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KHN First Edition: March 9, 2017


First Edition

Thursday, March 09, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Trump, Dems Look For Common Ground On Drug Prices
For years, congressional Democrats have tried to pass legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for millions of beneficiaries. Now, they believe they have a not-so-secret weapon: President Donald Trump. On Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Welch (D-Vt.) met privately for about an hour with Trump and newly appointed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to discuss ways to combat high drug prices. (Tribble, 3/9)

Kaiser Health News: A Playbook For Managing Problems In The Last Chapter Of Your Life
[Dr. Lee Ann] Lindquist, chief of geriatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, wondered if people could become better prepared for such emergencies, and so she designed a research project to find out. The result is a unique website which helps older adults plan for predictable problems during what Lindquist calls the “last quarter of life” — roughly, from age 75 on. ... This isn’t end-of-life planning; it’s planning for the period before the end, when health problems become more common. (Graham, 3/9)

The Associated Press: House Panel OKs Health Bill, Industry Groups Say 'No'
House Republicans scored a pre-dawn triumph Thursday in their effort to scuttle former President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, but it masked deeper problems as hospitals, doctors and consumer groups mounted intensifying opposition to the GOP health care drive. After nearly 18 hours of debate and over two dozen party-line votes, Republicans pushed legislation through the Ways and Means Committee abolishing the tax penalty Obama's statute imposes on people who don't purchase insurance and reshaping how millions of Americans buy medical care. (Fram and Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Opposition Mounts As GOP’s Health Bill Undergoes Review
Republicans scored a victory early Thursday, pushing a measure through the House Ways and Means Committee repealing tax penalties on people who don’t buy insurance. House Republican leaders are under pressure to ease passage through the House by making changes that appease conservatives who want a more aggressive repeal of the ACA. Those changes risk further jeopardizing support in the Senate, where centrist Republicans have said they are concerned the proposal will cause too many people to lose coverage, particularly those with low incomes. (Armour, Hackman and Rubin, 3/9)

The Washington Post: Doctors, Hospitals And Insurers Oppose Republican Health Plan
Major associations representing physicians, hospitals, insurers and seniors all leveled sharp attacks against the House GOP’s plan to rewrite the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, as some Republicans publicly questioned whether the measure can clear the House of Representatives. While industry groups warned that the proposal could leave vulnerable Americans with fewer protections than they now have, GOP leaders pressed ahead, bringing legislation before two key committees that are expected to approve the bills by week’s end. They were also working in concert with the White House to win over conservatives, who have complained that the proposal preserves too much of the current law. (DeBonis and Eilperin, 3/8)

The Washington Post: Conservatives Meet With Trump, Who Hints That GOP ACA Fix Could Drift Further Right
Leaders of conservative groups that oppose the House Republicans’ health care bill met with President Trump at the White House on Wednesday night, part of a high-profile effort to quiet anger from the right. In the process, the conservatives heard the president and his team express some openness to tweaks to the bill that go further than House or Senate leaders might accept. Trump and his team did not outright reject changes on at least three components of the American Health Care Act, said some of the meeting’s attendees, speaking on the condition of anonymity. One idea was accelerating the timetable for key changes to Medicaid under the House GOP plan from 2020 to 2018. (Weigel and Sullivan, 3/8)

Politico: Democrats Thwart Progress On Obamacare Repeal
House Democrats on Wednesday fought to stall an Obamacare repeal bill that Republicans, still facing deep intraparty divisions over the measure, are trying to push toward the House floor and eventually the White House. The first public debates over the bill were a mirror image of the bitter 2009 debate over the passage of Obamacare, with accusations about a lack of transparency and the majority party rushing things through. But this time, it was Democrats leveling the charges. (Haberkorn, Demko and Cancryn, 3/8)

Politico: Trump's Obamacare Fallback: Blame The Democrats
In a private Oval Office meeting with conservative activists Wednesday, President Donald Trump sold Paul Ryan's health care bill as strong and necessary. But minutes later, his top aides offered some willingness to consider changing some of the core provisions, even as Trump himself suggested a fallback position — that they could try again in two years, and Obamacare will fail on its own, leaving Democrats to take the blame. In other words, Trump was ready to deal. (Dawsey and Bade, 3/8)

The Washington Post: Trump Goes Into Dealmaking Mode, Works Behind The Scenes On Health Bill
For years, when President Trump pitched a new property that had his name in glittering gold letters above the door, he would throw himself into the sale: showy appearances with an entourage and a rush of boastful television interviews. But the Republican proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act is not a hotel — and Trump’s salesmanship has been understated by comparison. There is still urgency in his efforts, just markedly less Trump. And the administration is being cagey about its branding. (Costa and Weigel, 3/8)

Politico: White House: Don’t Call It Trumpcare
He built his career in large part by plastering his name on skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, books, wines and steaks, but there appears to be one place President Donald Trump does not want his favorite five-letter word — the Republican health care bill. (Nussbaum and Haberkorn, 3/8)

The Wall Street Journal: House Republicans Ready To Push Ahead On Health Plan Without A Price Tag
House Republican leaders are set to take the politically risky gamble Wednesday of asking their colleagues to vote on a bill replacing the Affordable Care Act without official estimates of the GOP plan’s cost or coverage losses. By moving ahead without an official “score” from the Congressional Budget Office—an estimate of how much the bill would cost and how many people might lose coverage over the next 10 years—Republican leaders are asking members to vote on a bill without independent verification that it achieves what it claims. (Hackman, 3/8)

The Associated Press: Fact Check: White House Overly Downbeat About Budgeteers
President Donald Trump's spokesman went out of his way Wednesday to cast doubt on Congress' budget experts, perhaps anticipating disappointing results from a coming analysis of a Trump-backed plan to "repeal and replace" former President Barack Obama's health care law. Too far out of his way. Citing the Congressional Budget Office's earlier estimates on the Obama law, spokesman Sean Spicer said "If you're looking at the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place." He added: "I mean they were way, way off the last time in every aspect of how they scored and projected Obamacare." (Taylor, 3/8)

The Washington Post: Lawmakers Take Up Obamacare Revision Without An Independent Scorekeeper
You might think of it as the legislative equivalent of flying into a storm without instruments. Two committees in the Republican-led House have begun drafting sweeping health legislation without the benefit of an objective estimate of its impact from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — a reckless move, critics say, considering that they are dealing with the well-being of tens of millions of Americans and an industry that accounts for close to one-fifth of the economy. (Tumulty and Ehrenfreund, 3/8)

The Washington Post: Sean Spicer Is Trying To Discredit Congress’s Nonpartisan Source Of Health-Care Numbers
Congress’s official scorekeepers still aren't finished assessing how much the Republicans’ new health-care bill will cost or how many people it will leave uninsured, but that’s not stopping GOP lawmakers from plowing ahead anyway. The Republicans’ clipped timeline — including Wednesday’s committee meetings on the bill before the Congressional Budget Office releases its projections of what the measure will do — is part of a GOP effort to swiftly deliver on its promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. (Ehrenfreund and Guo, 3/8)

Politico: Ryan Defends Bumpy Obamacare Repeal Rollout
House Speaker Paul Ryan defended what has been a bumpy rollout for House Republicans’ plan to repeal Obamacare on Wednesday night, calling early complaints about the bill "typical growing pains." Ryan said it reflected months of planning and represented just one step of a three-step plan to fully repeal and replace the law, during an appearance on Fox News' "Tucker." (Jackson, 3/8)

Los Angeles Times: Some GOP Governors Assail New Healthcare Proposal Backed By Trump
In the days since House Republicans unveiled a replacement to the Affordable Care Act, some GOP governors have a message: Not so fast. The proposed legislation, which is supported by President Trump, would, among other things, make significant changes to Medicaid programs that have been expanded under the Affordable Care Act, also commonly referred to as Obamacare. (Lee, 3/8)

The Associated Press: Health Bill Highlights Divide Between Governors, House GOP
Republican governors complain that a GOP proposal to replace former President Barack Obama's health care law would force millions of lower-income earners off insurance rolls or stick states with the cost of keeping them covered. Governors, especially those from political battleground states, were generally cool to the bill put forth in the Republican-controlled U.S. House. Some signaled that they would continue working on their own legislation to compete with the measure introduced Monday. (Beaumont and Noon, 3/8)

The Washington Post: ‘They Will Suffer The Consequences,’ Democrats Say Of Republicans On Obamacare
For the first time in eight years, Democrats are finally on offense on a key issue that could help them retake the congressional majority in 2018. As Republicans struggle to craft and pass a replacement for Obamacare, Democrats are sharpening their campaign messaging against Republicans such as [Rep. Erik] Paulsen. The new approach was on display at a House committee hearing early Wednesday. The panel rejected a Democratic request to postpone the hearing to consider the GOP plan to roll back and replace the Affordable Care Act. By noon, Democrats were holding Republicans’ feet to the fire. (Kane, 3/8)

NPR: Trump Won Big In House Conservatives' Districts — Will They Defy Him On Health Care?
Some of the most conservative members of the House are at a crossroads over the plan from GOP leadership and the White House to replace the Affordable Care Act. Those lawmakers say their choice is between supporting a bill that goes against many of their principles, or falling in line behind President Trump — who won overwhelming support in their district. ... The overwhelming answer from members of the conservative caucus and other major outside conservative groups is no — at least right now. (Taylor, 3/8)

Politico: The Republicans Who Could Tell Trump To Take A Hike On Health Care
Hard-line conservatives have threatened to upend the GOP’s drive to replace Obamacare, but the real peril may come from a quieter group of moderates. The two dozen House Republicans who outran President Donald Trump at home — in some cases surviving even as Hillary Clinton won their districts — are now facing a vote on health care that could put their political careers on the line. Though Obamacare has never been widely popular, the law has gained support in recent weeks as Republicans inch closer to repealing it. And the GOP plan to replace it is drawing fire from important constituencies, from hospitals to AARP. (Cheney and Bade, 3/8)

Politico: The Many Ways The Senate Could Tank Obamacare Repeal
Speaker Paul Ryan guarantees he’ll muscle the GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill through the House. But even if he manages to execute that impressive feat, Republicans will then have to clear an even more imposing hurdle: the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can lose just two votes and still pass repeal legislation on party lines. But at least eight Republicans have already loudly complained about the bill’s direction. (Everett, 3/8)

The Washington Post: What The GOP Health Plan Really Means For Taxes
When House Republicans unveiled on Monday a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, one thing was immediately clear: the new approach could create a major shift in taxes for low-and-middle income people while delivering a $600 billion tax break, primarily to the rich. (Snell, 3/8)

USA Today: Nearly All Hospital Groups Come Out Against GOP Obamacare Replacement
Associations representing virtually every type of hospital wrote to members of Congress on Wednesday to voice their opposition to the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. "We are very concerned that the draft legislative proposal being considered by the House committees could lead to tremendous instability for those seeking affordable coverage," read the letter from seven hospital associations. (O'Donnell, 3/8)

USA Today: How Might Insurers' Health Fare Under GOP Plan?
How would insurers fare under the GOP's proposal to replace Obamacare?It depends. A review of profit results for the six health insurers in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index since the start of 2014 — the year the Affordable Care Act rule went into effect that mandated that people who can afford coverage must get it or pay a fine — shows mixed results. (Shell, 3/8)

The Washington Post: Obamacare Repeal Guts Crucial Public Health Funds
The latest Republican health-care bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would eliminate funds for fundamental public health programs, including for the prevention of bioterrorism and  disease outbreaks, as well as money to provide immunizations and heart-disease screenings. (Sun, 3/8)

Politico: Obamacare Repeal Seen As Weakening Mental Health Protections
House Republicans who last year made good on longstanding promises to overhaul the mental health system could roll back coverage for millions of people with mental illness and addiction problems by overhauling Medicaid as part of an Obamacare repeal package. Legislation being marked up Wednesday would phase out Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which covers 1.2 million Americans with serious mental illness and substance abuse problems, as well as scrap baseline coverage requirements. The change means certain beneficiaries would no longer get coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatments guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act. (Ehley, 3/8)

Los Angeles Times: A Side-By-Side Comparison Of Obamacare And The GOP’s Replacement Plan
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, people who are older, lower-income or live in areas with higher premiums (such as Alaska and Arizona) receive larger tax credits under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, than they would under the Republican replacement plan. Some people who are younger, higher-income or live in areas with lower premiums (such as Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Washington) may receive additional assistance under the replacement plan. (Levey and Kim, 3/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Patients Prepare For Life After Obamacare
Some people across the country who have benefited from the ACA, concerned about Republican efforts to topple the law, are now rushing to get treatments, visit doctors and find alternative ways to pay for their medical costs. Republicans’ plan would provide tax credits to help people afford coverage, and it includes a mechanism for patients with certain health conditions. The party has long criticized the ACA, and longstanding opposition to the law among conservatives has powered the Republican repeal efforts. (Armour, 3/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats Say Trump Agreed To Pursue Authority To Negotiate Drug Prices
President Donald Trump told a pair of House Democrats he wants to work with them to allow the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on drugs, the Democrats said. Sitting behind his desk, with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price the only other White House official present, Mr. Trump used the meeting to talk about how the government, with its buying power, could negotiate for lower prices and a better deal for the taxpayer, the lawmakers at the meeting said. (Hughes, 3/8)

The Washington Post: Two Democratic Congressmen Say Trump Wants To Support Their Medicare Drug-Price Effort
Two Democratic congressmen say President Trump told them privately Wednesday that he would support their bill to allow the government to negotiate on behalf of Medicare when buying prescription drugs. After a nearly hour-long meeting with Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.) and Welch (Vt.) said they had procured the president's support for their measure. (Johnson, 3/8)

Stat: Despite Discounts For Hep C Drugs, Coverage Denials Keep Rising
After pricey new hepatitis C treatments emerged a few years ago, public and private payers restricted coverage in order to ease the financial strain on budgets. But even as more competition among drug makers has prompted discounting, payers continue to deny coverage, including to patients who suffer from the most advanced forms of the disease, according to a new analysis. As of last September, 37 percent of patients with little to moderate trace of the disease were denied coverage, a mostly steady increase from 27 percent in October 2015. Meanwhile, 24 percent of those severe forms of hepatitis C were denied, up from 15 percent during the same time period. These figures represent an overall trend that includes commercial and government payers. (Silverman, 3/8)

Stat: Grassley Probes EpiPen Rival Over Its $4,500 List Price
For the second time in recent weeks, a small, privately held drug maker with a piece of the action in two hot markets is being scrutinized by lawmakers over its pricing. In the latest episode, US Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wants Kaleo to explain why it set a $4,500 list price for the Auvi-Q allergic reaction device that is competing with EpiPen. The move is actually part of a complicated pricing strategy that may appeal to some consumers, but not so much to insurers. (Silverman, 3/8)

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