Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Anchors Aweigh'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Anchors Aweigh'" by John Hambrock.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


White House to take on
The surge in heroin use.
Treatment will be key.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. HHS Auditor Finds Most Of The Health Law's Insurance Co-Ops Are Losing Money

The report finds that many of the insurance cooperatives overestimated the number who would enroll. In other news stories, a House Republican renews the call for repealing the health law, an analysis of Wisconsin's drop in the uninsured and a look at health literacy.

The New York Times: Most Health Insurance Co-Ops Are Losing Money, Federal Audit Finds
Most federal insurance cooperatives created under the Affordable Care Act are losing money and could have difficulty repaying millions of dollars in federal loans, an internal government audit has found, prompting the Obama administration to step up supervision of the carriers. Daniel R. Levinson, the inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, said that most of the insurance co-ops enrolled fewer people than they had predicted, and that 22 of the 23 co-ops lost money last year. (Pear, 8/14)

The Hill: Republican: Congress 'Fully Committed' To Obamacare Repeal
Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) on Saturday said GOP lawmakers remain completely invested in repealing ObamaCare. Guthrie added that rolling back President Obama’s signature healthcare law is essential before its latest set of regulations takes effect next year. ... “If ObamaCare’s next round of regulations takes effect on Jan. 1, mere months from now, small businesses will be forced into larger group insurance markets that have dramatically higher rates,” Guthrie added. (Hensch, 8/15)

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Report Cites Progress In Providing Insurance For Wisconsin Uninsured
The exact figure is not known, but a reasonable estimate has 158,000 people in Wisconsin gaining health insurance since January 2014 when coverage was expanded through the Affordable Care Act. That's based on a recent analysis by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The analysis shows the state's progress in expanding coverage, said Donna Friedsam, director of health policy programs at the agency. ... An estimated 450,000 adults in the state were uninsured in 2013. (Boulton, 8/15)

The Connecticut Mirror: Having Health Insurance Is One Thing, Understanding It Another
The complexity of health insurance and lagging levels of insurance literacy have long been a concern. But many experts say the problem is particularly urgent now that the federal health law has expanded coverage to millions more people, including many who have limited experience with insurance and some with limited English proficiency. (Levin Becker, 8/17)


5. Medicare Pays Top Dollar For 'Ultra-High' Nursing Home Therapy

The Wall Street Journal reports on how patients who get at least 720 minutes of rehab a week generate some of nursing facilities’ biggest payments from Medicare.

The Wall Street Journal: How Medicare Rewards Copious Nursing-Home Therapy
During his 2013 California nursing-home stay, Jack Furumura became severely dehydrated and shed more than 5 pounds, partly because staff didn’t follow written plans for his nutrition or the facility’s policies, a state inspection report shows. Still, during many of his 21 days there, the 96-year-old man suffering from dementia received two hours or more of physical and occupational therapy combined, records show. (Weaver, Wilde Mathews and McGinty, 8/16)


6. Steelworkers' Union Negotiates Health Benefits And Wages Under Looming Contract Deadline

Elsewhere, thousands of Boeing employees must decide whether to opt for a new health insurance option with provider Mercy Health that offers lower premiums and no copays but restricts patients to network doctors.

The Wall Street Journal: Steelworkers To Rally For Wage, Health-Benefit Pacts
These labor talks are the first in a generation to be held during a down market. During the past two negotiating sessions—in 2008 and 2012—prices were strong. Workers had bargaining leverage, and they negotiated solid blue-collar paychecks including health-care benefits and wages well over $50,000 a year. (Miller, 8/16)

The St. Louis Post Dispatch: What Boeing's Health Insurance Deal With Mercy Means For Employees
Beginning on Jan. 1, most Boeing employees here will be able to choose a new health insurance provider: Mercy Health. St. Louis will become the second region, along with Charleston, S.C., in which Boeing has contracted directly with a health care system to offer some employees what they say will be less-expensive care coupled with a better experience. Around 12,000 mostly nonunion employees in the St. Louis area will be eligible for this option. (Liss, 8/14)

Administration News

7. White House Plan Geared Toward Combating Rising Heroin Use By Prioritizing Treatment

The Obama administration plans to unveil the initiative today. Meanwhile, other news outlets take a look at different aspects of the heroin epidemic and the system's response.

NPR: When Rehab Might Help An Addict — But Insurance Won't Cover It
The latest numbers show that deaths from heroin-related overdose more than tripled nationally between 2002 and 2013. Opiate addiction touches every demographic: white, black, Hispanic, rural, suburban and urban. Proposed solutions nationally include more government funding for treatment, tougher penalties for dealers, and proactive interventions to stop people before they start. (Allen, 8/16)

The Associated Press: Federal Grant To Help Pregnant Women Battling Addiction
State health officials say Massachusetts has received a federal grant to treat pregnant women who are addicted to opioids. Gov. Charlie Baker says the funding will help save the lives of women and their children. The state Department of Public Health was awarded the funding as part of the Moms Do Care project, which also includes other state agencies, hospitals and nonprofit organizations. (8/16)

Capitol Hill Watch

8. HHS Tells Congress That Federal Researchers Have Not Violated Fetal Tissue Laws

Little federal research is done on fetal tissue, Politico reports. Also in the news, a tissue company cuts its ties with Planned Parenthood and a fact check about remarks by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Planned Parenthood's origin.

Politico: HHS To Congress: No Violations Of Fetal Tissue Laws
The Obama administration says there are no known violations of the country’s fetal tissue laws among government researchers or the companies that supply the tissue. “Currently, we know of no violation of these laws in connection with the research done at our agencies,” Jim Esquea, assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, wrote in a letter to Sens. Joni Ernst and Roy Blunt, obtained by POLITICO. ... Very little federal research is done with fetal tissue, but it has come under scrutiny since an anti-abortion group earlier this summer began releasing undercover videos alleging that Planned Parenthood was trafficking in fetal tissue and organs. Planned Parenthood has denied that, saying it facilitates legal tissue donation at a few of its locations. (Haberkorn, 8/16)