Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'Old One-Two'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Old One-Two'" by Nick Anderson.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

PROGRESS ON THE ANTHEM-CIGNA MATCH

Shareholders OK
the merger. But what about
the regulators?

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Capitol Hill Watch

3. Senate OKs Bill To Undo Key Health Law Provisions, Gut Planned Parenthood Funding

Though congressional Republicans have voted on similar legislation a multitude of times, this measure is likely to be the first one to make it to President Barack Obama's desk, where it would certainly be met with a veto pen.

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: Senate OKs Republican Bill Unraveling Health Care Law
With a House rubber stamp expected in days, the bill would be the first to reach Obama's desk 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. (Fram, 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)

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)

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)

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 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)

4. As Part Of Broader Repeal Effort Senate Votes To Strike The 'Cadillac Tax'

In debate on the bill to repeal the health law, senators voted 90-10 to approve an amendment that would also repeal a future tax on high-cost health insurance plans.

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 Hill: Senate Votes To Repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax'
The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to repeal ObamaCare’s “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans, a rare area of bipartisan agreement around the healthcare law. The Senate voted 90-10 to include the amendment repealing the tax in a larger bill gutting ObamaCare. The larger bill, and the tax repeal included therein, will not become law, however; President Obama is expected to veto the attempt to dismantle his signature domestic achievement. (Sullivan, 12/3)

5. Republican Senators Resist Democrats' Push To Add Gun-Control Amendments To Health Law Repeal

Amendments were offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., one day after the deadly shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

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 Hill: Senate Blocks Effort To Keep Guns From Terrorists
Senate Republicans on Thursday rejected an amendment to the ObamaCare repeal bill that would have tied it to a separate fight on blocking suspected or known terrorists from being able to buy guns. Senators voted 45-54 on procedural hurdle for the measure from Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The California Democrat's proposal, which she has also introduced as a separate piece of legislation, would allow the attorney general to block the sale or transfer of a gun or explosive to a suspected or known terrorist if the individual is believed to use the weapons in an act of terrorism. (Carney, 12/3)

Modern Healthcare: Democrats, Doctors Say Mass Shootings Need Public Health Approach
In the aftermath of one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history, public health organizations and Democratic lawmakers are pushing to treat gun violence as a public health issue. A few hours before a shooting that killed 14 and wounded more than 20 others in San Bernardino, Calif., on Wednesday, a group of doctors appeared with some Democratic members of the House to ask Congress to allow research on gun violence in the country. (Muchmore, 12/3)

6. In Speech Defining His Views, Ryan Challenges GOP But Reasserts Plans To Repeal Health Law

The new House speaker unveils his plans for a "pro-growth" agenda that includes a vow to offer a substitute next year to the 2010 health law.

Reuters: U.S. House Speaker Ryan Says Obamacare Replacement Plan Coming Next Year
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday that Republicans next year will unveil a plan to replace President Barack Obama's national health care program, widely known as Obamacare, in its entirety as part of a "pro-growth" Republican alternative to Democratic policies. ... "Next year, we are going to unveil a plan to replace every word of Obamacare," Ryan said in a speech at the Library of Congress, which his office billed as his first major address as Speaker, a job he has held for just over a month. (Cornwell, 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. ... “Speaker Ryan said nothing new today – only more of the same, tired Republican plans to empower the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of seniors, children and working families,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) (son, 12/3)

The New York Times: Ryan Throws Down Republican Gauntlet In Outlining House Agenda For ’16
With the speech’s sweeping oratory and careful stagecraft, it was clear Mr. Ryan was aiming to step decisively into the role of the Republican Party’s leader in Washington, and to set himself apart not just ideologically from Democrats but also in tone and substance from some of the recent coarse language of his own party’s presidential candidates. ... 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 dem
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