Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'Nothing We Could Do'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Nothing We Could Do'" by Dan Piraro.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

DRUG MAKER’S GOOD NEWS-BAD NEWS SITUATION

Valeant has high hopes
for Walgreens deal, but earnings
forecast is still grim.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. Enrollment Deadline Pushed Back Due To 'Unprecedented' Demand

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said nearly 1 million people were asked to leave their contact information to hold their spot in line, as the agency tried to handle the wave of last-minute enrollees.

Politico: Obamacare Deadline Pushed Back
Federal officials say the previous few days have been the busiest ever at the Obamacare website, with hundreds of thousands selecting health plans. But it's too early to say if the sign-up surge indicates that the administration will meet its modest enrollment goals for 2016. (Pradhan, 12/15)

6. Arkansas Panel Set To Finalize Recommendations Regarding Medicaid Expansion Plan

In a Tuesday meeting, the Health Reform Legislative Task Force did not focus on the private option -- the state's Medicaid expansion approach that's gained federal approval -- but on cost savings approaches for the program. The group’s proposal calls for expanding and enhancing the patient-centered medical home model — in which a patient’s treatment is coordinated by a primary care physician — for the traditional Medicaid population.

[Arkansas] Times Record: Task Force Begins To Finalize Recommendations For Future Of Medicaid In State
A legislative task force Tuesday held the first of what are scheduled to be three consecutive days of meetings to finalize the recommendations it will make for the future of Medicaid in Arkansas. Most of the discussion during Tuesday’s meeting of the Health Reform Legislative Task Force was not about the private option, Arkansas’ version of Medicaid expansion, but about ways to achieve cost savings across the entire Medicaid system. (Lyon, 12/15)

Arkansas Online: Medicaid Panel Ready With Proposals
A legislative task force plans to make recommendations today on changes to the state's Medicaid program, including changes to the private option and whether to hire managed-care companies to provide coverage for recipients with expensive medical needs. Under the private option, the state uses Medicaid funds to buy coverage on the federally run insurance exchange for low-income adults. (Davis, 12/16)

Capitol Hill Watch

7. Congress Reaches Year-End Spending, Tax Deals

The $1.15 trillion spending agreement, which includes a two-year delay for the "Cadillac tax," averts a shutdown and would fund the government deep into 2016.

Politico: Ryan Unveils Budget Deal, Touts Benefits To GOP
House Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a massive tax and spending package Tuesday night, arguing that the GOP didn't win every fight, but they kept many of their policy preferences in place for the next 10 months. In a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans, Ryan touted a pause in Obamacare's "Cadillac tax," the lifting of a longstanding oil-export ban and preservation of several other policy preferences in the year-end deal. It will get a vote later this week. (Sherman, Bresnahan and French, 12/15)

The Washington Post: Congress Reaches Year-End Deal On Taxes And Spending
The sweeping agreement that came after weeks of bipartisan negotiations is the broadest tax and spending deal since the January 2013 “fiscal cliff” agreement, and both parties will be able to claim policy victories while bemoaning what also made it in or was left out. (Snell and DeBonis, 12/15)

Wall Street Journal: Tax Bill Would Revive Dozens Of Credits
U.S. lawmakers unveiled a tax-cut package late Tuesday night that would revive dozens of expired breaks and lock many of them into law permanently. ... The so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health insurance would start in 2020 instead of 2018, providing a win for labor unions and large companies that have been fighting it. That measure is attached to the spending bill. A tax on health insurance may also get suspended. (Rubin, 12/16)

Politico Pro: How The White House Lost On The Cadillac Tax
The White House knew it was in trouble on the afternoon of Dec. 3, when the Senate overwhelmingly voted to repeal the so-called Cadillac tax in a symbolic, bipartisan vote. Ninety out of 100 senators, including scores of Democrats, backed scrapping the Cadillac tax, a key pillar of the Affordable Care Act. Beginning in 2018, the excise tax on high cost health plans was supposed to raise money to help pay for covering people under Obamacare. It was also designed to tamp down health spending in the future. (Cook, 12/15)

8. 9/11 Health Bill Included In Spending Deal

The legislation also includes a $2 billion bump to the National Institutes of Health's funding, its largest increase in more than 12 years. The bill gives $200 million to the Obama administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative and a $350 million increase for research on Alzheimer’s disease.

Politico NY: Budget Bill Likely To Include Reauthorization Of Zadroga Act
Congress appears ready to reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the federal legislation that provides benefits to 9/11 victims and first responders. The measure was included in the newest spending bill, which has been fiercely negotiated over the past several days. The bill could be voted on as early as Thursday. (Goldberg, 12/15)

STAT: Congress Gives NIH Its Biggest Increase In 12 Years
The National Institutes of Health will get a $2 billion funding increase in the federal spending bill released early Wednesday, a big boost that could turn around the agency’s fortunes after years of stagnant budgets. It’s the first time the NIH budget would get such a large raise in more than 12 years — assuming the spending bill can get enough votes to pass Congress. And it comes after a year of growing momentum in which powerful Republicans and Democrats convinced their colleagues that medical science is ready to make good use of extra money. (Nather and Scott, 12/16)