Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'Hobson's Choice?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Hobson's Choice?'" by Bruce Tinsley.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

EYEING THOSE FEDERAL DOLLARS…

Medicaid? Some govs
Increasingly view it as
A money maker.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. HHS Says It Won't Allow Extension This Year For People Who Miss 2016 Enrollment Period

The administration offered uninsured consumers a reprieve if they missed the 2015 enrollment deadline, but officials said that wouldn't be repeated this year. Also in health law news, a new government survey looks at the effect of medical bills on consumers, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell's mission for the rest of her term and an insurance executive's views of the changing market landscape.

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Law Avoiders Won’t Get Reprieve This Time Around
Federal officials said Monday that if uninsured people don’t obtain coverage within the health law’s official enrollment period, which ends Jan. 31, they won’t get an extension to avoid the law’s penalty for going without insurance this time around. Earlier this year, the Obama administration offered uninsured people a reprieve if they missed the sign-up deadline for 2015 coverage, originally set at Feb. 15. People were given through April to sign up if they said they had learned about the penalty for going uninsured only when they filed their taxes. (Radnofsky, 12/7)

The Associated Press: Gov't Survey: Fewer Americans Struggle To Pay Medical Bills
For the fourth straight year fewer Americans are struggling to pay medical bills, according to a major government survey released Tuesday. Most of the progress has come among low-income people and those with government coverage. The data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the number of people in households that faced problems paying medical bills decreased by 12 million from the first half of 2011 through the first six months of this year. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/8)

Bloomberg: The Woman Who Has 13 Months To Bolster Obamacare
The woman in charge of Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul is counting down the days: She has 414 to go in the Obama administration. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, is trying to cram in what she can, while she can, as she works to secure the fate of the president’s signature domestic policy accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act. (Tracer and Winkler, 12/5)

6. In Some Red States That Expanded Medicaid, Focus Shifts To Details Of Federal Waivers

These waivers allow states to create a Medicaid expansion that fits their political outlooks. Also, news outlets examine Medicaid expansion news in Kentucky, Ohio, Louisiana and Idaho.

Modern Healthcare: Waivers Are New Battlefront In Republican-Led States That Expanded Medicaid
Providers, patients and lawmakers in Arizona and Iowa are urging the CMS to reject Medicaid changes proposed by Republican governors. But in Michigan, the same array of stakeholders wants the CMS to allow conservative provisions to save the state's Medicaid expansion. That's because when Michigan lawmakers passed legislation in 2013 expanding Medicaid eligibility in the state, they included a clause requiring the expansion to sunset in 2016 unless the CMS accepts provisions such as sharp increases in premiums and cost-sharing obligations. (Dickson, 12/7)

WOSU (Columbus, Ohio): Medicaid Expansion Helps Inmates Get Health Care
Someone who’s preparing to get out of prison has a lot to think about. They have to find housing, a job, transportation. Health care often falls to the wayside. But the state’s corrections department has begun to help inmates find insurance before they’re released. Ohio’s decision to expand Medicaid plays a key role. Each year, roughly 20,000 people are released from Ohio prisons. They haven’t left with much as far as health care is concerned. ... But then Governor John Kasich expanded Medicaid. With income eligibility raised, more inmates would qualify. ... The pre-release Medicaid enrollment pilot program began at the women’s prison, in Marysville, 15 months ago. About 90 days before their parole dates, inmates are introduced to the different programs offered in Ohio. A few days later, a Medicaid agent enrolls them over the phone. (Trimble, 12/7)

New Orleans Times-Picayune: State Senate Finance Committee Asks For Report On Medicaid Expansion
Senate Finance Committee members asked the Department of Health and Hospitals on Monday (Dec. 7) to produce a report outlining Louisiana's options for expanding Medicaid, to be delivered by Jan. 1. Monday's meeting was the second time the committee has met about the rising costs of health care in Louisiana since the legislative session ended in June. The tone of the meeting was noticeably different than the committee's Oct. 24 session, when Medicaid expansion was not even mentioned by name. (Litten, 12/7)

Idaho Statesman: State Plan Takes Aim At Idaho’s Health Insurance Coverage Gap
The Otter administration is proposing a state-funded partial alternative to Medicaid expansion that could deliver basic primary care for 78,000 Idahoans who now have little or no access to health care coverage. The Governor’s Office and Department of Health and Welfare personnel have met with state legislators, business groups and health organizations to outline the proposal, the basic details of which call for state payments to primary care providers to cover basic preventive health care for people in the so-called coverage gap — people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for assistance obtaining health insurance. The payments would amount to about $32 per month per individual covered — roughly $30 million in all. Emergency room visits, acute care, hospitalizations and prescriptions would not be covered, and the state’s existing reliance on county indigent funds and the state catastrophic fund to pay for crisis care would be retained. (Dentzer, 12/4)

Capitol Hill Watch

7. Speculation Increases That Congress Might Miss Friday Budget Deadline

Policy riders appear to be the stumbling block. Some leaders are suggesting a stop-gap measure may be necessary to avert a government shutdown, but the White House spokesman said the president would not sign a short-term bill unless an outline for a deal had already been reached.

Politico: Congress Likely To Blow Budget Deadline
With negotiations over a massive $1.1 trillion budget package moving at a glacial pace, GOP leaders are now openly predicting that Congress will blow past a Dec. 11 deadline for funding the federal government. Both sides appear to be notching wins in the high-stakes talks. Republicans are confident they'll be able to lift a ban on exporting crude oil, though the GOP is wary of acceding to Democratic demands on environmental policy in return for allowing such sales. Democrats are relieved Republicans aren't fighting to strip funds from Planned Parenthood. (Bresnahan and Sherman, 12/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Stopgap U.S. Spending Bill May Be Needed, GOP’s Kevin McCarthy Says
Congress may need to pass a stopgap measure keeping the government running for just a few days to avoid a partial shutdown when its funding expires at week’s end, a House GOP leader said Monday. ... Lawmakers have largely agreed on the funding levels for different parts of the government set by the spending bill, known as the omnibus, but are still wrangling over which other policy measures get attached to it. ... Many lawmakers had hoped to reach a deal making some of the tax breaks permanent, but it remained uncertain Monday whether lawmakers would strike a long-term agreement or simply extend the measures for two years. A bigger deal may also include delays of the 2010 health law’s medical device tax and so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-cost, employer-sponsored health insurance. (son and Nelson, 12/7)

The Washington Post: Negotiations Over Year-End Spending Bill Hit A Tax Snag
After days of scrambling to hammer out an agreement, negotiators are still deadlocked over several policy riders that GOP lawmakers want to attach to the must-pass legislation as well as over what do with a package of tax breaks that could also be added to the bill. White House spokesman Joshua Earnest told reporters that President Obama would not sign a short-term CR in order to give negotiators more time to strike a deal. If lawmakers reach an agreement before Friday, however, Earnest did not rule out the possibility of agreeing to a stop-gap bill to give Congress time to finish procedural work. (Snell, 12/7)

On the topic of Planned Parenthood -

The Huffington Post: Republicans Insist Planned Parenthood Committee Isn't Specifically Targeting Planned Parenthood
Ever since a gunman on a shooting rampage killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic late last month, Republicans on the select panel convened to investigate Planned Parenthood have been insisting that the committee isn't targeting the nation's largest abortion provider. In the wake of the Colorado Springs shooting, Democrats have called for the committee to be disbanded. ... The Republican response has been to point out that the October resolution establishing the special committee referred generally to "abortion providers," but not Planned Parenthood. (Lachman, 12/7)

Also, Rep. John Fleming throws his hat into the Louisiana Senate race -