In This Edition:

From Kaiser Health News:

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Insurance Rules Can Hamper Recovery From Opioid Addiction

Medicaid and other health insurers require doctors to file time-consuming paperwork before allowing them to prescribe drugs that help people quit opioids. That delay fosters relapse, specialists say. (Jake Harper, Side Effects Public Media, 8/11)

Summaries Of The News:

Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. Brewing Health Law Storm Could Rain On Next President's First Month In Office

The fourth Obamacare signup period ends about one week before inauguration on Jan. 20, and could set the tone for the future of the health law following a precarious year for insurers on the marketplace.

The Hill: Next President Faces Possible ObamaCare Meltdown 
The next president could be dealing with an ObamaCare insurer meltdown in their very first month. The incoming administration will take office just as the latest ObamaCare enrollment tally comes in, delivering a potentially crucial verdict about the still-shaky healthcare marketplaces. (Ferris, 8/11)

In other news, Marilyn Tavenner talks with Politico's Pulse Check about her career shift —

Politico: Marilyn Tavenner On Implementing Obamacare — And Then Lobbying To Change It
At the start of 2015, Marilyn Tavenner held one of the most important jobs in health care: Implementing Obamacare, as the head of CMS. Six months later, she'd swapped it for a completely different major role: Lobbying to change Obamacare, as the head of America's Health Insurance Plans. It's an unusual career shift, and it's given Tavenner — a long-time government official turned top lobbyist — a rare perspective on the changes unfolding in the industry. (Diamond, 8/10)

Campaign 2016

5. GOP Candidates Distance Campaigns From 'Repeal-And-Replace' Mantra Of The Past

The health law, one of most politically charged topics of the day, has faded into the background of the 2016 elections. Meanwhile, The Washington Post looks at how talking about the candidates' mental health in soundbites can be a tricky business.

Politico Pro: For GOP Candidates, Obamacare Is Not This Year's Rallying Cry 
The rallying cry to repeal Obamacare, a staple of Republican campaigns, is falling behind national security and the economy as the most prominent themes on the stump this year. Donald Trump typically makes a passing mention to repealing the Affordable Care Act, but he hasn’t dived into the details. He recently promised to replace the health law with “something.” (Haberkorn, 8/10)

The Washington Post: Pundits, Take Note: Narcissists Aren’t 'Crazy.' They Also Aren’t Likely To Change
Donald Trump has spawned a new industry, what might be called Trumpology — the study of his mental state and personality. Numerous pundits have suggested that the Republican presidential nominee has some kind of mental illness or medical condition that explains his boastfulness, intemperate outbursts and thin-skinned response to criticism. A recurring theme among these commentators is that Trump displays textbook signs of what psychiatrists call "narcissistic personality disorder." Not that Hillary Clinton has been spared the long-distance psychiatric evaluations. ... But psychiatric kibitzing is a slippery business. Largely lost in the conversation about Trump is the fact that a personality disorder is not a mental illness, strictly speaking. (Achenbach and Nutt, 8/10)

And in other news about Republican candidate Donald Trump —

The Washington Post: Zika May Be Linked To The Disability That Donald Trump Mocked
One of the lowest points of Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency has involved accusations that he mocked a reporter with a disability. “Now, the poor guy — you've got to see this guy," Trump said while jerking his arms in front of his body at a rally in South Carolina in November. ... [It] drew worldwide attention to a rare congenital joint condition known as arthrogryposis. Arthrogryposis typically affects development of the arms and legs and results in the joints being fixed in a bent or straightened position. ... A new study published in the BMJ on Tuesday suggests another intriguing possibility — that arthrogryposis may be yet another condition linked to Zika. (Cha, 8/10)


6. In Setback To Insurers, Judge Sets Aetna-Humana Trial For December

The later trial date means a ruling isn't likely to come down until January. The companies have an agreement that if the merger isn't approved by Dec. 31, Humana has the option to walk away from the deal.

The Wall Street Journal: Judge To Start Aetna-Humana Merger Trial Dec. 5
A federal judge said Wednesday that he would begin trial proceedings on Dec. 5 in the Justice Department’s antitrust challenge to the proposed merger of Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. The start date is a compromise between the proposals of the two sides, but it also amounted to a setback for the insurance companies. When he opened a scheduling hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John Bates said he was leaning toward an early November trial, which would have allowed him to decide the case before the end of the year. (Kendall, 8/10)

Modern Healthcare: Aetna-Humana Merger Challenge To Be Decided In January 
A federal judge is set to hear the looming antitrust challenge against Aetna and Humana's proposed $37 billion merger in December, with a decision coming in mid-January. According to media reports, U.S. District Judge John Bates scheduled the highly anticipated trial for a Dec. 5 start date during a status conference in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday. (Teichert, 8/10)

Bloomberg: Aetna Gets December Trial Date To Make Case For Humana Deal 
Health insurers Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. will go to trial against the U.S. on Dec. 5 in defense of their planned $37 billion merger, pushing a judge’s decision on the tie-up beyond their deadline for completing the deal by year-end. The decision on the trial’s timing came Wednesday after the Justice Department tried to persuade U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington to delay the start until January, after the companies’ self-imposed Dec. 31 merger deadline. (Harris and McLaughlin, 8/10)

7. Specialty Drug Costs Are Top Reason Insurance Will Be More Expensive Next Year, Survey Finds

Meanwhile, other stories related to the insurance market focus on expenses for uninsured testicular cancer patients, a Georgia health system deal and a federal fraud indictment in Florida.

The Fiscal Times: Your Health Insurance Will Cost More Next Year: Here’s What’s Driving Prices Higher
The cost of getting your health insurance through work will go up an average of 5 percent next year, according to a new survey of large employers by the National Business Group on Health. The cost for employers will go up 6 percent. This is the third consecutive year that employers’ health costs have risen by 6 percent. While that’s still more six times the current rate of inflation, it’s likely a smaller increase than will be experienced by consumers who purchase insurance through the public exchanges. (Braverman, 8/10)

WBUR: Study: Testicular Cancer Patients Without Insurance Fare Worse Than Insured
Men with testicular cancer, who are without insurance or on Medicaid (government insurance for low-income patients), tend to have more advanced disease upon diagnosis, larger tumors and a greater risk of dying, compared with those who have private insurance, according to researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. While testicular cancer is curable for most patients, even when it has spread, delaying treatment can lead to more advanced, and potentially fatal, disease, researchers write. That's why removing barriers — to both medical care and financing treatment — should be "an important part of the war on cancer," says Christopher Sweeney, a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and lead author of the study, published online this week in the journal Cancer. (Zimmerman, 8/9)

Georgia Health News: Piedmont Renews Insurance Deal . . . With Blue Cross
Piedmont on Tuesday announced the contract agreement with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, the state’s largest insurer. It comes just weeks after Piedmont and UnitedHealthcare failed to reach a new contract. Piedmont hospitals and physicians have been “out of network” for tens of thousands of United members in Georgia since July 1. (Miller, 8/10)

Tampa Bay Times: New Port Richey Pharmacy At Center Of Federal Insurance Fraud Indictment 
A New Port Richey pharmacy is at the center of a federal indictment that accuses eight people of obtaining millions of dollars in fraudulent reimbursements from private insurance companies, Medicare and the Tricare military health care program...According to the indictment, unsealed Tuesday, the co-conspirators used A to Z Pharmacy Inc. in New Port Richey and several Miami-area pharmacies to submit false claims for prescription compounded medications. (8/10)