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From Kaiser Health News:

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Happiest Place On Earth?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Happiest Place On Earth?'" by Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

EXPANDING DUTIES

VA offers plan
To help curb wait times: Nurses
Could replace doctors.

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Summaries Of The News:

Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. ACOs Will Face 'Uphill Battle' In Qualifying For Exemptions After IRS Ruling

The agency recently denied a tax exemption sought by an accountable care organization that coordinates care for people with commercial insurance, saying the network negotiated agreements with insurers on behalf of doctors — and that is not a charitable activity. The decision could impact ACOs that do not coordinate care for Medicare beneficiaries. Meanwhile, The New York Times offers a look at a clandestine meeting that took place with IRS officials over the Affordable Care Act.

The New York Times: I.R.S. Ruling Is Obstacle To Health Care Networks Promoted By Obama
A ruling by the Internal Revenue Service creates a significant obstacle to a new type of health care network that the Obama administration has promoted as a way to provide better care at lower cost, industry lawyers and providers say. ... In its recent ruling, the I.R.S. denied a tax exemption sought by an accountable care organization that coordinates care for people with commercial insurance. The tax agency said the organization did not meet the test for tax-exempt status because it was not operated exclusively for charitable purposes and it provided private benefits to some doctors in its network. (Pear, 5/29)

The New York Times: In A Secret Meeting, Revelations On The Battle Over Health Care
On Jan. 13, 2014, a team of Internal Revenue Service financial managers piled into government vans and headed to the Old Executive Office Building for what would turn out to be a very unusual meeting. Upon arrival, the I.R.S. officials, some of whom had expressed doubts that the Obama administration had the proper authority to spend billions of dollars on a crucial element of its health care law, were ushered into a conference room. There, they were presented with an Office of Management and Budget memo laying out the administration’s justification for spending $3.9 billion on consumer health insurance subsidies. (Hulse, 5/30)

In other health law news, officials are having a hard time reaching Maryland's uninsured, Texans say they want expanded Medicaid in a new survey and insurers are criticized for killing brokers' fees —

Baltimore Sun: Many Uninsured Still Are Not Enrolling Health Plans Despite Obamacare
Three years after the launch of the state's health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, three in five of Maryland's eligible uninsured still lack coverage. Despite the state's outreach efforts — and penalties imposed on those who don't buy health plans — officials acknowledge that they are having a hard time reaching most residents without insurance. (McDaniels, 5/28)

Houston Chronicle: Consumers Could Lose Out As Insurers Kill Broker Fees
The industry has called it a difficult but necessary decision in a time when it's being hammered by losses in the individual market, especially during the "special enrollment periods" reserved for those who need new coverage because of a job loss or life change. Insurers allege many people are abusing the system by waiting until they are already sick to sign up. Not all are buying that explanation, however, calling it one more covert way the industry has found to impede access to higher-benefit coverage and skirt the health care law's mandate to cover everyone regardless of medical needs. (Deam, 5/28)

Campaign 2016

5. Trump Promises Vets Private Doctor Option In Face Of VA Delays

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee spoke at the Rolling Thunder rally in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend. Meanwhile, The Hill looks ahead to the potential impact anticipated Obamacare premium increases could have on Hillary Clinton's campaign.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Reaches Out To Veterans At ‘Rolling Thunder’ Rally
Donald Trump reached out to veterans at a biker rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday afternoon, drawing applause as he promised to pay for private health care and to announce new donations to veterans groups. ... He promised to give veterans the option of seeing a private doctor if they encounter delays in getting care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. “Of those vets, of our cherished people, thousands of people are waiting on line to see a doctor,” Mr. Trump said. “That is not going to happen anymore. If there is a wait, we are going to give the right for those people to go to a private doctor, or even a public doctor, and get themselves taken care of and we are going to pay the bill.” (Tracy, 5/29)

Houston Chronicle: President Trump, Social Security, And Medicare
If you are closing in on retirement age, you are keenly interested in how the three remaining Presidential candidates -- Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders -- plan to deal with the fiscal challenges of Social Security and Medicare. If you are not close to retirement age, you should be even more interested, as the long-term stability of both programs could be at stake in this election. Here are the stances of the three major candidates on retirement issues. (5/26)

The Hill: Hillary's ObamaCare Problem
Hillary Clinton is facing the problem of higher ObamaCare premium hikes in an election year. ObamaCare premiums are expected to rise more sharply than they have in previous years, and Republicans are seizing on the issue for electoral advantage. “Despite premium hikes under ObamaCare, Clinton continues to take credit for the law on the campaign trail,” the Republican National Committee wrote in a recent email, above a compilation of headlines about steep proposed increases. (Sullivan, 5/30)

Veterans' Health Care

6. VA Considers Expanding Scope Of Practice Of Nurses In Effort To Address Wait Times

The plan came under immediate fire from some of the country’s largest doctors’ groups. Meanwhile, a Senate investigation raises questions about the inspector general's ability to police veterans' health care access.

The Washington Post: To Cut Wait Times, VA Wants Nurses To Act Like Doctors. Doctors Say Veterans Will Be Harmed.
The Department of Veterans Affairs would dramatically expand the authority of nurses to treat patients without a doctor’s supervision in a controversial proposal by the country’s largest health-care system. The plan, which would allow nurses with advanced training to broaden their responsibilities for patients, is drawing attention to a bitter debate over the relative roles of doctors and nurses. Because of VA’s high visibility, it is likely to be closely watched. The agency, through amended regulations, wants to give vast new authority to its most trained nurses to order and read diagnostic tests, administer anesthesia, prescribe medications and manage acute and chronic diseases — without a doctor’s oversight. (Rein, 5/27)

USA Today: Senate Investigation Finds 'Systemic' Failures At VA Watchdog
A Senate investigation of poor health care at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wis., found systemic failures in a VA inspector general’s review of the facility that raise questions about the internal watchdog’s ability to ensure adequate health care for veterans nationwide. The probe by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee found the inspector general’s office, which is charged with independently investigating VA complaints, discounted key evidence and witness testimony, needlessly narrowed its inquiry and has no standard for determining wrongdoing. (Slack, 5/31)

In other veterans' health care news —

Tampa Bay Times: Study Finds That VA Treats PTSD Better Than The Private Sector
The study found that the VA is up to 30 percent better at providing medication to veteran patients than the private sector is for its patients. That was largely due to the VA's ability to provide a one-stop shop for timely medication to patients with appropriate followup care, such as therapy and blood-level checks, to ensure proper medication dosages. Patients in the private sector also have other hurdles like insurance programs that don't cover certain mental health care costs, such as medication associated with mental health disorders. (Neuhaus, 5/30)

Public Health And Education

7. WHO: There's No Public Health Justification For Adjusting Olympics Timing, Location

About 150 health experts called on the organization to consider postponing or moving the Rio Summer Olympics because of the virus to no avail. Meanwhile, Congress has left for recess without approving funding to fight Zika, and local health departments are scrambling.

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