt-laden chain restaurant food is headed for a court fight, after restaurateurs sued Thursday to argue that health regulators overstepped legal bounds to enact the first-of-its-kind requirement. The National Restaurant Association's suit came just two days after the rule took effect, compelling chain eateries to put a salt-shaker icon on menu items that top the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium — about a teaspoon. The group had vowed to challenge the city Board of Health-approved rule, which will sprinkle salt warnings on some dishes ranging from burgers to pizzas to salads. (12/3)

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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