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KHN First Edition: April 5, 2017


First Edition

Wednesday, April 05, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: ‘It’s Not Like Other States’: High-Cost Alaska Sits In The Eye Of Health Reform Storm
JoNel Aleccia reports: "The [GOP] bill’s failure left Obamacare intact while Republicans regroup on how to address rising insurance costs and other weaknesses with health care delivery. The issues are particularly acute in Alaska, the fourth most expensive state in the U.S., where a standard knee replacement might cost five times what it does in Seattle and pricey air ambulance rides are common in emergencies. Individual health insurance premiums here climbed almost 40 percent annually after the ACA went into effect, and high health care costs drove all but one provider, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, out of the market in 2017." (Aleccia, 4/5)

Kaiser Health News: For Better Or Worse, Trump And GOP Now Own Health Care
Julie Rovner reports: "Ownership of the Affordable Care Act has officially been transferred from President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress to President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, according to a new poll. In the monthly tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 61 percent of respondents said any problems with the law moving forward are the responsibility of Trump and Republicans in Congress, while only 31 percent said future problems are the fault of the Democrats who passed it." (Rovner, 4/4)

The New York Times: Ceding To One Side On Health Bill, Trump Risks Alienating Another
The White House stepped up its push on Tuesday to revive legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act by placating the most conservative House members, but the effort risked alienating more moderate Republicans whose votes President Trump needs just as much. Vice President Mike Pence met for about two hours on Tuesday night with lawmakers, including leaders of three groups of House Republicans. But lawmakers leaving the conclave in the basement of the Capitol said that no deal had been reached and that talks would continue on Wednesday. (Pear and Kaplan, 4/4)

Reuters: More Talks But No Decisions On Republican Push To Overhaul Healthcare
The lack of a resolution complicates a White House push for a House vote on a healthcare proposal before Friday, when lawmakers return to their districts for two weeks. “Good talk, good progress,” Pence told reporters without providing details. Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows said the meeting had focused on an amendment to create a "backstop" to ensure individuals with chronic illnesses in high-risk pools do not see spikes in insurance premium costs if other aspects of Obamacare, also known as the 2010 Affordable Care Act, are repealed. (4/5)

The Washington Post: Republicans Try To Revive Health-Care Effort As Leaders Seek To Temper Expectations
The crux of the new proposal would be to allow states to seek exemptions from certain mandates established under the Affordable Care Act — including a requirement that insurers cover 10 “essential health benefits” as well as a prohibition on charging those with preexisting medical conditions more than the healthy. While the largely behind-the-scenes effort generated optimistic talk, no clear path has emerged toward House passage of the Republican bill. On Tuesday evening, key players said they were still waiting to see new proposals in writing, and some lawmakers said they were wary of rushing the process. (DeBonis and Wagner, 4/4)

Politico: Latest Repeal Bid May Gut One Of Obamacare’s Most Popular Provisions
Conservatives’ latest Obamacare repeal proposal amounts to a sneak attack on one of the health care law’s most popular safeguards for people with pre-existing conditions. White House officials and members of the House Freedom Caucus are discussing giving states the option of a waiver from a key Obamacare protection — called community rating — as part of their last-ditch effort to revive the repeal effort. (Haberkorn, 4/4)

Politico: Pence's Obamacare Diplomacy Fails To Yield A Deal
Pence told hard-line Freedom Caucus members Monday night that changes to the bill would allow governors to opt out of Obamacare’s “community rating” provision, which prohibits insurers from charging higher premiums to people who are sick, are older or based on their gender. Without it, insurers could charge more to people with cancer or other medical conditions, though supporters say it would drive down premiums for healthy people. Meadows said they were told governors would be allowed to opt out for “all community ratings with the exception of gender. ”But moderate GOP members who met with Pence the same day say they were under the impression that governors would only receive “community rating” flexibility based on a person’s age — not their illness or other factors. (Bade and Dawsey, 4/5)

The Associated Press: White House Effort To Revive Health Bill Gets Mixed Reaction
At the White House, Pence said he and President Donald Trump "remain confident that working with the Congress we will repeal and replace Obamacare. "But there was no evidence that the proposal won over any GOP opponents who'd forced Trump and party leaders to beat an unceremonious retreat on their bill on March 24, when they canceled a House vote that was doomed to failure. (4/4)

Los Angeles Times: White House And GOP Aim For Do-Over Of Failed Obamacare Repeal, But Chances For Agreement Are Slim
[C]hances remain slim that Republican leaders can build consensus among the GOP factions — the conservative House Freedom Caucus and more centrist Tuesday Group — that doomed the last effort. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) lowered expectations that a deal could be struck soon. “Look, the president would like to see this done,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters during an off-camera briefing Tuesday. “I'm not going to raise expectations,” Spicer said. “But I think that there are more and more people coming to the table with more and more ideas about [how] to grow that vote.” (Mascaro and Bierman, 4/4)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Talks To Relaunch Health Law Sputter
Even if members of the Freedom Caucus were to reach an agreement with the administration, GOP leaders would still need to shore up support among more centrist House Republicans who have objected to some of the changes sought by conservatives. “That would not move me to the ‘yes’ column,” said Rep. Leonard Lance (R., N.J.), who said he favored retaining the requirement that most insurers offer specific health benefits such as maternity care or hospitalization. (son and Andrews, 4/5)

Politico: Trump's New Obamacare Repeal Push Faces Tough Slog In Congress
White House officials privately said they don't expect a deal anytime soon on health care. That’s despite direct entreaties from some of the White House’s heaviest hitters — Vice President Mike Pence, chief of staff Reince Priebus and budget director Mick Mulvaney — who are darting between the Capitol and the West Wing to meet with conservatives and centrists to test the chances for reviving the so-called American Health Care Act. (Cheney, Bade and Dawsey, 4/4)

NPR: House Freedom Caucus In Talks With White House To Revive Health Care Bill, With Few Signs Of Life
President Trump may have said he is ready to move on, but the House Freedom Caucus can't let health care go. The same firebrand conservatives who helped derail the GOP's long-awaited legislation to repeal and replace key parts of the Affordable Care Act are now trying to breathe new life into the bill with a long shot effort to bring it back for a vote in May. Or at least keep it on life support through the two-week April recess when they'll otherwise have to explain the bill's derailment back home. (Davis, 4/4)

Reuters: Hospital Stocks Fall After Talk Of Health Bill Revival
Shares of U.S. hospital operators dropped on Tuesday as Republicans sought to revive plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that has benefited the companies. Shares of HCA Holdings, the largest publicly traded hospital operator, fell 3.2 percent, while Tenet Healthcare was off 4.8 percent and Community Health Systems dropped 6.3 percent. (4/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Democratic Senators Voice Opposition To Trump’s FDA Nominee
Two Democratic senators announced Tuesday that they oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Food and Drug Administration, saying that he is too close financially to the pharmaceutical industry and unlikely to strengthen regulation of the opioid painkiller industry. Sens. Edward J. Markey (D., Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) are the first senators known to have publicly opposed the nominee, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. (Burton, 4/4)

The Associated Press: Agreement Bars Ad Firm From Targeting Women Entering Clinics
A settlement with a digital advertising company bars the firm from using a technology called geofencing to direct anti-abortion messages toward women entering reproductive health facilities in Massachusetts, the state attorney general said Tuesday. The agreement was reached after Attorney General Maura Healey investigated whether Copley Advertising or John Flynn, a Brookline man identified as the firm’s manager and sole employee, was violating the state’s consumer protection laws. Copley denied any wrongdoing. (Salsberg, 4/4)

The Washington Post: Zika Poses Even Greater Risk For Birth Defects Than Was Previously Known, CDC Reports
Women infected during the first trimester of pregnancy had an even higher risk of birth defects, about 15 percent, according to the analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These estimates are higher than what U.S. health officials have previously reported and underscore the serious risk for birth defects posed by Zika virus infection during pregnancy. With warm weather, a new mosquito season and summer travel approaching, prevention is crucial to protecting the health of mothers and babies, said Anne Schuchat, the CDC's acting director. (Sun, 4/4)

NPR: Shoulder-Fired Weapons Rattle The Shooter's Brain
The U.S. military is trying to figure out whether certain heavy weapons are putting U.S. troops in danger. The concern centers on the possibility of brain injuries from shoulder-fired weapons like the Carl Gustaf, a recoilless rifle that resembles a bazooka and is powerful enough to blow up a tank. (Hamilton, 4/5)

The Associated Press: Support Surges For Smoking Ban In Tobacco Country
More than seven in 10 people in one of the nation's largest tobacco-producing states support a statewide smoking ban in most public places. It's the highest level of support ever recorded in polling by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky since the group first asked the question in 2011. Anti-smoking advocates hope the numbers will fuel a renewed push for a public smoking ban in a state that leads the country in the number of tobacco-related cancer cases per 100,000 people. (4/4)

The Washington Post: Gillespie: ‘I Would Like To See Abortion Be Banned’
Republican strategist Ed Gillespie opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at risk. That was his position in 2014, when he nearly unseated Sen. Mark R. Warner (D). And that’s his stance now, as he seeks the governor’s mansion. But abortion rights groups contend that Gillespie is taking a harder line because he recently said he would like to see abortion “banned.” (Vozzella, 4/4)

The Associated Press: House Bill Aimed At Substance Abuse Insurance Coverage
House lawmakers have unanimously approved legislation aimed at ensuring that people struggling with drug addiction get the help they need. Supporters of the bill say denial of insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment is a major source of failed treatment efforts by people seeking help, and also a cause of the shortage of adequate treatment facilities in Delaware. (Chase, 4/4)

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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