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KHN First Edition: January 17, 2017


First Edition

Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Drugmakers Manipulate Orphan Drug Rules To Create Prized Monopolies
More than 30 years ago, Congress overwhelmingly passed a landmark health bill aimed at motivating pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs for people whose rare diseases had been ignored. By the drugmakers’ calculations, the markets for such diseases weren’t big enough to bother with. But lucrative financial incentives created by the Orphan Drug Act signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 succeeded far beyond anyone’s expectations. More than 200 companies have brought almost 450 “orphan drugs” to market since the law took effect. (Tribble and Lupkin, 1/17)

Related coverage: Timeline Of The Orphan Drug Act | How Orphan Drugs Win The Monopoly Game | Former Rep. Henry Waxman Talks Orphan Drugs

Kaiser Health News: Top Price Contributor Allegedly Leaned On Employees To Support PAC
President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet pick Tom Price counts among his top contributors a Georgia company and its CEO, who sent managers an email demanding donations “IMMEDIATELY” to a political action committee supportive of GOP candidates and causes, according to documents reviewed by Kaiser Health News. The PAC was operated by Georgia-based MiMedx, whose CEO Parker H. “Pete” Petit is among the top individual contributors to Price, a Georgia congressman and Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary. Federal campaign finance records show MiMedx, through its PAC, chief executive and his relatives, has contributed more than $40,000 to Price’s campaign and joint fundraising committees since 2014. (Taylor and Jewett, 1/16)

Kaiser Health News: GOP Vows To Defund Planned Parenthood. Reality Makes That Hard.
Just as Republicans are discovering that undoing the health law could be complicated, so, too, is separating the controversial reproductive health care provider from its federal funding. Efforts to hastily jettison Planned Parenthood from federal ledgers could actually jeopardize GOP efforts to repeal the health law. One problem is that Planned Parenthood gets its funding from several different government sources. According to the group’s most recent annual report, covering 2015, Planned Parenthood affiliates, got $553.7 million from federal, state, and local governments, accounting for almost half of total funding. (Rovner, 1/17)

California Healthline: Crucial California HIV Program In Disarray After Contract Switch
A change in contractors for a state-run AIDS program has resulted in enrollment delays and left some patients unable to get necessary medications and timely medical care, according to legislators and nonprofit organizations across California. The AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which helps more than 30,000 low-income HIV and AIDS patients pay for medications and insurance premiums, switched pharmacy and enrollment contractors in July. (Gorman, 1/13)

The New York Times: Trump Promises ‘Insurance For Everybody’ As Health Law Replacement
President-elect Donald J. Trump said this weekend that he was nearly ready to unveil a plan to replace President Obama’s Affordable Care Act with “insurance for everybody.” Mr. Trump, in an interview Saturday evening with The Washington Post, said that health care offered under his plan would come “in a much simplified form — much less expensive and much better.” (Shear, 1/15)

The Washington Post: Trump Vows ‘Insurance For Everybody’ In Obamacare Replacement Plan
Trump declined to reveal specifics in the telephone interview late Saturday with The Washington Post, but any proposals from the incoming president would almost certainly dominate the Republican effort to overhaul federal health policy as he prepares to work with his party’s congressional majorities. Trump’s plan is likely to face questions from the right, after years of GOP opposition to further expansion of government involvement in the health-care system, and from those on the left, who see his ideas as disruptive to changes brought by the Affordable Care Act that have extended coverage to tens of millions of Americans. (Costa and Goldstein, 1/15)

Politico: Trump, Price And Hill GOP At Odds On Obamacare
Donald Trump and his pick to lead the Obamacare repeal effort, Rep. Tom Price, share a vision that the current health care system needs to be completely uprooted. But the two men have articulated wildly divergent visions for what comes next — and that's making it hard for Hill Republicans to figure out where to start on a coherent replacement plan once Obamacare is gone. (Everett and Haberkorn, 1/16)

Wall Street Journal: Vice President-Elect Mike Pence Says Lawmakers Can Replace Health-Care Legislation By April
Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday the incoming Trump administration would move to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with new health-care legislation by April. “The short answer is, yes, we can do it,” he said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “The president-elect made it very clear to leaders in the Congress this week that he wanted to do both at the same time.” (Timiraos, 1/15)

The New York Times: Fear Spurs Support For Health Law As Republicans Work To Repeal It
President-elect Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans appear to have accomplished a feat that President Obama, with all the power at his disposal, could not in the past seven years: They have galvanized outspoken support for the Affordable Care Act. People who benefit from the law are flooding Congress with testimonials. Angry consumers are confronting Republican lawmakers. And Democrats who saw the law as a political liability in recent elections have suddenly found their voice, proudly defending the law now that it is in trouble. (Pear, 1/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Rallies Held Across The Country To Support Affordable Care Act
More than 6,000 people packed into a community-college parking lot here for a rally with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) designed to help protect the Affordable Care Act against Republican assault. ... The rally, one of more than 40 taking place across the country Sunday, showcases an important pillar of Democrats’ strategy as they fight to stave off a repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law. They hope to pressure Republicans to scale back their plans by generating displays of public support, including from those who might lose insurance. (Hackman, 1/16)

The Washington Post: A Cross-Country Bus Tour Aims To Help Save The Endangered Affordable Care Act
Liberal groups are launching a two-month bus tour starting from Washington on Tuesday, an effort to muster public support for the Affordable Care Act even as Republicans begin to undo it. The “Save My Care” tour — which plans to travel to as many as 20 states, from Maine and New York to Arizona and Nevada — will be accompanied by a multistate digital and print advertising campaign in “the high six figures,” according to one of the organizers. The Alliance for Healthcare Security, a coalition of groups that include Doctors for America and the Service Employees International Union, is leading the effort. (Eilperin, 1/15)

Los Angeles Times: 'We Are Not Going Back': California Democrats Protest GOP Efforts To Dismantle Obamacare
Democratic leaders on Monday urged Californians to fight GOP efforts to dismantle Obamacare, saying lives and jobs were at stake. “We are not going back. Understand that,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said of Republican efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s healthcare overhaul law. “They want to go from affordable care to chaos. They want to make America sick again. We are not going to let that happen.” (Mehta, 1/16)

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare Advocates To Rally In L.A. To Protect Affordable Care Act
Hundreds of nurses, other healthcare workers and patients are expected to turn out at a noon rally to protest the national effort by Republican lawmakers to rescind the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat who opposes the repeal, is scheduled to appear with healthcare activists outside Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights. Organizers of the rally, which includes Service Employees International Union and other labor groups, warn that a repeal of the law without a replacement will strip coverage from 5 million Californians and throw the healthcare system into chaos. (Zahniser, 1/15)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Bernie Sanders’s Claim That ‘36,000 People Will Die Yearly’ If Obamacare Is Repealed
For context, more than 2.6 million people died in the United States in 2015, or nearly 7,200 per day. So Sanders is suggesting repeal of the law would increase the number of deaths by 1.4 percent. Sanders obtained the figure of 36,000 from a calculation by ThinkProgress, a left-leaning website, according to his aides. Essentially, ThinkProgress assumed that repeal will result in 29.8 million people losing their insurance and that one person will die for every 830 people who lose their insurance. That yields a number of 35,903. (Kessler, 1/14)

The Washington Post: Cancer Survivor Who Once Opposed Federal Health Law Challenges Ryan On Its Repeal
The distance between health-policy ideology and life-or-death health care narrowed to a few feet at a nationally televised town hall meeting this week when a small-business man from Arizona stood up and faced House Speaker Paul D. Ryan. “Just like you, I was a Republican,” Jeff Jeans began. Standing on the stage, the Wisconsin congressman broke into a grin as Jeans said he had volunteered in two Republican presidential campaigns and opposed the Affordable Care Act so much that he'd told his wife he would close their business before complying with the health-care law. But that, he said, was before he was diagnosed with a “very curable cancer” and told that, if left untreated, he had perhaps six weeks to live. Only because of an early Affordable Care Act program that offered coverage to people with preexisting medical problems, Jeans said, “I am standing here today alive.” (Goldstein, 1/14)

The New York Times: ‘Repeal And Replace’: Words Still Hanging Over G.O.P.’s Health Care Strategy
In March 2010, on the day before President Obama was to sign the Affordable Care Act into law, a group of senior Republican aides huddled in Senator Mitch McConnell’s Capitol suite to try to come up with a catchy slogan to use against it. Many conservatives were simply advocating a vow to repeal the new law, but Republican strategists worried that pressing for repeal without an alternative could backfire. So they batted around a few ideas before Josh Holmes, then a top communications adviser to Mr. McConnell, tossed out the nicely alliterative phrase “repeal and replace.” (Huse, 1/15)

Politico: Republicans Move To Spend Billions On Obamacare — Before They Kill It
On their way to killing Obamacare, Republicans are leaning toward funding up to $9 billion in health care subsidies this year to keep the program afloat — even though they sued the Obama administration to stop those exact payments. The move is the most significant sign yet that the GOP is serious about propping up Obamacare temporarily to provide a smooth transition to a yet-to-be disclosed Republican replacement. (Haberkorn, 1/13)

USA Today: Obamacare Repeal Threatens Public Health Funding To States
The funding for many state public health and prevention programs is in jeopardy along with insurance for 20 million people as Congress moves to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While the ACA requires insurers to cover mammograms, colonoscopies and other preventive care, a less prominent provision authorized a federal fund to prevent the soaring incidence of chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease. It also funds education targeting college suicides, smoking and low-income new mothers. The ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund has survived about 60 votes in Congress, and it was tapped to help pay for the recently enacted 21st Century Cures Act, which funds pharmaceutical research and development and opioid treatment. (O'Donnell, 1/16)

Los Angeles Times: 13.5 Million Californians Are Covered By Medi-Cal. Here's How Trump's Plan Could Cost The State
Along with his vow to repeal Obamacare, President-elect Donald Trump has promised to restructure Medicaid, the nation’s low-income health program — a move that could be acutely felt in California, where 1 in 3 residents receive health coverage through the state version, experts say. Medi-Cal enrollment surged by 5 million over the last three years to a total of 13.5 million under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. (Karlamangla, 1/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Chief Senate Parliamentarian Will Play Crucial Role In Health Care Legislation
Late last year, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) told a group of senior GOP lawmakers that the person they needed to watch in the Senate in 2017 was Elizabeth. “Elizabeth Warren?” one lawmaker asked. “No,” Mr. Ryan replied, according to a lawmaker in the room, “Elizabeth, the Senate parliamentarian.” Elizabeth MacDonough, the sixth person and first woman to hold the title of chief Senate parliamentarian, will play a crucial role in determining what can be included in legislation enabling the Senate to roll back major parts of the Affordable Care Act with just a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes usually needed. (son, 1/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Q&A: What The Republicans Are Doing With The Health Law
Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have said one of their priorities is to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health law that expanded insurance coverage to millions of Americans. Now, the Republicans are moving forward, and the outcome could bring big changes to the health system. Here are some questions and answers about the goals and complexity of their effort. (son and Armour, 1/13)

The Associated Press: IRS Letters Warn Millions About Health Insurance Penalty
If you haven't signed up for health insurance, you may soon be getting a not-too-subtle nudge from the taxman. The IRS is sending personalized letters to millions of taxpayers who might be uninsured, reminding them that they could be on the hook for hundreds of dollars in fines under the federal health care law if they don't sign up soon through It's an unusual role for a revenue-collection agency. (1/14)

Politico: Ryan And Trump Set For Medicare Showdown
Since the election, Paul Ryan has accommodated and deferred to Donald Trump on all sorts of issues they don’t see eye-to-eye on. But when it comes to Ryan’s career-defining cause — overhauling Medicare and other entitlements — the speaker has held his ground. The clashing philosophies between the GOP's two top pols — Trump once called Ryan's doctrine "political suicide" — is about to come to a head. Left unresolved, it threatens to sink tax reform, a top priority for both men. (Bade, 1/17)

The New York Times: Trump Health Secretary Pick’s Longtime Foes: Big Government And Insurance Companies
The assuredness that defined Mr. Price as a surgeon has carried into his political career. He has always listened politely to other viewpoints but never swerved from his policy mission to protect his former profession from what he views as heavy-handed government intrusion. Many who knew Mr. Price as a doctor here in Atlanta’s affluent northern suburbs praise his commitment to his patients. But his legislative record shows that over eight years in the Georgia Senate and 12 years in Congress, he has advocated at least as much for physician groups and health care companies — seeking to limit damages in malpractice cases, for instance, and voting against legislation that would have required the government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries. (Goodnough, 1/16)

Reuters: Trump Team Defends Health Pick Tom Price Over Ethics Charge
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's transition team defended his nominee for health and human services (HHS) secretary, Tom Price, from charges that he bought shares in a company days before introducing legislation that would have benefited the firm. A Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for Wednesday for Price, a Republican congressman from Georgia who, if confirmed, would be a lead agent in carrying out Trump's plans to overhaul President Barack Obama's signature health care law. (Holland, 1/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Looking Beyond Traditional Medical Experts For FDA Commissioner
President-elect Donald J. Trump is reaching beyond traditional medical experts in his search for a new Food and Drug Administration commissioner, scheduling meetings for the FDA job with two Silicon Valley investors backed by billionaire investor Thiel. The two are James O’Neill, a managing director of the investment firm Mithril Capital Management, and Balaji S. Srinivasan, a venture capital board member who founded the genetic-counseling firm Counsyl Inc. (Burton, 1/13)

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