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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Fork It Over'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Fork It Over'" by Bob and Tom Thaves.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Efforts to protect
Blood supply from Zika may
Trigger shortages.

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Summaries Of The News:

Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. Appeals Court Strikes Administration's Rule Barring Alternative Type Of Health Insurance

The decision applies to a provision that kept insurers from offering insurance that pays a fixed dollar amount, such as $500 a day for hospital care. The administration said these policies do not meet the federal health law's standards. Also in the news, Connecticut officials have ordered that the state's insurance co-op begin the process of closing because of financial problems.

The New York Times: Court Strikes Down Obama Health Care Rule On Insurance Standards
A federal appeals court has ruled that consumers must be allowed to buy certain types of health insurance that do not meet the stringent standards of the Affordable Care Act, deciding that the administration had gone beyond the terms of federal law. The court struck down a rule issued by the Obama administration that barred the sale of such insurance as a separate stand-alone product. ... At issue is a type of insurance that pays consumers a fixed dollar amount, such as $500 a day for hospital care or $50 for a doctor’s visit, regardless of how much is actually owed to the provider. (Pear, 7/5)

The Hill: Another ObamaCare Co-Op Winding Down
The state of Connecticut is placing its nonprofit ObamaCare health insurer, called HealthyCT, under supervision and beginning a wind-down process due to financial struggles. The announcement is only the latest in a string of problems facing the nonprofit insurers set up under ObamaCare, known as co-ops. Republicans have seized on the troubles as evidence of problems in the health law as a whole. (Sullivan, 7/5)

The CT Mirror: State Deems Insurance Co-Op, HealthyCT, Financially Unstable
About 40,000 people will lose their health insurance in the coming months as a result of a state evaluation that has deemed the financial health of Connecticut’s nonprofit health care co-op unstable. The co-op, HealthyCT, was issued an order of supervision from the state's insurance department Tuesday after it became clear a new federal requirement for the provider to pay $13.4 million would leave its finances in disarray. The order prevents the co-op from issuing any new insurance policies – a measure designed to protect consumers. (Constable, 7/5)

Hartford Courant: Nonprofit Obamacare Insurer In Connecticut Going Out Of Business
HealthyCT, whose motto is"Plans for People. Not for Profit," learned Thursday that it had to pay $13.4 million to the federal government because of the risk adjustment rules that are part of the complex Obamacare system. Under risk adjustment, plans that cover more healthy people have to send money back to the government, which is then redistributed to other plans that have a sicker population. ... The company will wind down through the middle of next year. Once all the customers are gone, 72 Wallingford-based employees will be out of work, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit said. (Lee, 7/5)

Veterans' Health Care

5. Panel: VA Health System Has 'Profound Deficiencies,' Requires 'Urgent Reform'

The bipartisan Commission on Care says the Department of Veterans Affairs should get an overhaul that includes shuttering some facilities and making permanent a system that lets the nation’s 22 million veterans get care from private doctors.

The Associated Press: Report: VA Health Care Still Has 'Profound Deficiencies'
Two years after a scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs still has "profound deficiencies" in delivering health care to millions of veterans, a congressional commission says in a new report. The Commission on Care says in a report to be released Wednesday that the VA delivers high-quality health care but is inconsistent from one site to the next, and problems with access remain. (7/6)

USA Today/The Arizona Republic: VA Panel Calls For Broader Health Care Choices For Vets
An independent commission assigned to come up with reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs is calling for a transformation in health care for veterans with expanded options for community medical treatment and a new governing board to oversee the nation's largest health-care system. The report from the VA's Commission on Care contains 18 recommendations to achieve a "bold transformation of a complex system that will take years to fully realize," adding, "We believe these recommendations are essential to ensure that our nation's veterans receive the health care they need and deserve, both now and in the future." (Wagner, 7/5)

The Wall Street Journal: VA Health-System Overhaul Urged By Commission
The commission is recommending that the VA health-care system set up community networks staffed in part by independent providers that are credentialed by the agency. Facilities that have been identified for closing should be immediately sold or used for new purposes, according to the report. “The commission’s report includes a number of specific proposals that I look forward to reviewing closely over the coming weeks,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “We will continue to work with veterans, Congress and our partners in the veteran advocacy community to further our ongoing transformation of the veterans’ health care system.” (Armour and Kesling, 7/5)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. Both Sides Dig In On Opioid Bill, As Dems Call For More Than $900M In Funding

Democratic leaders wrote in a letter that they would not support the legislation without “significant funding that reflects the seriousness of the epidemic and provides meaningful support to these important priorities.”

The Hill: Dems Threaten To Oppose Opioids Bill Without Funding
Democratic leaders are threatening to oppose a landmark anti-addiction bill without “significant” new money, upping the ante in Congress’s months-long battle over funding to combat opiod abuse. In a sharply worded letter to Republicans on Tuesday, Democrats called for at least $940 million to expand access to treatment. (Ferris, 7/5)

Politico Pro: Democrats Threaten Opioid Legislation Over Funding
The White House and congressional Democrats are threatening to hold up an opioid bill unless Republicans add new funding to the measure, a standoff that could end up stalling legislation important to several GOP lawmakers running for reelection this fall. The conference report released Tuesday to address the opioid epidemic is “really insufficient I think to make a dent in providing treatment for people who desperately need it,” White House drug czar Michael Botticelli said in a conference call with reporters. (Norman and Haberkorn, 7/6)

Morning Consult: Opioid Legislation Set To Go The Route Of Zika Bill
A conference committee considering legislation to address the nation’s opioid epidemic is poised to end in partisan gridlock, with neither side willing to budge on whether new funding should be included in the bill. Democrats have long called for more money to be allocated to fighting the epidemic through legislation, but Republicans have stuck to their mantra of dealing with funding through the appropriations process. Neither side appears likely to budge before Wednesday’s conference meeting. (Owens, 7/5)

Administration News

7. HHS Relaxes Strict Prescribing Caps For Anti-Addiction Medication

The limits, put in place to thwart the black market, have made it hard for those in need to get a prescription for buprenorphine.

The Associated Press: US To Raise Cap For Docs Prescribing Opioid Addiction Drug
The Obama administration is increasing the number of patients whom doctors can treat for opioid addiction with a medication called buprenorphine. The cap is being raised from 100 patients per doctor to 275 as the White House tries to pressure Congress to approve funds for opioid abuse treatment. Doctors seeking the higher cap will have to apply. The modest step being announced Wednesday comes the same day that House-Senate bargainers plan to meet to finalize a compromise package on drug abuse. (7/6)