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KHN First Edition: December 10, 2015


First Edition

Thursday, December 10, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: California To Revamp Addiction Treatment For Medicaid Recipients
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "California is overhauling its substance abuse treatment system for low-income people, embarking on a massive experiment to create a smoother path for addicts from detox through recovery. The state is the first to receive federal permission to revamp drug and alcohol treatment for beneficiaries of Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal in California. Through what’s known as a drug waiver, state officials will have new spending flexibility as they try to improve outcomes and reduce social and financial costs of people with substance abuse disorders." (Gorman, 12/10)

The New York Times: Affordable Care Act Plans Get 1 Million New Subscribers
A million new customers have signed up for health insurance during the Affordable Care Act’s third open-enrollment season, Obama administration officials said on Wednesday, and call centers have been deluged with requests from others eager to enroll. The officials brushed aside reports of rising premiums and deductibles and concerns expressed by UnitedHealth Group and other insurers that say they are losing money in the new online insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. (Pear, 12/9)

The Washington Post: One In 4 HealthCare.Gov Customers Renew Coverage So Far, HHS Says
With less than a week left to buy health plans under the Affordable Care Act for coverage that starts Jan. 1, about one in four existing customers have renewed coverage so far on the federal insurance marketplace, according to new government figures. The numbers means that several million customers have not yet signed up for coverage for 2016, even though federal officials have repeatedly said that, to avoid a potential spike in prices, people should shop around for available health plans — and be willing to switch. (Goldstein, 12/9)

USA Today: Starts To See Enrollment Boost, But Concerns Linger
More than 1 million new customers have signed up for insurance on the federal insurance exchange and the site is developing near-deadline momentum, federal officials said Wednesday. Six days before the Dec. 15 deadline for coverage that starts Jan. 1, acting Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Andrew Slavitt said there has been a "surge of interest" is signing up for insurance. By the end of last week, 2.8 million people had chosen plans on That includes the 1 million new enrollees and an additional 1.8 million who renewed their policies. (O'Donnell, 12/9)

The Washington Post: Possible Tax Deal Would Give Big Wins To Both Parties
An eleventh-hour drive by the White House and Congress to strike a deal extending dozens of mostly obscure tax cuts could end up delivering major political victories for President Barack Obama and House Speaker Paul Ryan. But obstacles remained for the tax measure and separate legislation financing government agencies next year and preventing a federal shutdown. ... The White House, against the will of some congressional Democrats, was resisting Republican attempts to pare taxes on medical devices and costly health insurance policies, which were enacted under Obama’s 2010 health care law to help pay for that overhaul. (Fram, 12/10)

Politico: Ryan, Pelosi In Staredown Over Budget
The House on Friday will vote on a short-term funding measure to keep the government open until Dec. 16, and additional continuing resolutions are possible. With both sides confident that time is on their side, there is no pressure for a quick agreement; for Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a good deal is more important than a quick deal. Politically, Ryan can afford to continue passing short-term funding bills to keep the government open while he tries to reach an agreement. (Bresnahan, Sherman and French, 12/9)

The Associated Press: Senate Panel Leaders Condemn Companies For Drug Price Hikes
The leaders of a Senate panel are condemning four companies for aggressively increasing prices for prescription drugs. They say the companies have exploited a system lacking in competition to hike prices for critically needed medicines. An investigation by the Senate Special Committee on Aging focuses on Turing Pharmaceuticals, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin Inc. and Rodelis Therapeutics. The first two faced especially harsh criticism. (12/9)

NPR: Senate Questions 'Egregious' Price Hikes For Specialty Medicines
The Senate Special Committee on Aging is holding the first of a series of hearings Wednesday into why the prices of medicines that have been on the market for decades are suddenly climbing. The investigation by the Senate committee, led by Maine Republican Susan Collins and Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, is focusing on four pharmaceutical companies that bought the rights to certain drugs, and then dramatically increased the prices. (Kodjak, 12/9)

The New York Times' DealBook: Senate Republicans Introduce Bill For Puerto Rico Relief
The Republicans’ measure would include up to $3 billion in cash relief, a payroll tax break for residents of the island and a new independent authority that could borrow for Puerto Rico — but with no taxpayer guarantee. ... To get the $3 billion, the bill proposed tapping a $12 billion public-health fund created under the Affordable Care Act, for research and preventive medicine programs nationwide. The bill summary said the money was as yet “unobligated,” and could be “repurposed” with federal supervision to help tide Puerto Rico through an alarming cash squeeze this winter. ... On the details of how to revive Puerto Rico’s failing pension system, or changing the way doctors on the island are paid by federal programs like Medicare, the bill proposes only further study. (Williams Walsh, 12/9)

The Washington Post: Ben Carson Pitches Repealing Obamacare, Raising Medicare Eligibility Age In Health Reform Plan
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson unveiled a broad outline Wednesday to reform health care, detailing a restructuring of Medicare that would raise the eligibility age to 70. Carson's proposal rests on tax-protected “health empowerment accounts” — a de facto expansion of health savings accounts, which in Carson's vision would be opened for each citizen upon birth and grow over time based on individual contributions. (DelReal, 12/9)

The Associated Press: Carson Reshapes Medicare In Health Care Plan
Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson wants to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 70 as part of a health care plan released Wednesday that would reshape the popular program for the nation's elderly in addition to overhauling Medicaid and repealing President Barack Obama's health care law. The retired neurosurgeon is set to outline his health care plan for the first time on Wednesday while campaigning in Michigan. (12/9)

Reuters: Rubio Says He's Only One Running With Results Fighting Obamacare
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, seeking to win over conservative voters, told Reuters he was the only one running with a victory against President Barack Obama's signature health law. Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida, has touted his effort to prevent what he called a potential taxpayer bailout of insurers as his rivalry heats up with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a chief critic of the 2010 Obamacare law. (12/9)

The Wall Street Journal: UAW Contracts Left Open Health Care Change
The recent battles to win new four-year labor agreements with Detroit auto makers helped the United Auto Workers union reverse nearly a decade of givebacks, but the contracts allow for a change to health care plans that could reverberate on workers. Left open in the drive to win higher pay for union members was how the auto makers will handle their contracts’ health-care costs when a federal tax on high-cost health insurance plans begins in 2018. (Rogers, 12/9)

ProPublica/NPR: Small Violations Of Medical Privacy Can Hurt Patients And Corrode Trust
Under the federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, it's illegal for health care providers to share patients' treatment information without their permission. The Office for Civil Rights, the arm of the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for enforcing the law, receives more than 30,000 reports about privacy violations each year. The bulk of the government's enforcement — and the public's attention — has focused on a small number of splashy cases in which hackers or thieves have accessed the health data of large groups of people. But the damage done in these mass breaches has been mostly hypothetical, with much information exposed, but little exploited. (Ornstein, 12/10)

USA Today: People With Mental Illness 16 Times More Likely To Be Killed By Police
About one in four fatal police encounters involves someone with mental illness, according to the report, released Thursday by the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center, which focuses on the needs of people with serious mental illness. The problem stems from a lack of police training, as well as a lack of treatment for those with serious mental illness, the report's co-author says. (Szabo, 12/10)

USA Today: Some Of Sickest States Show Healthy Gains While Others Still Lag
Increases in drug deaths, obesity and diabetes offset national declines in smoking, deaths from heart disease and infant mortality, a new report shows, but some states' dramatic improvement brightened the overall picture. The 2015 version of America’s Health Rankings showed there was little progress among many of the poorest, sickest states, with some of the southern states – Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas – remaining at the bottom of the list. (O'Donnell and Ungar, 12/10)

USA Today: Rankings: More States Improve Than Worsen On Most Health Measures
More states improved than worsened over time on most measures examined in new health rankings out Wednesday — the first since the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions took effect. The Commonwealth Fund Scorecard on State Health System Performance looks at access to medical care, prevention and treatment of disease, avoidable hospital use and cost, healthy lives and health equity. (Ungar, 12/9)

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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