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4. Political Cartoon: 'Manage Thyself'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Manage Thyself'" by Rex May.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Today’s big buzz: Drugs
Some want to haggle prices;
Gov testing flat fee.

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Summaries of the News

Campaign 2016

5. At Debate, Clinton Defends Support For Universal Coverage, Sanders Praises Cuba's Health System

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders jabbed at each other over health care and immigration in the eighth Democratic debate, which came a day after Clinton's surprising loss in Michigan.

The New York Times: In The Democratic Debate, Hillary Clinton And Bernie Sanders Clash On Immigration
Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders clashed vividly over immigration reform, health care and Cuba during a contentious debate Wednesday. ... [Sanders] also showed he could throw a punch, such as when Mrs. Clinton questioned the cost of his Medicare-for-all plan, saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” “What Secretary Clinton is saying is that the United States should continue to be the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all of our people,” Mr. Sanders said, drawing a stern look from his opponent. “I do believe in universal coverage,” she fired back. “Remember, I fought for it 25 years ago.” (Healy and Chozick, 3/9)

Modern Healthcare: Sanders Says High Premiums, Deductibles Diminish Impact Of ACA
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders challenged rival Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on her oft-repeated statement that the Affordable Care Act provided 90% of Americans with health insurance, saying “not really” because of “outrageously high” deductibles and premiums. He said in a primary debate Wednesday night that the American people are “prepared to stand up to the insurance companies and the drug companies.” ... Health policy hasn't been a big issue so far in the primaries. About a quarter of Super Tuesday voters listed healthcare as the top issue for the country. About 19% of Democratic primary voters in Michigan chose healthcare as the most important issue for them. ... Those who said healthcare was their top issue split fairly evenly among the candidates, with 49% voting for Sanders and 48% for Clinton. (Muchmore, 3/9)

Los Angeles Times: Tough Debate Questions, Especially For Clinton, After Her Surprise Loss To Sanders In Michigan
Hillary Clinton's embattled status as the Democratic presidential front-runner, dented Tuesday by a surprise defeat in Michigan, faced new challenges Wednesday during a debate with Bernie Sanders that often delved into the vulnerabilities that have complicated her path to the nomination. ... Sanders, too, came in for tough questioning, particularly about a videotaped interview from 1985 in which he pointed out Fidel Castro's work to improve Cuban society, including education and healthcare. “Cuba is, of course, an authoritarian, undemocratic country, and I hope very much as soon as possible it becomes a democratic country,” he said. “But on the other hand, it would be wrong not to state that in Cuba they have made some good advances in healthcare.” (Megerian and Memoli, 3/9)

The Washington Post: Democratic Debate: Clinton Criticizes Sanders’s Plans As Being Too Far Left
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton used Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate to launch sharp attacks on her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, criticizing him as too far left at some points. ... Clinton also criticized Sanders for being too negative about recent Democratic presidents. “Sen. Sanders is always criticizing the two recent Democratic presidents, President Clinton and Persident Obama. And that’s fine. But I wish he would criticize – and join me in criticizing – President George W. Bush,” said Clinton, who is married to another former president, Bill Clinton. She meant that Sanders was wrong to seek to replace “Obamacare” – President Obama’s signature health-care law – with a “single-payer” health-care system. (Fahrenthold, 3/9)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Fact-Checking The Eighth Democratic Debate
Not every statement could be easily fact-checked, but here are 12 suspicious or interesting claims [from the debate]. ... “It is a record on achievement for veterans … working to achieve the most significant veterans’ health care bill in decades," [Sanders said]. Sanders touts his record as chairman of Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, but he has faced criticism from veterans groups for not paying attention to the health care delays as soon as they were revealed publicly in 2014. But many veteran groups still criticize Sanders for not reacting to the scandal quickly enough. They still point to Sanders’s comments in May 2014: “The point I want to make is that when you are dealing with 200,000 people, if you did better than any other health institution in the world, there would be thousands of people every single day who would say ‘I don’t like what I’m getting.’ And we have to put that all of that in the context of the size of the VA.” (Kessler and Ye Hee Lee, 3/10)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Health Law Has Sparked Interest In Christian Health Care Sharing Ministries

The ministries, which require members to share colleagues' major medical costs, have seen a surge in growth following the implementation of the federal health law since it exempts members from the requirement to have health insurance. Also in health law news, a new Senate report looks at the failed state health co-operatives, news outlets report on the difficulties Minnesota's marketplace has had in getting out tax forms and a consumer guide helps answer tax questions on the health law.

The New York Times: Christians Flock To Groups That Help Members Pay Medical Bills
When Chris Doyle learned that his health insurance deductible would climb to $10,000 last year, he and his wife, both evangelical Christians, “spent a couple weeks just praying,” he said. Then they opted out of insurance altogether, joining something called a health care sharing ministry, which requires members to help cover one another’s major medical costs as they come up. While such nonprofit ministries have been around for decades, interest in them has grown since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, largely because the law exempts members from the requirement to have health insurance or pay a yearly fine. (Goodnough, 3/10)

The Pioneer Press: MNsure Struggling To Send Out 1095-A Tax Forms As Deadline Nears
About 18,000 people who had MNsure plans at any time during 2015 have yet to receive their 1095-A forms, which are necessary to verify whether someone received any federal tax subsidies for their health plans. Some or all of the forms that have gone out have been missing a necessary line, forcing people to visit to look up the information online before filing their taxes. (Montgomery, 3/9)

7. Utah Lawmakers Approve Modest Medicaid Expansion

The compromise bill would provide Medicaid coverage for 16,000 of the state's poorest residents. Democrats had tried to get the program expanded to 105,000 people. Also, New Hampshire's House approves reauthorizing that state's Medicaid expansion plan, and Montana gets more enrollees than expected.

Salt Lake Tribune: Long Fight Over: Small-Scale Medicaid Expansion Wins Final Approval
Ending years of fighting, the Senate gave final approval Tuesday to a compromise bill expanding Medicaid coverage to 16,000 of the poorest Utahns — while Democrats complained that it is "less than crumbs" compared to what the state should be giving. It passed HB437 on a 19-8 vote, and is on its way to Gov. Gary Herbert for his expected signature. (Davidson, 3/8)

Deseret News: Utah Democrats Upset Over Medicaid, Vow To Continue To Push For Full Expansion
A bill that would expand Medicaid to every Utahn who needs it died Wednesday, without the votes to pass, according to its sponsor. "It's not anger, it's frustration that we're voicing," said Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City. Davis' bill, SB77, aimed to expand Medicaid to more than 105,000 uninsured Utahns. "We could have done more," he said. Alternatively, lawmakers Tuesday voted to finalize a plan that takes care of the poorest of the poor and imposes new taxes to help cover the costs. (Leonard, 3/9)

New Hampshire Public Radio: N.H. Medicaid Expansion Overwhelmingly Passes Republican-Backed House
The House voted 216 to 145 to reauthorize Medicaid expansion for another two years. The bill now heads to the Senate. But that was after much debate on the floor Wednesday – more than two hours of it. This issue crossed party lines with the Republicans who supported the bill stressing to their colleagues on the right that this bill does not use state dollars but rather saves it. As the bill is written, the state's insurance premium tax as well as hospitals and insurance companies have agreed to pick up the tab the federal government will no longer be paying in 2017. (Sutherland, 3/10)