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KHN First Edition: January 19, 2017


First Edition

Thursday, January 19, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: 21 Medicare Health Plans Warned To Fix Provider Directory Errors
Federal officials this month warned 21 Medicare Advantage insurers with high rates of errors in their online network directories that they could face heavy fines or have to stop enrolling people if the problems are not fixed by Feb. 6. Among the plans that were cited are Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Highmark of Pennsylvania, SCAN Health Plan of California as well as some regional plans owned by national carriers such as UnitedHealthcare and Humana. (Galewitz and Jaffe, 1/18)

California Healthline: Foul-Up Means Thousands On State Exchange Surprised By Higher Premiums
Thousands of Covered California enrollees face higher-than-expected bills from their insurers because the exchange sent incorrect tax credit information to the health plans. The exchange confirmed it gave insurers wrong subsidy information for about 25,000 policy holders, resulting in inaccurate bills. Insurers are now sending out new bills correcting the errors, and in most cases that means higher premiums than consumers had initially anticipated. (Bazar, 1/18)

California Healthline: California’s Community Clinics, Big ACA Beneficiaries, Worry About Their Future
Paula Wilson has seen some tough times in her 23 years as the CEO of Valley Community Healthcare, a clinic that provides care for the poor in North Hollywood, Calif. But nothing was quite like November 9, the day after the U.S. elections, when walking around the office “was like coming into a funeral,” she said. Her staff worried that a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, long promised by Republicans, would obliterate their jobs. Patients fretted it would jeopardize their care. (Brown, 1/19)

The New York Times: Choice For Health Secretary Is Vague On Replacing Affordable Care Act
Representative Tom Price, the man President-elect Donald J. Trump has chosen to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, promised on Wednesday to make sure people do not “fall through the cracks” if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, and set a goal to increase the number of people with health insurance But at a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Mr. Price provided only vague reassurance to members of both parties who pressed him for specific policies. (Pear and Kaplan, 1/18)

The Associated Press: Price Tries To Reassure On Health Care; Dems Not Buying It
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that Trump is "absolutely not" planning to launch an overhaul of Medicare as he tries to revamp coverage under President Barack Obama's signature health care law. He acknowledged that high prescription drug costs are a problem, but did not endorse the idea of government directly negotiating prices. (1/18)

The Washington Post: HHS Nominee Price Pressed Hard On Health Policy Positions, Financial Dealings
Price began by laying out central elements of his years-long attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act. In doing so, he signaled ways in which Trump’s more populist message could collide with the core beliefs of congressional Republicans. He told senators that “it is absolutely imperative” for the government to ensure that all Americans “have the opportunity to gain access” to insurance coverage — a more modest goal than the “insurance for everybody” declaration that the incoming president made this past weekend. (Eilperin and Goldstein, 1/18)

Los Angeles Times: Trump's Pick For Health Secretary Tells Senators He Will Protect The Vulnerable, But Doesn't Say How
Price, whom Trump has said is helping develop the new administration’s proposed Obamacare replacement, repeatedly assured lawmakers that Americans would be able to get the health insurance they want. “It's absolutely imperative that individuals that have health coverage be able to keep health coverage and move hopefully to greater choices and opportunities for them,” Price told the committee. At one point, he even said he hopes the Obamacare replacement will cover more people than the current law. (Levey, 1/18)

Politico: GOP Healthcare Plan Will Be 'Affordable For Everyone,' Pence Says
“What the president elect’s made clear is that he also wants the Congress at the same time to pass a replacement bill that will lower the cost of health insurance and literally make health insurance affordable for everyone,” Pence told CNN’s Dana Bash, according to a transcript released by CNN. “I think it means making insurance affordable for everyone but also allowing for the kind of reforms in Medicaid on a state by state basis that will ensure -- that will make sure that we have health care coverage for the most vulnerable in our society.” (Nussbaum, 1/18

The Wall Street Journal: Key Republicans At Tom Price Hearing Still Wary On Health Law Repeal
A hearing on President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for health secretary became an arena Wednesday for key Republicans to stress their opposition to overturning the current health law without a clear replacement. ... Mr. Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, warned that the fragile insurance market in his state means he cannot support anything that would trigger further disruption. He finished on a similar note, telling Mr. Price he was confident he had secured his agreement. (Armour and Radnofsky, 1/18)

Reuters: Trump Health Pick Defends Stocks, Says Americans Won't Lose Insurance
Price told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, one of two that oversee the health department, that there was no connection between his purchase of certain health company stocks and his promotion of legislation that would have helped the companies. He said the stocks were bought on his behalf by a broker. (Clarke, Cornwell and Hummer, 1/18)

Politico: Democrats Pummel Price On Stock Trades, Sweetheart Deals
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) demanded to know whether Price had actively tried to "help the company that you now own stock in." It was one of the only moments in the nearly four-hour grilling by the Senate HELP Committee when Price flashed anger. "I'm offended by the insinuation, senator," he responded. (Diamond, 1/18)

USA Today: Price, HHS Nominee, Says Trump Doesn't Want To 'Pull The Rug Out On Anyone'
Price and his longtime friend, Senate Ethics Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., defended Price's purchases. Price said his broker bought shares in one medical device company without his knowledge and others were part of mutual fund or pension plan purchases that are made on behalf of many members. Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., raised the issue of Price's stock purchases in six companies that would have been hurt by a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pilot project that Price led opposition to in the House. More ominously, Murray peppered Price for details on his purchase of stock in the company Innate Immunotherapeutics after discussing the company with Trump transition official Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a large shareholder who sits on the company's board. Price acknowledged he directed his broker to make the purchases. Murray pointed out that was soon before Senate action on the 21st Century Cures Act, which benefited drug companies. (O'Donnell, 1/18)

The Washington Post: Trump Cabinet Nominees Meet Growing Ethical Questions
One factor making it easier for Trump’s nominees to prevail in the GOP-controlled Senate is a 2013 rule change — ironically, one that was engineered over Republican objections by the Democrats who were then in the majority. It ended the ability of senators to filibuster Cabinet nominees, which means that nominees can be confirmed with 51 votes. There are 52 Republicans in the chamber. “What’s different now is that [blocking a nominee] is going to require Republicans to stand up to their own president,” said Jim Manley, a longtime aide to former minority leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). (Tumulty, Wagner and O'Keefe, 1/18)

The Washington Post: Republicans Look To Avoid YouTube Moments In Fight Over Obamacare Repeal
Seven years after unruly Democratic town halls helped stoke public outrage over the Affordable Care Act, Republicans now appear keen to avoid the kind of dustups capable of racking up millions of views on YouTube and ending up in a 2018 campaign commercial. One week after the Republican Congress kicked off the process of repealing the landmark health-care legislation, only a handful of GOP lawmakers have held or are currently planning to host in-person town hall meetings open to all comers — the sort of large-scale events that helped feed the original Obamacare backlash in the summer of 2009. (DeBonis, 1/19)

The Associated Press: AP-NORC Poll: Americans Of All Stripes Say Fix Health Care
Sylvia Douglas twice voted for President Barack Obama and last year cast a ballot for Democrat Hillary Clinton. But when it comes to "Obamacare," she now sounds like President-elect Donald Trump. This makes her chuckle amid the serious choices she faces every month between groceries, electricity and paying a health insurance bill that has jumped by nearly $400. "It's a universal thing, nobody likes it," Douglas, a licensed practical nurse in Huntsville, Alabama, said of Obama's signature law. (1/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Republican Governors Warn Lawmakers About Repeal Of Obamacare
As U.S. Congress moves ahead with repealing the Affordable Care Act, some Republican governors are reaching out to lawmakers and urging caution. In recent comments and letters to Republican House leaders who sought input from state officials on potential health-system changes, several governors have voiced concerns about the effects of abruptly scrapping the 2010 law. At least nine governors and two lieutenant governors have signed up for a Thursday round table held by Senate Finance Committee Republicans on the future of the health law’s Medicaid expansion. (Levitz and Kamp, 1/19)

USA Today: Cuomo Warns Trump On Obamacare Cuts
Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday of a "dramatic impact" on New Yorkers if Trump moves ahead with a repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act. The meeting at Trump Tower was the first face-to-face sit down between the two New Yorkers, who are both Queens natives, since Trump was elected. (Spector, 1/18)

The Washington Post: Can Donald Trump And The Republicans Repeal Obamacare? Here’s What Hundreds Of Forecasters Predict.
No item on Donald Trump’s agenda seems to have received as much publicity as his desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with “something terrific.” Since his election, the prospects for repeal have taken many a twist and turn. Two weeks ago, repeal suddenly appeared doubtful — as key Senate Republicans balked at the idea of repeal without a full-fledged replacement. (Sides, 1/19)

The Washington Post: The GOP Plan To Fund Medicaid Through Block Grants Will Probably Weaken It
Many key Republicans are especially interested in changing Medicaid, the nation’s health insurance program for the poor — including Trump, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and Tom Price (Ga.), Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Each of those three has proposed converting Medicaid from a program funded jointly by the federal government and the states into a block grant program. Doing so would send a set amount of money to each state, thus capping total Medicaid spending, and would let each state decide how to disburse those funds. (LaRochelle, 1/18)

The Washington Post: House Democrats To Donald Trump: ‘The Women Of America Are Watching’
One day before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the vast majority of House Democrats are warning him to think twice before supporting and signing Republican laws that they say would undermine women’s health care. A letter set to be delivered to Trump on Thursday urges the soon-to-be president to oppose GOP plans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act — which includes measures to prohibit discriminatory insurer practices and expand access to breast-cancer screenings and birth control — and to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding. It is signed by 173 of 194 House Democrats. (DeBonis, 1/19)

The Associated Press: Insurance Equality? States Push For Cost-Free Vasectomies
Vasectomies, which are not covered under President Barack Obama's health care law, are increasingly being included in state measures that would require insurers to provide cost-free coverage of birth control. Backers of laws and proposals in such states as Illinois, Vermont, Maryland and most recently New York say that if women can get tubal ligations with no out-of-pocket costs, men should be able to get their surgical sterilization covered cost-free as well. (1/18)

The Washington Post: New Global Coalition Launched To Create Vaccines, Prevent Epidemics
The partnership will be called the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI. It grew out of the lessons from the world’s woeful lack of preparedness for the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people and caused at least $2.2 billion in economic losses in the three hardest-hit countries. As a result of that and the current Zika epidemic in the Americas, a global consensus has steadily grown among an array of governments, public health leaders, scientists and vaccine industry executives that a new system is needed to guard against future health threats. (Sun, 1/18)

The Wall Street Journal: New Initiative Aims To Develop Epidemic-Targeting Vaccines
“Ebola showed how unclear it was who should step up and how and when,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is contributing $100 million for the first five years. Other funders are the Wellcome Trust, with $100 million, as well as the governments of Norway, Japan and Germany. India and the European Commission are also planning donations. (McKay, 1/18)

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