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From Kaiser Health News:

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Too Big To Fail'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Too Big To Fail'" by Bob and Tom Thaves.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


White House diverts cash
To Zika efforts.Why can’t
We fight both at once.

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Summaries Of The News:

Campaign 2016

4. GOP Experts Exasperated By Trump's 'Jumbled Hodgepodge' Of Health Care Ideas

The Republican front-runner's mercurial stances on health care are drawing sharp criticism from experts -- and it's not just the Democratic ones. Donald Trump’s health care platform “resembles the efforts of a foreign student trying to learn health policy as a second language,” said Thomas P. Miller, a health economist at the American Enterprise Institute.

The New York Times: Donald Trump’s Health Care Ideas Bewilder Republican Experts
Donald J. Trump calls for “a full repeal of Obamacare” but says that “everybody’s got to be covered.” Initially, he liked “the mandate,” a central feature of the Affordable Care Act that requires most Americans to have insurance or pay a penalty, but he backed off that position under fire from conservatives. He would allow individuals to take tax deductions for insurance premium payments. But aides acknowledge that this tax break would not be worth much to people whose income is so low they pay little or nothing in federal income taxes. For them, Trump aides say, there would be Medicaid, which the billionaire businessman says he would not cut but would turn into a block grant to state governments. This whipsaw of ideas is exasperating Republican experts on health care, who call his proposals an incoherent mishmash that could jeopardize coverage for millions of newly insured people. (Pear and Haberman, 4/8)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. Uninsured Rate Tumbles As Health Law Coverage Expands

The latest Gallup poll finds that only 11 percent of adults and children are without health care coverage. Meanwhile in California, the board that runs the state's insurance marketplace takes a step toward allowing people in the country illegally to purchase plans.

The Fiscal Times: Uninsured Rate Hits New Low, But Obamacare’s Still A Hot Potato
The uninsured rate for Americans has tumbled dramatically over the past few years in the wake of Obamacare and expanded Medicaid coverage. Only 11 percent of adults and children are still without healthcare coverage, according to a new survey by Gallup and Healthways. Gallup said on Thursday that the rate of uninsured is at the lowest level in eight years, especially among African-Americans and Hispanics. ... the latest figures for the first three months of 2016 are remarkable, according to Gallup: The 11 percent rate of uninsured Americans who aren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare is down nine-tenths of a percentage point from the fourth quarter of 2015 overall and by a much larger margin for minority groups that have long gone without health insurance coverage. (Pianin, 4/7)

The Sacramento Bee: Undocumented Could Be Allowed To Buy Covered California Health Policy
In a move called both symbolic and practical, the Covered California board took the first step Thursday toward allowing undocumented residents to purchase health plans – with no state or federal subsidies – through California’s Obamacare marketplace. The board can’t officially enact that change, which requires state legislation and federal permission, but Covered California officials indicated they were ready to lend support if California lawmakers ask them to. (Buck, 4/7)

California Healthline: Covered California Imposes New Quality, Cost Conditions On Plans
Moving into a realm usually reserved for health care regulators, Covered California Thursday unveiled sweeping reforms to its contracts with insurers, seeking to improve the quality of care, curb its cost and increase transparency for consumers. Among the biggest changes: Health plans will be required to dock hospitals at least 6 percent of their payments if they do not meet certain quality standards, or give them bonuses of an equal amount if they exceed the standards. (Ana B. Ibarra and David Gorn, 4/8)

6. Ark. Lawmakers Approve Continuing Medicaid Expansion, But Funding Questions Remain

Opponents hope to stop the program next week when the legislature takes up funding. Also, news outlets report on Medicaid expansion issues in Louisiana, New Hampshire and Florida.

Arkansas Online: Medicaid Plan OK'd; Funding Doubt Remains
Legislation to continue providing health coverage for more than 267,000 low-income Arkansans under the state's expanded Medicaid program cleared the state House and Senate on Thursday, but by smaller margins than will be needed next week to approve funding for the program beyond June 30. Opponents of the program vowed to try to block funding during the fiscal session, which starts Wednesday, and said they have the votes to do it. (Davis, Fanney, Wickline and Willems, 4/8)

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Louisiana Legislators Get An Earful Over Medicaid Expansion Bills
Advocates for poor people and Medicaid expansion hammered Louisiana lawmakers Thursday (April 7) for what they said was legislation aimed at limiting access to health insurance and charging co-pays. The testimony, which was at times unusually harsh, came during a House Health and Welfare Committee meeting that Chairman Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, said was the most difficult held this legislative session. After 2 1/2 hours of work, the committee succeeded in passing no legislation. Several lawmakers killed their own bills rather than bring them up for a vote. (Litten, 4/7)

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Support For Medicaid Copays Plan Is Crumbling
Legislative support appears to be crumbling for plans to charge Medicaid recipients copays for receiving health care services. Gov. John Bel Edwards threw his support behind copays after Republicans pushed for the measure as part of Medicaid expansion. But two legislators interviewed Wednesday (April 6) said there are serious doubts about whether there is enough support to get the plan out of committee after health care providers began lobbying against the bill. (Littens, 4/7)

The Associated Press: Medicaid Copay Bills Stall Amid Health Provider Opposition
Proposals to charge Medicaid patients copays for some health care services and prescription drugs have fizzled in the Louisiana Legislature, including a measure backed by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Hearings on three Medicaid copay bills sponsored by Republicans were scrapped Thursday in the House Health and Welfare Committee, including on the bill by Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Winnfield, which is supported by the Democratic governor. (Deslatte, 4/7)

New Hampshire Union Leader: Work Requirement For Medicaid Expansion Looks Doomed
The day Gov. Maggie Hassan signed the bill extending Medicaid expansion for two years, the federal Health and Human Services secretary rejected the state of Arkansas’ work requirement, a key element in New Hampshire’s bill. The biggest debate among lawmakers over reauthorizing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program was the 30-hour work requirement for more than 48,000 low-income adults. During House and Senate debates, supporters of HB 1696 said the requirement is important but backed a provision needed to allow the program to continue if the federal Center for Medicaid Services denies the requirement, as it has for other states. (Rayno, 4/7)

CBS News: Florida Woman Explains Smackdown Of Gov. Rick Scott
A Florida woman who was caught on camera Tuesday blasting Gov. Rick Scott at a Starbucks in Gainesville for cutting Medicaid and signing a bill to defund clinics like Planned Parenthood, is now responding to the viral video that garnered her national attention. (Luibrand, 4/7)

Health IT

7. GAO Finds Significant Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities On Federal Exchanges

Officials say their findings in the investigation, which was initially limited to California, Kentucky and Vermont, likely means that other states’ health exchange websites face similar cyber issues.

The Associated Press: Security Flaws Found In 3 State Health Insurance Websites
Federal investigators found significant cybersecurity weaknesses in the health insurance websites of California, Kentucky and Vermont that could enable hackers to get their hands on sensitive personal information about hundreds of thousands of people, The Associated Press has learned. And some of those flaws have yet to be fixed. The vulnerabilities were discovered by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, and shared with state officials last September. (4/7)

The Hill: Watchdog: Security Flaws Plague State ObamaCare Exchanges
California’s system, known as Covered California, is the nation’s largest state-run exchange. Both California and Kentucky have been touted as a national model, though Vermont has had a documented history of issues with its exchange. The GAO’s investigation was released in March, but without naming the states. That information was reported Thursday by the Associated Press, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Federal officials said their findings in the investigation, which was initially limited to those three states, likely means that other states’ websites have faced similar cyber issues. (Farris, 4/7)

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports on the growing cyberthreat to vulnerable hospitals —

Los Angeles Times: Criminal Hackers Now Target Hospitals, Police Stations And Schools
Three weeks ago, a debilitating digital virus spread quickly in computer networks at three Southern California hospitals owned by Prime Healthcare Services. Using a pop-up window, hackers demanded about $17,000 in the hard-to-trace cybercurrency called Bitcoin to destroy the virus they had implanted. The virus had encrypted medical and other data so it was impossible to access. ... The attempted extortion by criminal hackers was the latest case of what the FBI says is a fast-growing threat to vulnerable individuals, companies and low-profile critical infrastructure, from hospitals and schools to police stations. (Hennigan and Bennett, 4/8)