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KHN First Edition: September 27, 2017


First Edition

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: The GOP Repeal Bill Is Imploding. Here Are 5 Things Left Hanging On Obamacare.
Republicans officially pulled the plug on their last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday. “We don’t have the votes,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) after a closed-door meeting of Senate Republicans. “And since we don’t have the votes, we’ve made the decision to postpone the vote.” Cassidy, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) put together the proposal they hoped could pass the Senate. (Rovner, 9/26)

Kaiser Health News: Right After Trump Blamed High Drug Prices On Campaign Cash, Drugmakers Gave More
“The cost of medicine in this country is outrageous,” President Donald Trump said at a rally in Louisville, Ky., two months after his inauguration. He went on about how identical pills have vastly lower price tags in Europe. “You know why?” the president asked, before spreading his hands wide. “Campaign contributions, who knows. But somebody is getting very rich.” It was March 20, 2017. (Lupkin and Lucas, 9/27)

Kaiser Health News: Congress’ Cold Shoulder Sends Shivers Through Community Health Centers
One community health center in New York has frozen hiring. Another in Missouri can’t get a bank loan to expand. The nation’s 1,400 community health centers are carefully watching expenses in case the financial rescue they hope Congress delivers this week doesn’t arrive. With four days left in the government’s fiscal year, Congress has not voted on reauthorizing billions of dollars now going to community health centers and other health programs for the 2018 budget year that starts Sunday. (Bluth, 9/27)

Kaiser Health News: As Loyal Blood Donors Age, Industry Is Out For Young Blood
When Corinne Standefer retires as a volunteer from the Lane Bloodworks in Eugene, Ore., this month, she will have donated 37 years of her life — and almost 19 gallons of blood. The 89-year-old gave her first pint decades ago to help a friend who had cancer. “When they called me and said ‘Could you donate again?’ I just started coming in,” she recalled. (Aleccia, 9/27)

California Healthline: California Scrambles To Contain ‘Unprecedented’ Hepatitis A Outbreaks
Health officials in California are struggling to contain fierce outbreaks of hepatitis A among homeless people and drug abusers in three counties, including San Diego, where at least 17 people have died. Hundreds more have become ill and been hospitalized, mostly in the San Diego area, often not far from tourist destinations. The disease also has cropped up farther north in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties. Poor access to restrooms and sinks in homeless encampments is largely to blame. (O'Neill, 9/26)

The New York Times: Senate Republicans Say They Will Not Vote On Health Bill
Senate Republicans on Tuesday officially abandoned the latest plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, shelving a showdown vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in their last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Trump and Republican lawmakers. The decision came less than 24 hours after a pivotal Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, declared her opposition to the repeal proposal, all but ensuring that Republican leaders would be short of the votes they needed. (Kaplan and Pear, 9/26)

The Associated Press: 'Obamacare' Survives; GOP Concedes On Last-Gasp Repeal Try
The repeal-and-replace bill's authors promised to try again at a later date, while President Donald Trump railed against "certain so-called Republicans" who opposed the GOP effort. But for now, Trump and fellow Republicans who vowed for seven years to abolish President Barack Obama's law will leave it standing and turn their attention to overhauling the nation's tax code instead. (9/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Scraps Vote On GOP Measure To Repeal Health Law
“We haven’t given up on changing the American health-care system,” Mr. McConnell (R., Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re not going to be able to do it this week.” But for the moment, he said, “we plan to move forward on our next priority, which is reforming the American tax code in significant ways for the first time in 30 years.” (son and Armour, 9/26)

The Hill: Senate Won't Vote On ObamaCare Repeal Bill 
"We don't have the votes so it's probably best we don't do the vote," said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) after the GOP conference met at its regular weekly luncheon. "We've lost this battle, but we're going to win the war." (Bolton, 9/26)

The Washington Post: Senate GOP Abandons Latest Effort To Unwind The Affordable Care Act
The Senate leaders said they would turn their attention to their next major legislative undertaking. “Where we go from here is tax reform,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters after holding a closed-door policy lunch with members of his caucus. Republicans already are bracing for the political fallout from the measure proposed by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.)., which McConnell had hoped to bring to a vote this week. They said the pressure to pass a tax overhaul bill was higher than ever and hoped the Republican base would give them a bit more time to take another shot at repealing the ACA. (Eilperin, Sullivan and Goldstein, 9/26)

The Hill: Trump Rips 'So-Called Republicans' Over ObamaCare Repeal  
President Trump on Tuesday said he was “disappointed” that some “so-called Republicans” were opposing the Senate's latest effort to repeal ObamaCare. “We were very disappointed by a couple of senators, Republican senators I must say, we were very disappointed that they would take the attitude that they did,” Trump told reporters. “But we are disappointed in certain so-called Republicans.” (Weixel, 9/26)

The Associated Press: Congress At Crossroads After Another GOP Health Care Failure 
Congress is at a crossroads after Republicans stumbled again in their drive to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law. The choice is between more partisan conflict or a shift toward cooperation. Bipartisan talks on a bill to stabilize the health law's shaky insurance markets are resuming. But time is short and there's no guarantee of success. Open enrollment starts Nov. 1. (9/27)

The Hill: GOP Senator Ready To Resume Bipartisan ObamaCare Talks
Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) left the door open Tuesday to restarting bipartisan talks on an ObamaCare stabilization bill. "I’m still concerned about the next two years and Congress has an opportunity to slow down premium increases in 2018, begin to lower them in 2019, and do our best to make sure there are no counties where people have zero options to buy health insurance," Alexander said in a statement late Tuesday afternoon. (Hellmann, 9/26)

The Hill: Key GOP Senator Floats Tying Bipartisan Insurance Stabilization Deal To Reforms 
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is floating potentially tying a bipartisan deal on stabilizing the health insurance market to structural reforms favored by Republicans, after the latest bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare fell apart. "Sen. [Lamar] Alexander [R-Tenn.] and Sen. [Patty] Murray [D-Wash] are working on some ideas on stabilizing the market, but more importantly, to me, Sen. [Bill] Cassidy [R-La.] and Sen. [Lindsey] Graham [R-S.C.] are looking at structural reform," the No. 2 Senate Republican told reporters Tuesday. (Carney, 9/26)

NPR: Kaiser Permanente CEO: A Bipartisan Health Bill Is The Way To Go 
Now that the latest GOP health care proposal is being left for dead, you might think that health care reform efforts are over for the near future. But don't dismiss bipartisan efforts already underway that aim to stabilize the insurance market and potentially give states more flexibility in meeting federal standards. (Fulton, 9/27)

The Hill: Top Republican Nixes Idea Of Pairing ObamaCare Repeal With Tax Reform 
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Tuesday said Congress should move onto tax reform and not try to pair it with a new plan to repeal ObamaCare. Cornyn signaled the widespread GOP fear that adding a health-care debate to the tax bill will only bog down a reform package that is President Trump’s new top priority. (Bolton, 9/26)

The Hill: Freedom Caucus Chair Opposes Combining Health Care, Tax Reform 
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Tuesday that he opposes trying to combine tax reform and ObamaCare repeal in a fast-track bill next year. Some Republicans are pushing to include instructions for ObamaCare repeal along with tax reform in the 2018 budget, allowing the GOP to keep alive their ability to pass repeal with just a simple majority and bypass a Democratic filibuster. (Sullivan, 9/26)

The New York Times: How Failure Of The Obamacare Repeal Affects Consumers
Obamacare repeal is dead, again. But the months of Republican attacks on the health law will still have consequences for some consumers. For now, people who get their insurance through Medicaid can rest easy. While some states have applied to make minor changes to their programs, the demise of the Graham-Cassidy legislation on Tuesday means no major cutbacks are on the immediate horizon. But almost every health bill that Republicans proposed this year called for subjecting the program to caps, so that idea seems unlikely to disappear. (Sanger-Katz, 9/26)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Claim That 1996 Welfare Overhaul ‘Worked Like A Charm’
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans decided not to vote on the Cassidy-Graham bill, effectively halting (again) the GOP’s efforts to repeal Obamacare. In the process of debating the merits of the legislation, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) made assertions that we thought warranted a closer look. Graham held up the landmark shift in welfare policy in 1996 as an example of the federal government successfully turning an entitlement program over to states. The changes redirected the money spent on federal aid for low-income families to a block grant for the states, giving them flexibility on how to spend the money, so long as it went toward programs to reduce poverty. Graham said this shift in funding “worked like a charm.” (Lewis, 9/27)

The Washington Post: Tuesday Started As A Bad Day For Mitch McConnell. It Only Got Worse. 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lost just about every way possible on Tuesday. The Kentucky Republican had to abandon, again, an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act amid an uprising from the more moderate wing of the GOP caucus. Then he learned that one of his most influential Republican chairman would not run for reelection next year, setting up a potentially divisive race to succeed the senator. (Kane, 9/26)

Politico: Mitch McConnell's Dreadful Day 
For Mitch McConnell, Tuesday was about as bad as it could get. A vulnerable incumbent senator, Luther Strange, lost handily to Roy Moore, who used the Senate leader as his campaign punching bag. McConnell pulled the plug — again — on repealing Obamacare. One of his close allies, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), announced his retirement. And President Donald Trump is back on McConnell’s case, dubbing him “weak” at a private dinner with conservative activists on Monday evening. (Bresnahan, Everett and Dawsey, 9/27)

Politico: Inside The Life And Death Of Graham-Cassidy
Sen. Lindsey Graham offered a eulogy for the GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort on Tuesday, but seized on one bright spot as a reason not to give up after a parade of health care disappointments. During a closed-door party meeting to discuss their terms of surrender, he told fellow Republicans that Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who opposed repeal over the summer, said she’d be open to his plan under other conditions, according to GOP senators in the room. (Haberkorn, Everett and Kim, 9/27)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Health Repeal’s Long And Winding Road
Republicans wasted little time getting their Affordable Care Act repeal off the ground this year, but the party hasn’t been able to agree on a plan that would appeal to both centrists and conservatives in the House and Senate. On Tuesday, Senate leaders said they would miss a key deadline for voting on an ACA repeal before the end of the fiscal year. Here’s a rundown of some key events in the party’s health push this year. (Kozo, 9/26)

The Hill: Timeline: The GOP's Failed Effort To Repeal ObamaCare 
For months, Republicans agonized over their ObamaCare repeal-and-replace effort. It was declared dead in the spring. Then revived and passed in the House. It appeared dead in the Senate this summer, but came back to life.But this week it met its demise — at least in the immediate future. The vehicle they were using to avoid a Democratic filibuster expires at the end of the month, and Republicans won’t be voting on another ObamaCare repeal bill this week. (Roubein, 9/26)

Politico: Price’s Private-Jet Travels Included Visits With Colleagues, Lunch With Son
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took a government-funded private jet in August to get to St. Simons Island, an exclusive Georgia resort where he and his wife own land, a day and a half before he addressed a group of local doctors at a medical conference that he and his wife have long attended. The St. Simons Island trip was one of two taxpayer-funded flights on private jets in which Price traveled to places where he owns property, and paired official visits with meetings with longtime colleagues and family members. (Diamond and Pradhan, 9/26)

The Hill: Price Used Private-Jet Trips To Visit With Son, Colleagues: Report
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price used a government-funded jet to take trips in which he visited with his son and colleagues, Politico reported on Tuesday.  During one trip in August, Price flew to visit his property on St. Simons Island, a private resort in Georgia, as part of his trip to a medical conference. Price also went to have lunch with his son in Nashville, Tenn., where he also owns property, during a trip to tour a medicine dispensary and address a local health conference. (Delk, 9/26)

Los Angeles Times: Mnuchin, Price And Others On Trump's Team Are Getting Taxpayer-Funded Travel Perks – But Where's The Outrage?
The Treasury secretary requested a military plane for his European honeymoon. The head of Health and Human Services ran up a six-figure tab flying around the country on private jets. The chief of the Environmental Protection Agency dinged taxpayers for repeated excursions back home to Oklahoma. In normal times, Washington’s scandal machinery would be kicking into high gear. Mounting outrage — some real, some calculated — would lead to months of hearings and calls for criminal investigations. (Finnegan and Barabak, 9/26)

Los Angeles Times: Amid Power Outages, Hospitals Pushed To Their Limits In Puerto Rico
In the emergency room lobby at the Puerto Rico Medical Center, the island’s largest public hospital, more than a dozen patients — one with a broken leg, others with arms in slings or other wounds — were lined up on stretchers and in wheelchairs in the stifling heat. A generator hummed in the background, but that was powering the air conditioning for patients already being treated. (Hennessy-Fiske, 9/26)

Los Angeles Times: Scientists May Have Found A Way To Diagnose CTE In Football Players While They'Re Still Alive
It is a humbling but very motivating fact that a person currently has to die before doctors can make a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease that afflicts many professional football players and other athletes who have sustained repeated blows to the head. After all, if it were possible to diagnose CTE in the living, those athletes and the physicians who care for them could probably do something useful with that knowledge. (Healy, 9/26)

NPR: Concussion Rate Among Teens May Be As High As 20 Percent
Concussions have gotten a lot of attention in recent years, especially as professional football players' brains have shown signs of degenerative brain disease linked with repeated blows to the head. Now, a new analysis confirms what many doctors fear — that concussions start showing up at a high rate in teens who are active in contact sports. (Jochem, 9/26)

The Associated Press: Safe Drug-Use Space In Baltimore Could Save Money, Lives
A safe space in Baltimore for drug use for those addicted to opioids would generate an estimated $6 million in net healthcare cost savings and bring 121 people into treatment annually, according to a panel of law enforcement officials and a Johns Hopkins professor on Tuesday. The panel appeared before a joint legislative committee on behavioral health and opioid use disorders in Annapolis and presented research that indicated Maryland would benefit from opening a safe-consumption space in Baltimore. (Slater, 9/26)

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