Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'All Or Nothing?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'All Or Nothing?'" by Mike Baldwin.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


A “Big Mac” attack
shouldn’t be treated if health
really is job 1.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. House Lawsuit Against Obama Pegged To Health Law Gains Strength

Meanwhile, repeal plans in Congress as part of reconciliation would not be an easy lift, according to CQ Healthbeat.

Los Angeles Times: House Lawsuit Against Obama Is Turning Into A Real Problem For The President
An unprecedented House lawsuit against President Obama that was once derided as a certain loser looks stronger now and may soon deliver an early legal round to Republican lawmakers complaining of executive branch overreach. A federal judge is expected to decide shortly whether to dismiss the suit, but thanks to an amended complaint and a recent Supreme Court ruling, the Republican-backed case has a much better chance of proceeding, attorneys agree. At issue is whether the House may sue in court to defend its constitutionally granted "power of the purse" if the president spends money that was not appropriated by Congress. The lawsuit alleges that Obama's top aides quietly claimed the power to spend $178 billion over the next decade to reimburse health insurers for covering the cost of co-payments for low-income people who buy subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act. (Savage, 8/20)

CQ Healthbeat: Health Law Mandate Repeal Not A Shoo-In Under Reconciliation
Republican efforts to use reconciliation to repeal parts of the health care law may be limited by requirements built into the budgetary maneuver that could block scrapping such high-profile targets as the law’s requirement that most individuals buy health coverage or pay a penalty. The so-called Byrd rule – named for the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. – will largely determine whether or not a health law provision can be repealed through reconciliation with a simple majority. If any senator raises a point of order that a provision violates its complex requirements, it would take 60 votes to overcome the objection. (Attias, 8/19)

At the same time, the health law's Cadillac tax is an issue in the auto workers' contract negotiations and a health research agency is in Congress' crosshairs -

JAMA: The Future Of AHRQ’s Health Services Research
Within days after draft congressional spending bills for 2016 proposed eliminating funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), dozens of health care organizations raced to the agency’s defense. ... Critics, however, say the agency duplicates work by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), which carries out comparative effectiveness research. ... AHRQ Director Richard Kronick, PhD, sat down with JAMA to talk about the agency’s work and its relationship with other federal health research entities. (Berkwits, 8/19)

5. Governor Proposes Changes In Arkansas' Influential Medicaid Expansion Program

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he wants to keep the expansion of health coverage for low-income residents, but he wants the federal government to approve changes that conservatives favor. In other news, Alabama's state health officer suggests the state should accept expansion, and Pennsylvania's new enrollment appears to be more efficient.

The New York Times: Arkansas Governor Wants To Keep Medicaid Expansion, But With Changes
Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas on Wednesday told an advisory group weighing the future of the state’s alternative Medicaid expansion that he favored keeping it — but only if the federal government allowed changes that seemed intended to appeal to conservative legislators who continue to oppose the program. Mr. Hutchinson, a Republican who took office in January, created the advisory group to recommend whether to change or replace the state’s “private option” version of Medicaid expansion. The program’s fate will ultimately be decided by the Republican-controlled legislature, which is likely to meet in a special session this year to vote on it. (Goodnough, 8/19)

Politico Pro: Arkansas Governor Outlines Reforms To Medicaid ‘Private Option’
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday outlined recommendations for reforms to the state’s Medicaid program similar to what other red states have obtained through Medicaid expansion waivers. And surprisingly, the Republican questioned whether the state needs to run its own Obamacare exchange to implement those changes, raising the possibility that Arkansas could abandon plans to have a state-run marketplace in 2017. (Pradhan, 8/19)

Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser: State Health Officer: Expand Medicaid, Improve Health
Dr. Don Williamson was direct when asked how to improve Alabama's health. “I would expand Medicaid,” Williamson, the State Health Officer, said at a meeting of the Alabama Health Improvement Task Force Wednesday afternoon. “It’s that simple.” But Williamson, a 20-year veteran of Alabama state government leaving in November to head the Alabama Hospital Association, pointed out after the meeting that the state’s health care politics aren’t simple. ... the comments represented the first time a high-ranking state official, one who worked with Gov. Robert Bentley on changes to Medicaid delivery, openly discussed advantages of opting into the Affordable Care Act’s expansion option. (Lyman, 8/19)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pennsylvania’s Medicaid Expansion Simplifies Enrollment
Low-income families who might have waited months for medical assistance last winter are enrolling within weeks under Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion, sailing through simplified applications that help them see doctors faster. “People are able to get the care and treatment they need much sooner. Folks are able to get preventive care much sooner,” said Antoinette Kraus, state director at the nonprofit Pennsylvania Health Access Network, which urged policymakers to broaden traditional Medicaid. Still, critics remain cautious whether the expanded program could overburden the state budget. (Smeltz, 8/20)

6. Surveys Show Uninsured Rate In Ohio, Calif. Dropped After Health Law Kicked In

Meanwhile Illinois is planning to award a $5 million grant to community groups to conduct outreach during the upcoming Obamacare open enrollment period.

The Associated Press: Survey Shows Drop In Ohio's Uninsured Rate After Health Law
A new survey shows that Ohio's uninsured rates for children and adults have each dropped by about half since 2012. According to the 2015 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey, the state's uninsured rate for adults fell to 8.7 percent in 2015, while the rate of uninsured children was 2 percent. The survey was released Wednesday by the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center, in partnership with the state's Medicaid department. It examines access to health care along with characteristics of the state's Medicaid and non-Medicaid populations. (8/20)

The Associated Press: Illinois To Award $5M For Health Insurance Outreach
Illinois plans to award $5 million in federal grant money to community groups for consumer outreach during the third annual health insurance enrollment period. Far fewer positions will be funded than before. The state's Get Covered Illinois campaign has been paid for with federal grants under the Affordable Care Act. Grants are running out and there is no new money for states. Up to 150 enrollment counselor positions will be funded under an extension that allows Illinois to use unspent money. Last year, about 400 similar positions were paid for with federal grants of $28.7 million. (8/20)

Campaign 2016

7. Wave Of Obamacare Repeal Proposals Expected From Republican Field After Rubio, Walker Release Plans

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, Jeb Bush aimed criticism at Republican frontrunner Donald Trump during a New Hampshire campaign stop -- as Trump held his first town hall miles down the road. And Wis. Gov. Scott Walker is also stepping up efforts to make some noise in the 2016 race.

The Washington Post: Bush And Trump Face Off In N.H. — And The Donald Is Winning
Then Bush went on the attack. He fired his toughest shots to date at Trump, saying the businessman “doesn’t have a proven conservative record” because he is a former Democrat who once supported tax increases and a single-payer health-care system. ... At an Elk’s Lodge in Salem, N.H., Wednesday, Kasich talked about his record of pragmatism in Congress and as governor as well as his compassion for the poor, the drug addicted and the mentally ill. (Rucker and DelReal, 8/19)

The Associated Press: Feeling Sense Of 'Urgency,' Walker Says He'll Get Aggressive
Walker faced criticism for lacking passion in his first GOP debate performance earlier this month. But he's begun to show more spark on the trail in Iowa and New Hampshire this week, confronting protesters at the Iowa State Fair and criticizing Republicans in Congress for failing to repeal the president's health care law as he rolled out his own replacement plan. At multiple events in New Hampshire on Wednesday he reminded crowds of his fights with Wisconsin's unions and his survival of a 2012 recall election. (8/19)

On the Democratic campaign trail, former Md. Gov. Martin O'Malley picks a notable speech venue -

The Washington Post: While In Vegas, O’Malley Makes An Appearance In Front Of Trump’s Hotel
Yvanna Cancela, the political director of the culinary union, said [Democrat Martin] O'Malley on Wednesday "gave one of the best speeches of the convention." She said she was pleased in particular by his pledge to address one of the union's top priorities: repealing the so-called "Cadillac tax" in the Affordable Care Act. At issue is a 40 percent tax on expensive insurance plans, scheduled to take effect in 2018, that’s meant to slow the growth in health-care spending while raising revenue. (Wagner and Rucker, 8/19)