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KHN First Edition: January 10, 2017


First Edition

Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: HHS Secretary: Give Medicare Authority To Negotiate Drug Prices
Rachel Bluth reports: "Giving Medicare authority to negotiate drug prices is the best way to keep those spiraling costs under control for the program’s recipients, departing Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Monday. “Those drug costs are continuing to grow,” Burwell said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The question, she said, is not whether Congress should give her department the necessary power, but rather “what is the alternative?” (Bluth, 1/9)

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Boosted Community Health Centers’ Reach. Now What?
Shefali Luthra reports: "For the patients and the employees of Mary’s Center, a community health center that serves Washington, D.C., and its Maryland suburbs, the 2010 health law had a big impact on business. The facility has always promised care to anyone who walks through its doors. But since Obamacare’s implementation, the patient population and the quality of care they receive has changed." (Luthra, 1/9)

Kaiser Health News: Meals On Wheels Wants To Be The ‘Eyes And Ears’ For Hospitals, Doctors
Anna Gorman reports: "Meals on Wheels is undergoing a dramatic overhaul as government and philanthropic funding fails to keep pace with a rapidly growing elderly population. The increased demand has resulted in lengthy waitlists and a need to find other sources of funding. And at the same time, for-profit companies such as Mom’s Meals are creating more competition. Meals on Wheels, which has served seniors for more than 60 years through a network of independent nonprofits, is trying to formalize the health and safety checks its volunteers already conduct during their daily home visits to seniors." (Gorman, 1/10)

Kaiser Health News: In Search Of A Vaccine To Vanquish The Plague
Lydia Zuraw reports: "The plague is best known for wiping out as much as a third of Europe’s population during the Black Death pandemic of the 14th century, but it’s not entirely a thing of the past. It’s enough of a present-day threat — either as a bioterrorism weapon or because of antibiotic resistance — that scientists are trying to develop a vaccine." (Zuraw, 1/10)

The Washington Post: Republicans Scramble To Ease Concerns About Obamacare Replacement
Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to ease growing concerns among GOP lawmakers about rushing to repeal the federal health-care law before plans for a replacement take firmer shape, addressing complications to the effort to deliver on one of the party’s signature campaign promises. In the Senate, where Republicans are using a budget package to move swiftly ahead with repeal, leaders are looking at ways to adjust their plans to address the skittishness that GOP senators have voiced in recent days. (Sullivan and Snell, 1/9)

Politico: GOP Leaders Vow To Plow Ahead With Obamacare Repeal
House and Senate Republican leaders are forging ahead with plans to repeal Obamacare then replace it later — dismissing mounting pressure from their own party to delay the repeal vote until they have a fully formed alternative. But they’re hoping to ease internal concerns that Republicans will be attacked for acting hastily — worries that accelerated after libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) bucked party leadership on the matter last week and received a blessing from President-elect Donald Trump. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and their top lieutenants in both chambers are now considering a strategy that includes adding some replacement provisions to the repeal bill, according to lawmakers and aides. (Bade and Everett, 1/9)

The Associated Press: GOP Turns To Arcane Budget Process To Repeal Obamacare
Yes, Donald Trump is taking charge and Republicans control both the House and Senate, having won an election promising to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law. But in Congress, getting from Point A to point B rarely consists of a straight line, and Democrats in the Senate can easily gum up the works with procedural blockades. Since Republicans hold the Senate with just 52 votes, they are forced to employ an arcane, fast-track budget process to avoid a Democratic filibuster. (1/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Pressures Republicans To Repeal, Replace Health Law At Same Time
President-elect Donald Trump is increasing pressure on congressional Republicans to vote at the same time to both repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but party leaders haven’t indicated any shift in strategy to make that happen. Mr. Trump’s push, combined with doubts from different factions of Republicans, could end up slowing down party leaders’ efforts to rapidly overturn much of the law. (son and Bender, 1/9)

The Washington Post: Rand Paul: Trump Open To Passing Obamacare Replacement Alongside Repeal
President-elect Donald Trump may be joining the growing ranks of Republicans in Washington who are getting cold feet about plans to rush through a vote to repeal Obamacare without a plan to replace it. Trump called Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) this weekend to discuss Paul’s push to convince the rest of the GOP not to vote later this week on a budget resolution that includes a framework for a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan. Paul said he spoke with Trump for approximately 15 minutes Friday and the two agreed on the need for replacement. The only hitch: Republicans don’t have one yet. (Snell and Weigel, 1/9)

Politico: 5 Senate Republicans Seek To Slow Down Obamacare Repeal
A group of moderate Senate Republicans introduced an amendment Monday to give Republicans additional time to repeal Obamacare. Sens. Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy and Rob Portman want to extend the deadline for a repeal bill until March 3 under an arcane budget procedure called reconciliation that prevents a Democratic filibuster. The existing resolution's deadline is Jan. 27, although none of the deadlines are binding. (Haberkorn, 1/9)

Politico: Freedom Caucus Looks To Delay Budget — And Obamacare Repeal
The House Freedom Caucus wants to delay a vote on a budget that includes Obamacare repeal instructions, a potential setback for the GOP’s — and Donald Trump’s — top priority. The group of hardline conservatives wants more information about what a repeal bill and Obamacare replacement would look like before they support the fiscal 2017 budget. (Bade, 1/9)

The Associated Press: Dems Plan Talk-A-Thon, GOP Pushes Effort To Void Health Law
Democrats planned hours of Senate speeches Monday to condemn the Republican push to obliterate President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, as the chamber’s GOP leader stood by his party’s plans to void the law and replace it later. With Donald Trump just 12 days from entering the White House, Republicans have positioned a repeal of Obama’s prized health care statute atop their congressional agenda. Democrats are trying to capitalize on the GOP’s lack of replacement legislation, which has unsettled some Republican senators who worry about yanking health coverage from millions of voters without a substitute. (Fram, 1/9)

Los Angeles Times: Democrats And Their Allies Are Planning A Huge Fight To Save Obamacare
Energized by Republican moves to roll back the Affordable Care Act, leading patient advocates, consumer groups, labor unions and Democratic officials are mobilizing a nationwide campaign to defend the law and protect millions of Americans who depend on the law and other government health programs. The campaign, which is quickly ramping up ahead of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration next week, aims to reshape the debate over the law after years in which the public conversation has been dominated by its critics. (Levey and Memoli, 1/10)

The Associated Press Fact Check: Despite Woes Obamacare Not In 'Death Spiral'
President-elect Donald Trump says that President Barack Obama's health care law "will fall of its own weight." House Speaker Paul Ryan says the law is "in what the actuaries call a death spiral." And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that "by nearly any measure, Obamacare has failed." The problem with all these claims: They are exaggerated, if not downright false. (1/10)

NPR: North Carolina Residents With Obamacare Insurance Worry About Repeal
Darlene Hawes lost her health insurance about a year after her husband died in 2012. Hawes, 55, is from Charlotte, N.C. She ended up going without insurance for a few years, but in 2015 she bought coverage on, the Affordable Care Act marketplace, with the help of a big subsidy. (Tomsic, 1/9)

The Washington Post: Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Who Shepherded Obamacare, Talks About Its Uncertain Future
As secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services for the past two and a half years, Sylvia Mathews Burwell has overseen the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid, the Food and Drug Administration and a wide range of social services from Head Start to family assistance programs. In a conversation with Tom Fox, Burwell discussed her concerns about impending changes to the Affordable Care Act, the presidential transition, her approach to leadership and playing basketball for President Obama’s national security adviser. (Fox, 1/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Departing HHS Chief Makes Plea For Preserving Affordable Care Act
Ms. Burwell, in a speech at the National Press Club, sought to shore up public support for the existing health law by poking holes in Republicans’ suggestion that they can simultaneously lower costs, save money and expand health coverage. “As for silver bullets, they don’t exist,” she said. “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” The public comments are expected to be Ms. Burwell’s last before she leaves office Jan. 20. (Hackman, 1/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmaker Asks SEC To Investigate Stock Trades Of HHS Nominee Tom Price
A veteran legislator who wrote a law to curtail abusive stock-trading in Congress on Tuesday asked securities regulators to open an investigation into President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of Health and Human Services. The request to investigate Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, comes after The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he made trades worth more than $300,000 in stocks of biomedical, pharmaceutical and health insurers while serving on the health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, sponsoring and advocating legislation that potentially could affect those companies’ stock. (Grimaldi, 1/10)

The Associated Press: Biden Outlines Steps To Pursue Post-Obama ‘Cancer Moonshot’
Vice President Joe Biden is outlining how he intends to pursue his “cancer moonshot” agenda after the end of the Obama administration.Biden says in a San Francisco speech that he will be starting an organization that may be called the Biden Cancer Initiative to make progress in changing the way the nation conducts cancer research and development and providing care to those with the disease. (1/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Johnson & Johnson To Report Average Increases In List Prices For U.S. Drugs
Johnson & Johnson is planning to issue a report next month outlining how much it has raised the U.S. prices of its prescription drugs, the latest pharmaceutical company effort to address intense public concern about the cost of medicines. The report will give the average increase in the list prices for all company drugs in the U.S., as well as their average price after the discounts given by the company, J&J officials said. (Rockoff, 1/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Deal Is Bet Price Pressures Have Eased
Takeda Pharmaceutical Company announced Monday morning it plans to acquire cancer-focused Ariad Pharmaceuticals for about $4.7 billion in cash. That represents about a 75% premium to Friday’s closing price. The premium by itself is a good sign for small and midsize biotechs—deals like this one will go a long way toward helping biotech stocks rebound from last year’s dismal performance. (Grant, 1/9)

The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth’s Optum To Acquire Surgical Care Affiliates For $2.3 Billion
The deal, for a mixture of cash and stock, substantially expands the health-care provider footprint of UnitedHealth, which is already the parent of the biggest U.S. health insurer, UnitedHealthcare. The acquisition represents a continued bet on physician services at a time when Republicans’ plans to unwind the Affordable Care Act have created uncertainty for many health-care providers, particularly hospitals, which potentially stand to see a drop-off in insured, paying patients. (Wilde Mathews, 1/9)

Reuters: ACLU And Kentucky's Only Abortion Clinic Sue Over Ultrasound Law
The American Civil Liberties Union sued Kentucky state officials on Monday to block a new law that requires women seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound and hear a description of the embryo or fetus. ACLU lawyers filed the lawsuit in federal court in Louisville on behalf of EMW Women's Surgical Center, which the lawsuit said is the sole licensed abortion facility in Kentucky. (Bittenbender, 1/9)

The Washington Post: It’s Hard To Be A Small-Time Family Doctor These Days, New Data Shows
The price of health insurance just keeps going up. Until recently, though, a crucial part of how those prices are set was invisible to the public: the negotiations between doctors and insurance companies that determine how much patients are charged. The story of that contest, carried on fiercely behind closed doors for decades, is now partially in public view, and the new data contains tantalizing clues about where prices for health care really come from. (Ehrenfreund, 1/9)

The New York Times: A Family’s Shared Defect Sheds Light On The Human Genome
They said it was their family curse: a rare congenital deformity called syndactyly, in which the thumb and index finger are fused together on one or both hands. Ten members of the extended clan were affected, and with each new birth, they told Stefan Mundlos of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, the first question was always: “How are the baby’s hands? Are they normal?” (Angier, 1/9)

The Washington Post: This Fit Young Woman Was Having Strokes, And Doctors Didn’t Know Why
As Diana Hardeman climbed into a New York City taxi with her boyfriend around midnight on May 31, she suddenly realized she had no idea where to tell the driver to go. The 33-year-old knew she had to get to a hospital — and fast. Hardeman was fairly sure she had just had a stroke, her second in less than three years. But she had never asked the neurologist she had seen after the first stroke where she should head in the event of a recurrence. (Boodman, 1/9)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2017 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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