Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'Packed House'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Packed House'" by John Deering from "Strange Brew".

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Finally! The Pres
And Congress agree: on health
Care, no agreement!

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Capitol Hill Watch

3. Obama Returns To Message Of Hope In Final State Of The Union

With only passing mentions of policy initiatives, President Barack Obama used his last State of the Union more to address the nation than Congress. He painted a bright picture of the country's standing and called on Americans to replace him with someone who would continue to carry out his reforms on health care, climate change and Iran, among others.

The Associated Press: Obama Summons Americans To Compromise And Change
Addressing a hostile Republican-led Congress and a country plunged in a tumultuous, at times angry presidential campaign, Obama used his final State of the Union address to summon an affirmative vision of his administration and for the future. ... Obama defended his health measure Tuesday night, claiming that millions have gained coverage "and our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law." Delivering the GOP response, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley reiterated the party's pledge to "end a disastrous health care program, and replace it with reforms." (1/13)

The Washington Post: Obama Urges Nation Not To Fear Future
Obama gave passing mention to a handful of policy priorities — including promoting trade, curbing prescription-drug abuse, reforming the criminal-justice system and curing cancer — but he devoted more of the speech to talking to the nation rather than the House and Senate members before him. (Mufson and Eilperin, 1/13)

The New York Times: In State Of The Union Address, Obama Confronts Americans’ Fears
President Obama on Tuesday set forth an ambitious vision for America’s future but conceded his own failure to heal the political divisions holding back progress, calling it a lasting disappointment of his tenure. “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency, that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” Mr. Obama said, adding that “a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.” (Davis and Shear, 1/12)

4. President Puts Biden In Charge Of 'Mission Control' For Cancer Moonshot

In his final State of the Union address, Obama announced the vice president would be leading a charge against the disease, saying, "Let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for all." But, experts say, curing cancer doesn't look like a single moonshot -- it's an ever changing battlefield with hundreds or thousands of different enemies to swarm.

STAT: Biden Unveils Road Map For His 'Moonshot' Against Cancer
Vice President Joe Biden pledged on Tuesday night to work to increase resources for cancer research and improve coordination across the research community as part of his cancer “moonshot” that President Obama endorsed in his State of the Union address. (Scott, 1/12)

USA Today: Vice President Biden Will Head Pursuit Of Cancer Cure
President Obama announced during his State of the Union Address that he’s putting Vice President Biden in charge of carrying out the “moonshot” to cure cancer that Biden called for following his son’s death. "Last month, [Biden] worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade," Obama said. "Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all." (Gaudiano, 1/12)

The Associated Press: Highlights Of President's State Of The Union Address
Obama's final State of the Union speech offered little in the way of new policy initiatives, but plenty of upbeat talk about prospects for a strong future. ... On health, he likened the administration's push against cancer to a new "moon shot." "Let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for all," he said. (1/12)

The Washington Post: Cancer ‘Moonshot’ Will Actually Be A Collection Of Smaller Initiatives
President Obama called Tuesday for a stepped-up war on cancer, but with hundreds, even thousands, of types of cancer and an ever-increasing number of specialized therapies for them, experts say there is no true “moonshot” approach to tackling the nation’s second-leading cause of death. “A single approach to cancer...ain’t going to happen,” said Jose Baselga, president of the American Association for Cancer Research and chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “Cancer, we’ve learned, is far more complex than we’ve ever imagined. Every single tumor is different.” Yet top cancer specialists agree on several big ideas that might push the boundaries of research and therapy for the 1.7 million people diagnosed each year. (Bernstein, 1/12)

Meanwhile, oncologists are frustrated with the pathway toward choosing the right cancer treatment —

Modern Healthcare: Tools To Consider Effective Cancer Treatment Are Too Many, Too Rigid: Oncologists
On a typical day, oncologist Dr. Linda Bosserman spends hours poring over lists meant to guide clinicians toward the optimal course of treatment. These "clinical pathways" are based on the cancer's stage and location in the body, and patient-specific factors, like comorbidities. Then, after she and the patient have chosen a plan, Bosserman says she spends hours explaining to payers how and why the choice was made. (Rice, 1/12)

5. Senate HELP Committee Approves FDA Nominee

Robert Califf, the president's pick to lead the Food and Drug Administration, is expected to get full Senate confirmation easily. However, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, voted against him, citing concerns with Califf's pharmaceutical ties.

Reuters: Obama Nominee To Lead FDA Wins Backing From Senate Committee
President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Robert Califf, won backing from a Senate committee on Tuesday as its members shrugged off criticism from consumer watchdogs that he is too closely linked with the pharmaceutical industry to lead the agency impartially. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted to confirm Califf as FDA Commissioner, a position that has been open since Dr. Margaret Hamburg stepped down last February. The nomination must now be approved by the full Senate. He is widely expected to be confirmed. (Clarke, 1/12)

The Hill: Sanders Votes Against Obama's FDA Nominee
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) voted Tuesday against President Obama’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), citing concerns over his ties to the pharmaceutical industry. A Republican-led Senate panel advanced Dr. Robert Califf’s nomination to the full floor for final approval, despite Sanders’ opposition. (Devaney, 1/12)

The Associated Press: Senate Panel Approves Dr. Robert Califf As FDA Commissioner
Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she will hold up a vote on the Senate floor until she has reassurances from the agency that it will write rules for labeling genetically modified salmon. The Alaska Republican has said the engineered salmon approved by the FDA last year could be harmful to her state's wild salmon industry. Califf is now the No. 2 official at the agency, which regulates consumer products from medications to seafood to e-cigarettes. (Jalonick, 1/12)

In other news from Capitol Hill, Republicans are launching an overreach probe and a committee report looks at infections tied to medical scopes —

The Associated Press: House GOP In Election-Year Probe Of Presidential 'Overreach'
House Republicans said Tuesday that they will launch an election-year study of what they say has been executive overreach by President Barack Obama and other recent presidents. ... The House GOP is pursuing a federal lawsuit accusing the president of unconstitutionally spending money that Congress has not approved for his health care overhaul. (Fram, 1/12)

The Seattle Times: Infections Tied To Medical Scopes Higher Than Previously Thought
The toll of potentially deadly infections tied to contaminated medical scopes is far higher than federal investigators previously estimated, according to a U.S. Senate committee report being released early Wednesday. In less than three years, between 2012 and spring 2015, at least 25 incidents of antibiotic-resistant infections linked to specialized duodenoscopes sickened at least 250 people worldwide, most at U.S. hospitals. (Aleccia, 1/13)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Obama Takes Health Law Push Outside Beltway

The president plans to spend much of the year outside of Washington, D.C., with two of his first stops in Nebraska and Louisiana, where he will press for Medicaid expansion. U.S. News & World Report looks at how the Affordable Care Act's success lives and dies in the states.

The New York Times: Obama, In Nebraska And Louisiana, Aims To Kick Off Discussions On Future
While President Barack Obama's speeches and engagements in both states will cover a variety of subjects, Nebraska and Louisiana are fitting places for him to press for a continuing expansion of his health care law. To date, 30 states and the District of Columbia have expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. But the refusal of many states with large uninsured populations to accept the money and offer health care to millions more has been a source of frustration for the president. With new legislative sessions about to begin across the country, Republican governors in two holdout states — Matt Mead of Wyoming and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota — are trying to persuade their legislatures to expand the program. (Harris and Goodnough, 1/13)

U.S. News & World Report: Obamacare’s Success Hinges On States
Within 24 hours, Obamacare lost one convert and gained another. On Monday, newly sworn-in Republican Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky said the commonwealth would be chucking its exchange. ... That same day, in Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards announced during his inaugural address that Tuesday he would be accepting federal funding for expanding Medicaid. ... The developments illustrate the important role states play in carrying out the major tenets of Obamacare. (Leonard, 1/12)

7. New Louisiana Governor Signs Order For Medicaid Expansion

The action by Democrat John Bel Edwards fulfills a campaign promise. Also in two state-of-the-state speeches, governors in South Dakota and Kansas take different views of the health law's provision to expand health coverage for low-income residents.