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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Sounds Like A Good Idea? Selling Insurance Across State Lines

Republicans have long touted a proposal to allow insurers to sell across state lines as a way to help keep coverage costs down. But there are some significant obstacles to making such a system work, as this video points out. (Julie Rovner and Francis Ying, 5/11)

Summaries Of The News:

Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. Obama Administration Rushing To Finish Work On Health Care Initiatives

Among the issues officials are still trying to iron out are efforts to cut drug prices and improve primary care delivery. Nonetheless, Democrats are nervous that insurance premiums coming out in October could have an impact on the election. And industry and health experts are unsure what effect the proposed mergers in the insurance industry would have on the market.

STAT: As Time Runs Out, The Obama Administration Races To Reshape Health Care
As the clock ticks toward Jan. 20, 2017, the Obama administration is racing to burnish its health care legacy, introducing major new initiatives that will take full effect just weeks before the president leaves office. The ranks of the uninsured have dropped dramatically since the passage of the Affordable Care Act six years ago. But administration officials are now hustling to use other parts of the law to reshape how health care itself is delivered across the United States. They’re trying to tackle the biggest health care issue of the day — drug prices — and setting ambitious goals for revamping how primary care is provided. They have also undertaken significant new efforts when it comes to paying for surgeries and preventing disease. (Scott, 5/10)

Morning Consult: Democrats Prepare To Win The Health Care Narrative
No one in Washington is going to be shocked if insurers request double-digit increases in premiums on exchanges. That’s partially because ahead of Wednesday’s filing deadline, Democrats are making a lot of efforts to control the narrative. Their talking point plan will take them through the November election, which coincidentally occurs right after final insurance rates will be posted for 2017. Even if there are large increases at that point, Democrats plan to argue they are still the party to go with on health care issues. They are up against heavy messaging from the right opposing the health care law. (Owens, 5/10)

CBS News: ​How Will Health Insurer Mergers Hit Obamacare?
Investors got an update last week on the progress of two giant health insurer mergers that, if regulators approve, will shrink the number of major insurers in the U.S. from five to three. On Friday Cigna (CI), the nation's fourth-largest health insurance company, which agreed to be acquired by Anthem (ANTM), the No. 2 health insurer, announced that the deal, scheduled to close by the end of 2016, may be delayed into 2017. (5/11)

Meanwhile, in California —

California Healthline: Obamacare Premiums In California May Rise 8% Next Year, State Predicts
California’s health insurance exchange estimates that its Obamacare premiums may rise 8 percent on average next year, which would end two consecutive years of more modest 4 percent increases. The projected rate increase in California, included in the exchange’s proposed annual budget, comes amid growing nationwide concern about insurers seeking double-digit premium hikes in the health law’s insurance marketplaces. Any increases in California, a closely watched state in the health law rollout, are sure to draw intense scrutiny during a presidential election. Republicans are quick to seize on rate hikes as further proof that President Obama’s signature law isn’t doing enough to hold down health care costs for the average consumer. (Terhune, 5/11)

Campaign 2016

6. With Medicare-For-More Argument, Clinton Shifts Left On Health Care

As Hillary Clinton looks to wrap up the Democratic presidential primary, she is floating the idea of a Medicare buy-in option for those in their 50s.

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton Takes A Step To The Left On Health Care
For months during the Democratic presidential nominating contest, Hillary Clinton has resisted calls from Senator Bernie Sanders to back a single-payer health system, arguing that the fight for government-run health care was a wrenching legislative battle that had already been lost. But as she tries to clinch the nomination, Mrs. Clinton is moving to the left on health care and this week took a significant step in her opponent’s direction, suggesting she would like to give people the option to buy into Medicare. (Rappeport and Sanger-Katz, 5/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Hillary Clinton Says She’s Weighing Medicare For 50-Year-Olds
Hillary Clinton has spent months berating rival Bernie Sanders for proposing a single-payer, government-run health-care plan, sticking to her more modest proposals aimed at lowering costs and saying she has no interest in another nasty legislative battle over health care. Now, as she tries to close out her primary contest against the Vermont senator, she is floating a new idea: allowing people as young as 50 to buy into Medicare, the health plan that serves those ages 65 and up. (Meckler, 5/10)

In other news, KHN has the first in a video series about candidates' ideas that sound good in theory, but might not work —

Kaiser Health News: Sounds Like A Good Idea? Selling Insurance Across State Lines
Presidential candidates like to propose solutions to long-standing problems. Health care is no exception. But there’s a reason some problems are “long-standing.” They may have no easy solution. Or the solution is not politically feasible. Or there’s a solution that sounds good on the campaign trail but is not likely to actually work.In this first of a series of videos of health policy promises that “sound like a good idea,” Julie Rovner explores why increasing competition in health insurance by allowing sales of policies across state lines might not be such a good idea after all. (5/11)

Medicare

7. Opposition Fierce For Medicare Plan To Cut Pay For Drugs As Comment Period Ends

The plan, which affects drugs such as cancer treatments given in outpatient settings, has drawn more than 1,300 comments.

Modern Healthcare: Tension Mounts Over Medicare's Bid To Remove Profit Motive From Outpatient Drugs
The comment period closed this week on the Obama administration's bold proposal to rewire how Medicare pays for outpatient drugs, and the CMS is under intense pressure to scrap it. Providers across the board, not just those projected to receive the deepest cuts under the proposal, have misgivings about the initiative. That's because it's hard to truly know the implications until its second phase kicks in, said Thomas Barker, an attorney and co-chair of the health practice at Foley Hoag. “There is skepticism about CMS's projections because it's too soon to see how this will shake out,” said Barker, former acting general counsel at HHS. (Dickson, 5/10)

For more drug pricing news, check out our weekly feature, Prescription Drug Watch, which includes coverage and perspectives of the issue.

Medicaid