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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

6. Political Cartoon: 'Pot Meet Kettle?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Pot Meet Kettle?'" by Jeff Danziger.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

CALIFORNIA INSURERS NEED TO FACT-CHECK THEIR PROVIDER DIRECTORIES

Who is in network?
Health plans – do better! Fix those
Flawed directories.

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Summaries Of The News:

Administration News

7. Price Sworn In As HHS Secretary After Contentious Nomination Process

While Republicans praised new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as having a "thorough understanding of health care policy and the damage that Obamacare has caused," others continued to speak out against him. "This guy is a wrecking ball,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said. “He is not a secretary. He is going into this agency to destroy it."

The New York Times: Tom Price Is Sworn In As Health Secretary Amid Senate Disunity
President Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, took office on Friday with a promise to fix what he called a “broken health care system” that was “harming Americans and their families.” Mr. Price was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence just hours after the Senate, by a party-line vote of 52 to 47, confirmed his nomination in the early hours of Friday morning. (Pear and Rappeport, 2/10)

Reuters: With Eye On Obamacare, Price Takes Helm As U.S. Health Secretary
As head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Price has the authority to rewrite rules implementing the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He could move quickly to rework the regulations while waiting for Republicans in Congress to keep their pledge to scrap the law entirely. (Cornwell, 2/13)

The Wall Street Journal: As HHS Head, Price Has Wide Latitude To Shape Obamacare’s Fate
Tom Price’s swearing-in as secretary of health and human services Friday means he is now in position to dismantle key parts of the Affordable Care Act, even if repeal efforts in Congress bog down. But it isn’t clear Dr. Price will quickly gut parts of the law. Instead, the Trump administration is expected to issue a proposed rule soon to appease insurers and help stabilize the individual insurance market for 2018, giving Republicans breathing room to continue working on their overhaul plans. (Armour and Hackman, 2/10)

The Washington Post: Polarizing HHS Secretary Sworn In After Senate’s Party-Line Vote
The new secretary offered no remarks following his swearing-in hours later by Vice President Pence. But the biggest challenge he faces — one on which progress in Congress seems uncertain for now, despite GOP lawmakers’ pledges for immediate action — was the first subject Pence mentioned in his introduction. “President Trump has made it the top priority of this new Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with health-care reform that will lower the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government,” Pence said. (Goldstein and Sullivan, 2/10)

Modern Healthcare: New HHS Secretary Tom Price Faces A Crushing Inbox
Newly confirmed HHS Secretary Tom Price likely will spend his first few days focusing on efforts to stabilize the individual health insurance market as Republicans work to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Following the pattern of strictly party-line votes on two previous nominees—Attorney General-designate Sen. Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos for education secretary—the former congressman from Georgia was approved on a 52-47 vote. (Meyer and Dickson, 2/11)

The Hill: Women's Healthcare Groups Worry About Price Confirmation 
Liberal women's health organizations are worried about the confirmation of Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), citing his past statements and positions on abortion, birth control and ObamaCare. “A vote for Tom Price is a vote against affordable birth control, access to reproductive health care, and a vote against Planned Parenthood," said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. (Hellmann, 2/10)

8. Immigration Ban Highlights Just How Much U.S. Relies On Foreign-Born Doctors

Doctors studying in the United States are given the option to either return home or work for three years in an area that is medically underserved. Meanwhile, the ban has forced one doctor to cancel a trip to Iran to perform life-saving surgeries.

NPR: Foreign-Born Doctors Provide Care In Underserved Area
[Dr. Muhammad] Tauseef was born and raised in Pakistan. After going to medical school there, he applied to come to the U.S. to train as a pediatrician. It's a path thousands of foreign-born medical students follow every year — a path that's been around for more than half a century. And, like most foreign-born physicians, Tauseef came on a J1 visa. That meant after training he had two options: return to Pakistan or work for three years in an area the U.S. government has identified as having a provider shortage. (Silverman, 2/11)

The Associated Press: Trump Travel Ban Kills Surgeon’s Lifesaving Trip To Iran
A Houston surgeon has canceled a trip to Iran to perform lifesaving surgeries because of uncertainty over the future of President Donald Trump’s refugee and immigration travel ban. Dr. Alireza Shamshirsaz is an Iranian-born professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He specializes in fetal surgery, and he has already had devastating video chats with two sets of parents who expected him to operate on their unborn children. (2/10)

Meanwhile, Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali faces a possible death sentence in the next few days over accusations of espionage —

Stat: Alarmed Colleagues Mobilize To Free Doctor Accused Of Spying In Iran
It was only in October that his colleagues would learn what had happened: [Dr. Ahmadreza] Djalali had been imprisoned in Tehran, accused of espionage. Now, after being held for nearly 11 months, Djalali could be sentenced to death over the next few days — in part because he refused to sign a confession saying that he was a spy for a “hostile government,” according to an Amnesty International report.His friends in the disaster medicine and human rights communities are urgently organizing a campaign to free Djalali, hoping that publicity will pressure Iran to change course. They have started a petition, which currently has over 200,000 signatures. (Boodman, 2/10)

Health Law

9. Republicans May Want To Erase Health Law But First They Have To Save It From Collapsing

With all the uncertainty swirling around the future of the health law, Republicans are caught in the position of having to stabilize a marketplace that they never wanted in the first place. Meanwhile, some proposed plans are trying to curb overly generous coverage and are drawing a reaction similar to how the "Cadillac Tax" was received.

The New York Times: Republicans, Aiming To Kill Health Law, Also Work To Shore It Up
After denouncing the Affordable Care Act as an abomination for seven years, Republicans in Congress, working with the Trump administration, are urgently seeking ways to shore up health insurance marketplaces created by the law. While President Trump said as a candidate that “Obamacare is certain to collapse of its own weight,” Republicans fear such an outcome because, now that the fate of the health law is in their hands, they could be blamed by consumers and Democrats. (Pear, 2/10)