Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Chain Reaction'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Chain Reaction'" by Adrian Raeside.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Abortion challenge
At the Supreme Court takes twists,
With different tacks.

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Campaign 2016

4. Clinton, Sanders Unite Over Flint Water Crisis At Debate

During the seventh Democratic debate, which was held in Flint, Mich., the candidates' focus turned to the city's public health crisis, with Hillary Clinton joining Bernie Sanders' call for Gov. Rick Snyder to resign or to face a recall election.

The New York Times: In Democratic Debate, Bernie Sanders Pushes Hillary Clinton On Trade And Jobs
Senator Bernie Sanders, anxious that the Democratic nomination is slipping away from him, launched a series of cutting and sarcastic attacks against Hillary Clinton over trade, welfare reform and Wall Street in a debate Sunday night that often felt like a war over Bill Clinton’s legacy and the moderate Democratic policies of the 1990s. ... The focus on the economic fortunes of African-Americans had a powerful setting in Sunday’s debate: Flint, a city in the midst of a public health emergency over lead-tainted water, and a symbol of a middle class that rose to prosperity with the auto industry, but where 42 percent of the majority African-American population now lives below the poverty line. ... Mr. Sanders struck some more aggressive notes on Flint than he had in the past, embracing Mrs. Clinton’s call to have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluate the health of every adult and child in the city. “Federal government comes in, federal government acts,” Mr. Sanders said. (Chozick and Healy, 3/6)

USA Today: Sanders, Clinton Take On Flint Water Crisis In Democratic Debate
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tangled over trade, guns, the auto industry and the water crisis in Flint, Mich., on Sunday in their seventh Democratic presidential debate. ... The candidates came together in a city struggling for the past two years with lead-polluted water that city, state and federal officials recognized and overlooked. The two Democrats both visited Flint in recent weeks to call attention to the water crisis, criticize local officials and vow assistance. On Sunday night, Clinton for the first time joined Sanders in calling for Gov. Rick Snyder to resign or face a recall election. “It is raining lead in Flint, and the state is derelict in not coming forward with the money that is required,” Clinton said. (Wolf, 3/6)

CNN: Bernie Sanders Says His Policies Aren't 'Fantasy'
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders defended his policy proposals Sunday, saying that "this is not fantasy -- this is reality" in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union." The Vermont senator cited other nations as models: Canada, the United Kingdom and France for his Medicare-for-all health insurance proposal and Germany and Scandanavia -- a region that typically includes Norway, Sweden and Denmark -- for free public college tuition. (Bradner, 3/6)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Fact Checking The Seventh Democratic Debate
CNN aired the seventh Democratic presidential debate on March 6, a pre-Michigan primary showdown between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont held in the city of Flint. Not every statement could be easily fact-checked, but here are 13 suspicious or interesting claims. ... “Five hundred thousand children today have lead in their bodies," [Hillary Clinton said]. Clinton is citing data available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data come from 2014, but the CDC continues to use the estimate for blood lead levels in children today. According to the CDC, about 500,000 children in the United States aged 1 to 5 years old have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. CDC considers this amount of lead a level of potential public health concern. (Kessler and Ye Hee Lee, 3/6)

Meanwhile, advocacy groups are calling out Sanders for "ableism," saying he belittled mental health patients with his joke about the Republican debates  —

The Washington Post: Mental Health Patients To Bernie Sanders: Don’t Compare Us To The GOP Candidates
Mental health was mentioned twice during Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate. First, in connection to mass shootings. “I don’t want to hear anything about tougher laws for mental health or criminal backgrounds, because that doesn’t work,” Gene Knopf, the father of 14-year-old shooting victim Abigail Knopf, asked in a question to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), both of whom responded with calls for gun control. Second, in a jab at the Republican presidential candidates. “You know, we are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health,” Sanders said. “And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in that.” (Wang, 3/7)

5. GOP Health Policy Experts Despair Over Trump Plan, See Chance Of Reshaping Landscape Slipping Away

Republicans experts are lobbing insults at Donald Trump's health care plan, which he released last week. “I think it really makes you want to scratch your head and possibly bounce it off a table once or twice,” said Paul Howard, director of health policy at the Manhattan Institute.

STAT: Republican Health Care Experts Dismiss 'Buffoon' Trump's Ideas
The rise of Donald Trump has been disappointing for establishment Republicans — and downright excruciating for conservatives involved in health care policy. Even after the release of his health care plan Wednesday, Trump strikes many of them as barely familiar with the most basic conservative health care ideas in their life’s work. In interviews, some of the most influential Republican experts on the issue told STAT they’re dismayed by what they consider the GOP front-runner’s lack of understanding of health care, his inconsistent statements about what he really believes, and his embrace of populist ideas for lowering drug prices that are straight out of the Democratic playbook. (Nather, 3/4)

Kaiser Health News: TrumpCare Takes It On The Chin
There may finally be one thing Republicans hate more than ObamaCare: TrumpCare. The GOP front-runner, after weeks of talking in vague terms about his plans for the health care system, put out a seven-point proposal Wednesday night. But within hours, Republican opinion leaders in health care were already piling on. “It has the look and feel of something that a 22-year-old congressional staffer would write for a backbencher based on a cursory review of Wikipedia,” wrote Avik Roy, the opinion editor at Forbes who has advised several GOP presidential candidates on health policy, including Mitt Romney in 2012. (Rovner, 3/4)

Forbes: Trump's Health Plan Does To Medicaid What Obama's Waivers Already Do
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who issued a few more details to his healthcare reform plan, would give states “block grants” to manage health insurance for poor Americans because “state governments know their people best,” his proposal updated this week says. But giving states flexibility to administer Medicaid isn’t a new idea because administrations from Obama through both Bushes to Reagan have granted waivers of all kinds. And an unprecedented number of states are also handing off administration of benefits to private health insurers like Aetna, Centene, Anthem, Molina and UnitedHealth Group as a way to save money or bring private technology and claims administration to a government program. (Japsen, 3/4)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Health Law Plans Will Be Rated On Provider Network Size

New rules, scheduled for publication Tuesday, will allow insurers to sell health plans with narrow provider networks, but it will rate plans so that consumers know what they are getting. News outlets also report on how the health law is not erasing unpaid hospital expenses and, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, some states are giving physician assistants more autonomy.

The New York Times: Health Law Insurance Plans To Be Rated By Network Size
The Obama administration, responding to consumer complaints, says it will begin rating health insurance plans based on how many doctors and hospitals they include in their networks. At the same time, the maximum out-of-pocket costs for consumers under the Affordable Care Act will increase next year to $7,150 for an individual and $14,300 for a family, the administration said. Consumer advocates said those costs could be a significant burden for middle-income people who need a substantial amount of care. (Pear, 3/6)

Modern Healthcare: The Affordable Care Act Isn't Wiping Out Unpaid Hospital Bills
The promise of the Affordable Care Act for hospitals was that bad debt—a figure that reflects bills a hospital can't collect—would shrink substantially under the law's coverage expansions. The reality, so far, is less uniformly dramatic, even though 20 million fewer Americans are uninsured. Even in states that agreed to expand Medicaid, the popularity of high-deductible plans in those insurance exchanges has added to hospitals' mounting concerns over how patients can pay those bills, if at all. In Wyoming and other states that did not expand Medicaid, hospitals are seeing little relief from patients who can't pay their bills or need financial aid. (Evans, 3/5)

Forbes: States Remove Barriers To Physician Assistants
An increasing number of states are granting physician assistants more autonomy to increase access to patients amid a shortage of doctors and an influx of patients with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. (Japsen, 3/6)

Also in the news, how the health law is playing this campaign season —

Modern Healthcare: Onslaught Of Pro-, Anti-Obamacare Spots Is Waiting In The Wings
Unlike the last few election cycles, paid political advertising that features healthcare issues hasn't played a starring role in the early primaries. But once the Democratic and Republican nominees are selected, watch out. The Affordable Care Act and other healthcare issues are going to get plenty of screen time, according to experts who track campaign advertising. (Meyer, 3/5)

7. Talks On Troubled Tribal Hospital May Propel S.D. Medicaid Expansion Plans

Federal officials are in discussions with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe over a reservation hospital, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports. In Missouri, where Medicaid expansion is a political issue, PolitiFact looks at a Democratic candidate's comments.

Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader: With Tribal Hospital In Spotlight, Medicaid Expansion Talk Could Be Imminent
As federal agencies come to the table with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe to discuss ways to improve health care at an embroiled reservation hospital, Medicaid expansion supporters say the dialogue could propel efforts to grow the health care program for needy people. With a spotlight shining on the Rosebud hospital, the stage could be set for a broader conversation about improving Indian Health Service (IHS) in the South Dakota. Gov. Dennis Daugaard has been working for months to strike a deal with federal agencies and private health care providers that would save South Dakota taxpayers millions of dollars that could be used to expand Medicaid in the state to tens of thousands of low income residents. (Ferguson, 3/6)