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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

6. Political Cartoon: 'Now That You Mention It'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Now That You Mention It'" by Hilary Price.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Unplanned pregnancies
Are a public health concern.
Here’s an idea.

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Summaries Of The News:

Health Law Issues And Implementation

7. Obama Urges Fixes To Signature Legislation: It Isn't Perfect -- But 'No Law Is'

The president spoke of the law's successes while also urging lawmakers and governors to make the changes necessary to make it better. "When one of these companies comes out with a new smartphone and it had a few bugs, what do they do? They fix it," he said. "You don’t say, well, we're repealing smartphones."

The Associated Press: Obama: Health Care Law Worked, But Improvements Needed
President Barack Obama on Thursday defended his namesake health care program, long a target of Republicans and recently criticized by some Democrats, saying millions of Americans "now know the financial security of health insurance" because of the Affordable Care Act. "It's worked," he said, even while allowing that the program isn't perfect. "No law is." (Superville, 10/20)

USA Today: Obama Offers Prescription For Affordable Care Act 'Growing Pains'
President Obama acknowledged "growing pains" with his signature health insurance law on Thursday, offering a number of proposals that he said would expand health insurance and reduce premiums. ... He compared it to a "starter home" that needs improvements over time, and even to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, a smartphone recalled last month after they started catching fire. "When one of these companies comes out with a new smartphone and it had a few bugs, what do they do?  They fix it. They upgrade, unless it catches fire. Then they pull it off the market," he said. "But you don’t go back to using a rotary phone. You don’t say, well, we're repealing smartphones." (Korte, 10/20)

The Washington Post: Obama Says The Affordable Care Act Works But Has Affordability ‘Growing Pains’
The president said rising premiums and diminished competition in ACA insurance exchanges in some states are especially problematic for people who do not qualify for federal subsidies that the law provides. He proposed that his successor in the White House and the next Congress provide larger tax credits to encourage young adults to buy coverage through the marketplaces and raise the income thresholds to make the subsidies available to more middle-class families. (Goldstein, 10/20)

Politico: Obama Defends Obamacare, Acknowledges Problems With The Law
Obama renewed calls for every state to expand Medicaid, which 19 states have refused to do. Roughly 4 million low-income Americans would be eligible for coverage if every state adopted Medicaid expansion. In addition, Obama reiterated support for a government-run insurance plan that could bolster competition in the Obamacare marketplaces. Without offering specifics, Obama also called for additional subsidies to make coverage more affordable. Both ideas have encountered strong resistance from Republicans. (Demko, 10/20)

Modern Healthcare: Obama Calls For Public Option, More Subsidies To Improve ACA 
Obama on Thursday said there should be more premium tax credits for middle income families who currently make too much money to qualify for a subsidy. He also said there should be a fallback public option for states where there is not enough competition among insurers. Clinton has campaigned on this idea, but it would probably only be possible at a state level, especially if Republicans retain control of the House. (Muchmore, 10/20)

The Hill: Obama Confronts ‘Growing Pains’ Of Healthcare Law 
He carefully sought to separate that criticism from the inflamed political rhetoric of the GOP, blasting the House for voting 60 times to repeal Obamacare without producing a replacement bill. And he was quick to blame Republican leaders in statehouses across the country for blocking some of the law’s central programs, such as Medicaid expansion and state-run marketplaces. (Ferris and Fabian, 10/20)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Defends Health-Care Law
Republicans pointed to some of the law’s challenges before Mr. Obama even finished the speech, delivered at Miami Dade College. “Obamacare is collapsing. Insurance companies are abandoning the program, leaving stranded families to face higher premiums and fewer choices,” said Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, in a statement sent out about halfway through the remarks. (Radnofsky, 10/20)

Politico Pro: GOP Rebuffs Obama's Entreaties To Fix Health Law 
Republicans have been bashing Obamacare for more than six years and there is no sign that they’re going to break that habit — let alone vote for legislative repairs. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that the law “can’t be fixed.” Obamacare is the reason “we’ve seen record premium hikes,” Ryan said in a statement. “That's why millions of people—including millennials—have lost their plans, or been forced to buy plans they don’t like. That's why we've seen waste, fraud, and abuse. And at this point, one thing is clear: This law can't be fixed.” (Haberkorn, 10/20)

8. Minnesota Residents Should Shop For Insurance Early To Avoid Enrollment Caps

Insurance analysts warn that some plans could fill up in a matter of weeks. In other regional insurance news, some Missouri companies are dropping domestic partner coverage, saying they are no longer necessary as same-sex couples can now legally wed.

Pioneer Press: What To Know About Enrollment Caps On Minnesota Health Insurance Plans
To avoid being locked out of the health plan they want, Minnesotans buying insurance on the individual market will need to shop early next month. That’s because all but one of the plans selling insurance on Minnesota’s individual market have set enrollment caps — and could fill up in a matter of weeks.“ The choices are going to be so incredibly limited,” said Heidi Mathson, past president of the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters, which represents insurance agents and brokers. “I think those caps are going to be met very quickly.” This means options for health insurance could narrow to one or two choices soon after the open enrollment period begins Nov. 1. (Montgomery, 10/20)

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Employers Drop Domestic Partner Coverage, Citing Legalization Of Same-Sex Marriage 
As many local companies head into open enrollment season, some employees may notice that their employer is no longer offering domestic partner coverage. The shake-up comes in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that now allows same-sex couples to legally marry. For many employers, extending domestic partner coverage was viewed as a workaround, a way to offer same-sex couples benefits that married couples were enjoying. (Liss, 10/20)

Administration News

9. Watchdog: EPA Lacked Urgency On Flint, Failed In Oversight Role

The agency had sufficient authority to issue an emergency order as early as June 2015, but it didn't take action until January 2016, the report finds.

The New York Times: E.P.A. Waited Too Long To Warn Of Flint Water Danger, Report Says
In a pointed rebuke to the Environmental Protection Agency, an internal watchdog concluded on Thursday that the agency should have acted more swiftly to warn residents of Flint, Mich., that their water was contaminated with lead. The report, issued by Arthur A. Elkins Jr., the inspector general for the E.P.A., blamed the federal government for inaction in Flint, echoing the sentiments of many Republicans who have said for more than a year that the agency failed in its oversight role. (Bosman, 10/20)