Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'Do You Specialize?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Do You Specialize?'" by Roy Delgado.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Colorado says
Health care for all citizens.
Experts disagree

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

3. HHS Touts Strong Enrollment Numbers In Coveted Young Adult Demographic

More than 8.2 million people have signed up or renewed health coverage on the federal marketplace for 2016. Of those, 2.1 million are under 35, close to double what it was at this point last year.

The Associated Press: Report: More Young Adults Signing Up For Obama Health Law
Midway through sign-up season, more young adults are getting coverage through President Barack Obama's health care law. The number of new customers is also trending higher, officials said Tuesday in an upbeat report. Outside analysts who reviewed the administration's update said it reflects encouraging progress, but that may not dispel questions about the long-term future of the health insurance markets created under Obama's 2010 overhaul. Premiums have been going up and getting new sign-ups remains a challenge. ... And 2.1 million [enrollees] are under age 35, a coveted demographic because young adults tend to be healthy and their participation helps keep premiums in check. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/23)

The Wall Street Journal: HealthCare.gov Users Hit 8.2 Million
Some 71% of the site’s enrollees—around 5.8 million—had coverage renewed, and 29%—or about 2.4 million—had been first-time buyers, HHS said. Federal officials have seen a flurry of activity around a Dec. 15 deadline to buy or switch existing coverage that would take effect Jan. 1, and offered a two-day extension to accommodate the late crush on the site. (Radnofsky, 12/22)

USA Today: Healthcare.gov Enrollment Up About One Third Over Last Year
More than 8.2 million consumers signed up for health coverage through HealthCare.gov or had their coverage automatically renewed, as millions more selected plans through state-based market places, the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday. It's about a one-third improvement from this time last year, when about 6.4 million had signed up for coverage or been automatically renewed. Healthcare.gov handles the enrollment for 38 states. (O'Donnell, 12/23)

In other health exchange news, sick patients took a toll on co-op plans —

4. States See Boost In Federal Exchange Sign-Ups

Media outlets report on enrollment numbers from Georgia, Ohio, Arizona, Connecticut and Kansas.

Georgia Health News: Exchange Enrollment Nears 500,000 In Georgia
Nearly a half-million Georgians have enrolled in a 2016 health plan through the insurance exchange or had their coverage automatically renewed, federal officials announced Tuesday. Georgia’s total of 498,901 as of Dec. 19 would appear to put the state on a faster pace than 2015 enrollment. By the end of that enrollment period in mid-February, roughly 540,000 Georgians had signed up or been renewed. (Miller, 12/22)

The Cleveland Plain Dealer: More Than 218,000 Ohioans Sign Up For Obamacare, Government Says
More than 218,000 Ohioans have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act this year following a last-minute burst of enrollment before last week's deadline, the Obama administration announced Tuesday. Ohio ranks 12th nationally in its number of enrollees on healthcare.gov this year, according to a state-by-state breakdown released today by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Florida had the most new sign-ups, with more than 1.5 million. (Ross, 12/23)

The Arizona Republic: Feds Say More Than 155,000 Arizonans Signed Up For Health Plans
More than 155,000 Arizona residents have signed up for Affordable Care Act health coverage that is scheduled to begin Jan. 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday. That figure includes more than 60,000 Arizona residents who re-enrolled on the federal marketplace in the week ahead of the Dec. 17 deadline for people to complete enrollment to guarantee coverage next year. (Alltucker, 12/22)

The Connecticut Mirror: 100,314 Signed Up For Obamacare Coverage To Start 2016
Just over 100,000 people are signed up to receive private insurance coverage as of Jan. 1 through Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange. But exchange officials expressed concern that thousands of current customers could lose their coverage or the federal tax credits that discount their premiums at the start of the new year. (Levin Becker, 12/22)

The Kansas Health Institute News Service: Kansas Marketplace Enrollment Jumps By 30,000 In One Week
More than 80,000 Kansans have signed up for 2016 coverage through the federal insurance marketplace — a bump of about 30,000 in the week before the deadline. The Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved reported 84,631 people in Kansas and 253,099 in Missouri had enrolled through healthcare.gov as of Saturday. The enrollments were close to the totals for last year’s sign-ups. (Hart, 12/22)

Campaign 2016

5. Clinton Reveals $20B Plan To Cure Alzheimer's By 2025

About 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and by 2050 that number is expected to grow to 15 million, disproportionately affecting women and minorities. By then, if the government's spending on the disease stays the same, it would cost Americans $1 trillion a year.

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton Proposes Doubling Spending On Alzheimer’s Research
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Tuesday proposed a $2 billion-a-year investment in Alzheimer’s research, more than double the amount in the recently passed appropriations bill, to combat the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. The plan, which would be paid for by changes in the tax code, emerged out of conversations with voters who regularly ask Mrs. Clinton about Alzheimer’s at town-hall-style events in Iowa and New Hampshire. (Chozick, 12/22)

USA Today: Clinton To Call For Alzheimer's Cure, Increase Spending To $2 Billion Annually
From 2000 to 2013, Alzheimer’s deaths increased 71%, while heart disease fatalities dropped 14%. Unlike cancer and heart attacks, there is no known cure. “Alzheimer’s is the red-haired stepchild among the top diseases threatening the aging and our health care system,” said Alzheimer’s pioneer Rudolph Tanzi, the neurology professor who discovered many of the genes, including the first ones, leading to Alzheimer's. (Przybyla, 12/22)

The Washington Post: Why Clinton’s Wildly Ambitious $20 Billion Plan To Cure Alzheimer’s By 2025 Matters
More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's today, and the number is expected to triple to 15 million by 2050. If the government's spending on the disease grows at the same rate, it would jump from $586 million in 2014 to $1 trillion in 2050. “This is a tsunami, an epidemic that could single-handedly crush Medicare, Medicaid… It’s an unmet medical need of the greatest type," Rudolph E. Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School says. (Eunjung Cha, 12/22)

In other 2016 campaign news, The Washington Post fact checks Marco Rubio's health care claims —

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Rubio’s Inaccurate Claim That He ‘Inserted’ A Provision Restricting Obamacare ‘Bailout’ Funds
Presidential candidate Marco Rubio has claimed that he inserted key language in the budget bill. In reality, in the sausage making of the law, Rubio didn’t make the sausage that has wounded the law. He had wanted to make a different sausage. But through deft marketing, he managed to slap his name on this one. So far, with the exception of a careful report in the Associated Press, much of the media have gotten this story wrong. (Kessler, 12/23)


6. From Free To $100,000-A-Year?: Cost Of Experimental Autoimmune Drug Could Skyrocket

People suffering Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder, have found relief from an experimental drug that one pharmaceutical company distributes free. Now another company is seeking FDA approval, which would give it exclusive rights to distribute -- and charge an estimated $37,500 to over $100,000 per patient, per year. Elsewhere, The Washington Post examines the trends in drug spending.

NPR: FDA Approval Could Turn A Free Drug For A Rare Disease Pricey
Catalyst Pharmaceuticals, which makes Firdapse, has applied for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under an orphan drug designation. That would give the company exclusive rights to market the drug for seven years. That should be good news for Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome patients. But the reality isn't so clear. That's because, for the last 20 years, many LEMS patients have received the same drug — known as 3,4-diaminopyridine, or 3,4-DAP — free of charge from Jacobus Pharmaceutical. (Kodjak, 12/23)