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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Fit To Print'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Fit To Print'" by Darrin Bell.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


They control the Hill
So repeal backers now must
Do more than just talk.

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Summaries Of The News:

Administration News

4. Obama Signs Cures Bill Into Law

The $6.3 billion measure, which includes funding for drug treatment, precision medicine, cancer research and other initiatives, will likely be the last measure that he signs into law during his presidency.

USA Today: Obama Signs $6.3 Billion Law For Cancer Research, Drug Treatment
President Obama signed a $6.3 billion bill to fund drug treatment, a precision medicine initiative and Vice President Biden's signature effort to "end cancer as we know it." In an emotional bill signing ceremony — likely the last one of this presidency — Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act in a White House auditorium. The signing brought full circle Obama's State of the Union challenge to Congress to "surprise the cynics" by tackling some of the biggest health priorities facing the country. (Korte, 12/13)

The Associated Press: Obama Signs Bill Boosting Spending On Cancer Research
On a "bittersweet day" that brought back memories of loved ones lost, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that makes new investments in cancer research and battling drug abuse. Obama signed the bill Tuesday at a ceremony on the White House campus flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and key lawmakers from both parties. ... The 21st Century Cures Act invests $1.8 billion for a cancer research "moonshot" that is strongly supported by Biden. The vice president's son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015. (Freking, 12/13)

The Hill: Obama Signs Medical Cures Bill Into Law 
President Obama on Tuesday signed a sweeping medical cures bill into law, capping more than a year of bipartisan negotiations. The 21st Century Cures Act seeks to speed up the approval of new drugs and invests new money in medical research. The measure grew to include a slew of bipartisan priorities, including $1 billion over two years to fight the epidemic of opioid addiction and $1.8 billion for Vice President Biden’s cancer “moonshot” initiative. A long-awaited mental health bill was also included in the package. (Sullivan, 12/13)

CQ Roll Call: Obama Signs Cures Bill Into Law
President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed into law a package of biomedical innovation bills that also includes legislation intended to improve U.S. mental health care, funding for several of the administration’s key health initiatives and money to help states combat the opioid epidemic. The bill, known as 21st Century Cures (HR 34), will direct $4.8 billion in funding to the National Institutes of Health over 10 years, specifically for programs including Obama’s cancer moonshot initiative. It also would direct $500 million over nine years to the Food and Drug Administration and $1 billion to states over two years to help fight prescription drug abuse. Appropriators would still have to sign off on the use of that funding in future years. (Williams, 12/13)

Modern Healthcare: Will The 21st Century Cures Act Finally Level The Playing Field For Hospitals? 
Nestled within the 994 pages of the 21st Century Cures Act that President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday is an opportunity for hospitals to change the way they are judged when patients are unnecessarily readmitted. The law requires Medicare to account for patient backgrounds when it calculates reductions in its payments to hospitals under the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program. Until the passage of the Cures Act, originally meant for biomedical innovation but turned into a smorgasbord of healthcare policies, thorny questions about adjusting for patient demographics had been avoided. Hospitals have been at fault if, within 30 days after discharge, patients return to the hospital for the same reason they were originally admitted.  (Whitman and Johnson, 12/13)

5. In Report Card, White House Economists Warn Health Law Repeal, Replace Would Have 'Profound Implications'

The report by the Council of Economic Advisers notes that Obamacare has driven the nation's rate of people without coverage to an all-time low while also bending the cost curve of health care spending.

CNBC: Obamacare Report Card Claims Next Year's Higher Premiums Are 'One-Time Adjustment'
The Obama administration on Tuesday released a wide-ranging, positive report card on the Affordable Care Act, describing how Obamacare has driven down the rate of people without health insurance "to its lowest level in history," increased financial security and access for consumers who seek medical care, and bent the cost-curve of health-care spending. (Mangan, 12/13)

The Hill: White House Report Makes Case Against ObamaCare Repeal 
The White House’s top economists released a sweeping report Tuesday warning of “profound implications” for a majority of Americans if ObamaCare is repealed and replaced. The report, dubbed “the economic record” of President Obama’s healthcare reforms, marks the administration's most public effort since the presidential election to pressure Republicans into keeping parts of the law in place. (Ferris, 12/13)

The Washington Times: White House Says Obamacare Is Saving Lives
The Obama administration pressured the federal health care law’s foes Tuesday to think twice about repealing the overhaul in the new year, releasing a report that defends the six-year-old reforms as a lifesaver that’s covered millions and ushered in a raft of benefits that will save people money. The White House Council of Economic Advisers said 20 million more people have insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, and the share of Americans reporting they delayed care because of costs has dropped by a third since 2010. (Howell, 12/13)

Morning Consult: Council of Economic Advisers Report Defends Obamacare Progress
The White House Council of Economic Advisers said in a report released Tuesday that the U.S. has made “historic progress” under the Obama administration when it comes to expanding access to health insurance and reforming how care is delivered. “The six years since the ACA became law have seen very encouraging trends in both health care costs and health care quality,” the report says, referring to the Affordable Care Act and citing the slower growth of health care costs and indications of higher quality of care. (McIntire, 12/13)

CQ Roll Call: Obama Administration Pushes New Health Care Data
The compilation of federal and state-by-state data comes as Republicans in Congress work through their strategy to repeal large aspects of the overhaul. The information, which does not provide any new statistics on the ongoing open enrollment period that runs through Jan. 31, is intended to highlight the benefits of the 2010 health care overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152). More than 20 million new individuals received insurance under the law. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in late November, when the most recent public data from the agency was released, said 2.1 million new individuals have signed up or re-enrolled for insurance during the current open enrollment period. (Williams, 12/13)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. Congressional Republicans Mull Repeal And Replace Timetables And Strategies

Procedural hurdles could cause delays in meeting the Inauguration Day target date for having a repeal measure on the new president's desk. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers are beginning to consider different aspects of how to advance the replacement plan as well as other policy proposals regarding Medicaid and Medicare.

Kaiser Health News: GOP’s Timetable For Getting Repeal To Trump May Be Ambitious
Republicans in Congress are so eager to repeal the federal health law that some have vowed to get a bill to President-elect Donald Trump’s desk on the day he takes the oath of office. “We will move right after the first of the year on an Obamacare repeal resolution,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters at a news conference Monday. But could lawmakers introduce, pass and get a repeal measure to the new president in the 17 days between Jan. 3, when they convene, and Inauguration Day, Jan. 20? Not likely, say budget experts. (Rovner, 12/14)

POLITICO Pro: Key Conservatives Back GOP Budget Strategy
Conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups plan to cut congressional GOP leaders some slack as they craft a budget to repeal Obamacare. Hard-liners torpedoed a fiscal 2017 budget earlier this year because it didn’t cut spending sufficiently, but they look likely to hold their fire in January. The budget resolution that House and Senate Republicans will unveil early next year will include reconciliation instructions to fast track repeal of the 2010 health law but is otherwise expected to be relatively bare-bones. (Weyl, 12/13)

CQ Roll Call: Exclusive: GOP Mulls Fund To Finance Obamacare Replacement
GOP lawmakers are looking beyond the repeal of the 2010 health care law and crafting strategy to tackle obstacles that may get in the way of replacing the law, even with Republicans in control of both Congress and the White House. One approach under consideration is to create a special fund where savings from getting rid of the health care law could be banked and later used to pay for a replacement for the law, people familiar with lawmaker and staff discussions said. (Krawzak, 12/13)