Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Made To Order?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Made To Order?'" by Edgar Argo.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


It's been fifty years...
Happy birthday Medicaid.
So many covered.

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Capitol Hill Watch

4. Senate To Vote Today On Planned Parenthood Federal Funding

News outlets report on today's scheduled vote, which comes in the wake of a series of secret videos taken by anti-abortion activists that raise controversial and unsettling issues about Planned Parenthood's program to collect fetal tissue for biomedical research.

Reuters: Planned Parenthood Fight Hits Congress, Wider Impact Unclear
Women's health group Planned Parenthood, under attack by anti-abortionists posting hidden-camera videos online, will be the focus of a partisan showdown on Monday in the U.S. Senate, with any wider influence on voters from the charge still unclear. Congressional Republicans are trying to cut off Planned Parenthood's federal funding. The effort followed the release of videos by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, that have reinvigorated America's abortion debate as the 2016 presidential campaign shifts into high gear. (8/3)

The Associated Press: Congress To Vote On Planned Parenthood Federal Aid
Republicans will likely lose Monday's Senate showdown over halting federal aid to Planned Parenthood. Yet the political offensive by abortion foes has just started, prompted by a batch of unsettling videos that has focused attention on the group's little-noticed practice of providing fetal tissue to researchers. Conservatives have long targeted Planned Parenthood, which provides health services, family planning and abortions in clinics across the country. The furtively recorded videos, with hair-raising close-ups of aborted fetal organs and Planned Parenthood officials dispassionately describing how "I'm not going to crush that part," have forced the group and its Democratic champions into a defensive crouch. (Fram, 8/3)

Fox News: Senate To Vote Monday To Defund Planned Parenthood, First Step In Renewed Battle
However, the effort appears to be another step in the effort by pro-life groups and others to restrict abortions and undermine Planned Parenthood, which provides health services, family planning and abortions in clinics across the country. ... Paul and other Republicans want the millions that go to Planned Parenthood given instead to community health centers across the country that provide similar services with the exception of abortions. (8/3)

Politico: Defund Planned Parenthood? Not So Easy
Republicans may find that defunding Planned Parenthood is harder than it looks. Even if they manage to overcome the political obstacles — big ones like a Democratic filibuster, a presidential veto, or a battle royale over shutting down the government —they may still collide with Medicaid law. The fight could leap from Congress to the courts. (Pradhan, 8/3)

The latest face-off in the Senate is part of a long-standing battle in Congress over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. In addition, fetal tissue research has also been a flash point  -

Kaiser Health News: Fetal Tissue Attack Is Latest Tactic In Long GOP Fight Against Planned Parenthood
Republican calls to defund Planned Parenthood over its alleged handling of fetal tissue for research are louder than ever. But they are just the latest in a decades-long drive to halt federal support for the group. This round of attacks aims squarely at the collection of fetal tissue, an issue that had been mostly settled — with broad bipartisan support — in the early 1990s. Among those who voted to allow federal funding for fetal tissue research was now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky." (Rovner, 8/3)

Reuters: Fetal Tissue Research Declining, Still Important
A political battle over the use of fetal tissue in medical research has been reinvigorated by the release of undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood officials. But the controversy comes just as interest in the use of fetal tissue is dwindling, scientists said. Newer, less-controversial technologies, including the “reprogramming” of adult skin cells to create specific types of stem cells, have rendered fetal tissue less central — though still important — to medical research, they said. Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell Technology, said that much of the tissue needed for research "can now be generated in the laboratory." (Steenhuysen, 8/1)

In related news, a judge issued a temporary restraining order to block the release of secret videos recorded at meetings of abortion providers by the same anti-abortion activists responsible for other covert Planned Parenthood videos -

The Associated Press: Judge Blocks Release Of Recording By Anti-Abortion Group
A federal judge has blocked the release of any recordings made at meetings of abortion providers by an anti-abortion group that previously revealed secretly recorded videos of a Planned Parenthood leader. Judge William Orrick in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order Friday against the Center for Medical Progress hours after the order was requested by the National Abortion Federation. (Thanawala, 7/31)

The Hill: Abortion Providers Sue To Stop Release Of More Undercover Videos
The National Abortion Federation is asking a California court to block the release of secretly recorded footage that anti-abortion activists could use in their campaign against Planned Parenthood. The organization — which represents abortion providers nationwide, including those at Planned Parenthood clinics — filed suit Friday for a temporary restraining order against the Center for Medical Progress, which it said deceptively attended meetings where highly sensitive topics were discussed. (Ferris, 7/31)

5. Intraparty Divisions On Health Law Repeal Tactics Impact Republicans' Budget Roadmap

In other Capitol Hill news, a provision of the House's VA legislation offers stronger protections for whistleblowers. And MinnPost profiles the family of the young woman whose death helped inspire a bill to combat eating disorders.

The Hill: Signs Of Division In The GOP On Obamacare Repeal
Senate Republican leaders this week narrowly averted an intra-party battle over ObamaCare by again promising to get a repeal bill to the president’s desk through budget reconciliation. But the use of reconciliation — a budget tool that allows bills to bypass the Senate’s 60-vote threshold — is still a matter of debate among Republicans in Congress. (Ferris, 8/3)

The Washington Post: In Controversial VA Bill, A Little-Noticed Boon For Whistleblowers
The House’s passage of a measure last week that would give the government more power to fire poor performers at the Department of Veterans Affairs was poisonous for federal employee unions and Democrats. But the bill contains a little-noticed change that lawmakers in both parties have clamored for, particularly after last year’s coverup of long wait times for veterans needing medical care. The measure would give whistleblowers some of the strongest protections in history — and make sure that supervisors who punish them for reporting wrongdoing are themselves punished. (Rein, 8/3)

MinnPost: Kitty Westin, Sen. Klobuchar Hope Eating Disorders Bill Named For Anna Westin Will Help Others
Kitty Westin’s activism is fueled by grief, so for 15 years, since the death of her oldest daughter, Anna, she’s worked tirelessly as an advocate for people struggling with eating disorders. “Anna died from an eating disorder,” Westin said. “One of the issues we faced near the end of her life was getting our insurance company to authorize the treatment she needed. Eating disorders are a serious mental illness, but they are treatable if people struggling with them have access to high-quality care. Our insurance company denied Anna that coverage, and lack of education about her disease only added to her suffering.” On Tuesday, when the Anna Westin Act, a bill designed to help combat eating disorders through education and enhanced insurance coverage, was introduced in the U.S. Senate, Westin felt a mix of emotions. (Steiner, 7/31)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Wisconsin Rejects $360M In Federal Health Law Money

Gov. Scott Walker, who is running for president, and other Republican lawmakers argue that the state needs to be able to pay for its own health care costs, but those who support accepting the funds say politics are at the heart of the decision.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: With Millions Of Dollars At Stake, Wisconsin Leaders Hold Fast In Opposition To Obamacare
With its new two-year budget in place, Wisconsin now has passed up more than $550 million in federal money available under the Affordable Care Act. The state previously rejected roughly $200 million in federal money available starting in January 2014, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The new budget turned away another $360 million — far more than the $250 million in cuts the same budget made to the University of Wisconsin System. (Boulton, 8/1)

In other health law implementation news, Arizona's governor has asked federal officials to approve changes to the state's Medicaid plan that would require co-pays, or other financial contributions, of some adult beneficiaries; and New York announces that 2.1 million are enrolled on its exchange while Colorado says that only 6.4 percent of residents are uninsured -

The Associated Press: Ducey To Ask Feds To OK Co-Pays, Other Medicaid Changes
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey plans to ask the federal government to approve major changes to the state's Medicaid insurance plan that are designed to encourage recipients to work, better utilize services and possibly cut state costs. The plan would apply only to able-bodied adults, about a quarter of the state's 1.7 million Medicaid recipients, and won't affect children, the elderly or disabled. (Christie, 8/2)