Kaiser Health News Original Stories

5. Political Cartoon: 'Through The Hoop'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Through The Hoop'" by Ann Telnaes.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

A SAFE PLACE TO BE HIGH

For Boston's homeless
Conferencing hits high note,
And new agenda.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Obama Announces Health Law Enrollment Hits 20 Million

The president travels to Milwaukee to congratulate the city for winning a contest on insurance enrollment, and he touts the health law's success in bringing coverage to millions of people.

The New York Times: Obama Says Enrollment In Affordable Care Act Reaches 20 Million
President Obama said on Thursday that enrollment in health coverage under the Affordable Care Act had reached a new high, 20 million, and he called the law an overwhelming success in [Milwaukee] and around the nation despite Republicans’ implacable opposition. “Congressional Republicans have tried and failed to repeal Obamacare about 60 times,” Mr. Obama said to an audience [in Milwaukee]. “They have told you what they would replace it with about zero times.” He continued, his voice rising: “If they got their way, 20 million people would have their insurance taken away from them. Twenty million people!” (Harris, 3/3)

The Washington Post: Obama: 20 Million People Gain Coverage Under 2010 Health Law
The administration described the drop in uninsured numbers as “historic.” In a statement, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of health and human services, said, “We have seen progress in the last six years that the country has sought for generations.” The new findings show that more than 6 million adults ages 19 to 25 have gained insurance under the law. Gains in coverage among previously uninsured adults were strong across all racial and ethnic groups, according to the report. (McGinley, 3/3)

The Associated Press: Obama Cites Gains In Health Coverage During Milwaukee Visit
Congratulating local leaders in Wisconsin for winning a national health insurance enrollment contest, Obama acknowledged that millions more are eligible to enroll but have yet to do so. He attributed some of that to acrimony over the law, saying people haven't always known what's true and what's not. Obama was introduced at the event by Brent Brown of Mosinee, Wisconsin, who said he's a Republican who never voted to elect Obama and worked to ensure he would not be president. But he said the health care law saved his life after he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and ran out of money for treatment. Brown called on Republicans to quit trying to repeal the law. "Swallow your pride as I am doing right now," he said. (Freking, 3/3)

Medicare

7. HHS Says It Hit Goal Ahead Of Schedule For Tying Medicare Payments To Quality

The Obama administration had expected to reach the 30 percent goal at the end of this year. The changes in how doctors and hospitals are paid is part of an effort to get away from reimbursements based on quantity of services.

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Administration Hits Medicare Payment Target Early
Obama administration officials said Thursday they were almost a year ahead of their target to change the way Medicare pays hundreds of billions of dollars to providers for treating older Americans. The Department of Health and Human Services had wanted the federal insurance program for seniors to make 30% of its payments to doctors and hospitals on the basis of the quality of care they provide, rather than the quantity, by the end of 2016. That was seen as a step toward hitting 50% by 2018, beyond the lifespan of the Obama administration. (Radnofsky, 3/3)

The Hill: Obama Administration Beats Goal On Medicare Payment Reform
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Thursday it reached its goal of tying 30 percent of Medicare payments to value, instead of volume, with 10 months left in 2016. ... The 30 percent commitment, which was laid out last year, marks the most dramatic shift in Medicare payments in the program’s 50-year history. It’s also the first time the Obama administration — or any administration — has set a target on value-based payments. Instead of simply paying doctors for services, CMS now encourages public and private sector healthcare providers to base their payments on quality measures, such as patient outcome and access to care. (Ferris, 3/3)

Campaign 2016

8. At Debate, Trump Pressed On Plan To Allow Medicare To Negotiate Drug Prices

The front-runner for the Republican nomination was asked how he would save $300 million by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug costs when the program only spent $78 million on them in 2014. The Washington Post and The Associated Press fact check his claims.

The Washington Post: Trump Was Center Of Attention And Attacks In GOP Debate
Billionaire Donald Trump entered Thursday night’s GOP debate as the race’s front-runner – but he spent much of the night on the defensive, struggling to explain his positions to skeptical moderators, arguing with his rivals, even trying to drown out their arguments with shouted insults. “I won 10 states,” Trump said at one point, reasserting his dominance on a night when it seemed to be under assault. “I am by far the leader!” ... Moderator Chris Wallace had one of most powerful moments of the early going, pressing Trump to explain a claim that he would save $300 billion from Medicare drug purchases, when the U.S. only spends $78 billion total on Medicare drug purchases. Trump seemed to dodge the question, despite Wallace’s repeated efforts to pin him down. (Fahrenthold, 3/3)

The Washington Post: Fact-Checking The 11th GOP Debate
Fox News aired the 11th GOP presidential debate on March 3, a prime-time event starring the four remaining aspirants for the Republican nomination. Not every candidate uttered statements that are easily fact checked, but the following is a list of 14 suspicious or interesting claims. ... “I’m not only talking about drugs, I’m talking about other things. We will save $300 billion a year if we properly negotiate. We don’t do that. We don’t negotiate. We don’t negotiate anything," Trump said. This is the first time that Trump has said that his repeated claim that he would save $300 billion on prescription drugs in Medicare actually was supposed to mean negotiating for a range of products in the Medicare system. As we have noted previously, his earlier statements made no sense because total spending in Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) in 2014 was $78 billion. But the $300 billion pledge doesn’t make much sense either. Projected Medicare spending in 2016 is $560 billion, so Trump unrealistically is claiming he will cut spending nearly 55 percent. (Kessler and Lee, 3/4)

The Associated Press Fact Check: Claims From The GOP Debate
"Because of the fact that the pharmaceutical companies are not mandated to bid properly, they have hundreds of billions of dollars in waste," [Donald Trump said at Thursday's debate]. This relates to Trump's unachievable promise to save $300 billion by allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. That's impossible because the entire country — Medicare, private insurance, individuals and other government programs — spends about $300 billion on drugs ($297.7 billion in 2014). Trump's promise could only be fulfilled, in essence, if drugs were free. (3/3)

9. Trump Plan Sticks To Pillars Of Conservative Health Policy

One of the few areas where GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump deviates from Republican mainstays in his health care proposal is his call to allow for drugs to be imported to cut down on costs.

NPR: Trump Health Plan Recycles GOP Staples And Adds A Populist Wrinkle
Republican front-runner Donald Trump released a seven-point plan to change the country’s health care system that includes several familiar GOP proposals and one that puts him in agreement with, believe it or not, Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders. Right off the bat, Trump calls for the elimination of the Affordable Care Act, ringing the repeal bell that has been popular among a wide swath of Republicans and that has fueled dozens of votes to overturn Obamacare in Congress, including another failed attempt when lawmakers reconvened first thing in January. (Hensley, 3/3)

STAT: Donald Trump's Health Plan Included Just One Number. Here's What's Wrong With It.
When Donald Trump put out his health care plan late Wednesday, he mentioned just one number: $11 billion. He claims that’s the annual cost of providing health care to undocumented immigrants — and an opportunity for big savings, if those here illegally could just be deported or prevented from coming to the United States in the first place. But experts say that’s nonsense. (Robbins, 3/3)

Los Angeles Times: Trump Promised A 'Beautiful' Healthcare Plan, But It's Pretty B
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