Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Medicare Says Doctors Should Get Paid To Discuss End-Of-Life Issues

The topic is complex and sometimes requires multiple visits, but right now doctors are paid for it only if they discuss end-of-life planning in their initial visit with a new Medicare patient. (Kristian Foden-Vencil, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Stephanie O'Neill, Southern California Public Radio, 8/18)

4. Political Cartoon: 'All The President's Men?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'All The President's Men?'" by Mike s.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Want happy patients?
Then let them get ZZZs. The rest
takes care of itself.

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Administration News

5. White House Marshals Money, Focus To Combat Heroin Epidemic

The Obama administration plan, unveiled Monday, is a response to the nation's mounting problem with heroin abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of this drug has more than doubled among people aged 18-25 in the United States in the past decade.

The New York Times: U.S. Budgets Cash To Treat Heroin Abuse In Northeast
The funding — a sliver of the $25.1 billion that the government spends every year to combat drug use — will help create a new “heroin response strategy” aimed at confronting the increase in use of the drug. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that heroin-related deaths had nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013. “The Heroin Response Strategy will foster a collaborative network of public health-public safety partnerships to address the heroin/opioid epidemic,” said the announcement by the policy office. “The aim will be to facilitate collaboration between public health and public safety partners within and across jurisdictions, sharing best practices, innovative pilots, and identifying new opportunities to leverage resources.” (Shear, 8/17)

Los Angeles Times: White House Announces Push To Combat Growing Heroin Epidemic
About $2.5 million from President Obama's anti-drug programs will target heroin abuse in New England, Appalachia and East Coast cities, and $1.3 million will go to fight trafficking on the border with Mexico, drug czar Michael Botticelli said. Public health coordinators will monitor heroin use and issue warnings regarding dangerous batches of the drug. Public safety coordinators will work with law enforcement to stem illegal imports. Botticelli emphasized the benefits that would come from cooperation between public health officials and law enforcement. (Toman-Miller, 8/17)

USA Today: White House Launches New Heroin Strategy
While the grants don't provide any new money — only Congress can do that — the new heroin strategy is "targeting the resources we have already to deal with our biggest drug threats," Botticelli said. But critics of the national drug policy say the announcement is "one step forward, two steps back." “Half of what they’re doing is right – the focus on health and overdose prevention – but the other half, the side that focuses on the failed arrest and incarceration policies of the past is destined to ruin lives and fail,” said Bill Piper, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. (Korte, 8/17)

Reuters: White House Launches Plan To Counter Explosion In Heroin Use
The move is a response to a sharp rise in the use of heroin and opiate-based painkillers, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has described as an epidemic. Heroin use has more than doubled among people aged 18-25 in the United States in the past decade, according to CDC figures, while overdose death rates have nearly quadrupled. An estimated 45 percent of U.S. heroin users are also addicted to prescription painkillers. (8/17)

Campaign 2016

6. Walker's Health Plan Designed To Dismantle Obamacare, Give More Control To States

Wis. Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican presidential candidate, unveiled his health care plan -- which includes tax credits to pay for private health insurance and an overhaul of Medicaid. It would also allow people to shop for coverage across state lines.

The Associated Press: GOP Hopeful Scott Walker Offers Health Plan With Tax Credits
Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker's plan for replacing President Barack Obama's health care law would extend refundable tax credits to help pay for private health insurance based on age instead of income, restructure Medicaid and allow people to shop for insurance across state lines. The Wisconsin governor provided details of his proposal to The Associated Press in advance of a Tuesday speech in suburban Minneapolis where he was to outline his first major policy initiative of the presidential campaign. (8/18)

Los Angeles Times' Trail Guide: Scott Walker Tries To Pull Obamacare Back Into The Spotlight
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker plans to hit a favorite Republican target, "Obamacare," in an effort to excite many of the Republican primary voters who have ignored him in the five weeks since he entered the presidential primary. ... Walker plans to travel to Minnesota on Tuesday to give a detailed plan to repeal and replace President Obama's healthcare plan. He promises to limit government interference while still “ensuring affordable coverage for those with preexisting conditions, and removing the fear that something as simple as changing jobs could result in loss of coverage.” (Bierman, 8/17)

The Wall Street Journal: Scott Walker Unveils Health-Care Plan
The Wisconsin governor and GOP presidential candidate says the plan wouldn’t add to the federal deficit and would completely repeal and dismantle the Obama administration’s health-care law. Mr. Walker says his plan would give more control to the states, overhaul Medicaid and do away with tax credits based on income. It would also toss out the law’s requirement that insurers offer plans that cover essential health benefits such as maternity care and mental-health services. (Epstein and Armour, 8/18)

Politico: Scott Walker Gets Out Front With Obamacare Replacement Plan
Walker says he would replace Obamacare with a plan that would return authority to the states and provide sliding-scale tax credits directly to consumers who don’t get coverage at work to help them buy insurance. He would also expand the role of health savings accounts and allow consumers to buy insurance across state lines — standard Republican ideas. States would also be able to set up high-risk pools with federal funds to help consumers with pre-existing health problems purchase coverage. In a nod to Republican opposition to federal control over health care, Walker would also give states greater say over Medicaid, which he would break into separate plans for different groups, such as poor families, people with disabilities and low-income seniors. (Haberkorn and Cheney, 8/18)

Meanwhile, what about "Kasich-care" -

Cincinnati Enquirer: Kasich-Care: Priorities Like Obamacare, Without Mandates
[John Kasich] wants to ensure insurance coverage for people who have pre-existing conditions. He likes insurance exchanges. And he thinks everyone should have health insurance – even young, healthy people who need an incentive to sign up. Yet he says he’d push to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law and replace it with something else – something better, he says – if his presidential campaign were to prove successful. ... Kasich’s ideas about health care illustrate the difficulty the Ohio governor may have distancing himself from a law that so many of his fellow Republicans detest. Because a lot of what the governor wants to do is already part of Obamacare. (Thompson, 8/17)

7. Jeb Bush Details Approach To Overhaul VA, Improve Veterans' Health Care

While campaigning in South Carolina, the Republican presidential hopeful offered his take on how he would improve health care for veterans by expanding “choice” options for care outside the department but not cutting funding for VA hospitals and medical staff.

The Associated Press: Bush: Privatize More Veterans Care, Boost Active Forces
Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush wants to privatize more veterans care, make it easier to fire federal employees found responsible for poor treatment and overhaul the Pentagon to prioritize an increase in the number of active troops. The former Florida governor announced those and other veterans policy ideas Monday to open a two-day swing in the early voting state of South Carolina, where he visited a Veterans Affairs medical facility in Charleston and held a town hall-style meeting with veterans in Columbia. (Barrow, 8/17)

USA Today/Military Times: Jeb Bush Unveils VA Reform Plan For Presidential Bid
Bush’s VA reform plan, to be unveiled later Monday in advance of an appearance with Concerned Veterans for America in South Carolina on Monday night, includes expanding “choice” options for care outside the department without cutting funding for VA hospitals and medical staff. Instead, he promises that extra funds can be found through “cutting excess administrators (not caregivers)” and eliminating “billions of dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse.” That includes more competitive bidding for department contracts and firing poorly performing employees. (Shane, 8/17)

The Washington Post: Jeb Bush Unveils Veterans Policy As 12 Medal Of Honor Recipients Endorse Him
The Republican presidential candidate unveiled a new veterans health-care plan on Monday at the start of a two-day visit to South Carolina, the place with the highest percentage of active-duty and retired military personnel among the first four early primary states. ... Bush said that revamping the VA and veterans health care overall would be "a top priority" if he's elected president. His ideas mirror those advanced last year by many Republican lawmakers, who responded with outrage to revelations of widespread mistakes and delayed care for veterans seeking medical treatment or referrals. (O'Keefe, 8/17)