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KHN First Edition: May 13, 2016


First Edition

Friday, May 13, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Health Coverage Rates For Lower Income Children Improving
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Bolstered by the federal health care law, the number of lower income kids getting health coverage continues to improve, a recent study found. During 2014, the first full year of the law’s implementation, 91 percent of children who were eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program were enrolled, according to the study by researchers at the Urban Institute. In 2013, that figure was 88.7 percent and only 81.7 percent in 2008. Medicaid and CHIP are both federal-state health coverage programs for lower-income residents, but CHIP provides coverage for kids whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid." (Andrews, 5/13)

The Associated Press: Judge Sides With House Republicans Against Health Care Law
In a setback for the Obama health care law, a federal judge ruled Thursday that the administration is unconstitutionally subsidizing medical bills for millions of people while ignoring congressional power over government spending. The ruling from U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer was a win for House Republicans who brought the politically charged legal challenge in an effort to undermine the law. (5/12)

The New York Times: Judge Backs House Challenge To A Key Part Of Health Law
Judge Rosemary M. Collyer sided with the House in its challenge to the administration’s funding of a program to help as many as seven million lower-income people pay deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses under the law. Congress never provided explicit authority for the spending, she ruled. “Such an appropriation cannot be inferred,” the judge said in her opinion. She blocked further spending under the program but said that order would be suspended pending an appeal by the Obama administration. No immediate disruption in the program was anticipated. (Hulse, 5/12)

USA Today: Federal Judge Strikes Down Obamacare Payments
Cost-sharing subsidies reduce consumers' insurance payments — an important feature of the Affordable Care Act, because deductibles are rising. Under the law, subsidies are available to people who earn between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, with extra assistance available for those up to 250%. For a family of four, that’s about $24,000 to $61,000. (Wolf, Korte and O'Donnell, 5/12)

The Washington Post: Judge Strikes Down Obama Health Law Insurance Subsidy In Victory For House GOP
The House GOP argued that the administration’s decision to subsidize deductibles, co-pays and other “cost-sharing” measures was unconstitutional because Congress rejected an administration request for funding in 2014. Obama officials said they withdrew the request and spent the money, arguing that the subsidies were covered by an earlier, permanent appropriation. House Republicans have tried repeatedly, without much success, to repeal parts or all of the health-care law, holding dozens of votes on the matter over the past five years. Thursday’s ruling may represent their most significant victory in trying to dismantle the ACA. (Hsu, Jaffe and Sun, 5/12)

Los Angeles Times: Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Is Being Funded Unconstitutionally
The 38-page opinion highlights the repeated complaint from Republicans that Obama and his administration have ignored constitutional limits on their authority. The Constitution says "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law," Collyer noted, but the administration has continued to pay billions to insurers for their extra cost of providing health coverage. "Paying [those] reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution," she wrote. "Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one." (Savage, 5/12)

Politico: House GOP Wins Obamacare Lawsuit
The ruling, if it stands, could be a significant financial setback for the millions of low-income Americans who benefit from the cost-sharing subsidies, which help people pay for out-of-pocket costs like co-pays at a doctor’s office. It would not be a fatal blow to the future of the president’s signature domestic policy achievement, but it could push insurance costs higher. (Haberkorn, 5/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama’s Health Law Wrongly Repaying Funds to Insurers, Judge Says
The White House had hoped to move beyond years of blockbuster court battles, most of which it won. The ruling gives a boost to GOP arguments that Mr. Obama has exceeded limits on his authority. And if it holds up on appeal, the decision could hobble the health law. White House spokesman Josh Earnest referred questions about an appeal to the Justice Department, but said the lawsuit was an unprecedented use of the courts to resolve a political dispute between the two parties. “It’s unfortunate that Republicans have resorted to a taxpayer-funded lawsuit to refight a political fight that they keep losing. They’ve been losing this fight for six years. And they’ll lose it again,” he said. (Kendall, Armour and Wilde Mathews, 5/12)

Politico: Insurers Could Face Financial Blow If Obamacare Subsidies Struck Down
Health plans would likely feel the financial hit if the courts ultimately strike down Obamacare's cost-sharing subsidies. That's because those payments go directly to insurers to make up for lower payments from their poorest customers. A federal court ruled today that the Obama administration has been improperly funding the cost-sharing subsidies. The ruling is stayed pending appeal, so there will be no immediate fallout for health plans. But at stake is approximately $175 billion over a decade that insurers would receive to subsidize their Obamacare customers. (Demko, 5/12)

The Associated Press: Ongoing Legal Challenges To Health Overhaul
More than six years after becoming law, the Affordable Care Act continues to face legal challenges, including the case decided Thursday by a federal district judge in Washington. Among the pending lawsuits: House of Representatives v. Burwell ... West Virginia v. Health and Human Services Department ... [and] Contraceptive mandate cases. (5/12)

The New York Times: Senate To Consider 3 Proposals To Finance Fight Against Zika
The Senate next week will vote on three proposals for financing to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which causes birth defects and which public health officials say will soon pose a major threat in the southern United States. Democrats and Republicans have been deadlocked over a request by the White House for $1.9 billion in emergency financing to combat the virus, with the Obama administration sharply criticizing Republican Congressional leaders for stalling and the lawmakers demanding that the White House better explain how it would use the money. (Herszenhorn, 5/12)

The Washington Post: Senate Reaches Deal On Zika Funding, Will Vote Tuesday
The Senate on Thursday reached a bipartisan deal that would provide $1.1 billion in funding to fight the Zika virus, breaking a months-long standoff over how much spending is needed to address the growing public health threat. The funding package was introduced as an amendment to a spending bill that is expected to be considered next week. Senators will also have the opportunity to vote on an option that would fully fund White House’s $1.9 billion request and a separate GOP-backed proposal that would use $1.2 billion in cuts to an Affordable Care Act program to offset the cost of $1.1 billion in Zika spending. (Snell, 5/12)

The Associated Press: Senate Deal Reached On Reduced Zika Funding Measure
Top Senate negotiators announced agreement Thursday on a $1.1 billion emergency funding measure to battle the Zika virus. That's less than President Barack Obama's $1.9 billion request, which has upset some senior Democrats. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told reporters that she still prefers Obama's proposal but has reached agreement with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., on the smaller measure, which is likely to be added next week to a bill funding veterans and transportation programs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., immediately set up a floor vote on the measure for next week. (5/12)

USA Today: Texas Border Towns Brace For Zika Outbreak
If the Zika virus were to spread through the USA, it could very well start here: a busy border city where thousands of people cross each day between the U.S. and Mexico, where the mosquito that transports the virus is found in abundance, and where poorer neighborhoods could foster its spread. Zika is already spreading through Mexico, but Texas may have two big advantages over its southern neighbor: the simple window screen and an abundance of air conditioning. (Jervis, 5/12)

The Wall Street Journal: House Passes Bills To Combat Opioid Abuse In U.S.
The House passed several bills Thursday to combat the country’s growing problems with painkiller abuse and heroin use, which health officials say are now causing more Americans to die from drug overdoses than traffic accidents. The bills, approved with broad bipartisan support, provide for substance abuse treatment, education and law enforcement efforts to tackle the opioid epidemic, among other provisions. They join related bills passed earlier in the week. (O'Keeffe, 5/12)

The Associated Press: House, Senate Hope To Craft Quick Anti-Drug Abuse Compromise
Congress is ready to start crafting compromise legislation addressing the nation’s opioid abuse crisis, which should be an easier lift than other issues facing lawmakers. The reason: Both parties have an election-year incentive to show they’re tackling a problem that’s killing people in America’s biggest cities and smallest towns. The House approved three bills Thursday setting up federal grants and taking other steps to battle the drug epidemic, the last of 18 measures on the issue the chamber overwhelmingly passed this week. Members of both parties hailed the measures, though Democrats complained that none provided any money for the programs and anti-drug advocates called the bills a needed but modest first step. (Fram, 5/13)

Los Angeles Times: Lawmaker Calls For Scrutiny Of Drug Makers' Role Amid Opioid Abuse Epidemic
As Congress showed bipartisan support for legislation to address the nation's opioid abuse epidemic, a lawmaker urged colleagues Thursday to look closely at the role of pharmaceutical companies, citing a Los Angeles Times investigation into the manufacturer of OxyContin. In remarks on the House floor, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) called the marketing of painkillers by drug companies "the root cause of the problems." (Ryan and Levey, 5/12)

The Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Adviser Signals Plan To Change Veterans’ Health Care
Donald Trump says the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health-care system is badly broken, and this week his campaign released some guidelines that would steer changes he would implement if he wins the presidency. While short on details, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee would likely push VA health care toward privatization and might move for it to become more of an insurance provider like Medicare rather than an integrated hospital system, said Sam Clovis, Mr. Trump’s chief policy adviser, in an interview. (Kesling, 5/12)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. To Post Employer Data About Workplace Injuries, Illnesses
A new federal regulation issued on Wednesday will reveal publicly the workplace injuries and illnesses employers have typically logged for their private use, triggering a clash with business groups that say the data could be misconstrued and exploited by unions and plaintiffs’ lawyers. The rule is the culmination of a long-running debate between workplace-safety regulators and businesses who have been at odds over what and how much safety information should be available to the government and the public. (Trottman, 5/11)

USA Today: White House Launches 'Microbiome' Initiative To Study Beneficial Bacteria
The White House will announce a new initiative Friday to kick start research into the microbes that shape life on Earth — including those in plants, animals, water, soil and air — as part of an effort to fight disease, grow more food and even reduce the greenhouse gases fueling climate change. With $121 million in federal dollars and $400 million in private funds, the National Microbiome Initiative will bring together researchers from a variety of disciplines. Government researchers will be joined by organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Michigan and JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. (Szabo, 5/13)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2016 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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