Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Lies and Slander'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Lies and Slander'" by John Deering.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

OPENNOTES GETS BOOST TO EXPAND ACCESS, STUDY OUTCOMES

Does it affect health
If patients read docs’ notes? This
project seeks answers.

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Capitol Hill Watch

4. House Sends Tax Bill To Senate On 318-109 Vote

By locking in tax cuts now with the measure, Republicans will need to eliminate fewer tax breaks in the future to get an overhaul bill that is certified as revenue-neutral by congressional scorekeepers.

The New York Times: Under Wire, House Passes Big Package Of Tax Cuts
By a vote of 318 to 109, the House on Thursday approved the tax-cut package, which will add more than a half-trillion dollars to the deficit, and supporters and critics alike said that the bill represented Mr. Ryan’s deeply held belief that tax cuts ultimately pay for themselves by fostering economic growth. The measure would postpone some key components of the Affordable Care Act, by delaying, for example, the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost, employer-sponsored health plans. (Herszenhorn, 12/17)

The Wall Street Journal: House Passes $622 Billion Tax Measure
Going forward, Republicans will need to do less annual maintenance work in the tax code because fewer provisions will expire, thus freeing up time for their bigger goal of lowering tax rates and broadening the tax base. By locking the breaks in now, Republicans also lower the government’s total revenue forecast for the next decade. (Rubin, 12/17)

USA Today: House Passes $622 Billion In Tax Breaks
The tax and spending package is the last major legislation that Congress will pass before it adjourns for the year. It was the first big budget compromise negotiated under new House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. (Kelly, 12/17)

5. After Smooth Vote On Tax Deal, Spending Bill's Fate In House Less Certain

The measure may be able to squeak through the House of Representatives because top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi swung forcefully behind it Thursday evening, despite her ire over its lifting of the four-decade ban on exporting U.S. crude oil.

The Associated Press: House, Senate Rush To Send Huge Budget And Tax Deal To Obama
The House and Senate are rushing to send President Barack Obama the massive budget package that would fund the entire government through September 2016. Obama has promised to sign the measure, but it must first overcome some resistance. House Democrats are upset over a victory for big oil, while tea party lawmakers say it spends too much money. (12/18)

Politico: Concerns Rise Over $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill
The dynamics on the spending bill are far different than those of the tax measure, and at this time, passage is far from assured. The Capitol isn't in full panic yet, but there does appear to be a rising level of concern on the Democratic side of the aisle that they will be short the votes needed to pass the omnibus spending bill. (Sherman, Bresnahan and French, 12/17)

The Washington Post: Congressional Spending Bill Curtails D.C. Victory On Using Health Surplus
A rider in the federal spending bill creates a significant obstacle to the District’s ability to assess and spend excess surplus dollars collected by the Washington region’s largest health insurer. District insurance regulators last year ordered CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to spend $56 million out of its billion-dollar cash reserves on local community health needs, effectively upholding a D.C. law passed in 2009 that required assessments of the company’s surplus dollars every three years. (Hauslohner, 12/17)

NBC News: ET Budget Bill Limits New Food Advice, Edited Humans, GM Salmon
Congress is scheduled to vote on a $1.1 trillion spending bill Friday that would avert a government shutdown until next October and fund almost all federal activities. But like just about any bill in Congress, this one's full of little goodies and pet projects that can have a big effect on medical research and health and science policies. (Fox, 12/17)

After Puerto Rico did not receive debt aid in the spending bill, the White House wants Congress to help the island -

Reuters: White House Calls For 'Common Sense Steps' To Help Puerto Rico
The administration also reiterated its view that reforms to Puerto Rico's Medicaid system should be put in place to help relieve budgetary pressures and again called on lawmakers to make the island's residents eligible for the Earned-Income Tax Credit for low- and moderate-income individuals. (12/17)

6. Why Is The 'Cadillac Tax' So Hated?

Congress' spending package would delay it for two years, and opponents are hoping the move signals a permanent end to the much-reviled tax.

CNN Money: Why Everyone Wants To Kill Obamacare's Cadillac Tax
Companies want to kill it. Unions hate it. Republicans want to eliminate it. Some Democrats agree. We're talking about the much-reviled Obamacare Cadillac tax, which is set to levy a hefty 40% excise tax on employer health plans that are considered generous. (Luhby, 12/19)

Marketplace: What The Biggest Changes To The ACA So Far Mean
Congress is nearing a vote on a $1.1 trillion spending bill that will fund the government into next fall. It includes the biggest changes so far to one of Congressional Republicans' top legislative targets over the last half-dozen years: Obamacare. (Gorenstein, 12/17)

Bloomberg: Congress Moves To Pause Obamacare Taxes, Causing Barely A Ripple
A set of delays on Obamacare-related taxes in the new federal spending bill will give corporate earnings a modest boost but are unlikely to undo the law or produce significant changes in the health-care industry. Medical-device companies such as Medtronic Plc, health insurers like UnitedHealth Group Inc., and big employers across the U.S. have been preparing for years for a slate of new taxes under the Affordable Care Act. They’ll find it easier just to collect extra profit from a tax cut rather than undo those changes, such as job reductions and revamped health benefit plans. (Cortez and Tracer, 12/16)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

7. Despite Gains, Texas Lags Behind Nation In Health Coverage

A new study finds that 760,000 Texans enrolled for insurance under the Obamacare exchange this year, which is 63 percent of the total who signed up last year. Meanwhile in D.C., "Star Wars" moviegoers will be targeted this weekend by representatives urging them to register for coverage.

The Texas Tribune: More Have Health Insurance, But Texas Lags
The number of Texans with health insurance has increased 20 percent since 2013 under federal health care reform, but Texas’ health insurance gains continue to lag behind the rest of the nation, according to a pair of reports released this week. While the Obama administration has declined to say how many enrollees in federally subsidized health insurance were previously uninsured, a study to be released Friday by consulting firm Milliman sheds new light on that number, finding that the Texas health insurance market has grown by about 760,000 people under the Affordable Care Act. (Walters, 12/18)

The Associated Press: D.C. Health Exchange Hoping To Sign Up ‘Star Wars’ Fans
You may be strong with the Force, but you still need health insurance. That’s the message the District of Columbia’s health insurance exchange hopes to send to moviegoers this weekend. DC Health Link will have representatives stationed at the Regal Gallery Place Stadium 14 theater in downtown Washington starting Friday afternoon. (12/18)

8. Virginia Governor Tries Again For Medicaid Expansion In Budget

The budget would authorize a tax on revenues from most hospitals in the state to raise money to match federal dollars under expansion and create a $195-million health care reserve from the portion of funds representing the state’s share of the expanded program’s cost.

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