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5. Political Cartoon: 'The Good Kind'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'The Good Kind'" by Dan Piraro.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

POETIC JUSTICE: CALIF. LEVIES ON SUGARY DRINKS USED TO FUNDS OBESITY AND DENTAL PROGRAMS

It’s the new cash cow…
Funding from soda taxes
Supports public health.

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Summaries Of The News:

Capitol Hill Watch

6. McConnell: Health Law Repeal To Happen Fast, Replacement Specifics Less Clear

Even as the Senate majority leader confirmed that Republicans plan to repeal elements of President Barack Obama's signature health law early next year, some GOP lawmakers are beginning to focus on the need to take steps to stabilize the individual insurance market so that the millions of people who gained coverage as a result of Obamacare aren't harmed. Also, could red-state Democrats be tempted to support repeal efforts?

Morning Consult: McConnell: Obamacare Replacement Plan Is ‘Phase Two’
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday indicated that Republicans won’t be putting forth their alternative to the Affordable Care Act before repealing parts of the health care law. “We’re going to move forward first, first with the Obamacare replacement resolution,” the Kentucky Republican said at a Capitol Hill press conference. “What comes next is what comes next.” (McIntire, 12/12)

CQ Roll Call: McConnell: Obamacare Repeal To Come Before Replace
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday confirmed that Republicans will take steps early next year to repeal aspects of President Barack Obama’s signature health law before a replacement system is put in place. His comments come as some GOP lawmakers in Congress have said a blueprint for replacement should be established before any repeal action is taken to gut the 2010 health care overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152). “We will move right after the first of the year on an Obamacare [repeal] resolution and then we will work expeditiously to come up with a better proposal than current law,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters. (Williams, 12/12)

NPR: Obamacare's Death Could Be Faster Than Republicans Intend
Republicans in Congress say they'll vote to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act early next year — even though they don't yet have a plan to replace it. But they also insist that they don't want to harm any of the millions of people who got their health insurance under the law. (Kodjak, 12/12)

Roll Call: Obamacare ‘Cliff’ Worries Republicans
Though Republicans are itching to start on their promises to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, many of them worry about repercussions if the process stalls or takes too long. ... A new health care law might not take effect for up to three years, The Associated Press reported, in order to give Congress and President-elect Donald Trump enough time to come up with a feasible replacement. In the meantime, the uncertainty could leave Republican members up for reelection vulnerable. ... “There needs to be a reasonable transition period so people don’t have the rug pulled out from under them,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters last week. But not all Republicans see eye to eye on the proposed time frame. (Braun, 12/12)

Politico: King Talks Russia, Obamacare Ahead Of Trump Meeting
Rep. King said he is meeting with President-elect Donald Trump later in the week to talk about the president's agenda. The New York Republican said the Trump team has shown a willingness to take on the Affordable Care Act early in the administration, a priority of his and other Republicans. (Dawsey, 12/12)

POLITICO Pro: Red-State Democrats Resist Obamacare Repeal Temptation
Red-state Senate Democrats are resisting the urge to vote for an Obamacare repeal to bolster their conservative bona fides — even those hailing from states where Donald Trump won big. While the united Democratic front won't change the likely outcome of a repeal vote — because Republicans will only need a simple majority of votes for repeal under the procedure they plan on using — keeping defections to a minimum may offer a measure of political victory for Democrats. And a strong vote against the GOP repeal means Democrats can highlight the lack of a plausible GOP replacement plan. (Haberkorn, 12/12)

The Hill: Pro-ObamaCare Groups Launch Ads Against Repeal 
A coalition of groups fighting ObamaCare repeal is launching a “seven-figure” ad-buy in selected states warning against the dangers of scrapping the law without a replacement. The coalition is called the Alliance for Healthcare Security, and includes liberal advocacy groups like Families USA and Physicians for a National Health Program. The print and digital ads are targeted to Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Nevada, Tennessee and Washington, D.C. (Sullivan, 12/12)

Also on Capitol Hill -

McClatchy: Some Lawmakers Want More Money For Medical Research But President-Elect Trump May Not Agree 
With a stroke of his pen on Tuesday, President Barack Obama will commit billions of dollars in federal funds to boost medical research, including money for Vice President Joe Biden’s “moonshot” to cure cancer. But the budget increase for the National Institutes of Health authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act is smaller than hoped for by some conservative lawmakers, including Rep. Kevin Yoder and Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt. The three Republicans say the bill doesn’t go far enough, and they’ll keep working to build up the NIH’s budget. (Wise, 12/12)

Morning Consult: Republicans Press CMS For More EpiPen Details
GOP leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Finance committees are pressing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for more information about when agency officials first realized a popular allergy treatment was misclassified in the Medicaid program. CMS revealed earlier this year that Mylan’s EpiPen, which was at the center of a drug pricing controversy, had been classified as a generic drug in the program, instead of a brand name drug. That means Mylan has potentially paid millions of dollars less than it should have to state Medicaid programs and to the federal government. (McIntire, 12/12)

Health Law

7. Even As Congress Eyes Repeal, Sign-Ups For Obamacare Suggest A Banner Enrollment Season

But Maryland consumers who had been Evergreen Health plan members are facing confusing information about deadlines as they scramble to find new coverage. Evergreen is not allowed to sell individual health plans as it waits for regulators to determine if it can convert to a for-profit insurer.

The Baltimore Sun: Enrollment Is Brisk As Congress Mulls Repeal Of Obamacare 
As the Republican-led Congress and the President-elect Donald J. Trump call for the repeal of the federal health care law known as Obamacare, insurance exchanges in Maryland and around the country continue to sign people up for coverage at a pace that could make it a banner year. Officials at the online marketplaces are making an extra push to enroll consumers ahead of Thursday's deadline for coverage beginning at the first of the year. (Cohn, 12/12)

The Baltimore Sun: Confusion Ensues Over Enrollment Deadline For Evergreen Members 
Conflicting information about deadlines has created confusion for many of Evergreen Health's individual plan members as they scramble to find new health insurance. The Maryland Insurance Administration barred Evergreen on Dec. 8 from selling individual health plans as it waits for regulators to decide whether it can convert to a for-profit insurer, and it gave Evergreen's thousands of individual members until Dec. 31 to switch to a new plan. Yet Evergreen sent email and letter notices informing its 9,000 individual members that they needed to choose another insurer's plan by Thursday to ensure they have coverage starting Jan. 1. The insurer's website noted the same Dec. 15 deadline. (Gantz, 12/12)

8. If Obamacare Requirement On Preexisting Conditions Is Rolled Back, 52 Million Could Be Uninsurable

Before the health law, insurers could deny coverage or charge higher rates based on an individual-plan applicant's health history. If that were true again today, 52 million Americans have a medical condition that could jeopardize their insurance, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)