Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Nip And Tuck'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Nip And Tuck'" by Alex Hallatt.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

FEDS EXTEND OBAMACARE SIGN-UP DEADLINE

It was the fifteenth
But shoppers got two more days.
Now it’s here again.

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Capitol Hill Watch

4. What Made It Into Congress' Sweeping Spending Plan

The House is set to push through the tax bill on Thursday, setting the stage for a Friday vote on the companion bill providing $1.1 trillion to finance the government through most of 2016.

The New York Times: In Likely Spending Plan, Congress Readies Blows To Obama’s Health Care Law
The legislation will also suspend a tax on medical devices for two years. The device tax, which took effect in 2013, will be suspended through 2017. Congress also agreed to suspend for one year a tax on health insurance providers. The tax applies to insurance purchased by individuals, families and many businesses, as well as to private plans that manage care for millions of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. (Pear, 12/16)

CNN: What's In The 2,000-Page Bill Congress Dropped In The Middle Of The Night?
Republicans have tried to repeal Obamacare and have it overturned in the courts -- to no avail. So in an era of divided government, the best the GOP could hope for was a compromise measure to chip away at it. The spending bill would suspend the implementation of two key Obamacare-related taxes for two years. (Berman, Sloan, Kopan and Barrett, 12/16)

Politico: 2,200 Pages, $1.8 Trillion, Dead Of Night
Say what you will about past efforts to dismantle Obamacare, there was broad bipartisan agreement to delay or pause three major taxes in the Democratic health care law. The two-year pauses on the Cadillac tax and medical device tax, along with a one-year break in the health insurance tax, will subtract about $35 billion in funding for the ACA. (Becker, 12/16)

NBC News: House Democrats Have Concerns Over Details In Trillion-Dollar Spending Deal
House Democrats are raising concerns about the deal struck late Tuesday night on a $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill, legislation that would avert a government shutdown and fund government through October of 2016. ... The Affordable Care Act will also be impacted by these two deals. [House Speaker Paul] Ryan announced tonight the Omnibus will include delaying a provision in the ACA — known as the "Cadillac tax," a tax on high-cost healthcare plans — for two years. And in the tax extender package, there will be a two-year suspension of the medical device tax. (Moe and Thorp, 12/16)

In other Capitol Hill news -

The Associated Press: House Delays Vote Targeting Planned Parenthood, Health Law
Republican leaders have decided to delay until January a House vote to unravel President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and block federal money for Planned Parenthood, hoping to increase attention on their drive against two of conservatives’ favorite targets. The measure has already cleared the Senate, and House passage seems assured. (Fram, 12/16)

5. 'Cadillac Tax' Supporters Worry Delay Is Acutally Death Knell

Although the lost revenue from the two-year postponement isn't enough to have a lasting impact on the health law, opponents and advocates alike see it as a step toward axing the tax. Meanwhile, experts say it won't do much to relieve workplace coverage costs.

The Washington Post: Congress To Delay ACA’S ‘Cadillac’ Tax On Pricey Health Plans Until 2020
The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that the tax would bring in $2.2 billion in 2018 and $7.2 billion in 2019. Its revenue would balloon after that, totaling an estimated $91 billion by 2025. ... Orszag, President Barack Obama’s first director of the Office of Management and Budget, said that “the big concern with delay is, it’s not a delay, it becomes a rolling permanent deferral.” (Goldstein, 12/16)

The Associated Press: Workers Unlikely To See Relief From Delay Of Health Plan Tax
Don’t expect to see much relief from rising costs for workplace health coverage under a federal budget deal that postpones a widely feared tax on generous insurance plans, experts say. The so-called Cadillac tax, which would be delayed two-years in the proposed deal, meant to discourage extravagant coverage and help keep costs in check. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/16)

6. Medical Device Tax Suspended For Two Years In Omnibus

The government began collecting the 2.3 percent tax on sales of such devices, like pacemakers and ventilators, in January 2013 to help pay for the health law. But a new tax deal announced Wednesday would suspend those collections until Dec. 31, 2017.

The Associated Press: Budget Deal Cues Up 2-Year Freeze To Medical Device Tax
A federal budget proposal brought good news Wednesday for Minnesota's medical device companies by freezing for two years a tax on products like pacemakers and ventilators that they have long opposed. The package of tax cuts and spending cued up for final votes in Congress this week would suspend the 2.3 percent excise tax on those devices, ultrasound machines and more that took effect in 2013 as part of the funding mechanism for President Barack Obama's health care law. (Potter, 12/16)

The New York Times: In Likely Spending Plan, Congress Readies Blows To Obama’s Health Care Law
The legislation will also suspend a tax on medical devices for two years. The device tax, which took effect in 2013, will be suspended through 2017. Congress also agreed to suspend for one year a tax on health insurance providers. The tax applies to insurance purchased by individuals, families and many businesses, as well as to private plans that manage care for millions of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. (Pear, 12/16)

7. Republicans Spearhead $2B Bump For NIH Funding In Spending Bill

A letter to GOP leadership, signed by more than 100 Republicans in the House of Representatives last month, advocated for an even higher increase of $3 billion. And public health groups celebrate the boost in funding to medical research programs and agencies.

McClatchy: GOP Pushes For More Money For National Institutes Of Health
The National Institutes of Health could see its biggest budget increase in more than a decade as part of a $1.1 trillion spending bill Congress will vote on Friday. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas and other conservatives in Congress spearheaded the push to boost NIH’s funding by $2 billion – a billion more than requested by the Obama administration. (Wise, 12/16)

8. Congress Extends Health Aid to Puerto Rico, No Debt Assistance

The spending bill would increase payments to hospitals on the island and provide bonus Medicare payments to doctors and medical facilities that adopt electronic health record-keeping, but it didn't include a provision to grant Puerto Rico agencies access to Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Bloomberg: Congress Offers Health Aid To Puerto Rico In Spending Bill
Lawmakers agreed to extend health aid to Puerto Rico as part of a $1.1 trillion spending bill that they're racing to approve this week, which would mark the first step by Congress to help the Caribbean island cope with an escalating debt crisis. The legislation would increase payments to hospitals on the island and provide bonus Medicare payments to doctors and medical facilities that adopt electronic health record-keeping, according to the text of the bill posted early Wednesday on the House website. The spending measure is part of a fiscal plan that would avert a U.S. government shutdown and revive a series of expired tax breaks. (Miller, Wasson and Rowley, 12/16)