Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Literally?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Literally?'" by Mike s.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Enlighten people
To take good care of themselves
Insurance deadlines.

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Campaign 2016

4. Rubio Takes Swing At Trump Over Health Care: 'You Don't Have A Plan'

In the 10th Republican debate -- one of the most contentious as the candidates eye Super Tuesday -- Marco Rubio called out the lack of details in Donald Trump's health proposals, while the frontrunner again defended some of Planned Parenthood's work.

The New York Times: Republican Debate Takeaways: Descent Into A Free-For-All
It was the messiest and most confrontational debate of the Republican presidential primary, repeatedly descending into free-for-alls of cross talk and name-calling. ... Challenged on health care, Mr. Trump reiterated a vague set of promises to replace the Affordable Care Act by making “many plans” available to consumers. (Burns, 2/26)

Politico: 11 Most Interesting Moments Of The GOP Debate
Trump said he would defund the women's health organization because he's anti-abortion, but he also lavished praise. "I'm totally against abortion having to do with Planned Parenthood, but millions and millions of women, cervical cancer, breast cancer, are helped by Planned Parenthood," Trump said. "So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood, that are helped greatly." ... Challenging each other on insurance proposals, Trump bragged that his would have “many different plans” before reiterating it would have “so many different plans” and adding it would have “many, many different plans.” He also repeatedly emphasized that the federal government should have gotten rid of “the lines around each state” to create more competition. “Now he’s repeating himself,” Rubio jeered. (McCaskill, 2/25)

CBS News: In 10th GOP Debate, Marco Rubio Steps Up To The Plate Against Donald Trump
Armed with the opposition research that's been lacking in the previous nine debates, Marco Rubio in Thursday night's debate came ready to take the strongest swings he could muster at Republican front runner Donald Trump. Rubio attacked Trump from every angle, charging that he's a fraudulent businessman who hires illegal immigrants. He slammed the businessman's limited plan for replacing Obamacare. And he questioned the front-runner's wisdom on foreign policy matters. (Condon, 2/26)

Modern Healthcare: Rubio Attacks Trump For Vague Healthcare Plan
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio challenged Donald Trump at a Republican presidential debate Thursday to give more details about what he would put in place of the Affordable Care Act, but the front-running businessman said only that he would allow people to buy health insurance across state lines. “What is your plan on healthcare? You don't have a plan,” said Rubio, who advocated allowing employers to give their workers tax free funds to buy health savings accounts or private insurance. Others would be able to buy coverage with a refundable tax credit, Rubio said. (Muchmore, 2/25)

The Hill: Trump: Planned Parenthood Helps 'Millions Of Women'
Donald Trump stood firm in his defense of Planned Parenthood services other than abortion during Thursday night's CNN Republican debate. "I am pro-life, I am totally against abortion having to do with Planned Parenthood, but millions and millions of women, [with] cervical cancer, breast cancer, are helped by Planned Parenthood," Trump said at the Houston event in the face of criticism from his rivals. (Kamisar, 2/25)

The Associated Press: Fact Check: Trump Objects To Cursing
A look at statements in the debate and how they compare with the facts. "It is a health care law that is basically forcing companies to lay people off, cut people's hours, move people to part-time. It is not just a bad health care law, it is a job-killing law," [Marco Rubio said]. The claim that Obama's health care law is a job killer is hard to square with the fact that the economy has added more than 13.4 million jobs since the law took effect. The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9 percent from 9.9. percent since Obama signed the act. Nor is there evidence that workers are being moved en masse to part-time hours. (2/26)

Meanwhile, The New York Times looks at Gov. John Kasich's strategy of hope, and Sen. Ted Cruz lifts his hold on a bill to give emergency aid to Flint, Michigan —

The New York Times: Amid Gloomy Rhetoric, John Kasich Sticks With Optimism
It’s not Mr. Kasich’s policies that distinguish him from the field. He’s an anti-abortion social conservative who signed a law this week in Ohio barring state contracts with Planned Parenthood. Mr. Kasich’s more potent distinction, his strategists believe, is his optimism. ... Mr. Kasich defends his decision to expand Medicaid under Mr. Obama’s health law, apostasy to Republican rivals, as a hand up to the drug-addicted and mentally ill that saves money. “I think my candidacy represents hope to people,” he said. (Harwood, 2/25)

The Associated Press: Cruz Lifts Hold On Bill To Resolve Flint Water Crisis
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Thursday lifted a hold he placed on bipartisan legislation to address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where lead-contaminated pipes have resulted in an ongoing public health emergency. Senators had reached a tentative deal a day earlier for a $220 million package to fix and replace the city's lead-contaminated pipes, make other infrastructure improvements and bolster lead-prevention programs nationwide. (Daly, 2/25)

Administration News

5. Obama: Precision Medicine Initiative Laying Groundwork For Future Breakthroughs

The president, while speaking Thursday at his precision medicine summit, also delved into the tricky question of who owns a patient's genetic data.

STAT: On Precision Medicine, Obama Is Playing The Long Game
President Obama had one major challenge at his precision medicine summit on Thursday: avoid getting bogged down in jargon. Instead he kept his eyes on the horizon, focusing on the benefits he envisions 10 years from now if precision medicine moves forward: better, more effective medical treatments tailored to individuals, and eventually lower costs because there will be less spending on treatments that don’t work. (Nather, 2/25)

The New York Times: President Weighs In On Data From Genes
President Obama on Thursday waded into the complex and high-stakes debate over whether patients own their genetic information, saying that he believes that his tissues and any discoveries that stem from his DNA belong to him. “I would like to think that if somebody does a test on me or my genes, that that’s mine, but that’s not always how we define these issues,” Mr. Obama said during a White House forum on a major biomedical research initiative he began last year. The president said that the success of his Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to collect genetic data on one million American volunteers so scientists can develop drugs and treatments tailored to individual patients, hinged at least in part on “understanding who owns the data.” (Hirschfeld Davis, 2/25)

Also at the summit, the National Institutes of Health announced its next steps in its goal toward getting 1 million research patients by the end of 2019 —

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. ‘Precision Medicine’ Study Seeks Genetic Patterns Of Disease
The National Institutes of Health said on Thursday it hopes to enroll 79,000 volunteers by the end of 2016 toward what it hopes will be a one-million-patient “precision medicine” study of the genetic causes of diseases. The NIH and the White House launched the $215 million precision medicine initiative a year ago as an effort to find genetic patterns of cancer and other diseases. The centerpiece of that initiative is the one-million person cohort by the end of 2019, and the NIH said it has awarded an initial grant to Vanderbilt University to explore the best way to recruit volunteers for the study. (Burton, 2/25)

The Associated Press: NIH Taking First Steps On Huge Precision Medicine Project
“For most of history, medicine has been based on trying to identify what works for the average person. We’re all different. This one-size-fits-all approach is far from optimal,” Dr. Francis Collins, NIH’s director, told reporters. The goal is to “empower any person, anywhere in the U.S., to raise their hand and volunteer to participate” in what’s called the PMI Cohort Program, he said. NIH said is it providing funding to Vanderbilt University for a pilot project to learn how best to attract those volunteers, how to collect the data, and what findings about their own health participants want in return. Vanderbilt will work in collaboration with advisers from Verily, formerly Google Life Sciences. (Neergaard, 2/25)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. GOP Lawmakers Press CMS On Future Of Eight Co-Ops

At a contentious House committee hearing, Republicans question the viability of the health cooperatives. Also in health care news are a study on efforts to prevent hospital readmissions, a new rule on health care providers with troubled histories, an insurer's restrictions on brokers' payments and enrollment gains.

The Wall Street Journal: Republicans Question Viability Of Health Co-Ops
Republican lawmakers on Thursday expressed concern that eight health cooperatives set up under the Affordable Care Act have been put on some type of enhanced oversight or correction plan, saying the situation raises questions about their long-term viability. Some lawmakers questioned whether the co-ops help keep the price of health-insurance premiums in check by providing competition with large insurers. And they lambasted the Obama administration for awarding federal loans to co-ops that failed. (Armour, 2/25)

Modern Healthcare: Congress Grills CMS Over Fate Of ACA'S Remaining Co-Ops
The CMS is closely monitoring the finances of eight of the remaining 11 not-for-profit co-ops created by the Affordable Care Act. House Republicans used the uncertain fate of the insurers as a punching bag for the law during a hearing Thursday. ... Republican lawmakers, who have not voted on or proposed an alternative to the ACA, were concerned the remaining co-ops would close and thereby waste taxpayer money. The CMS issued approximately $2.5 billion in loans to the startup insurers, which amounts to a nominal percentage of the overall HHS budget. Some Republicans said the loans are “propping up Obamacare” when there's no certainty the remaining insurers will be solvent in the future. (Herman, 2/25)