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KHN First Edition: January 18, 2017

KHN

First Edition

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Sky-High Prices For Orphan Drugs Slam American Families And Insurers
Sarah Jane Tribble and Sydney Lupkin report: "Before Luke Whitbeck began taking a $300,000-a-year drug, the 2-year-old’s health was inexplicably failing. A pale boy with enormous eyes, Luke frequently ran high fevers, tired easily and was skinny all over, except his belly stuck out like a bowling ball. “What does your medicine do for you?” Luke’s mother, Meg, asked after his weekly drug treatment recently. “Be so strong!” Luke said, wrapping his chubby fist around an afternoon cheese stick." (Tribble and Lupkin, 1/17)

Kaiser Health News: Budget Scorekeepers Say GOP Plan Would Raise The Number Of Uninsured By 32M
Julie Rovner reports: "The bill considered the most likely prototype for partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act would result in as many as 32 million more people without health insurance and would double premiums in the individual insurance market, budget scorekeepers said Tuesday. The estimate by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation was on the impact of the bill passed by the Republican Congress in 2015 and vetoed by President Barack Obama last January." (Rovner, 1/17)

Kaiser Health News: Inside Hospital, Families Find Refuge With Recliners, Tissues And Cake
Melissa Bailey reports: "Hospitals are showing a greater interest in family caregivers in part because of new penalties for hospital readmissions, said Jill Gottlieb of Northern Westchester Hospital, who helps other hospitals set up their own support centers. Gottlieb said when family caregivers get the support they need, they are better poised to help patients successfully transition home. “The family caregiver often is thrust into this world unexpectedly,” she said. “They’re ill-prepared.” (Bailey, 1/18)

The New York Times: Health Law Repeal Could Cost 18 Million Their Insurance, Study Finds
Eighteen million people could lose their insurance within a year and individual insurance premiums would shoot upward if Congress repealed major provisions of the Affordable Care Act while leaving other parts in place, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday. A report by the office sharply increases pressure on Republicans to come up with a comprehensive plan to replace the health care law. (Pear, 1/17)

Los Angeles Times: Repealing Obamacare Without Replacement Would Hike Premiums 20% And Leave 18 Million Uninsured, Report Says
In the first year, insurance premiums would jump by 20% to 25% for individual policies purchased directly or through the Obamacare marketplace, according to the report. The number of people who are uninsured would increase by 18 million. Those numbers would only increase in subsequent years. Premium prices would continue to climb by 50% the next year, with the uninsured swelling to 27 million, as full repeal took effect, the report said. (Mascaro, 1/17)

The Washington Post: Pressure Mounts On GOP For Post-Obamacare Plan Following CBO Report
Democrats seized on the report, issued Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, to discredit Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare and rally Americans who are insured under the program. The report underscored the political peril that Trump faces in trying to meet one of his top campaign promises — and also the discord among Republicans about how to do it. (Eilperin, Sullivan and Goldstein, 1/17)

USA Today: Congress' Budget Office: 18M Lose Coverage If No Obamacare Replacement
Some of the CBO's previous reports on the ACA have been controversial for how far off they were in their projections of ACA enrollment. But it isn't because of any liberal bias. The office is now headed by Keith Hall, a conservative former economist in the George W. Bush administration who also worked at the free market Mercatus Center at George Mason University.Chris Jacobs, a former Republican congressional policy aide, said in a blog post Tuesday, that CBO's earlier miscalculations undercut its new message. (O'Donnell, 1/17)

NPR: Trump's HHS Nominee Faces His First Senate Grilling
On Wednesday, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., goes before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in his first grilling since he was nominated to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. ... Here are five things to look out for. (Kodjak, 1/18)

The Associated Press: Pointed Questions Await Trump's Pick For Health Secretary
With coverage for millions of people at stake, Rep. Tom Price is facing pointed questions about President-elect Donald Trump's health policies — and his own investments in health care companies — from senators considering his selection as health secretary. While Price, an orthopedic surgeon-turned-lawmaker, is largely a known quantity on Capitol Hill, Trump's bottom line on health care remains a mystery for Democrats and Republicans alike. (1/18)

The Washington Post: Facing The Senate, HHS Nominee Price Will Defend GOP’s Health Care Overhaul
The courtesy hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will mark the first time Price has appeared before lawmakers since being nominated; his formal confirmation hearing, before the Senate Finance Committee, is set for Jan. 24. This first encounter will both give the six-term congressman his first opportunity to make a public case for his selection, while allowing Democrats to argue why the incoming administration should preserve — not jettison — the Affordable Care Act. (Eilperin and Goldstein, 1/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Health Secretary Pick Tom Price To Face Questions On Stock Trades, Obamacare Plans At Confirmation Hearing
A spokesman for Mr. Price has said he followed all relevant laws and rules, and the Trump transition team rejected the idea that any serious concerns surround Mr. Price.“The only pattern we see emerging is that Senate Democrats and their liberal media allies cannot abide the notion that Dr. Tom Price is uniquely qualified to lead HHS and will stop at nothing to smear his reputation,” Phillip Blando, a spokesman for the Trump transition team, said in a statement. (Armour, 1/18)

Los Angeles Times: Trump's Health Secretary Pick Fought To Limit Coverage In One Of America's Neediest States
From the packed hallways of Atlanta’s massive county hospital to the thousands of patients who line up around the state every year to get Obamacare, yawning gaps in Georgia’s overburdened healthcare system aren’t hard to find. “The need for care is just tremendous,” said Dr. Charles Moore, a Harvard-trained ear, nose and throat specialist who runs an Atlanta clinic for poor patients. Georgia has some of the worst health outcomes in the country, with high rates of untreated illness and death from preventable diseases. (Levey, 1/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Tom Price, Nominee For HHS Secretary And A Doctor, Is A Harbinger Of Health Care Under Donald Trump
Tom Price walked into an emergency room years ago when he was a practicing orthopedic surgeon to see a patient with a broken hip, a case one fellow doctor described as among the worst he’d ever seen. “What you have is really bad,” Mr. Price reportedly said, “but I can fix this.” Mr. Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services, did fix the patient’s hip, according to the story, which was relayed by a longtime friend. But the U.S. representative from Georgia is now taking on a far bigger repair job, hoping to remedy a health-care system he believes is badly broken. Critics fear he will only make it worse. (Armour, 1/17)

The Associated Press: In Price's Ga. District, What Happens After Health Repeal
Carla Dent is a restaurant owner who steers her employees to federal health insurance exchanges. Eden Purdy helps poor and working-class Georgians navigate the health care marketplace. Bryson Boech is a grocery cashier recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, what the insurance industry calls a pre-existing condition. None of the three claims to be intensely political, but all say they are concerned their congressman, Tom Price, will rip up President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law if the Senate confirms the Georgia Republican to be Donald Trump's health secretary. (1/17)

The Associated Press: Trump Takes On House GOP Tax, Health Care Plans
It came as news to most congressional Republicans, but turns out President-elect Donald Trump isn't crazy about their tax plan and has a dramatically different goal for health coverage than they do. On health care, he declared that his approach after repealing the Affordable Care Act is "insurance for everybody," a tricky pledge that Republicans in Congress pointedly avoid. And, a key plank of the House Republican plan on overhauling the tax code is "too complicated," according to Trump, who added: "I don't love it." (1/17)

The Wall Street Journal: More In U.S. Like ‘Obamacare,’ As Ax Hovers Over It: Poll
Americans are starting to warm up to the Affordable Care Act amid concerns about Republicans’ efforts to dismantle it, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds that 45% of Americans think the 2012 health law is a “good idea,’’ the highest mark since pollsters began asking about President Barack Obama’s vision for a health overhaul in April, 2009. (Radnofsky, 1/17)

Politico: Poll: Obamacare At Its Most Popular On Eve Of Repeal
The NBC/WSJ poll found that 50 percent of respondents have “little to no confidence that Republican proposals to replace the law will make things better.” Congressional leaders had first advocated repealing the law immediately and leaving open a window before it would take effect so they can take more time to pass a replacement package. Trump and some others, though, have publicly pushed back on that plan. (Conway, 1/17)

Reuters: Quarter Of Republicans Would Keep Obamacare: Reuters/Ipsos Poll
About a quarter of U.S. Republicans do not want to see Obamacare repealed, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday. Trump and his fellow Republicans, who control Congress, have promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, but a majority of Americans, including 25 percent of Republicans polled, do not want it to be repealed. (1/17)

Politico: HHS Secretary Burwell Will Sign Up For Obamacare
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will be signing up for Obamacare. Burwell, who has led implementation of the Affordable Care Act for more than two years, plans to sign up for coverage on D.C.’s health insurance exchange when her federal employee plan ends — even as Republicans wrestle with how to repeal the law. (Haberkorn, 1/17)

The Associated Press: New Report: Abortions In US Drop To Lowest Level Since 1974
Even as the election outcome intensifies America's abortion debate, a comprehensive new survey finds the annual number of abortions in the U.S has dropped to well under 1 million, the lowest level since 1974. The report, which counted 926,200 abortions in 2014, was released Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group which supports abortion rights. It is the only entity which strives to count all abortions in the U.S.; the latest federal survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacks data from California, Maryland and New Hampshire. (1/17)

Los Angeles Times: Abortion Rate Declines To Historic Low, With Obamacare A Likely Contributor, Study Says
“We saw declines in abortion in almost every single state,” said Jenna Jerman, a public health researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think tank in New York, and a coauthor of the study, which was published Tuesday in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Though the study did not look at the reasons for the decline, the authors and other experts suggested that improved access to contraception played the biggest role by preventing unintended pregnancies. (Agrawal, 1/17)

The Washington Post: Planned Parenthood Could Be First Casualty Of Obamacare Repeal Efforts
A fierce battle over the future of reproductive rights is now underway in Washington as congressional Republicans made the first move last week to slash funding for Planned Parenthood. In starting to roll back the Affordable Care Act, the GOP is also planning to target the country’s largest women’s health-care provider. Planned Parenthood could lose millions in dollars of reimbursements from Medicaid and other funding as soon as this spring, if the repeal effort advances. (Snell, 1/18)

Reuters: Texas Planned Parenthood Asks Judge To Block Medicaid Funding Cut
The leaders of Texas Planned Parenthood asked a federal judge on Tuesday to block the state's bid to halt Medicaid funding for the healthcare group, which has long been targeted by Republicans for providing abortions. Planned Parenthood has said the threatened funding cut, by terminating Planned Parenthood's enrollment in the state-funded healthcare system for the poor, could affect nearly 11,000 patients across Texas. (1/17)

NPR/ProPublica: Drug Industry Influence Leads To Widespread Conflicts Of Interest In Medicine
The long arm of the pharmaceutical industry continues to pervade practically every area of medicine, reaching those who write guidelines that shape doctors' practices, patient advocacy organizations, letter writers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and even oncologists on Twitter, according to a series of papers on money and influence published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine. (Ornstein, 1/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Pharma Investors Find Themselves In The Spotlight
If drug makers thought they would escape the political spotlight in 2017, the first few weeks of the new year have certainly dissuaded them of that notion. In magazine and newspaper interviews, on Twitter and during his press conference, President-elect Donald Trump has homed in on the industry’s pricing of drugs. That’s not something investors in those companies expected. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology exchange-traded fund had surged 8.9% the trading session after Election Day, apparently on the belief that a Republican-controlled White House and Congress was unlikely to prioritize drug pricing reform. That clearly is not the case. (Eisen, 1/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Biogen’s Pricey Anxiety Cure Worth Every Penny
Even costly forms of insurance can be worth it. Biogen announced Tuesday morning it has settled its patent dispute with Danish company Forward Pharma. Biogen will pay Forward $1.25 billion in cash. In exchange, the biotech giant will receive an irrevocable license to all of Forward’s intellectual property. Biogen shares fell slightly Tuesday but outperformed the biotech sector. (Grant, 1/17)


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