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KHN First Edition: September 28, 2017


First Edition

Thursday, September 28, 2017
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: For Some Refugees, Women’s Health Care Is A Culture Shock
Dinnertime is nearing, and the kitchen in this tidy home is buzzing. Lamyaa Manty, a 29-year-old Iraqi refugee, wears a neon-pink T-shirt and stirs a big pot of eggplant, onion, potatoes and tomatoes on the stove, a staple of Iraqi cooking called tepsi. Spinning around with a butterfly net in her hand and dancing to Arabic music is Fatima Abdullah, an exuberant 9-year-old. At the center of the activity is Fatima’s aunt, Salima Abdullah Khalifa, a burgundy-haired matriarch from Baghdad, who pours Pepsi into small glasses on the table. (Varney, 9/28)

The Washington Post: Trump Plans Executive Action To Let Insurers Sell Health Plans Across State Lines
President Trump said Wednesday that he could take executive action next week to allow insurers to sell health plans across state lines and make it easier for individual consumers to buy coverage as a group, a policy approach long championed by conservatives. Trump’s comments, which came on the same day that insurers in about three dozen states had to finalize their federal contracts to offer 2018 coverage under the Affordable Care Act, did little to allay their concerns or those of state officials. (Eilperin and Winfield Cunningham, 9/27)

CNN Money: Trump Says He May Sign Executive Order On Health Care Next Week
A day after Congress' last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare failed, Trump said he may soon sign an executive order on health care that would affect millions of people. "I'll probably be signing a very major executive order where people can go out, cross state lines, do lots of things and buy their own health care, and that will be probably signed next week," he told reporters Wednesday. "It's being finished now. It's going to cover a lot of territory and a lot of people. Millions of people." (Luhby, 9/27)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Says He’ll Work With Democrats On Health Care
The push to ease interstate health-insurance sales has long been a goal of Republicans. Insurers that operate nationally already can sell plans to consumers in any state as long as they are licensed in that state and follow its rules. Republicans have sought to give insurers leeway to sell policies to consumers in a state where they aren’t licensed; such policies would only need to meet the insurer’s home-state regulations. Groups such as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners have argued that insurers under such a system might flock to states with the most-limited requirements for the industry. That could result in some plans carrying bare-bones coverage, even if offering cheaper premiums. In recent years, a handful of states passed legislation setting up special agreements that allow insurers in one state to sell coverage to individuals in another state, but participation has been sparse. (son and Hackman, 9/27)

Politico: Health Plans, Regulators Pan Trump's Plan To Allow Purchase Of Insurance Across State Lines
Trump didn't elaborate on how he would allow insurance to be sold across state lines. But most insurance experts find it hard to imagine how an executive order could supplant existing state regulations, and believe such a move would likely spark a legal challenge. “Health insurers already have the ability to sell insurance in multiple states as long as they comply with state consumer protection and licensing laws, which many already do,” said Mike Consedine, CEO of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, in a statement to POLITICO. “The NAIC has long been opposed to any attempt to reduce or preempt state authority or weaken consumer protections.”Several states — including Wyoming, Maine and Georgia — have already tried allowing across-state sales, and it’s been a colossal bust. (Demko and McCaskill, 9/27)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Promises Continued Push On Health-Care Rollback After Collapse
Republicans have a new promise on health care: It’s not over. As the GOP trumpeted the framework of a new tax overhaul plan at the Capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers wrestled with their message to voters after promises to roll back the Affordable Care Act officially came up short Tuesday, when party leaders scrapped a final vote after nine months of failed attempts. Now, Republicans are promising that repeal will still happen before the current session of Congress ends in January 2019. (son and Armour, 9/27)

The Hill: Trump Predicts Health Care Reform Will Pass In 'A Few Months' 
President Trump in a new interview scheduled to air Thursday insisted that Republicans have the votes to repeal ObamaCare and will pass health care reform in “a few months.” “So we'll bring it into a few months from now. We'll vote it - it's block grants. It's going to be great health care,’ Trump told “Fox & Friends.” (Shelbourne, 9/27)

The Associated Press: Trump Says GOP Has Health Care Votes ... But It Doesn’t
Guess what? Turns out Republicans have the votes to push health care legislation through the Senate, but they’ve been flummoxed because one supportive senator is in the hospital. That was President Donald Trump’s view of where things stand Wednesday on Capitol Hill. And it’s not true. Trump made the remarks a day after Senate GOP leaders discarded their drive to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. They lacked the votes to succeed, a not-so-minor snag that hadn’t changed. The three GOP senators whose opposition sunk the Republican measure all remained against it, aides confirmed. (Fram, 9/27)

Politico: Democrats Welcome GOP Keeping Obamacare Repeal Alive
To the Republicans vowing to keep their Obamacare repeal drive alive for as long as it takes, Democrats say: Please, and thank you. While Senate Republicans abandoned their last-gasp attempt to topple Obamacare before a Saturday deadline, they’re already suggesting they might try again next year. That timing — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Congress would take up repeal again in the first quarter of next year — could keep the threat of upending the health care system front of mind in the thick of the 2018 campaign season. (Schor and Caygle, 9/28)

The Associated Press: Senate Leader McConnell Faces Doubts After Losses
Senate Republicans are reckoning with an insurgent’s win in Alabama that poses clear threats to their own grip on power and the leadership of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Nearly $10 million spent by a McConnell-backed super PAC couldn’t save incumbent GOP Sen. Luther Strange, who had been endorsed by President Donald Trump as well. It came the same day that McConnell, short of votes, pulled the plug on the latest and possibly final GOP effort to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” (Werner, 9/28)

The New York Times: McConnell Gambled On Health Care And The Alabama Senate Race. He Lost.
Now, a majority leader celebrated for years as a brilliant tactician looks vulnerable — to dissent within his Senate conference and to insurgents from President Trump’s populist wing of the party, who are looking to storm the Senate in 2018. And if Republicans fail to fulfill their next promise — overhauling the tax code — the consequences will be dire. (Stolberg, 9/27)

The Wall Street Journal: Health Insurers Stay In ACA Despite Fears Of Last-Minute Exits
Health insurers appeared likely to offer Affordable Care Act plans in all U.S. counties next year, despite months of drama and worries among some state officials about last-minute exits, ahead of a late-Wednesday deadline. Some major insurers that had signaled that they might pull back, including Cigna Corp., Health Care Service Corp., Molina Healthcare Inc., Highmark Health and Independence Blue Cross, this week said they would stick to the states and regions where they had filed to offer ACA coverage. (Wilde Mathews, 9/27)

The Hill: Senate Dems Demand Investigation Into ObamaCare Website Shutdowns
A group of Senate Democrats on Wednesday called for an investigation into the Trump administration’s decision to periodically shut down the federal ObamaCare exchange website in the middle of the next open enrollment period. Sens. Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Chris Murphy (Conn.) asked the Department of Health and Human Services's inspector general to investigate plans for hours-long maintenance shutdowns of the website. (Weixel, 9/27)

The Hill: Problem Solvers Caucus Pushes To Stabilize Insurance Markets 
The House Problem Solvers Caucus is urging congressional leaders to consider bipartisan health-care policies aimed at stabilizing the insurance markets. “When we work across the aisle and govern together, Democrats and Republicans alike can find consensus on real solutions for the American people,” the group wrote to Democratic and Republican leaders in both chambers. (Roubein, 9/27)

The Associated Press: Top Health Official’s Travel Angers Trump
President Donald Trump says he’s “not happy” with his top health official, putting Tom Price’s job in jeopardy after his costly charter flights triggered a congressional investigation of administration travel. Asked whether he’s planning on firing Price, Trump responded Wednesday: “We’ll see.” (Alonso-Zaldivar and Lucey, 9/28)

The Washington Post: Trump: ‘Not Happy’ About HHS Secretary Tom Price’s Taxpayer-Funded Travel On Private Jets
President Trump on Wednesday said he is "not happy" about revelations that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took numerous flights on government-funded private jets for work and personal trips. But the former congressman from Georgia is likely to keep his job, according to two people familiar with Trump's thinking. Responding to questions from reporters at the White House, Trump said he is “looking into” the situation and that “personally, I'm not happy about it, and I let him know it.” Trump spoke by phone with Price in recent days, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the personnel issue. (Nakamura and Gearan, 9/27)

The New York Times: Tom Price’s Spending Habits Catch Trump’s Attention: ‘I’m Not Happy About It’
According to a senior administration official familiar with Mr. Trump’s thinking, the president’s willingness to ferret out financial wrongdoing is not good news for Mr. Price, a physician and a former Georgia congressman who has been a vocal proponent of cost-cutting within his own agency. Mr. Trump, who is known to dislike appearances of financial waste, is said to be increasingly frustrated with a series of reports published by Politico about Mr. Price’s spending habits. (Rogers, 9/27)

Politico: Trump Fuming Over Price's Charter Flights
Politico has revealed that Price has flown 26 times on private aircraft since last May at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, a break with the practice of his predecessors, who generally took commercial flights. Some Trump advisers are urging Trump to get rid of Price, according to three people familiar with the conversations. “His conduct is pretty much indefensible,” one senior administration official said. “I don’t know how you defend it.” (Dawsey, Restuccia and Nelson, 9/27)

NPR: Trump, 'Not Happy,' Joins Critics Of His Own Highflying Cabinet Officials
On Capitol Hill, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings, D-Md., sent letters instructing administration officials to supply details and documents from all trips on government-owned or chartered aircraft by nonelected political appointees. Letters went to the heads of 24 executive departments and independent agencies and to White House chief of staff John Kelly. (Overby, 9/27)

The Hill: Democrats Call For Price’s Resignation
Democratic lawmakers began calling for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to resign on Wednesday following a series of reports about his use of private jets at taxpayers’ expense. Five House Democrats joined together to demand Price’s resignation, hours after President Trump said he’s “not happy” with his health secretary’s pattern of costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to ride on private planes. (Marcos, 9/27)

The Hill: Poll: Majority View Price's Use Of Private Jet As 'Inappropriate' 
A majority of voters thinks it's inappropriate for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to use private jets for official business, a new poll released Wednesday shows.  Price has used a charter flight at least 26 times since May, totaling about $400,000, according to a series of Politico reports.  (Hellmann, 9/27)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Senator Is Examining Whether Some States Got Undue Medicaid Funds
A Republican senator who co-sponsored failed legislation to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act is looking at whether some states may have been getting federal money under the law’s Medicaid expansion that they aren’t entitled to. The probe by Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin suggests that some Republicans, fresh off their congressional effort to repeal the health law and its expansion, will now zero in on other potential ways to rein in the program and its costs. (Armour, 9/27)

The Hill: Congress On Track To Miss Two Big Health Deadlines 
Congress is at risk of missing two deadlines for health programs impacting millions of people, as funding is set to expire on Saturday. The House has yet to release a bill to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) just days before the deadline. The Senate has released a bipartisan five-year bill to reauthorize the program, but a vote hasn’t been scheduled. (Roubein, 9/27)

The Associated Press: VA Running Out Of Money For Private Health Care Program
Weeks after a veterans’ health initiative received $2.1 billion in emergency funding, the Trump administration says the private-sector Veterans Choice health care program may need additional money as early as December to avoid a disruption of care for hundreds of thousands of veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement that it hoped to move quickly on a proposed long-term legislative fix that would give veterans even wider access to private doctors. The proposal, under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would seek money to keep Choice running for much of next year as VA implements wider changes. (Yen, 9/27)

The Hill: Senate Passes Bipartisan Medicare Reform Bill 
The Senate on Tuesday night unanimously passed a bill aimed at making Medicare more efficient and saving it money. The passage of the under-the-radar bipartisan health-care reforms came on the same day that Senate Republicans abandoned a vote on a bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare. (Sulivan, 9/27)

Los Angeles Times: Abortions: Easier To Obtain Than Ever, Yet Nearly Half Worldwide Are Deemed Unsafe, Study Finds
It’s never been easier to have a safe abortion. With improvements in drugs designed to end a pregnancy and the spread of telemedicine, women all over the world are gaining access to low-risk, noninvasive abortions. But does this really mean that dangerous procedures are becoming a thing of the past? To find out, a team led by researchers at the World Health Organization in Geneva and the Guttmacher Institute in New York scoured abortion data from 61 countries and determined the level of safety for each procedure. The results were published Wednesday in the journal Lancet. (Kaplan, 9/27)

The Associated Press: Appeals Court Won’t Reconsider Arkansas Abortion Pill Ruling
A federal appeals court cleared the way Wednesday for Arkansas to impose new restrictions on the way the abortion pill is administered in the state, saying it won’t reconsider a panel’s decision in favor of the 2015 law. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it won’t reconsider a three-judge panel’s ruling lifting a federal judge’s preliminary injunction against the law. The measure requires doctors providing the abortion pill to maintain a contract with another physician with admitting privileges at a hospital who agrees to handle any complications. (Demillo, 9/27)

Stat: An Inside Look At Brigham And Women's Hospital's Struggle To Cut Costs
In only 18 months on the job, the chief operating officer of Brigham and Women’s Hospital had weathered relentless and unforeseen events that battered the elite Harvard-affiliated medical center. A record snowfall had paralyzed Boston and stanched admissions for a month. Installation of a $400 million electronic health record system had obscured a fall-off in patient volume. And the hospital had lost $24 million preparing for a threatened nurses strike. (Winslow, 9/28)

Los Angeles Times: Poll: Californians Like Obamacare More Than Ever But Are Divided On Single-Payer Healthcare
As the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act fizzles, the law has reached its highest popularity in California in four years, according to a new poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California. Nearly 60% of the Californians hold a generally favorable view of the healthcare law, and just over a third of Californians see it unfavorably — the highest approval rating since PPIC began tracking the law's popularity in 2013. (Mason, 9/27)

The Associated Press: Prosecutors Seek $74M In Deadly Meningitis Outbreak
Federal prosecutors say a Massachusetts pharmacy owner who was sentenced to prison after a nationwide meningitis outbreak that killed 76 people and sickened hundreds more should pay nearly $74 million in restitution. In a filing on Tuesday, prosecutors said the money would compensate about half of the victims of the 2012 outbreak for their expenses and lost income. The outbreak was traced to contaminated injections of medical steroids made by the now-defunct New England Compounding Center in Framingham. (9/28)

Los Angeles Times: Death Toll From San Diego Hepatitis Outbreak Rises To 17, With No Signs Of Slowing
The death toll in San Diego’s hepatitis A outbreak increased Tuesday, and the region’s top public health official said she hasn’t seen any signs of a slowdown in the public health emergency that has now killed 17 people. Dr. Wilma Wooten

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