In This Edition:
From Kaiser Health News:
Led by Pfizer and Amgen, about 10 health care firms contributed to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, which earned them entry into private events with the president and vice president. (Jay Hancock, Sydney Lupkin and Elizabeth Lucas, 4/19)
An NIH-funded network of hospitals uses advanced genetic science and nationwide collaboration to diagnose rare and sometimes undiscovered diseases. (Anna Gorman, 4/20)
Research shows that people with dementia can benefit significantly from efforts to ease communication, improve overall health and other key measures. (Judith Graham, 4/20)
A proposed ordinance would block access to menthol cigarettes, as well as e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco with flavors such as chocolate, cherry or popcorn. Studies show such products are overwhelmingly favored by teenagers and some minorities. (Elaine Korry, 4/20)
Kaiser Health News gives readers a chance to respond, react and comment on our stories. (4/19)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Super Woke?'" by Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
DOES HOPE SPRING ETERNAL?
Health bill rebirth hope
Will fall like cherry blossoms
In late April rain.
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.
Summaries Of The News:
As deadlines loom for announcing 2018 plans, all eyes are on which insurers will stay in the exchanges. But, with the fate of some key subsidies still up in the air and possibly tied to the spending bill, the future is just as uncertain for the companies themselves.
The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Offer Early Sign Of ACA Exchange Plans For 2018
Anthem Inc. made preliminary filings indicating it will offer plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces in Virginia and Kentucky next year, providing an early signal on the insurer’s exchange business. Cigna Corp.and Aetna Inc., which like Anthem have said they are reconsidering their exchange offerings, are among the insurers that made similar filings in Virginia. But one current Virginia ACA insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc., didn’t file 2018 forms, and a spokesman confirmed it would leave the state’s marketplace next year. (Wilde Mathews and Radnofsky, 4/20)
The Washington Post: Trump Must Decide Whether To Support Or Undermine Obamacare
President Trump is pressuring Congress to sink parts of the Affordable Care Act. But now that the first attempt at a GOP health-care overhaul has failed, he must decide whether to throw the law a line. The White House and Republican lawmakers are facing key decisions that could either improve the insurance marketplaces established by the ACA next year or prompt insurers to further hike rates or withdraw from those marketplaces entirely. Republicans had hoped to protect those with marketplace coverage while lawmakers replaced Obamacare. (Winfield Cunningham, 4/19)
Politico: 5 Reasons The Government Might Shut Down
The deadline to keep the federal government open is just about here, but a deal is far from done. With just five workdays left until government funding expires, lawmakers return next week to all the same sticking points that have made full-year funding so elusive and now threaten a government shutdown. ... Democratic leaders declared that any spending bill must provide money for a key Obamacare subsidy program after Trump threatened to defund the cost-sharing subsidies; the president sees the program as a way to force Democrats to the negotiating table. (Scholtes and Ferris, 4/20)
The Hill: Health Subsidy Demand Jams Up Shutdown Fight
Democrats’ demand that ObamaCare subsidies be wrapped into a must-pass spending package is complicating GOP efforts to prevent a government shutdown at the end of next week. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has signaled no plans to include the subsidies in a bill to keep the government open, but President Trump’s recent threat to withhold the subsidies to insurers has led several top Republicans to intervene. (Lillis and Marcos, 4/19)
The Hill: Groups Warn Of Rural Health 'Crisis' Under ObamaCare Repeal
Rural areas would be hit particularly hard if Congress and the Trump administration don’t send clear signals that they’re committed to helping keep ObamaCare’s insurance marketplaces stable next year, advocates warn. Insurers are in the midst of deciding which ObamaCare markets to enter, and they need assurances that they won’t have to pay billions for out-of-pocket costs for certain low-income consumers. Rural areas already have fewer care options than their urban peers. (Roubein, 4/19)
President Donald Trump signed the extension of the Veterans Choice Act on Wednesday. There won't be much noticeable change from the action, but a new bill dubbed "Choice 2.0" is slated to be introduced to Congress in the fall.
The Wall Street Journal: Trump Signs Legislation Extending Private-Care Program For Veterans
President Donald Trump signed an extension of a Department of Veterans Affairs law on Wednesday to continue a program that helps veterans seek health care outside the VA system. The original legislation, commonly known as the Veterans Choice Act, was slated to expire in August. The measure signed Wednesday by Mr. Trump extends the program until the remaining funds are used, which is expected to happen by the end of the year. (Kesling, 4/19)
Reuters: Trump Extends Program Allowing Some Veterans To Use Local Doctors, Hospitals
President Donald Trump on Wednesday moved a step closer to fulfilling his campaign promise to reform the troubled Veterans Affairs department, but some veterans groups are concerned that the administration may be working toward privatizing their healthcare. (Lambert, 4/19)
Previous KHN Coverage: Trump Extends Flawed ‘Fix’ For VA Health Scandals
In other news on veterans' health care —
NPR: Veterans Gain Health Coverage Through The Affordable Care Act
Almost half a million veterans gained health care coverage during the first two years of the Affordable Care Act, a report finds. In the years leading up to the implementation of the ACA's major coverage provisions, from 2010 to 2013, nearly 1 million of the nation's approximately 22 million veterans didn't have health insurance. (Boddy, 4/19)
The industries, which are often the focus of federal scrutiny, ponied up millions for the new president's inauguration festivities.
The New York Times: Trump Inaugural Drew Big Dollars From Donors With Vested Interests
Documents released this week by Mr. Trump’s inaugural organizers provide a glimpse of the big-dollar frenzy of influence-seeking and peacemaking surrounding Mr. Trump’s swearing-in, which raised $107 million, twice as much money as any other inauguration. ... While Mr. Trump promised during the campaign to give Medicare and Medicaid the power to negotiate prices they pay for prescription drugs, two of the biggest drugmakers, Pfizer and Amgen, gave a combined $1.5 million in December. (Confessore, Fandos and Shorey, 4/19)
Kaiser Health News: With Drug Costs In Crosshairs, Health Firms Gave Generously To Trump’s Inauguration
Drugmaker Pfizer gave $1 million to help finance the inauguration, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Amgen, another pharmaceutical company, donated $500,000. Health insurers Anthem, Centene and Aetna all gave six-figure contributions. They joined a surge of corporate donors from multiple industries to break inauguration-finance records even as then-President-elect Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington influence-peddling. (Hancock, Lupkin and Lucas, 4/19)