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KHN First Edition: December 9, 2016


First Edition

Friday, December 09, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Retired Coal Miners At Risk Of Losing Promised Health Coverage And Pensions
West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Kara Lofton reports: "Without congressional intervention, about 16,000 retired miners in seven states will lose their health care coverage by the end of the year. A proposal to temporarily extend the benefits is working its way through Congress. But two Senate Democrats, who have long been advocates for a more comprehensive plan, say the temporary provision isn’t enough.They are threatening to hold up a spending bill that needs to pass by Friday night to keep the government running." (Lofton, 12/8)

Kaiser Health News: Many Parents With Job-Based Coverage Still Turn To Medicaid, CHIP To Insure Kids
Michelle Andrews reports: "Lower income parents who have health insurance through their employers are increasingly likely to forgo family coverage and enroll their kids in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) instead, a new study found. Working families’ growing reliance on these programs is something lawmakers should keep in mind when they consider whether to renew financing for the CHIP program in 2017, the study’s lead author said." (Andrews, 12/9)

The New York Times: Cures Act Gains Bipartisan Support That Eluded Obama Health Law
In recent years, few major bills have commanded as much support as the 21st Century Cures Act, which sailed to passage by votes of 392 to 26 in the House on Nov. 30, and 94 to 5 in the Senate a week later. Once it is signed by President Obama on Tuesday, as the White House has said it will be, the law will allow for money to be pumped into biomedical research and speed the approval of new drugs and medical devices. It also includes provisions to improve mental health care and combat opioid abuse. (Pear, 12/8)

The Associated Press: New Coalition Will Push Back On Repeal Of Obama Health Law
Supporters of the 2010 health care law will launch a political coalition Friday to block its repeal. They're targeting Republican lawmakers whose constituents may now be at risk of losing health insurance. The initial goal is to stop Congress from repealing the law without simultaneously passing a replacement for some 20 million people covered through subsidized private health insurance and expanded Medicaid. Called "Protect Our Care," the group brings together organizations that helped pass the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." (12/9)

Politico: Obamacare Repeal Could Be Biggest 2017 Tax Cut For Wealthy
The big winners in Republican plans to repeal Obamacare are likely to be the rich. Rescinding the Affordable Care Act means not only taking away health coverage from some 20 million Americans. It also means scrapping two big tax increases Democrats imposed on the wealthy to help pay for it all. (Faler, 12/8)

The Wall Street Journal: In Antitrust Trial, Justice Department Questions Aetna-Humana Asset Sale Plan
The Justice Department hammered away in court Thursday at the viability of a plan by Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. to sell off assets to alleviate antitrust concerns about their proposed $34 billion merger. The department, which is suing to block the merger, questioned the ability of the proposed asset buyer, California-based Molina Healthcare Inc., to keep the market for private Medicare plans for senior citizens competitive if Aetna and Humana combine. (Kendall, 12/8)

The Associated Press: Evergreen Won’t Renew Individual Health Benefit Policies
Evergreen Health Cooperative Inc. won’t be issuing or renewing individual health benefit policies on the Maryland Health Connection for the 2017 plan year, Maryland regulators announced Thursday. Evergreen, a start-up health maintenance organization that began as a nonprofit, is working to become a for-profit company. (Witte, 12/8)

The Associated Press: House Passes Stopgap Measure As Senators Raise Objections
The House on Thursday cleared bills to keep the government running through April and authorize hundreds of water projects, but a Senate fight over benefits for retired coal miners threatened to lead to a government shutdown this weekend. House members promptly bolted home for the holidays and will return next month to a capital city in which Republicans will fully control all levers of power, with Donald Trump inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president. The stopgap spending bill passed on a 326-96 vote. (Taylor and Lardner, 12/8)

USA Today: Internal Documents Detail Secret VA Quality Ratings
The Department of Veterans Affairs has for years assigned star ratings for each of its medical centers based on the quality of care and service they provide, but the agency has repeatedly refused to make them public, saying they are meant for internal use only. USA TODAY has obtained internal documents detailing the ratings, and they show the lowest-performing medical centers are clustered in Texas and Tennessee. (Slack, 12/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Universal Health Denies Report Of Filling Beds Solely For Financial Gain
Hospital company Universal Health Services Inc. on Thursday denied conclusions in a recent news report that it exaggerated patient symptoms and filled beds solely for financial gain. Shares of Universal Health had fallen sharply on Wednesday after BuzzFeed News published what it said was a yearlong investigation that painted a picture of Universal Health pressuring employees from at least 10 hospitals across nine states to fill beds by “exaggerating people’s symptoms or twisting their words to make them seem suicidal.” The article focused primarily on the company’s psychiatric operations. (Jamerson, 12/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Horizon Pharma Shares Plunge On Failed Late-Stage Study
Horizon Pharma PLC shares slid 20% in trading Thursday after a late-stage study for a genetic disease treatment broadly failed testing. The Irish biopharmaceutical company said phase 3 of its study for a treatment for Friedreich’s ataxia, a genetic disease that impacts one in 50,000 Americans, failed to show statistically significant change. (Moise, 12/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Endo Sells Back Rights For Opioid Painkiller
Endo International PLC said Thursday that it had sold back the rights to an opioid pain drug to BioDelivery Sciences International Inc., as the market for opioid-based painkillers has come under fire. Regulators and experts say the overuse of opioid-based pain treatments has contributed to an opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released long-awaited guidelines limiting the prescribing of opioid painkillers. (Hufford, 12/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Former Insys CEO Arrested In Opioid Prescription Kickback Case
Six former executives and managers at Insys Therapeutics Inc. were arrested on Thursday and charged with conspiring to defraud health insurers and bribe doctors in exchange for prescribing the company’s fentanyl painkiller, Subsys, the Justice Department said. Among those arrested were former Chief Executive Michael Babich, who resigned from the company in November 2015. Mr. Babich, 40 years old, was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, and conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback law. (Walker, 12/8)

The Associated Press: Major Survey Of Transgender Americans Finds Pervasive Bias
The largest-ever survey of transgender Americans paints a grim picture of pervasive discrimination and harassment, to the point that many of them attempt suicide at some point. Released on Thursday by the National Center for Transgender Equality, the survey assesses input received in 2015 from 27,715 respondents from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories. The largest previous transgender survey, conducted by the center and a partner organization in 2008-09, had 6,450 responses. (Crary, 12/8)

The Associated Press: Maryland Muslim Doctor Offers Free Clinics
For the past 10 years, Dr. Ashraf Meelu has paid out-of-pocket to offer basic health care in clinics open to the public. The 64-year-old Muslim doctor from Lothian, Maryland, along with a few volunteers, spends Friday mornings providing flu shots, measuring blood pressure and offering other health treatments at a Guatemalan consulate in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Connor, 12/8)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2016 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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