Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Shot In The Arm?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Shot In The Arm?'" by Chuck Legge.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Such important programs passed
Safety net strengthened.

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Administration News

4. Forecast: National Health Care Spending To Accelerate

Federal actuaries issued a report Tuesday detailing a reversal in the slower spending trends of recent years. Among the reasons for this change, they said, is the health law's expanded health insurance coverage, the improving economy and the aging of baby boomers.

The Associated Press: Health Care Spending To Accelerate, US Report Says
It's lasted six years. But now welcome relief from rising U.S. health care costs seems to be winding down. Health care spending will outpace the nation's overall economic growth over the next decade, the government forecast on Tuesday, highlighting a challenge for the next president, not to mention taxpayers, businesses and individual Americans. A combination of expanded insurance coverage under President Barack Obama's law, an aging population, and rising demand will be squeezing society's ability to pay. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/29)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Health-Spending Growth Jumped To 5.5% In 2014
Growth in national health spending, which had dropped to historic lows in recent years, has snapped back and is set to continue at a faster pace over the next decade, federal actuaries said Tuesday. The return to bigger growth is a result of expanded insurance coverage under the 2010 health law, a revived economy and crunchtime as Medicare’s baby-boom beneficiaries enter their 70s. (Radnofsky, 7/28)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: By 2024, Health Spending Will Be Nearly A Fifth Of The Economy
There are several major factors behind the accelerated growth over the next decade, economist Sean P. Keehan said at a press briefing Tuesday morning. More people have gained health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the aging of the Baby Boomer generation and stronger economic growth will all contribute to the long-term trend, he said. Prescription drug spending has also increased markedly, largely due to the debut of expensive hepatitis C drugs over the last two years, Keehan said. (Johnson, 7/28)

USA Today: Health Spending Projected To Grow Modestly, But Faster
Overall, health spending is expected to rise to $5.4 trillion by 2024, surpassing growth in the Gross Domestic Product, which is expected to average 4.7%. That means health spending will account for about a fifth of the U.S. economy in 2024 — 19.6% to be exact, up from 17.4% in 2013. Chapin White, a senior policy research with the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, non-partisan research organization, says that's not necessarily going to happen -- and, in fact, none of the projections are assured. "There's a lot of uncertainty around these projections," he says, adding that what ultimately happens depends a lot on decisions and policies yet to be made. (Unger, 7/28)

Politico: Health Care Spending Again Accelerating
But the projected hikes remain far below the historic levels of recent decades. ... Moreover, the average projected growth during the coming decade is actually down slightly from last year, when 6 percent annual increases were predicted. About 8.4 million Americans gained coverage under the ACA in 2014, according to CMS. “If you’re temporarily reaching spending growth not much above those historic lows, but in the process you’re covering millions of people, that’s a pretty good bargain,” said Paul Hughes-Cromwick, senior health economist at the Altarum Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending. (Demko, 7/28)

CNN Money: Health Care Spending Expected To Grow Faster
The rapid growth of Medicare and Medicaid, however, will weigh even more heavily on the federal budget. Nearly half of total U.S. health expenses will be paid for by federal, state and local governments by 2024, according to federal projections. (Luhby, 7/28)

The Fiscal Times: US Health Spending: $3.1 Trillion A Year And Growing
To experts in the economics of health care, the findings in the new paper by a team of economists and actuaries from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are still modestly encouraging. Despite the addition of millions of people to the health care system under the Affordable Care Act, the rate of spending growth doesn’t appear to be headed back toward pre-recession rates. For the next decade and more, the annual growth rate will stay at around 5.8 percent, well below the 9 percent annual increase that was standard in the years prior to the Great Recession. (Garver, 7/29)

5. Take Note -- Medicare And Medicaid Mark A Big Birthday

Both federal programs were signed into law on July 30, 1965. News outlets are examining these programs, as well as their accomplishments and the growing pains they will face going forward.

The Associated Press: Then & Now: Medicare And Medicaid Turn 50
When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law on July 30, 1965, Americans 65 and older were the age group least likely to have health insurance. "No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine," Johnson said at the signing ceremony. "No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years. No longer will young families see their own incomes, and their own hopes, eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents, and to their uncles, and their aunts." (7/29)

The Sacramento Bee: Happy 50th, Medicare
At 50, Medicare is comfortably settled into middle age, but with some of the aches and pains that go with getting older. As the granddaddy of the U.S. health care system, it helps pay for hospitalizations, doctors’ visits and prescription drugs for 55 million Americans who might otherwise go without. (Buck, 7/28)

In related news -

CQ Healthbeat: CMS: Medicaid And CHIP Enrollment Rose In May
The number of people enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program continued to inch upward in May, according to updated federal statistics. The total number of people who were receiving Medicaid or children’s health coverage benefits stood at 71.6 million people, about 12.8 million people on average more than in a three-month period in 2013, before the main coverage expansions in the health care law took place. (Adams, 7/28)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. GOP Senators Introduce Legislation To Defund Planned Parenthood

The goal of this bill is to stop federal funding for the abortion rights organization, which is in the hot seat after covert videos were released about the group's role in supplying fetal tissue for medical research. A vote is planned in the next few days and Republicans are looking to some of the women in their caucus to lead the charge.

Politico: GOP Introduces Legislation To Defund Planned Parenthood
Senate Republicans — including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have introduced legislation to cut off all federal funds to Planned Parenthood, the abortion rights group at the center of a political firestorm over alleged fetal tissues sales. A “working group” led by GOP Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Rand Paul of Kentucky drafted the legislation, which is expected to be voted on in the Senate next week. More than 20 other Republicans have signed on as cosponsors, including Majority Whip John Cornyn and Sen. Ted Cruz, both of Texas. Cruz and Paul are both vying for the Republican presidential nomination. (Bresnahan and Palmer, 7/28)

Reuters: After Videos, Senate Republicans Target Planned Parenthood Vote
Senate Republicans are planning a vote in coming days on legislation to cut $500 million in annual federal funding for Planned Parenthood, reigniting a fight in Congress over abortion that has long been dormant. For years a target of conservatives, Planned Parenthood has come under increasing scrutiny recently due to secretly recorded videos about its role in supplying aborted fetal tissue for medical research. (Cowan and Cassella, 7/28)

The Washington Post: GOP Leaders Want Women Leading Anti-Planned Parenthood Efforts
Congressional Republicans are launching a new effort to end federal support for Planned Parenthood amid questions over its handling of fetal tissue, and it appears GOP leaders are looking to women to lead that fight. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) will lead a working group tasked with developing a legislative response to the spate of recently released undercover video of Planned Parenthood executives, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday. And House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday that House leaders are looking closely at legislation by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), a veteran antiabortion advocate, that would block funding to the group unless it stops performing abortions. (DeBonis, 7/28)

This debate is also a hot topic among GOP presidential candidates and has prompted Planned Parenthood to hire a crisis PR firm -

Politico: Carson, Cruz And Paul Rally Against Planned Parenthood
Sen. Ted Cruz called on the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into the people who appear in undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation. Cruz was speaking at an anti-abortion rally organized by Students for Life of America on Tuesday, just after activists released their third undercover video of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal body parts in graphic detail. (Collins, 7/28)