Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Sit Out'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Sit Out'" by Roy Delgado.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Shooting for the moon …
Public supports more research.
Aiming for a cure.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. CBO: Health Law Costs Rising, In Part Due To Medicaid Enrollment Numbers

The Congressional Budget Office noted that other provisions in the Affordable Care Act will keep it from adding to the long-term debt of the country, and it says the total cost is 25 percent less than expected when the legislation was signed six years ago.

The New York Times: Report Offers A Mixed View Of Health Care Law Costs
More people will be enrolled in Medicaid than predicted a year ago, fewer will be covered through the new public insurance marketplaces and the overall cost of insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act will be higher than expected last year, the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday. But the cost of insuring people will be substantially lower than the budget agency expected when the law was passed, on party-line votes, in 2010. It now estimates that the cost will total $465 billion in 2016-19, which is 25 percent less than its original estimate. (Pear, 3/24)

The Washington Post: Budget Scorekeeper: Obamacare Costs Rising As More Enroll In Medicaid
The budget office attributed the vast majority of the expected cost increase to greater-than-expected Medicaid enrollment numbers. Overall, CBO projected, the cost to the government of those enrolled in Medicaid and in the marketplaces created under the law will be $1.4 trillion over 10 years, which is $136 billion more than the scorekeeper previously expected. (Snell, 3/24)

The Hill: CBO: Cost Of ObamaCare Subsidies Climbs By 11 Percent
The cost is also going up by about $28 billion because of Congress's recent legislation that postponed what's called the "Cadillac tax," on high-cost insurance plans. That bill also made the tax deductible to employers, further decreasing the amount of money the Affordable Care Act pulls in. (Ferris, 3/24)

Modern Healthcare: Projected ACA Costs Rise By $136B Due To Robust Medicaid Enrollment
Between 2016 and 2025, the federal government will spend $1.34 trillion on the ACA's primary health coverage provisions. That mostly includes subsidies for the marketplaces and Medicaid expansion, and is partially offset by revenue-generating measures such as penalties tied to the individual and employer mandates. That total is up from the CBO's projection last March of $1.2 trillion but nearly identical to the $1.35 trillion estimate made in January 2015. The shift underscores how difficult it is for economists to predict the costs of a healthcare law that has evolved every year. (Herman, 3/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Enrollment In Health Law’s Exchanges Projected To Reach 12 Million In 2016
Enrollment under the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges is projected to reach about 12 million people in 2016, congressional budget analysts said in a report Thursday that illustrates the Obama administration’s ongoing challenge in getting the remaining uninsured covered. The projection, from the Congressional Budget Office and staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, was down from an estimate of 13 million in January and 21 million a year ago. (Armour, 3/24)

The Hill: CBO Trims Tally For ObamaCare Enrollment
The Congressional Budget Office on Thursday slightly lowered its projections for ObamaCare enrollment, trimming its tally by about 1 million people. About 12 million people are now expected to have ObamaCare coverage by the end of 2016, according to the nonpartisan budget office. Just three months ago, the office had predicted that 13 million people would have coverage. (Ferris, 3/24)

5. Ark. Governor Finds Himself In Unlikely Role Of Trying To Rescue Medicaid Expansion

Asa Hutchinson was an ardent foe of the federal health law, but as governor he is working to convince other Republicans in the legislature to keep the program started by his Democratic predecessor. Also, lawmakers in Idaho are dealing with the issue of expansion as the session winds down.

The Associated Press: 'Obamacare' Foe Tries To Save Expanded Medicaid In Arkansas
But two years after winning office with 55 percent of the vote, [Arkansas Gov. Asa] Hutchinson has executed a surprising political turnabout and become the leading rescuer of the one of "Obamacare's" most embattled elements, the expansion of Medicaid. He's now imploring Republican lawmakers to keep Arkansas' hybrid version of the expanded insurance program for low-income people, which was pushed through by his Democratic predecessor, Mike Beebe, and is warning about the potential impact of ending it for a rural state with limited revenue and many living near the poverty line. (DeMillo, 3/24)

Idaho Statesman: Idaho Senate Brings Back Medicaid Expansion Bill
Rejecting action by the House a day earlier, the Idaho Senate on Thursday resurrected a proposal to begin prompt negotiations with federal officials for a way to provide subsidized health care for 78,000 poor Idahoans who have none. ... Gov. Butch Otter told the Times-News Thursday that he supports beginning the Medicaid expansion waiver application process as soon as possible. “The sooner that we can start that, the better prepared we’re going to be,” he said. (Dentzer, 3/24)

Twin Falls (Idaho) Times-News: Legislature Down To The Wire On Medicaid Plan
The Idaho House will meet again on Good Friday to vote on a bill that would have the director of the Department of Health and Welfare apply for a Medicaid expansion waiver, paving the way for an Idaho-run health program designed for the state’s working poor. The Senate finished up for the year Thursday evening after passing both the waiver bill and a related funding bill. The House also passed the funding bill 40-29 Thursday evening before adjourning for the day, setting up Friday’s expected waiver debate. (Brown, 3/25)

The Associated Press: Idaho's Health Care Gap Dominates Last Days Of Legislature
Idaho House lawmakers on Thursday punted on approving a proposal to allow the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to apply for a Medicaid waiver to provide health insurance for people who have incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty line. House Speaker Scott Bedke says the House will take up the contentious legislation on Friday, the same day the Legislature would adjourn for the year. (Kruesi, 3/25)

6. Unlike Federal Policy, County Programs Often Use Tax Dollars To Treat Illegal Immigrants

The federal health law prohibits selling health insurance on the marketplaces to people in the country illegally. But counties that offer programs that pay for doctor visits, shots, prescription drugs and lab tests for these immigrants say it's cheaper, easier and safer to offer the services rather than treat them in emergency departments.

The Wall Street Journal: Illegal Immigrants Get Public Health Care, Despite Federal Policy
When federal lawmakers wrote the act overhauling the nation’s health-care system six years ago, they ruled out any possibility of extending health insurance to illegal immigrants. Local officials where many of those immigrants live are treating them anyway. A Wall Street Journal survey of the 25 U.S. counties with the largest unauthorized immigrant populations found that 20 of them have programs that pay for the low-income uninsured to have doctor visits, shots, prescription drugs, lab tests and surgeries at local providers. ... County politicians figure it is cheaper, safer and easier to give basic health services to immigrants who can’t get insurance than to treat them only in the county’s emergency rooms. (Radnofsky, 3/24)

In other health law news —

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Why Pediatricians Care So Much About The Supreme Court’s Birth Control Case
For the second time in two years, the Supreme Court justices tangled over a question about personal beliefs and birth control: Must employers who are religiously opposed to it cover it in their health plans? A prominent group of pediatricians hopes the answer will be yes. Erecting hurdles to the pill, in this case, could jeopardize the health of America’s children, said Benard Dreyer, president of the the American Academy of Pediatrics. It could even encourage the next Disneyland measles outbreak. ... “There’s no discernible difference between a religious objection to contraception and a religious objection to a vaccine,” said Dreyer. (Paquette, 3/24)

Administration News

7. FDA Encourages Generic Drugmakers To Develop Harder-To-Abuse Painkillers

The agency has approved five brand-name drugs that are designed to deter abuse -- such as being hard to crush -- but those represent

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