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KHN First Edition: March 21, 2017


First Edition

Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: In Deep-Red Western N.C., Revered Congressman Leads Charge Against GOP Bill
In this corner of Appalachia, poverty takes a back seat to art galleries, country clubs, golf course communities, five-star restaurants and multimillion-dollar houses. From this perch, Rep. Mark Meadows, a real estate entrepreneur who capitalized on the area’s transformation into a prosperous retirement and vacation community, rose to political power quickly. Now the conservative Republican leads the House Freedom Caucus, controlling between 30 and 40 votes in Congress and showing few qualms about endangering his party’s best chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Galewitz, 3/20)

California Healthline: GOP Bill’s Unheralded Changes In Rules Could Undermine Health And Prospects Of Neediest
An under-the-radar provision in the Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act would require the millions of Medicaid enrollees who signed up under the Obamacare expansion to renew their coverage every six months — twice as often as under current law. That change would inevitably push many people out of coverage, at least temporarily, experts say, and help GOP leaders phase out Medicaid expansion — a key goal of the pending legislation. (Bazar, 3/20)

California Healthline: Medicaid Caps Pitched By GOP Could Shrink Seniors’ Benefits
Before nursing home patient Carmencita Misa became bedridden, she was a veritable “dancing queen,” says her daughter, Charlotte Altieri. “Even though she would work about 60 hours a week, she would make sure to go out dancing once a week — no matter what,” Altieri, 39, said. “She was the life-of-the-party kind of person, the central nervous system for all her friends.” (O'Neill, 3/21)

Kaiser Health News: Low-Income AIDS Patients Fear Coverage Gains May Slip Away
When Tami Haught was diagnosed with HIV, she was one day shy of her 25th birthday. The diagnosis did not come as a shock since doctors had determined her fiancé was dying of AIDS several weeks earlier. In the two decades since, Haught, 48, has turned to expensive prescription drugs to keep the deadly infection in check. In 2005, she began receiving help purchasing her medications through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a federally funded network of programs in each state that assist low-income HIV and AIDS patients. Since the Affordable Care Act was implemented, ADAP instead has helped her buy an insurance policy to cover a wide assortment of her health care needs. (Heredia Rodriguez, 3/21)

Kaiser Health News: I Do … Take You To Be My Lawfully Covered Health Care Dependent
[Don] Boyer and [Ann] Justi were getting married. Never mind the blizzard-like conditions that kept one set of friends home, and a bad cold that waylaid another. They were determined to tie the knot that afternoon. So they recruited their landlord from downstairs and a public radio reporter to be witnesses.Why the rush? Boyer and Justi had been listening to the news. They were planning to get married in the fall, but it occurred to them that there’s no knowing what could happen to health insurance if the Trump administration and congressional Republicans dismantle the Affordable Care Act. (Mogul, 3/21)

Kaiser Health News: KHN On Call: Answers To Questions On Tax Credits, Penalties And Age Ratings
For years, Republicans in Congress have promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, claiming that its requirement for nearly everyone to buy insurance or pay a fine is burdensome and costly, and that it doesn’t give people enough flexibility to get the coverage they need.Now that they’re in charge, the bill they’ve released as an alternative (the American Health Care Act) would effectively eliminate the requirement to buy coverage and might open up more health care choices. (Kodjak and Rovner, 3/20)

Reuters: Republicans Tweak Obamacare Bill As Trump Moves To Promote Overhaul
Congressional Republicans recrafted their Obamacare replacement bill on Monday in hopes of satisfying critics as U.S. President Donald Trump prepared to promote his first major legislative initiative on Capitol Hill. In a sign of deepening concern among Republicans about the bill's future, Trump will speak to the party's lawmakers in Congress on Tuesday about the healthcare overhaul, two House Republican aides said. (Morgan and Cornwell, 3/20)

USA Today: Republicans Modify Obamacare Repeal Bill To Win More GOP Votes
Under the modified version of the GOP replacement bill, states would be allowed to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients without dependents to work beginning in October — and would get a funding boost as a reward for doing so. States could also receive federal funding for the program as a lump sum — instead of a per capita allotment — for children and non-disabled, non-elderly adults. (Groppe, 3/20)

Politico: GOP Leaders Pile On Sweeteners To Sell Obamacare Repeal
The bill also includes provisions nodding at anti-abortion GOP leaders. Among other changes to the repeal bill, the amendment would delete a provision that would have allowed consumers to move leftover tax credit money into a Health Savings Account. Anti-abortion groups had raised concerns that the provision might be eliminated under the Senate's strict budget rules and inadvertently allow for taxpayer funding of abortion. (Haberkorn, Pradhan and Dawsey, 3/20)

Los Angeles Times: In A Bid To Get Votes, House Republicans Prepare Changes To Their Bill Rolling Back Obamacare
The revisions do not include any provisions targeting high drug prices, even though Trump told a rally in Louisville on Monday night that the bill would. (Mascaro and Levey, 3/20)

The New York Times: House Republicans Turn To Upstate New York To Lure Votes For Health Bill
House Republican leaders, trying to lock down the votes of wavering upstate New York Republicans, inserted a last-minute special provision in their health care bill that would shift Medicaid costs from New York’s counties to its state government. (Kaplan and Pear, 3/20)

USA Today: House Freedom Caucus Will Not Oppose Obamacare Repeal En Bloc
The conservative House Freedom Caucus has decided not to vote as a bloc to oppose the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, a decision that could pave the way for the legislation to pass the House this week. “We’re not taking any official positions,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told reporters Monday. “I’m going to encourage them to vote for their constituents.” (Collins, 3/20)

The Washington Post: House Republicans Unveil Changes To Their Health-Care Bill
There were signs Monday that the bill had growing support among the moderate wing of the House GOP. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), who had voted against the leadership in an early procedural vote on the health-care legislation, said that he was “satisfied enough that I will support the bill.” MacArthur said he was assured that the bill would do more for older and disabled Americans covered under Medicaid and that an additional $85 billion in aid would be directed to those between ages 50 and 65. (DeBonis, 3/20)

USA Today: Ohio GOP House Members Show Challenges For Passing Health Reform
Look no further than Cincinnati’s congressional delegation to understand why Republican leaders are having so much trouble rallying their party around their Obamacare replacement plan. Cincinnati is represented by a quartet of rock-ribbed Republicans — and none of them has committed to vote for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law. (Shesgreen, 3/20)

The Associated Press: Maryland US House Members Criticize Governor On Health Care
Four of Maryland’s U.S. House members took the battle over health care to the governor’s residence on Monday, calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to speak out against the GOP health care bill in Washington. A spokeswoman for the Republican governor said the four Democrats should be in the nation’s capital working instead of “grandstanding” in the state capital. (Witte, 3/20)

The Associated Press: Trump To Capitol In Last-Ditch Lobbying For Health Care Bill
President Donald Trump is rallying support for the Republican health care overhaul by taking his case directly to GOP lawmakers at the Capitol, two days before the House plans a climactic vote that poses an important early test for his presidency. Top House Republicans unveiled revisions to their bill in hopes of nailing down support. (3/21)

Politico: Trump Heads To Capitol Hill To Close The Deal On Health Care
Failure of the health bill could foreshadow stiff challenges to plans to overhaul the tax code, reform immigration policy and rework financial services regulation, said Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.). "This is, I think, a leading indicator about whether we're going to have a functioning and workable majority," said Huizenga, who added that he expected Trump to reassure lawmakers Tuesday that he fully supports the House bill. (Cheney and Bade, 3/21)

The Associated Press: Trump Going Outside Washington For Support On Health Bill
President Donald Trump is deploying an outside and inside strategy to fulfill his campaign promise to repeal and replace "Obamacare," seeking support beyond Washington before making an in-person pitch on Capitol Hill. Top House Republicans unveiled proposed changes in their legislation in hopes of winning support, three days before the big House vote. (3/20)

Politico: Trump Sounds Done With Health Care Before He’s Really Started
On the precipice of the meatiest legislative fight of his young presidency, Donald Trump is increasingly talking about health care like the vegetables of his agenda — the thing he must begrudgingly finish in order to get to what he really wants: tax cuts, trade deals and infrastructure. (Goldmacher, 3/20)

The Associated Press: Already In Peril, Rural Hospitals Unsure On Health Care Bill
Talmadge Yarbrough had just sat down at his desk and opened a box of pecans when he let out a gasp that could have been his last breath. He'd gone into cardiac arrest in his office, a co-worker called 911, and an ambulance drove him two miles to the small hospital that serves this rural community in southeast Georgia. "I would have never lasted to get to Savannah or Statesboro," Yarbrough said of the biggest cities near Claxton — each 30 to 60 miles away. "I firmly believe if that hospital wasn't here, I wouldn't be here." (3/20)

NPR: Congress May Undo A Key Worker Safety Rule
Safety advocates are worried that lawmakers are getting ready to make it harder to penalize companies that don't keep track of workers' injuries. Since 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has required many employers to keep careful records of any worker injuries or illnesses. (Greenfieldboyce, 3/20)

The New York Times: Popular Prostate Cancer Therapy Is Short, Intense And Unproven
After learning he had early stage prostate cancer, Paul Kolnik knew he wanted that cancer destroyed immediately and with as little disruption as possible to his busy life as the New York City Ballet’s photographer. So Mr. Kolnik, 65, chose a type of radiation treatment that is raising some eyebrows in the prostate cancer field. It is more intense than standard radiation and takes much less time — five sessions over two weeks instead of 40 sessions over about two months or 28 sessions over five to six weeks. (Kolata, 3/20)

NPR: Ketamine For Severe Depression Gains Popularity Among Doctors
Gerard Sanacora, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University, has treated hundreds of severely depressed patients with low doses of ketamine, an anesthetic and popular club drug that isn't approved for depression. This sort of "off-label" prescribing is legal. But Sanacora says other doctors sometimes ask him, "How can you be offering this to patients based on the limited amount of information that's out there and not knowing the potential long-term risk?" Sanacora has a simple answer. (Hamilton, 3/20)

The Washington Post: This Woman’s Labored Breathing Alarmed Her Friends. Doctors Were Startled To Find The Cause.
“What’s wrong with you?” Dianne Hull remembered her friend Vicky Weinstein asking, alarm evident in her voice. The two women had just finished lunch in December 2012, and Hull breathed heavily as she walked across the kitchen of her friend’s home. Hull’s audible breathing — and increasing breathlessness — had been shoved aside in her constellation of pressing concerns. For months, Hull had been focused on a medical crisis affecting her young son. But now Weinstein — a nurse — was delivering a forceful reminder: It was past time for Hull, then 38, to pay attention to her own health. (Boodman, 3/20)

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