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KHN First Edition: February 3, 2016


First Edition

Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Kaiser Health News is now producing California Healthline, with the goal of bringing you the best coverage of health policy news in California. Click here to learn more about the site and its staff. If you would like to receive the free California Healthline daily or weekly emails, you can adjust your email preferences here.

Kaiser Health News: Head Of California Exchange Scolds UnitedHealth For Blaming Woes On Obamacare
Kaiser Health News' Chad Terhune reports: "Amid growing questions over the future of insurance exchanges, the head of California’s marketplace said the nation’s largest health insurer should take responsibility for nearly $1 billion in losses and stop blaming the federal health law. In a blistering critique, Covered California’s executive director, Lee, said UnitedHealth Group Inc. made a series of blunders on rates and networks that led to a $475 million loss last year on individual policies across the country. The company estimates a similar exchange-related loss of $500 million for this year. “Instead of saying we screwed up, they said Obamacare is the problem and we may not play any more,” Lee said." (Terhune, 2/3)

Kaiser Health News: Buying Supplemental Insurance Can Be Hard For Younger Medicare Beneficiaries
Susan Jaffe, for Kaiser Health News, writes: "Almost one in four Medicare beneficiaries has a policy known as Medigap, which is sold by private insurance companies.Federal law requires companies to sell Medigap plans to any Medicare beneficiary aged 65 or older within six months of signing up for Part B. If they sign up during this guaranteed open enrollment, they cannot be charged higher premiums due to their medical conditions. But Congress left it to states to determine whether Medigap plans are sold to the more than 9 million people younger than 65 years old who qualify for Medicare because of a disability." (Jaffe, 2/3)

Kaiser Health News: Study Finds No Harm In Allowing Surgeons-In-Training To Work Longer Shifts
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Patients suffered no extra harm when doctors training to be surgeons were allowed to work longer shifts, a study released Tuesday concludes, adding to a push to relax the strictest limits on resident hours. The New England Journal of Medicine study comes as the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education is reassessing requirements that prevent residents from working extremely long stretches or back-to-back shifts." (Rau, 2/2)

Kaiser Health News: Surprise! Here’s Another Bill For That 'Paramedic Response'
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "After Katie Gurzi woke in the middle of the night with excruciating chest pains, paramedics rushed her to the hospital. That part went smoothly: Gurzi, 85, was pleased with the care she received. And doctors determined she wasn’t having a heart attack, just a spasm in her esophagus. But then, in January of 2015, the city of La Habra, California sent her a $260 bill for “paramedic response” — after her insurers had already been billed for the November ambulance ride. That made Gurzi mad." (Gorman, 2/3)

Kaiser Health News: Bosses Find Part-Time Workers Can Come With Full-Time Headaches
KQED's April Dembosky, in partnership with KHN and NPR, wrties: "Starting in 2016, the federal health law requires small employers to offer their full-time workers health insurance. In anticipation of the change, some fast-food restaurants looked to get around the law by making more workers part time. Now some owners are rethinking that approach." (Dembosky, 2/2)

The Associated Press: House GOP Fails Anew To Repeal Obama's Health Care Law
Republicans failed in their latest futile attempt Tuesday to kill President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, a Groundhog Day vote by the House that was solely an exercise in election-year political messaging. Tuesday's near party-line vote to override Obama's January veto of legislation gutting much of the law was 241-186, but that fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to reverse a veto. (2/2)

Reuters: House Fails To Knock Down Obama Veto Of Anti-Obamacare Bill
Republicans were anxious to show they had done everything they could to take down Obamacare, which they say has raised insurance costs and reduced health care choices. They said Tuesday that this was not the end of the story. "The end of Obamacare is coming," predicted Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. "When a Republican president takes office next year, we know we can get this passed ... Obamacare can be gone once and for all." (Cornwell, 2/2)

Politico: House Fails To Override Veto Of Obamacare Repeal
"Regardless of the outcome, we have now shown there is a clear path to full repeal without 60 votes in the Senate," Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday ahead of the vote. "It is also just one in a number of steps we’re taking to hold President Obama accountable for the failures of this law." Ryan has vowed that House Republicans will offer an Obamacare alternative this year — a promise that GOP leadership has made but failed to deliver on for six years since the law passed. (Ehley, 2/2)

The Washington Post: After Veto Vote On Obamacare Repeal, GOP Moves On To Another Budget Fight
House Republicans are moving on to a new round of budget fights after failing on Tuesday to overturn President Obama’s veto of legislation to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. ... Some hard-line Republicans are quietly complaining the new budget should jettison the increases agreed to in the two-year deal. In response, McCarthy and other House Republican leaders are discussing ways to again turn to the reconciliation process that set up the Obamacare repeal vote, allowing conservatives to vote on priorities like overhauling the tax code and reforming welfare policy as a consolation for spending hikes. (Snell, 2/2)

The New York Times: Obama And Paul Ryan Have Lunch, And Consider A Wary Truce
President Obama held a rare meeting Tuesday with the top Republicans in Congress to assess opportunities for compromise during his final year in office, even as the two sides continued partisan sniping that could undermine the prospect of serious legislative progress. ... In a statement about Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Ryan’s office said he had “in particular, expressed hope that progress can be made to reform our criminal justice and mental health systems.” (Shear and Herszenhorn, 2/2)

The New York Times: Obama Seeks More Than $1 Billion To Fight Opioid Abuse
The Obama administration said on Tuesday that it would ask Congress to spend an additional $1.1 billion next year to combat a growing epidemic of prescription painkiller and heroin abuse. Almost half of the new money would be used to expand treatment facilities, which are in short supply in much of the nation. (Harris, 2/2)

The Washington Post: White House Seeks Nearly $1.2 Billion For Drug Prevention, Treatment, Overdose Response
The centerpiece of the proposal is $1 billion in mandatory funding over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use, $920 million of which would go to the states. Another $500 million, some of which is a continuation of existing funds, would support work by the departments of Health and Human Services and Justice to expand not just treatment but access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, and support targeted enforcement activities. (Eilperin, 2/2)

USA Today: White House Proposes New Funding For Heroin, Prescription Opioid Abuse
President Obama will seek an extra $1.1 billion to pay for drug treatment for people addicted to opioid medications and heroin, which the White House says kills more people than automobile crashes, officials said Tuesday. This funding includes $920 million to support cooperative agreements with states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders [and] $50 million in National Health Service Corps funding to expand access to about 700 substance use treatment providers. (O'Donnell, 2/2)

The New York Times: Martin Shkreli All But Gloated Over Huge Drug Price Increases, Memos Show
Martin Shkreli anticipated huge profits from raising the price of a decades-old drug for an infectious disease, belying any notion that helping patients was foremost in his mind, according to information released by congressional investigators on Tuesday. The investigators also provided evidence showing that Valeant Pharmaceuticals International carefully pondered how much it could raise the price of two old heart drugs, Isuprel and Nitropress, before buying them a year ago and increasing their prices overnight, by 525 percent for Isuprel and 212 percent for Nitropress. (Pollack and Goldstein, 2/2)

The Associated Press: Congress: Drugmakers Planned Price Hikes To Boost Profits
Two drugmakers have made a practice of buying and then dramatically hiking the prices of low-cost drugs given to patients with life-threatening conditions including heart disease, AIDS and cancer, according to excerpts from thousands of documents released by federal lawmakers. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, released the information Tuesday ahead of a hearing Thursday to examine exorbitant price spikes. Cummings has used his position atop the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate several companies that have bought previously low-cost drugs and jacked up their prices many times over. (2/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant, Turing Boosted Drug Prices To Fuel Preset Profits
Drugmakers Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and Turing Pharmaceuticals AG boosted the prices of newly acquired drugs to meet preset profit targets, congressional investigators wrote in memos that summarized internal company documents they obtained. The price increases by Valeant and Turing spurred public outrage and prompted congressional investigations. Executives from both companies are expected to testify Thursday at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Armour and Rockoff, 2/2)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: How Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli Described His Own Drug Price Hike: ‘Almost All Of It Is Profit.’
In late May of last year, Turing Pharmaceuticals, then a little-known drug company, was nearing a deal to acquire Daraprim, a 62-year-old drug that fights a rare but severe parasitic infection. "Very good. Nice work as usual," the company's young chief executive, Martin Shkreli, wrote to the chairman of the board. "$1 bn here we come." In August, he wrote to someone outside the company that hiking the price of the drug would bring in $375 million a year — "almost all of it is profit," which he predicted would continue for three years. (Johnson, 2/2)

NPR: A Peek Inside Turing Pharmaceuticals: 'Another $7.2 Million. Pow!'
The House Committee on Oversight and Investigations is looking into Turing and other drug companies' price increases. [A] memo, released Tuesday, includes excerpts from the company's internal documents and emails. ... The company thought it could handle blowback from AIDS activists and doctors: "HIV patient advocacy may react to price increase ... we still come out ahead if we can frame this issue within the HIV/AIDS community as a fight between a drug company and insurance companies. As long as everyone who needs Daraprim can get it as soon as they need it, regardless of ability to pay, the community should have no issue. There is no love lost between HIV/AIDS activists and insurance companies, and they certainly don't want to be manipulated by them to fight on their behalf." (Kodjak, 2/2)

The Associated Press: Gilead Sciences Beats 4th-Quarter Forecasts On Higher Sales
Gilead Sciences Inc. posted a 34 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit, trouncing Wall Street expectations, as sales of its blockbuster hepatitis C drugs soared in Japan and offset lower sales in the U.S. The maker of Harvoni, the first once-daily, single-pill regimen for hepatitis C, and predecessor drug Sovaldi, has been propelled by the lucrative franchise since Sovaldi was launched at the end of 2013. They’re the main reason the company’s revenue has tripled in just two years, a rare accomplishment in the industry. (Johnson, 2/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Industry Starts Race To Develop Zika Vaccine
Drug companies are beginning early-stage research to develop a new vaccine against the rapidly spreading Zika virus, joining the race to control an outbreak that the World Health Organization said constitutes a global public-health emergency. It might be years, however, before any vaccine reaches the market, meaning the new wave of research is unlikely to help curb the current outbreak. (Bisserbe and McKay, 2/2)

The New York Times: Zika Infection Transmitted By Sex Reported In Texas
A case of Zika virus infection transmitted by sex, rather than mosquito bite, was discovered in Texas on Tuesday, a development sure to complicate plans to contain a global epidemic. The Dallas County Health and Human Services Department reported that a patient with the Zika virus was infected after having sex with someone who had returned from Venezuela, where Zika is circulating. (McNeil Jr. and Tavernise, 2/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Bernie Sanders’s Tax Increases Fall Short Of Paying For Health Plan, Analysis Finds
Bernie Sanders‘s plan to pay for government-provided health care falls more than $3 trillion short of his campaign’s estimates, according to a budget watchdog group. The plan, which includes new taxes on employers, new income taxes on all Americans and steeply higher tax rates on high-income households, would raise about $10.7 trillion over the next decade, not the $13.9 trillion the campaign projected, according a report being released Wednesday by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan group. (Rubin, 2/2)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Ted Cruz Resurrects A Very Stale Obamacare Claim
“President Obama told the American people that under Obamacare the average family’s premium would drop $2,500. In fact, the average family’s premiums have risen $3,000. Now, Chris [Wallace], if you’re a single mom, if you’re struggling to feed your kids, $5,500, that is real money that you can’t provide for your family.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), [said in an] interview on Fox News. A version of this claim was first made in the 2012 campaign. And yet it keeps popping up, presumably because it sounds like such a delicious talking point. But four years later, it still isn’t right. So, once again, here’s why this is nonsense math. (Kessler, 2/3)

The Associated Press: Mom Seeks Medical Expenses For Child With Cystic Fibrosis
A Montana mother is suing her health care providers because they failed to diagnose her unborn daughter's cystic fibrosis, denying her a chance to have an abortion. Kerrie Evans of Gardiner is seeking nearly $14.5 million in damages from Park Clinic in Livingston, Billings Clinic's Bozeman OB/GYN, nurse practitioner Peggy Scanson and Dr. William s — including $10 million for her daughter's medical and psychological care. The girl, nearly 6, has a severe form of cystic fibrosis and one medication needed to treat it costs up to $300,000 a year, court records said. (2/3)

The Associated Press: Kentucky Governor Signs Abortion Bill As Soon As It Arrives
It was quick, albeit unorthodox, when Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed an abortion-related bill into law Tuesday after a delegation of lawmakers presented it to him in his Capitol office. The measure updates the state’s informed consent law requiring women seeking abortions be told of medical risks and benefits at least 24 hours beforehand. The bill’s supporters say some doctors circumvented the requirement by having patients listen to a recorded message on the phone with no interaction. (Schreiner, 2/2)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2016 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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