Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'Grandparent-Proof'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Grandparent-Proof'" by Roy Delgado.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Finger-pointing war.
Generics backlog battle.
Patients lives at risk.

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Campaign 2016

5. At Debate, Republican Health Care Claims Ring False

"The insurance companies are getting rich on Obamacare," Donald Trump said, while insurers say they are struggling under the Affordable Care Act. The Associated Press looks at this and other claims made by the candidates. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich may not tout his anti-abortion bona fides, but he has shuttered half of his state's clinics. And Hillary Clinton labels Marco Rubio's attacks on her abortion position as "pathetic."

The Associated Press: Fact Check: Skewed GOP Claims On Taxes, Health Insurance
Viewers of the latest Republican presidential debate didn't get a straight story from the candidates on U.S. taxes vs. the world, the state of the health insurance marketplace under "Obamacare" or what might happen if that law is taken away. ... "We will adopt commonsense reforms, No. 1, we'll allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines," [Ted Cruz said]. Allowing the interstate sale of health insurance policies is not a new idea, and not the straightforward solution that it may sound. This long-standing Republican proposal has previously run into opposition from regulators in many states. State insurance and consumer protection regulators say such an approach could trigger a "race to the bottom," allowing skimpy out-of-state policies to undercut benefits that individual states require. (2/6)

Reuters: Rubio Comes Under Heavy Fire At Republican Presidential Debate
Rising Republican contender Marco Rubio came under heavy attack in a presidential debate on Saturday from rivals who accused him of being too inexperienced for the White House and walking away from an immigration reform plan he championed. In a fiery debate three days ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump also battled with rival Jeb Bush over the use of eminent domain to seize private property and called for a compassionate approach to those who might lose their health insurance if Republicans repealed Obamacare. (2/6)

Politico: On Abortion, Kasich Is No Moderate
John Kasich is hoping for a candidacy-saving showing in New Hampshire on Tuesday by positioning himself as a pragmatic GOP budget-balancer, more moderate than his rivals. But on abortion, the Ohio governor is anything but moderate, signing a slew of restrictive laws that have closed nearly half his state’s clinics. During months of campaigning, Kasich has scarcely talked about that record, however, even though abortion is an issue that drives many Republican primary voters. “He’s the classic under-commit, over-perform guy,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. “Certainly on this issue, it’s hard to find a governor or anyone who has a better record.” (Haberkorn, 2/5)

CBS News: Hillary Clinton: Rubio's Abortion Attacks "Pathetic"
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Sunday that Marco Rubio's attacks on her beliefs about abortion are "pathetic." Rubio, the Florida senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said during Saturday night's GOP debate that Democrats are the "extremists" on abortion and that Clinton supports the procedure "even on the due date of that unborn child." (Kaplan, 2/7)

In other 2016 election news, emails reveal Hillary Clinton closely followed the Affordable Care Act when it was moving through Congress and Bernie Sanders pushes back against claims that his plans are too radical —

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton Lobbied On Health Care As Secretary Of State, Emails Show
On Christmas Eve in 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was awake before dawn to personally monitor a critical moment in the nation’s history. But Mrs. Clinton, the country’s top diplomat, was not observing a covert operation in the Middle East or tracking pivotal negotiations with a foreign power. Her television was tuned to C-Span, and she was watching the Senate vote on President Obama’s landmark health care law. Emails released last week by the State Department that were found on Mrs. Clinton’s private server show that she was keenly interested in the administration’s push to win passage of the health care law. (Herszenhorn, 2/5)

The Washington Post: At N.H. Rally, Sanders Says His Ideas Aren’t As ‘Radical’ As Clinton Camp Suggests
Appearing at a boisterous rally here, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday repeatedly pushed back against claims that his agenda is too ambitious and that he lacks the chops to be commander in chief. ...Turning to his plan to move to a single-payer, “Medicare for all” health-care system, Sanders was equally dismissive of concerns that Clinton has raised about a new congressional battle that would be necessary to replace the Affordable Care Act championed by President Obama. “For the benefit of my critics, let me say it as loudly and clearly as I can: Health care is a right, not a privilege,” Sanders said, noting that 29 million Americans remain without health insurance. (Wagner, 2/7)

The Associated Press: Sanders Campaign Plans Clash With Political Realities
Bernie Sanders promises voters a "political revolution" that will fundamentally remake the American economy and its education and health care systems. Often left unsaid by Sanders, but increasingly at the center of Hillary Clinton's arguments against her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, is that the political reality of achieving such goals is likely to be a whole lot more complicated. ... Clinton's advisers often point out how difficult it was for President Barack Obama to convince a Democratic-led Congress to support the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Sanders' plan — called "Medicare for All" — would go significantly further by establishing a national health care system run entirely by the government. (2/7)

And The New York Times looks at Sanders' response to reports of trouble at the VA —

The New York Times: Faith In Agency Clouded Bernie Sanders’s V.A. Response
There were reports of secret waiting lists to hide long delays in care. Whistle-blowers said as many as 40 veterans had died waiting for appointments. And Congress was demanding answers. Despite mounting evidence of trouble at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Senator Bernie Sanders, then the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, initially regarded the complaints as overblown, and as a play by conservatives to weaken one of the country’s largest social welfare institutions. (Eder and Philipps, 2/6)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Burwell Touts Enrollment Gains, Expects More Progress On Medicaid Expansion

In a meeting with reporters, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services says her agency's efforts to get 4 million new customers into the health law's insurance exchanges were a success.

USA Today: Medicaid Across U.S. A Matter Of When, Not If, Says Federal Health Chief
The 4 million new people who signed up for insurance on the federal HealthCare.gov exchange for 2016 are one of several signs the open enrollment period that ended Sunday was a success, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Friday. As further evidence of the administration's successes, Burwell also pointed to her continued discussions with states considering expanding Medicaid to all of those earning too little to get subsidized ACA plans. (O'Donnell, 2/6)

Kaiser Health News: Burwell Says ‘Beat Goes On’ As HHS Seeks To Expand Health Law’s Influence
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell on Friday hailed the health law’s 2016 enrollment gains and said the department was already beginning to gear up for the next enrollment period. In addition to the health law, Burwell’s agency is juggling many other priorities these days, including coordinating her agency’s response to the emerging threat of the Zika virus, President Barack Obama’s “Moonshot on Cancer” initiative and the growing epidemic of opioid abuse. “The beat goes on,” she said during a briefing with reporters at HHS headquarters. (Carey, 2/5)

The Hill: HHS Head: Immigration Reform Would Help Reach Universal Health Coverage
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell says immigration reform would help achieve universal health coverage. Asked about the further steps needed to achieve universal coverage, with roughly 30 million people remaining uninsured, Burwell told a roundtable of reporters Friday that immigration reform is one step, along with continued growth in ObamaCare’s marketplaces and Medicaid expansion. (Sullivan, 2/5)

7. New Study Finds Delay In Considering Medicaid Expansion Could Be Costly For Idaho

An actuarial study examines how the financial case for expanding the health law's program for low-income residents has changed as federal financial support declines slightly. Also, Medicaid expansion news from Alabama and Utah.

Twin Falls (Idaho) Times-News: Idaho’s Wait Erodes Projected Savings From Expanding Medicaid
Beyond the arguments for enacting fair, compassionate public policy, the financial case for expanding Medicaid in Idaho has been lower costs. In late 2014, an actuarial firm hired by the state put the 10-year savings of expansion to state and local governments at $173.4 million. But in the firm’s latest projections, issued last month, those projected savings have evaporated, and what were savings are now costs: $186.9 million. The dramatic $360 million swing comes largely due to the state thus far forgoing expansion and missing out on the early years of the program, which promised the largest savings. (Dentzer, 2/7)

Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser: Medicaid Expansion Missing From Bentley's Proposals
Gov. Robert Bentley brought many proposals to improve health care access at the State of the State Tuesday. But one program seemed conspicuous by its absence. Despite a recent recommendation from one of his task forces to put it in place, Bentley did not mention Medicaid expansion in the hourlong speech. The governor in an interview Monday appeared to rule out expansion in the short-term without shutting the door on it. Bentley said for now, he wanted to complete the implementation of Regional Care Organizations (RCOs). The RCOs aim to shift Medicaid delivery from a fee-for-service model to one that allocates money based on health care outcomes. The hope is that the move will encourage more preventive care and less hospital use, slowing the growth of costs in the program. (Lyman, 2/6)