In This Edition

From Kaiser Health News: Latest Stories

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. More Sickle Cell Patients Survive, But Care Is Hard To Find For Adults

For many years, most people with sickle cell died in childhood or adolescence, and the condition remained in the province of pediatrics. During the past two decades, advances in routine care have allowed many people to live into middle age and beyond, but barriers to care remain. (Erin N. Marcus, 3/22)

3. Political Cartoon: 'Lowered Expectations'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Lowered Expectations'" by Darrin Bell.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


A Supreme problem
Mamma mia! Scalia!
All tied at 4-4.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Summaries of the News

Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. As Increasing Numbers Gain Coverage Under Obamacare, GOP Faces Dilemma

The Associated Press looks at the difficult choice for Republicans who oppose the president's health program but haven't offered much to replace it for the millions of people who would be uninsured without it. Other health law news includes reports on broadening transgender rights, administration efforts to promote the law and possible changes to a program to help insurers deal with outsized risks.

The Associated Press: Health Insurance Gains Low Due To Obama's Law, Not Economy
There’s growing evidence that most of the dramatic gain in the number of Americans with health care coverage is due to President Barack Obama’s law, and not the gradual recovery of the nation’s economy. That could pose a political risk for Republicans running against “Obamacare” in the GOP primaries as they shift to the general election later this year. While the health care law remains highly unpopular in the party, the prospect of taking away health care coverage from millions of people could trigger a backlash if the eventual GOP nominee’s plan to replace it is seen as coming up short. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/21)

The Associated Press: Disputed Health Law Rule Would Broaden Transgender Rights
Big companies are pushing back against proposed federal rules they say would require their medical plans to cover gender transition and other services under the nondiscrimination mandate of President Barack Obama's health care law. Civil rights advocates representing transgender people say the regulation, now being finalized by the Health and Human Services Department, would be a major step forward for a marginalized community beginning to gain acceptance as celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner tell their stories. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/22)

STAT: The Next Obamacare Sales Pitch: How Medical Care Will Get Better
The Obama administration is trying once again to address a criticism that has dogged the president ever since his health care bill passed six years ago: they need to sell it better. And this time, they’re paying a lot more attention to the medical side — the parts that no one outside of a narrow circle of health care wonks really understands. (Scott, 3/22)

Modern Healthcare: Changes To Risk-Adjustment Program Are Coming, Now Or Later
A controversial federal health program that helps insurers withstand the ebbs and flows of the new insurance exchanges will be put under the microscope this week with the hope of making it fairer in the long term. The CMS will host a public meeting Friday in which health insurers, state officials and others will offer their input on how to change the Affordable Care Act's risk-adjustment methodology for 2018 and beyond. Under the permanent risk-adjustment program, which is a zero-sum game, the federal government redistributes money from plans that have lower-cost, healthier members to companies that have higher-cost, sicker members. (Herman, 3/19)

Supreme Court

5. Swing-Vote Kennedy's Past Approval Of Contraception Workaround May Signal Outcome Of Wednesday's Case

The administration might have an advantage in front of the Supreme Court in its defense of the contraception mandate for not-for-profit groups, but it also faces questions about whether it has shown a compelling interest in making sure all women get contraception coverage.

Modern Healthcare: White House May Have Advantage In Upcoming ACA Contraception Case
Experts say the White House may have some advantages going into a U.S. Supreme Court case centering on questions of religious freedom and the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employers provide birth control coverage to employees. But the government will also face questions about whether it truly has shown a compelling interest in making sure all women get contraception coverage. The justices are taking up the issue on Wednesday. (Schencker, 3/21)


6. Valeant Shake-Up: CEO Out, CFO Denies Accusations Of 'Improper Conduct'

The company also announced hedge-fund manager William Ackman will be added to its board. Valeant has been plagued with troubles since last August, enduring stock-price stumbles, questions about its accounting practices, attacks on its strategy of raising drug prices, a lengthy medical leave by CEO Michael Pearson and the internal review that delayed the filing of its annual report.

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Starts CEO Search, Alleges Improper Financial Conduct
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. moved to replace its longtime chief executive, part of a series of steps to regain credibility and show investors it is committed to a fresh start after months of failed attempts. Valeant’s decision to look for a successor to CEO Michael Pearson comes just three weeks after it decided to take him back following an extended medical leave to treat severe pneumonia that he began around Christmas, a stretch during which the drugmaker’s woes mounted. (McNish, Hoffman and Benoit, 3/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant: Pearson Is Out, Ackman Is In, Controversy Continues
The drama at Valeant just won’t stop. Embattled pharmaceutical giant Valeant Pharmaceuticals International said Monday morning that it was replacing is chief executive, J. Michael Pearson, and adding hedge-fund manager William Ackman to its board. But that move created even more controversy for the company, as the directors failed in an attempt to make room for Mr. Ackman by pushing its former chief financial officer, Howard Schiller, off the board. (Holm, 3/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Schiller Responds To Valeant Claim Of ‘Improper Conduct’
A former Valeant executive–and current board member–isn’t going away quietly. Among a long list of big announcements Monday, embattled pharmaceutical giant Valeant Pharmaceuticals International said that an internal committee had found that former Chief Financial Officer Howard Schiller had engaged in “improper conduct” that had contributed to the company’s need to restate its results. In a statement released through his lawyers, Mr. Schiller is refuting that claim, saying “at no time did I engage in any improper conduct that relates to any restatement of revenue the Company is considering.” (Holm, 3/21)

Bloomberg: Schiller May Be Forced To Pay Back Valeant Up To $26.1M
Howard Schiller, the embattled Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. director, may be forced to pay back some of the $26.1 million in incentive compensation he received as chief financial officer in 2014. Schiller, who was CFO until July 2015, was awarded restricted stock worth $23.7 million and a cash bonus of $2.4 million in 2014, according to Valeant’s most recent proxy statement. Under the company’s clawback policy, Valeant can reclaim that money. (Melby and Ritcey, 3/21)

Reuters: Valeant's Harsh Words On Ex-Executives May Play Into Government Probes
A move by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc to single out two former top executives over its accounting problems is likely a bid to win leniency with government agencies investigating the drugmaker, according to accounting and securities experts. Valeant on Monday said Chief Executive Michael Pearson was leaving the company, and billionaire investor William Ackman, one of the company's biggest shareholders, would take a seat on its board, as Valeant tries to rectify accounting problems and save its business. Valeant is under investigation by both state and federal agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission. (Rosenberg and Lynch, 3/21)

The Wall Street Journal: One Person Still In The Green On His Valeant Bet: Michael Pearson
When Valeant Pharmaceuticals International named Michael Pearson as its new chief executive back on Feb. 1, 2008, the company noted in its announcement that he would be “personally purchasing a minimum of $3 million in company stock.” It’s unclear when or how much stock Mr. Pearson bought at the time and whether he held onto it. But based on that day’s closing price, $3 million worth of shares bought then would be worth about $6 million today, when the company said it was looking for a successor to replace Mr. Pearson as CEO. (Becker, 3/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Sequoia Fund Sold 1.5 Million Shares Of Valeant Pharmaceuticals
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.’s largest stakeholder said a fund it manages sold about 1.5 million shares of the drug maker’s stock last week, when the company’s share price fell more than 60%. Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb Inc.’s Sequoia Fund Inc. sold the Valeant shares to reduce investors’ taxes by booking capital losses, said David Poppe, executive vice president at Ruane, Cunniff. The fund’s shares in question were purchased in October, Mr. Poppe said. (Krouse, 3/21)

News outlets look at what all this means for the future of the company —