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KHN First Edition: January 4, 2017


First Edition

Wednesday, January 04, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Vowing To Jettison Obamacare, Republicans Face Immediate Resistance And Risks
The 115th Congress started work Tuesday with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate in agreement on their top priority — to repeal and replace the 2010 health law, the Affordable Care Act. “The Obamacare experience has proven it’s a failure,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at an opening day news conference. But that may be where the agreement among Republicans ends. Nearly seven years after its passage, Republicans still have no consensus on how to repeal and replace the measure. (Rovner, 1/3)

Kaiser Health News: New Nursing Home Rules Offer Residents More Control Of Their Care
About 1.4 million residents of nursing homes across the country now can be more involved in their care under the most wide-ranging revision of federal rules for such facilities in 25 years. The changes reflect a shift toward more “person-centered care,” including requirements for speedy care plans, more flexibility and variety in meals and snacks, greater review of a person’s drug regimen, better security, improved grievance procedures and scrutiny of involuntary discharges. (Jaffe, 1/4)

Kaiser Health News: Early Alzheimer’s Gene Spells Tragedy For Patients, Opportunity For Science
Rosemary Navarro was living in Mexico when her brother called from California. Something wasn’t right with their mom, then in her early 40s. She was having trouble paying bills and keeping jobs as a food preparer in convalescent homes. Navarro, then 22, sold her furniture to pay for a trip back to the U.S. for herself and her two young children. Almost as soon as she arrived, she knew her mother wasn’t the same person. “She was there but sometimes she wasn’t there,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh man this isn’t going to be good.’” (Gorman, 1/4)

Kaiser Health News: Bundled Payments Work, Study Finds, But HHS Nominee No Fan
A recent change in the way Medicare pays for joint replacements is saving millions of dollars annually — and could save billions — without impacting patient care, a new study has found. But the man Donald Trump has picked to be the secretary of Health and Human Services has vocally opposed the new mandatory payment program and is likely to revoke it. Under the new program, Medicare effectively agrees to pay hospitals a set fee — a bundled payment — for all care related to hip or knee replacement surgery, from the time of the surgery until 90 days after. Traditionally, hospitals collect payments for many components of care and rehabilitation individually. (Bluth, 1/3)

California Healthline: Leading Republicans See A Costly Malpractice Crisis — Experts Don’t
As top Republicans see it, a medical malpractice crisis is threatening U.S. health care: Frivolous lawsuits are driving up malpractice insurance premiums and forcing physicians out of business. Doctors and hospitals live in fear of litigation, ordering excessive tests and treatments that make health care unaffordable for Americans. That’s why Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Tom Price, tapped to be the nation’s top health official by President-elect Donald Trump, are vowing to make tort reform a key part of their replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act. (Terhune, 1/4)

The Associated Press: Obama, Pence To Capitol As Health Care Overhaul Fight Begins
President Barack Obama is traveling to the Capitol to give congressional Democrats advice on how to combat the Republican drive to dismantle his health care overhaul. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is meeting with GOP lawmakers to discuss the best way to send Obama's cherished law to its graveyard and replace it with — well, something. The separate strategy sessions were coming on the second day of the new, GOP-led Congress. In 16 days, Republican Donald Trump replaces Obama at the White House, putting the party's longtime goal of annulling much of the 2010 health care overhaul within reach. (Fram, 1/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Moves To Dismantle Health Law
The Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday took its first step toward dismantling the 2010 Affordable Care Act, using its initial day in office to introduce a measure that sets an aggressive timeline for developing plans to repeal much of President Barack Obama’s signature health law. (Hughes and son, 1/3)

NPR: Obamacare Repeal Launched By Senate Republicans
Lawmakers returned to Washington and wasted no time getting to work on the repeal of Obamacare. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., introduced a resolution just hours after the new Congress convened Tuesday that will serve as the vehicle for repealing much of the president's signature health care law. (Kodjak, 1/3)

Reuters: U.S. Republican Senator Introduces Obamacare Repeal Resolution
Republican U.S. Senator Mike Enzi introduced on Tuesday a resolution allowing for the repeal of President Barack Obama's signature health insurance program, which provides coverage to millions of Americans, Enzi's office said in a statement. The move by the Senate's budget committee chairman on the first day of the new Congress set in motion the Republican majority's promise to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, as its first major legislative item. (Cornwell, 1/3)

The Washington Post: Obama To Huddle With Democrats On Protecting His Signature Health Care Law
President Obama will meet behind closed doors Wednesday morning with congressional Democrats to map out a strategy to defend the Affordable Care Act and other health care policies — the very day Republicans will begin debate on getting rid of the sweeping 2010 health-care law. Obama’s rare visit to Capitol Hill, 2 ½ weeks before Donald Trump assumes the presidency, marks the start of his administration’s final push to defend its achievements before handing over the reins of power in Washington. Next week, Obama will deliver his farewell address in his adopted hometown of Chicago. (Eilperin and Goldstein, 1/4)

NPR: President Obama Tries To Salvage Obamacare From Trump
President Obama meets with Democrats on Capitol Hill today, looking for ways to preserve his signature health care law in the face of stiff Republican opposition. Senate Republicans have already taken the first step toward repealing Obamacare. On Tuesday, they introduced a budget resolution that would ultimately allow Republicans to unravel large parts of the Affordable Care Act with a simple majority vote. (Horsley, 1/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Obama To Discuss How To Salvage ACA With Democrats At The Capitol
The White House said that Mr. Obama will rally Democrats on Capitol Hill behind some of the broadly popular parts of the law, which include a ban on excluding people from coverage due to with pre-existing medical conditions and a provision allowing young adults to remain on their parents insurance plans until age 26. Republicans have vowed to keep those measures in place but will likely need to find alternative ways to pay for them. (Tau, 1/4)

Politico: Desperate Democrats Scramble For An Obamacare Strategy
Democrats don’t have the votes to stop Republicans from gutting Obamacare. So as they watch their signature domestic policy accomplishment about to be dismantled, they’re looking to the ground game that helped pass it seven years ago. They're holding rallies in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, featuring the stories of some of the red-state Americans who have benefited from the law. They’re urging followers to bombard lawmakers’ district offices and phone lines with calls against repeal. And they’re targeting moderate Republicans in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Nevada and Tennessee who are up for reelection in 2018 — or who could be influential in the repeal vote — with a seven-figure television and print ad campaign. (Haberkorn and Pradhan, 1/4)

Vox: Senate Republicans Just Introduced An Obamacare Repeal Plan Democrats Can’t Stop
Senate Budget Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-WY) introduced a budget resolution Tuesday that includes "reconciliation instructions" that enable Congress to repeal Obamacare with a simple Senate majority. Passing a budget resolution that includes those instructions will mean that the legislation can pass through the budget reconciliation process, in which bills cannot be filibustered. That means Republicans will only need 50 of their 52 members in the Senate, and a bare majority in the House, to pass legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act. According to the Wall Street Journal, the budget resolution could be passed by both houses as early as next week. (Matthews, 1/3)

The New York Times: The Parliamentary Trick That Could Obliterate Obamacare
Republicans hope to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act using an expedited procedure known as budget reconciliation. The process is sometimes called arcane, but it has been used often in the past 35 years to write some of the nation’s most important laws. “Reconciliation is probably the most potent budget enforcement tool available to Congress for a large portion of the budget,” the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of Congress, has said. Here is a primer. (Pear, 1/4)

Los Angeles Times: Republicans Finally Have The Power To Repeal Obamacare, But They're Still Not Sure How
Congressional Republicans, despite pledging to quickly repeal the Affordable Care Act, are struggling with what parts of the law to roll back and how to lock up the votes they will need, particularly in the Senate, to push their ambitious plans. Settling these questions may delay any major repeal vote for months. Just as importantly, a protracted debate could force President-elect Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers to preserve parts of the healthcare law they once swore to eliminate. And this all must be resolved before they even turn to the question of how to replace the law. (Levey, 1/3)

Stat: AMA To Congress: Don't Repeal Obamacare Without A New Plan
The head of the nation’s largest professional association of doctors is urging Republicans to think twice about dismantling Obamacare without a replacement plan. In an open letter to Congress, Dr. James L. Madara, the CEO of the American Medical Association, urged lawmakers to “lay out for the American people, in reasonable detail, what will replace current policies” on health coverage. (Blau, 1/3)

The Washington Post: The Reasons We Don’t Study Gun Violence The Same Way We Study Infections
Three decades ago, a pair of researchers wrote in one of the country's leading medical journals about a common cause of death and injury in the United States that received very little federal funding. ... Meanwhile, they noted that cholera, diphtheria, polio, congenital rubella syndrome and rabies had, collectively, received 19 research awards from NIH. There were 17 cases of any of those diseases in the United States in 1982 and nine deaths; in contrast, gun injuries caused 33,000 deaths and were estimated to have caused close to 200,o00 injuries. (Johnson, 1/3)

Reuters: Sanofi, Regeneron Lose Bid To Overturn Amgen Win In Patent Case
A federal judge on Tuesday refused to throw out a court verdict upholding two Amgen Inc patents related to the company's cholesterol drug, a defeat for Sanofi SA and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, which make a rival drug. In an October 2014 lawsuit, Amgen had sought to stop Paris-based Sanofi and Tarrytown, New York-based Regeneron from selling Praluent, a drug intended to lower bad LDL cholesterol by blocking a protein known as PCSK9. (Pierson, 1/3)

The Associated Press: Federal Judge Mulling Fate Of Texas Fetal Remains Rules
Abortion providers told a federal judge Tuesday that Texas' attempt to require burial or cremation of fetal remains was "government interference" without public health benefits, while state lawyers countered that clinics want to be allowed to continue disposing of such remains in landfills. The question of what becomes of tissue left over from abortions and miscarriages is the latest legal battle over abortion in Texas, which saw the U.S. Supreme Court last summer strike down much of its larger abortion restrictions that had been among the nation's toughest. (Weissert, 1/3)

Reuters: Texas Abortion Provider Says Fetal Tissue Burial Rule Is 'Offensive'
The president of an abortion provider told a federal court on Tuesday a proposed Texas regulation requiring facilities to dispose of aborted fetal tissue through burial or cremation is unnecessary and "offensive. "Women's health providers, which provide abortions, among other services, argue the rules are part of a nationwide agenda to place restrictions on abortions and make it harder for women to get the procedure. But officials in Texas have argued it would afford dignity to the tissue. (Herskovitz, 1/3)

The Associated Press: Virginia Governor Vows To Veto 20-Week Abortion Ban Bill
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is promising to veto legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, saying such a "socially divisive" proposal hurts the state's image. The legislation, proposed by a Republican delegate, mirrors similar measures supported by Congressional Republicans and one signed into law in Ohio last month. Abortion-rights opponents have been emboldened by the election success of Donald Trump and the Republican Party and plan a broad push both at the state and federal level this year. (Suderman, 1/3)

NPR: Do Anti-Snoring Devices Work?
What lengths would you go to stifle the thunderous snorts and buzz-saw growls of a spouse or roommate, just so you can get a good night's sleep? Dozens of anti-snoring devices crowd the market, ranging from slightly absurd to moderately torturous." Some of them are more medieval than others," says Dr. Kim Hutchison, associate professor of sleep medicine in the department of neurology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore. And some of the devices, she says, even have some basis in fact. (Ross, 1/4)

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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