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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Smoke And Mirrors?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Smoke And Mirrors?'" by Lisa Benson.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


How do jelly bean
Rankings intersect with state
obesity stats?

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Summaries Of The News:

Health Law

4. Trump Promises 'Phenomenal Tax Reform,' But Says He Wants 'To Do Health Care First'

President Donald Trump is not giving up on getting a Republican health care plan through Congress.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Says Health-Care Revamp Still Priority Ahead Of Tax Overhaul
President Donald Trump said he would keep pressing to enact a health-care overhaul even if it means delaying another one of his policy goals: revamping the tax code. Last month, House Republicans conceded they didn’t have enough votes to pass their health-care bill, despite an aggressive lobbying effort by the White House. Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans say they haven’t given up and are still working to assemble the votes needed to overturn major pieces of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. (Nicholas and Rubin, 4/11)

Politico: Trump: I Want To Pass Health Care Before Doing Tax Reform
Trump told Fox Business he did not want to “put deadlines” on either legislative goal, but he insisted that “health care's gonna happen at some point” and said that passing health care legislation could save money and make it easier to pass a tax overhaul afterward. Still, the president suggested that he was not fully committed to that chronology. “Now, if it doesn't happen fast enough, I'll start the taxes,” Trump said. “But the tax reform and the tax cuts are better if I can do health care first.” (Conway, 4/11)

The New York Times: What Trump Can Do Without Congress To Dismantle Obamacare
House Republicans left for spring break last week, without reaching a deal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Their bill to overhaul the health care system collapsed on the House floor last month, amid divisions in the caucus. Even without Congress, however, President Trump has the authority to modify important provisions of the health law, including many that House Republicans sought to change or repeal. Here are some examples of actions he could take (or has already taken). (Park and Sanger-Katz, 4/12)

5. Conflicting Reports On Future Of Subsidies Create Further Uncertainty For Insurers

The White House is delivering mixed messages to the media and appears to be divided on whether to continue funding the cost-sharing insurance subsidies.

Vox: The Trump Administration Is Waffling On Key Obamacare Subsidies
Insurance plans really, really want to know what the White House plans to do on this particular program. But the administration isn't providing any clarity. Over the past 24 hours, it has sent reporters two statements that are difficult to parse — and definitely do not deliver on the certainty that insurers say would stabilize the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. (Kliff, 4/11)

The Fiscal Times: Trump Team Could Pull The Plug On Obamacare Subsidies For 2018 
The Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday seemed to walk back a promise that the Trump administration would continue paying health insurance subsidies that insurance companies serving the individual market through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges rely on to balance the cost of serving patients that consumer a large amount of healthcare. The administration, in a statement to The New York Times on Monday, had said that the plan was to continue paying the subsidies while courts adjudicate the claim, brought by Republicans in Congress, that the payments are illegal because they were not specifically authorized by the law. (Garver, 4/11)

San Francisco Chronicle: Future Of ACA Subsidies Is In Limbo, Awaiting Trump Decision
The federal government spends $7 billion a year on these subsidies nationwide, and about $750 million of it goes to help low-income residents of California, like [Adeeba] Deterville. The future of the subsidies is in limbo: A lawsuit challenging the legality of the payments is on hold before a federal appeals court. The outcome is largely in the hands of the Trump administration, which has the power to continue or halt the stream of money. (Ho, 4/11)

Morning Consult: Insurers Want Greater Certainty On Obamacare Subsidies
Health insurers want more certainty about whether the government plans to keep paying them subsidies in order to decide whether to participate in the individual market exchanges next year. In a statement provided to Morning Consult last week, the Department of Health and Human Services said it hasn’t changed the precedent that it would keep paying the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments to health insurers while a lawsuit about the subsidies continues. But that indication alone isn’t enough guidance for insurers that are preparing their premium rate requests. (McIntire, 4/11)

Meanwhile, one insurer made money off the health law exchanges —

Kansas City Star: Blue Cross Of Kansas City Is Close To Turning A Profit On Obamacare
The bond ratings agency Standard & Poor’s analyzed Blue Cross plans in 32 parts of the country and found that most are figuring out how to better set premiums to meet the cost of new enrollees as the Affordable Care Act exchanges begin their fourth year. Blue KC is a prime example. Insurance companies use a “medical loss ratio” to measure how much revenue they get in premiums versus how much they pay in policyholders’ medical costs. (Marso, 4/11)

6. Freedom Caucus Head Hints At Progress On GOP Health Plan Strategy

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said there were "two options" on the table and he expected to hear back from House Speaker Paul Ryan about them. In other news, Republicans are left with the question of what they should do next.

The Hill: Freedom Caucus Chair: Deal 'Close' On ObamaCare Repeal
The leader of the House Freedom Caucus says Republicans are "close" to agreement on a plan to repeal ObamaCare, indicating that discussions are still continuing while Congress is in a two-week recess. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on Tuesday told a local radio station that he expects to hear back from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) by noon about "two options" on the table. He did not elaborate. (Hellmann, 4/11)

The Hill: GOP Wrestles With Big Question: What Now?
Republicans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are facing a big question this spring: What now? As President Trump approaches his 100-day mark at the end of this month, congressional Republicans have few accomplishments to point to and are divided over how to proceed on his two biggest priorities: healthcare and tax reform. (Bolton, 4/12)

In other news, a look at who should take the blame for the collapse of the plan —

Roll Call: Analysis: Moderate Republicans Also To Blame For Health Care Impasse
Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus have shouldered the majority of the blame for the GOP’s failure to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law, but moderates may be equally — if not more — responsible for the impasse. There are arguably more hard “no” votes (members not likely to be convinced to move to “yes”) for the GOP leadership’s plan among moderate Republicans than there are among the members of the Freedom Caucus. (McPherson, 4/12)

7. On Recess, Republicans Face Antagonistic Home Crowds Over Health Bill

Rep. Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican who gained a measure of infamy after shouting “you lie” at President Barack Obama during a joint session of Congress in 2009, got the same treatment when he answered questions about health care. Other lawmakers were subjected to criticism, too.

The New York Times: Congressman Who Shouted ‘You Lie’ At Obama Hears The Same From Constituents
Representative Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican who gained a measure of infamy after shouting “you lie” at President Barack Obama during a joint session of Congress in 2009, had that memorable catchphrase hurled back at him by a group of his constituents at a town hall event on Monday. The audience at the event, held at Aiken Technical College in Graniteville, S.C., near the state’s western border, was antagonistic from the start, booing audibly as he stepped to the lectern. But the conflict between Mr. Wilson and the crowd came to a head toward the end of the 40-minute question-and-answer period, when he responded to a question about Mr. Obama’s health care law. (Bromwich, 4/11)