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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'Run Away?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Run Away?'" by Lisa Benson.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON SHORT-TERM COVERAGE

Short-term policies
Damage the pool, drain money,
Undermine reform.

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Summaries Of The News:

Health Law Issues And Implementation

3. Study: Public Increasingly Appreciates Health Law, But Likability Remains Rooted In Politics

A new study in Health Affairs returned to participants of polls from 2010, 2012 and 2014 to assess changes in attitude.

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: People May Be Warming Up To Health Reform — But Not To ‘Obamacare’
A new study finds that although the public remains stubbornly split on the Affordable Care Act, a slight shift may be occurring beneath the surface — with a growing minority of people coming around to the opinion that the law is having a real impact on access to health care. To be clear, the analysis is based on two-year-old data, and it shows more people are opposed to the law (45.6 percent) than in favor of it (36.2 percent). It also shows that most Americans — albeit a shrinking majority — still think the law has had "no/little impact" on any of the following: increased access to health care, insurance coverage for young adults, assistance for drugs to seniors or insurance subsidies. (Johnson, 4/13)

In other health law news —

The Los Angeles Times: California Effort Is Underway To Allow Undocumented Immigrants To Buy Healthcare Coverage
California would be the first state in the nation to ask the federal government to allow immigrants in the country illegally to purchase health insurance through a state exchange under new proposed legislation. Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) authored a bill that would have the state formally request the federal government to give permission for immigrants to pay for coverage through Covered California without cost to the state or federal government. (McGreevy, 4/14)

4. Maine House Approves Medicaid Expansion, But Governor's Veto Likely

Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed similar legislation five times before. Also, in Arkansas, a bill to fund the state's Medicaid expansion program passes its first legislative hurdle but still faces a tough sell in the Senate.

Portland Press Herald: Maine House Passes Medicaid Expansion, But Not By Veto-Proof Margin
The Maine House voted to approve an expansion of Medicaid on Wednesday, but still fell well short of the margin needed to overcome an inevitable veto from Gov. Paul LePage. The 85-64 vote was largely along party lines and came one day after the Republican-controlled Senate narrowly endorsed using federal funds to purchase coverage for more low-income Mainers. The measure, however, appears headed for a sixth-straight defeat by LePage, who has argued expansion would cost the state more money down the line. (Miller, 4/13)

Maine Public Broadcasting: House, Senate OK Medicaid Expansion, But Threat Of Veto Looms
A bill that would use federal Medicaid dollars to expand access to drug addiction treatment and mental health services passed narrowly in the Senate Wednesday and was approved almost entirely along party lines in the House. Rep. Charlotte Warren, a Hallowell Democrat, told her seat mates they should listen to Maine’s law enforcement community who say the bill would provide financial assistance to the state’s cash-strapped county jails. (Higgins, 4/14)

Times Record: Arkansas Medicaid Plan Advances, But Senate Passage Still In Doubt
A bill to appropriate funding for the state Medicaid program, including the governor’s plan for Medicaid expansion, advanced out of committee on Wednesday, the first day of the Arkansas Legislature’s fiscal session. The bill cleared the Joint Budget Committee in a voice vote and is expected to be voted on Thursday in the Senate. Legislators on both sides of the debate over Medicaid expansion said the bill was unlikely to pass in the Senate. (Lyon, 4/14)

Arkansas Online: Medicaid Funding Moves To Senate
Legislation reauthorizing the use of federal Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance for low-income Arkansans cleared the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee on Wednesday and will be considered today by the Senate. Senate Bill 121 would grant spending authority totaling $8.4 billion in state and federal funds for various Medicaid programs. That includes $1.6 billion in spending authority for the Medicaid expansion to those of low income, including $43 million in state funds to match the federal funds, said state Department of Human Services spokesman Amy Webb. (Fanney and Wickline, 4/14)

Public Health And Education

5. CDC: There's No Longer Any Doubt That Zika Causes Birth Defects

“Never before in history has there been a situation where a bite from a mosquito can result in a devastating malformation,” says CDC head Dr. Tom Frieden, ending months of debate about the virus's effects.

The New York Times: Zika Virus Causes Birth Defects, Health Officials Confirm
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that there was now enough evidence to definitively say that the Zika virus could cause unusually small heads and brain damage in infants born to infected mothers. The conclusion should settle months of debate about the connection between the infection and these birth defects, called microcephaly, as well as other neurological abnormalities, the officials said. (Belluck and McNeil, 4/13)

NPR: Zika Virus Can Cause Brain Defects In Babies, CDC Confirms
The study marks a turning point in the current Zika outbreak, says Dr. Tom Frieden, chief of the CDC. "There's still a lot that we don't know, he says. "But there is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly." A causal link between the bite of a mosquito and brain malformations is unprecedented, he says. "And it is because this was so unprecedented that we have until now waited to say that we have concluded that there is a causal link." (Bichell, 4/13)

Reuters: Confirmation That Zika Causes Microcephaly Shifts Debate To Prevention
The announcement comes at a critical time for the Obama Administration, which has been urging the Republican-controlled Congress to grant nearly $1.9 billion in emergency funds to fight the virus, which is already affecting Puerto Rico and is expected to hit parts of the United States with the coming of mosquito-friendly warmer weather. (Steenhuysen, Berkrot, Cornwell and Gardner, 4/13)

The Washington Post: CDC Confirms Zika Virus Causes Microcephaly, Other Birth Defects
"We do know that a lot of people aren't concerned about Zika infection in the United States, and they don't know a lot about it," said Sonja Rasmussen, director of CDC's division of public health information. "It's my hope that we can be more convincing that Zika does cause these severe birth defects in babies and hope that people will focus on prevention more carefully." The research is likely to help scientists developing a vaccine for Zika, she said. (Sun, 4/13)

6. 'Pill For Every Pain' Culture Played Key Role In Opioid Epidemic, Experts Say

As the crisis grips the country, some health officials think President Barack Obama's call for $1.1 billion in funding to fight opioid addiction signals a shift in thinking about addiction from an individual problem to a chronic medical condition. News outlets offer coverage of the epidemic in Missouri, Massachusetts and California.

Fox News: The Fed's New 'War On Drugs': Obama Proposes $1.1 Billion To Expand Care For Opioid Addicts
Amid a prescription opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic largely fueled by overprescribing among doctors, President Obama has suggested allocating $1.1 billion to expand affected individuals’ access to care— a proposal that has garnered bipartisan support. Although some experts question whether throwing money at the issue will be enough, many believe that, if used properly, the funding has the potential to save lives. (Cartensen, 4/14)

The Associated Press: Mass. General: More People Are Using Drugs On Hospital Property
Boston's top hospitals is seeing an increasing number of drug abusers shoot up on its property, a tactic experts say opioid addicts hope will save them from lethal overdoses. Massachusetts General Hospital has equipped its security guards with the overdose antidote Narcan after seeing an increase in the past 18 months of addicts shooting up in MGH walkways, parking garages and bathrooms, where addicts tie emergency pull cords to their bodies in case they collapse. (4/14)

Kaiser Health News: Political Gridlock Blocks Missouri Database For Fighting Drug Abuse
In the battle against America's surging opioid drug addiction, 49 states, the District of Columbia and even Guam have all implemented some kind of [prescription drug monitoring program]. Missouri is the only state that hasn't. A protracted political battle has kept the state from passing a law to establish one. That leaves pharmacists with few options. [They] can only check the prescription history of patients on Medicaid, which tracks such data. But when a patient pays cash there is no record to check leaving pharmacists to guess whether the patient is in genuine pain, feeding an addiction or maybe looking for pills to sell. (Sable-Smith, 4/14)

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