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KHN First Edition: July 1, 2015


First Edition

Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: California’s Tough New Law Overcomes Decades-Old Distrust Of Vaccines
KQED's April Dembosky, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed into law a requirement that nearly all children to be vaccinated in order to attend school. With the stroke of a pen, California went from being a state with relatively lax vaccination rules to one of the most strict in the country — joining Mississippi and West Virginia as states where even exemptions for religious beliefs are not allowed. As the bill worked its way through the legislative process, it faced strong, consistent, vocal opposition from some parents, including a small group of protesters who stood vigil outside the Capitol in Sacramento for days before it was clear Brown would sign the bill." (Dembosky, 7/1)

Kaiser Health News: Supreme Court Reprieve Lets 10 Texas Abortion Clinics Stay Open For Now
Houston Public Media's Carrie Feibel, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Tuesday would have been the last day of operation for 10 Texas clinics that provide abortion. But on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court, in one of its final actions this session, said the clinics can remain open while clinic lawyers ask the Court for a full review of a strict abortion law. Two dozen states have passed regulations similar to the ones being fought over in Texas." (Feibel, 7/30)

Politico: Barack Obama Takes An Obamacare Victory Lap
White House aides say the president isn’t under any illusions that Republicans will drop their objections to the Affordable Care Act just because the administration won the last Supreme Court fight. So while Obama will “discuss how we can move forward and continue building on the progress made under the Affordable Care Act,” according to the trip announcement, he’s not planning to get confrontational, avoiding the more controversial elements, one official said. In particular, the president intends to praise the efforts of Tennessee’s Republican governor, who has embraced key parts of Obamacare and is working to expand Medicaid in his state, a key part of the health care reforms and a top Obama priority. (Wheaton, 7/1)

The Associated Press: Obama Aims To Change Conversation Around Health Care Law
President Barack Obama is aiming to change the conversation around his health care law from talk about undoing it to talk of how to make it better. Obama was headed to the Nashville, Tennessee-area on Wednesday to discuss ways to improve the Affordable Care Act, including by extending Medicaid coverage to more low-income people. Tennessee is among about 20 states that have rejected Obama's offer of billions of dollars to help pay to expand the federal-state health care program for the poor. (7/1)

The New York Times: Right Divided, A Disciplined Left Steered The Supreme Court
The stunning series of liberal decisions delivered by the Supreme Court this term was the product of discipline on the left side of the court and disarray on the right. In case after case, including blockbusters on same-sex marriage and President Obama’s health care law, the court’s four-member liberal wing, all appointed by Democratic presidents, managed to pick off one or more votes from the court’s five conservative justices, all appointed by Republicans. ... For example, in King v. Burwell, the case brought by groups hostile to the Affordable Care Act, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joined the court’s four liberals in rejecting the challenge to health insurance subsidies provided through federal exchanges. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented. (Liptak, 7/1)

Los Angeles Times: A Liberal But Restrained Supreme Court Term
The Supreme Court in the just-completed term passed up a number of opportunities to upend existing law, including the Affordable Care Act. ... The court’s hesitation to strike down existing laws was evident in several cases. ... Justice Kennedy’s votes with the court’s liberals are a major factor in their success. But another conservative justice, Chief Justice Roberts, wrote the majority opinion rejecting a conservative-backed lawsuit that would have gutted the Affordable Care Act. He was joined by the liberal bloc and Justice Kennedy. (Braven, 6/30)

The New York Times' DealBook: On Wall Street, Cautious Optimism As Merger Deals Near Peak Level
And the biggest American health insurers are circling one another, eager to find a merger partner to help cut costs and bolster their presence in lucrative areas like Medicare. Anthem has proposed buying Cigna for $47 billion; Humana is weighing takeover approaches from the likes of Aetna and Cigna; and UnitedHealthcare has expressed interest in buying Aetna. Adding special urgency to their deliberations is the possibility of being left out, since government regulators are likely to allow only some, not all, efforts among health insurers to combine. (de la Merced, 6/30)

The Wall Street Journal: What Employers Need To Know About Court’s Gay-Marriage Ruling
The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, meaning that same-sex marriages must be recognized nationwide. The ruling will have vast implications for employers, which until now have been operating under a patchwork of different state and federal laws governing the legal and tax treatment of same-sex unions. ... In general, yes. Companies that offer spousal health benefits and use a separate insurance company to fund their benefits will now be required to cover both gay and straight spouses. ... But companies that are self-insured, which means they assume the insurance risks for their own employees, a common practice among large companies, aren’t under the same legal constraints. (Silverman, 6/30)

The Wall Street Journal's CFO Journal: Unions Face Battle-Tested Executives In Talks
While wrangling over benefits is a cornerstone of union negotiations, looming threats facing several big companies—including coping with the requirements of The Affordable Care Act– exacerbate the conflicts, as we reported today in CFO Journal. ... With major tenets of the health law in place for the long haul, labor and management will have to figure out the “subtle, million-and-one smaller points of the bigger package,” he said, such as the excise tax on high-cost plans, or Cadillac tax. Companies could terminate their health care plans, or move employees to higher deductible plans. (Johnson, 6/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Bosses Reclassify Workers To Cut Costs
All this is happening against the backdrop of a broader shifting of risk from employers to workers, who shoulder an increasing share of responsibility for everything from health-insurance premiums to retirement income to job security. Alleged misclassification of workers has been one of the primary battlegrounds of this shift, leading to high-profile lawsuits against Uber Technologies Inc. and FedEx Corp., among others. Both have recently lost or settled big cases. Uber is appealing one decision, and FedEx settled in California for $228 million but is continuing to challenge classification lawsuits in other states. (Weber,6/30)

The Associated Press: Drug And Device Firms Paid $6.5B To Care Providers
From research dollars to free lunches and junkets, drug and medical device companies paid doctors and leading hospitals nearly $6.5 billion last year, according to government data posted Tuesday. The latest update to the Open Payments database is part of an ongoing effort to highlight potential conflicts of interest in medicine. Unlike last year's initial version of the database, this one is much easier to use for consumers interested in looking up their own doctors. (6/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug And Medical-Device Makers Paid $6.49 Billion To Doctors, Hospitals In 2014
Drug and medical-device makers paid $6.49 billion to U.S. doctors and teaching hospitals during 2014, according to the federal government’s first full-year accounting of the breadth of industry financial ties with medical providers. The tally comprises company payments to more than 600,000 doctors and 1,100 hospitals for services such as consulting, research and promotional speeches about drugs, as well as the value of free meals provided to doctors by sales reps pitching products. (Loftus and Walker, 6/30)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: How New Drugs Helping Millions Of Americans Live Longer Are Also Making Them Go Broke
Around the U.S., people with serious diseases like Agar’s are falling through the cracks, unable to afford the medication they need even if they have good jobs and good insurance. Patients with HIV, cancer, lupus, leukemia, hepatitis C and other serious conditions are paying huge out-of-pocket sums for necessary medication. These costs are putting heavy mental and financial stress on some of America’s most vulnerable people. (Swanson, 6/30)

The New York Times: Many Board Members Fight Smoking Even As Chamber Opposes Tobacco Laws
Anthem, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, wants its members to stop smoking. ... But Anthem’s executive vice president, Wayne S. DeVeydt, serves on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is engaged in a worldwide campaign to block antismoking laws. These include taxes on cigarettes in the Philippines, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs in Jamaica and Nepal, a plan to prohibit the display of cigarettes by retailers in Uruguay and restrictions on smoking in public spaces in Moldova. The chamber’s global opposition to antismoking measures, reported by The New York Times on Tuesday, poses a challenge for many of the members of the organization, particularly hospitals and health insurers. (Hakim, 7/1)

The Washington Post: VA’s Embattled Watchdog To Step Down
The chief watchdog for the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Tuesday that he is retiring this week after months of criticism that his office failed to aggressively investigate wrongdoing in the troubled agency. Richard Griffin, who has served as acting inspector general since 2013, had come under fire from members of Congress, whistleblowers and veterans’ groups for being too cozy with leaders of the agency that his office is supposed to investigate for fraud, waste and abuse. (Rein, 6/30)

The Associated Press: FDA Weighs New Restrictions On Liquid Nicotine Products
The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it is responding to an uptick in nicotine poisonings reported by emergency rooms and poison centers nationwide, many involving infants and children. The agency said in an online posting it is considering whether "it would be appropriate for the protection of the public health to warn the public about the dangers or nicotine exposure" and "require that some tobacco products be sold in child-resistant packaging." (6/30)

The New York Times' First Draft: Jeb Bush’s Wealth Soared When He Left Governor’s Office, Tax Returns Show
One of his endeavors included serving as a paid director to the hospital company Tenet Healthcare, which backed President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The position invited questions for Mr. Bush, who as a candidate opposes the health care law. Mr. Bush profited handsomely from his Tenet shares. According to the newly released tax returns, Mr. Bush acquired $441,203 worth of stock in Tenet Healthcare in May 2011. The stock doubled in value by the time he sold it in October 2013, earning him a profit of $462,013 in just 29 months. Like other hospital stocks, Tenet rose sharply from October 2012 through March 2013, when President Obama’s re-election made it likely that the health care law would be carried out. (Eder, 6/30)

Los Angeles Times: California Gov. Jerry Brown Signs New Vaccination Law, One Of Nation's Toughest
Adopting one of the most far-reaching vaccination laws in the nation, California on Tuesday barred religious and other personal-belief exemptions for schoolchildren, a move that could affect tens of thousands of students and sets up a potential court battle with opponents of immunization. California’s weakened public health defenses against measles and other preventable diseases led to the adoption of the measure, signed Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown, intended to stem the rising number of parents who opt not to inoculate their children. (Willon and Mason, 6/30)

The Wall Street Journal: California Gov. Brown Signs Bill Requiring Vaccinations For Schoolchildren
Senate Bill 277, which goes into effect in 2016, will no longer allow personal-belief exemptions for students whose families want to avoid vaccinations. Under the new law, unvaccinated children without medical exemptions will have to either be home-schooled or taught through an independent study course. According to California public records, about 90% of kindergarten students had all the required immunizations in the school year 2014-2015. (Porter, 6/30)

USA Today: California Governor Signs Strict Law Requiring Vaccinations For Most Kids
While all 50 states require school children to be vaccinated, 48 currently allow exemptions for families with religious objections and 20 exempt children based on parents' personal beliefs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twelve states this year considered legislation addressing vaccine exemptions. In May, Vermont became the first state to repeal its personal belief exemption, although the law still permits exemptions for religious reasons. (Szabo, 6/30)

The Associated Press: What's Next For California's Contentious Vaccine Law
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a hotly contested California bill to impose one of the strictest school vaccination laws in the country in the wake of an outbreak of measles at Disneyland late last year. The following is a look at what the new law signed Tuesday means for the nation's most populous state. (7/1)

The Washington Post: Jim Carrey Denounces New Calif. Vaccine Law In Twitter Rant
A celebrity critic of vaccines and former partner of another star with an autistic child has taken to social media to denounce a new California law requiring most children be vaccinated. Jim Carrey dated Jenny McCarthy for about five years before they split in 2010. In 2005, McCarthy’s son Evan was diagnosed with autism; during their relationship and after their breakup, Carrey and McCarthy were vocal proponents of the discredited theory that vaccines and autism are linked. (Moyer,7/1)

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Approves New Pact For Troubled Nursing Home Inspection Program
Amid criticism of past oversight efforts, Los Angeles County supervisors approved a new contract Tuesday that redefines state and local responsibilities for inspecting nursing homes and other health facilities and investigating complaints of abuse, neglect or inadequate care of patients. The new contract will give the county more money and scale back its duties. Los Angeles County is the only local government in the state that is contracted to inspect health facilities. Elsewhere, the state handles licensing duties and investigates complaints. (Sewell, 6/30)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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