Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Bill Of Rights'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Bill Of Rights'" by Harley Schwadron.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

DOOM AND GLOOM ... OR REASON FOR ACTION?

The zika virus ...
And impending doom worldwide.
Catalyst for change?

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. Investigators Find HHS Officials Missed Warnings About Healthcare.gov's Early Troubles

The Washington Post reports that 18 written warnings that the online insurance marketplace was off course were overlooked. Meanwhile, Connect For Health Colorado, the state's health exchange, is contemplating shifting some operations to its federal counterpart, and many Connecticut residents who signed up for coverage missed their first payments.

The Washington Post: HHS Failed To Heed Many Warnings That HealthCare.gov Was In Trouble
During the two years before the disastrous opening of HealthCare.gov, federal officials in charge of creating the online insurance marketplace received 18 written warnings that the mammoth project was mismanaged and off course but never considered postponing its launch, according to government investigators. The warnings included a series of 11 scathing reviews from an outside consultant — among them a top-10 list of risks drawn up in the spring of 2013 that cited inadequate planning for the website’s capacity and deviations from usual IT standards. ... The long trail of unheeded warnings is among the findings from an exhaustive two-year inquiry by HHS’s Office of Inspector General into the failings of HealthCare.gov, which crashed within two hours of its launch on Oct. 1, 2013. (Goldstein, 2/23)

The Denver Post: Connect For Health Colorado Considers Whether To Ask Feds For Help
Connect for Health Colorado board members met Monday to consider whether the health insurance exchange will remain independent or shift some operations to its federal counterpart. Out of concern for the exchange's long-term stability, state legislators requested the committee develop alternatives to remaining a stand-alone operation. (Munio, 2/22)

The Connecticut Mirror: About 8,000 CT Exchange Customers Didn’t Pay First Bill
About 8,000 people who signed up for coverage through the Connecticut’s health insurance exchange missed the deadline for their first payment and lost coverage, exchange CEO Jim Wadleigh said Monday. “This number is bigger than we were anticipating,” Wadleigh said. Just over 116,000 people signed up for private insurance through Access Health CT, the state’s exchange, during the open enrollment period that ended Jan. 31. (Levin Becker, 2/22)

5. As First Blush Of Health Law Fades, Hospitals' Profits Drop Back To Modest

Hospitals at first were seeing more new patients because of the Affordable Care Act, but now, with debt from large mergers climbing and the rise of high-deductible plans, some think hospitals have been "left holding the bag." But one health system in Wisconsin credits the health law for an increase in its profits.

Marketplace: Hospitals See Modest Profits After Obamacare Binge
Life was really good in the for-profit hospital world after the Affordable Care Act became law. Hospitals made money from waves of new patients insured under the ACA, but now the wave is receding. Tenet Healthcare will become the latest in the sector to report earnings, Monday afternoon. (Marshall-Genzer, 2/22)

6. Wyoming Senate OKs Medicaid Expansion Alternative

In addition, a coalition of police agencies and health care providers in Maine is again pushing to expand the health insurance program for low-income people. This time, they are linking their plan to efforts to combat the heroin crisis.

The Associated Press: Compromise Plan Seeks To Expand Medicaid In Maine
A coalition of police agencies and medical providers is backing another attempt to expand Medicaid coverage in Maine, this time with a compromise measure tied to the heroin crisis.The coalition on Tuesday will release details of a proposal that would give 70,000 low-income people the option of getting health insurance through a program that uses a combination of Medicaid and private health insurance. (2/22)

Meanwhile, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says he won't lobby for more Medicaid expansion funds even though the Obama administration thought he might —

Indianapolis Star: Gov. Mike Pence Says He Won't Seek Extra Medicaid Money
Perhaps the Obama administration should have checked with Gov. Mike Pence before telling reporters the Indiana Republican plans to lobby for more Medicaid dollars from Washington. The White House has proposed giving states that expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act a full three-years of 100 percent federal funding, no matter when the expansion starts. ... Pence said he won’t be asking for the extra money. But if Congress does approve more resources, Pence said, “obviously the state of Indiana will take advantage of those.” (Groppe, 2/22)

Capitol Hill Watch

7. Senate Clears Path To Confirm FDA Nominee

Some Democrats had held up the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf to head the Food and Drug Administration in an effort to push the FDA to take a harder line on prescription drug prices and the abuse of opioid painkillers.

The Associated Press: Senate Clears Way For Approval Of New FDA Commissioner
The Senate has cleared the way for approval of President Barack Obama’s nominee for commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Senators voted 80-6 Monday to end a Democratic filibuster of Obama’s pick to head the agency. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Ed Markey of Massachusetts had held up the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf in an effort to force the agency to be tougher on prescription drug prices and the abuse of opioid painkillers. (Jalonick, 2/22)

Meanwhile, lead-poisoning prevention legislation is getting attention from national and state lawmakers —

The Associated Press: US Senators Propose Tax Credits To Clean Up Lead In Homes
A bill first proposed by Hillary Clinton to help homeowners clean up lead hazards that can poison children is getting new life after the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan. Two Democratic U.S. senators — Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, and Charles Schumer, of New York — plan to introduce a bill in Congress this week that would give federal tax credits of up to $3,000 to homeowners or landlords who eliminate lead dangers found in old paint and pipes. (O'Brien, 2/22)

The Associated Press: Congressional Democrats Join New Jersey's Debate On Lead
For weeks, Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey's statehouse have claimed that Republican Gov. Chris Christie is spending too little on lead poisoning prevention. On Monday, one of New Jersey's Democratic Congressman appears to have joined that fight. In a letter to the state's health department, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone asked for a full accounting of federal funds that are available to New Jersey to combat lead poisoning. (Finley, 2/22)

In other news —

St. Louis Public Radio: Sen. Claire McCaskill Announces She Has Breast Cancer
“I very recently learned that I have breast cancer,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., announced in a statement on Monday. In a note on her Tumblr page, McCaskill, 62, wrote that her prognosis is good and that she expects a full recovery. The cancer was detected during a routine mammogram, and McCaskill said she will be in St. Louis for three weeks to receive treatment. (Bouscaren, 2/22)

Campaign 2016

8. For Clinton And Sanders, Health Care Policies Are Emerging As 'Wedge' Issue

For Democrats, health care policies -- including buzz words such as "universal coverage" or the "public option" -- are proving to be a divisive issue this election season. Meanwhile, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius endorses Hillary Clinton.

The Associated Press: Health Care Issue, Longtime Uniter Of Democrats, Now Divides
Health care for all. It's a goal that tugs at the heartstrings of Democrats, but pursuing it usually invites political peril. Now Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are clashing over this core question for liberals, making it a wedge issue in the party's presidential primary. It's a choice between his conviction that a government-run system would be fairer and more affordable, and her preference for step-by-step change at a time of widespread skepticism about federal power. (2/22)

NPR: Sanders Health Plan Renews Debate On Universal Coverage
When Vermont Sen. Bernie Sa
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