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KHN First Edition: August 26, 2015


First Edition

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

The Washington Post: Congress May Have Until December To Deal With Debt Ceiling
Congressional leaders may have more time to work out a deal this fall to increase the federal borrowing limit, after new projections from Congress’ scorekeeper showed tax revenues have been greater than expected this year. ... Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate are vowing to avoid a government shutdown or debt default in the coming months, but conservatives in both chambers have threatened to use the upcoming fiscal fights to advance unrelated political issues such as defunding Planned Parenthood. The later debt limit deadline may give leaders more time to try to bring conservatives on board, but aides from both parties said that formal discussions have not begun. ... The budget office on Tuesday also sounded its usual alarm that the government’s long-term budget path remains unsustainable due to the growing cost of entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security. (Snell, 8/25)

The Associated Press: Budget Report Shows Shrinking Deficits But Warns Lawmakers To Act
An unforeseen flood of revenue is shrinking federal deficits to the lowest level of President Barack Obama's tenure, Congress' nonpartisan budget adviser said Tuesday. But in a report that will fuel both parties in their autumn clash over spending, the analysts also warned that perilously high shortfalls will roar back unless lawmakers act. ... Republicans said the report underscored the need to curb spending. Congress has already approved a blueprint claiming a balanced budget in a decade by squeezing savings from Medicare and Medicaid, and they want to retain caps on agency spending enacted in a 2011 budget deal. ... One major complication is conservatives' demands to halt federal spending on Planned Parenthood, whose officials were secretly captured in videos describing how they provide medical researchers with fetal tissue. Blocking that money would lead to likely clashes with Democrats and Obama. (8/25)

Los Angeles Times: 75% Of Obamacare Plans In California Use Narrow Networks, Study Shows
A new study finds that 75% of California's Obamacare health plans have narrow physician networks -- more limited choices than all but three other states. The latest report examines health plans sold to consumers last year under the Affordable Care Act and shows wide variation in the prevalence of narrow networks across the country. Only Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma had a higher percentage of small provider networks than California did in the insurance company directories analyzed by University of Pennsylvania researchers. (Terhune, 8/25)

The Wall Street Journal: More Than A Quarter Of Employers Expected To Face ‘Cadillac Tax’
One in four companies are likely to be impacted by the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans when it begins in 2018–and that could almost double in ten years, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Under the Affordable Care Act, companies are subject to an excise tax on high-cost health plans, starting in 2018, also known as the “Cadillac tax.” Employers will have to pay a levy of 40% a year on the amount by which the cost of employee plans exceed government thresholds, which are $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families in the first year. (Chasen, 8/25)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: 26% Of Employers Could Face The ‘Cadillac Tax’ On Health Insurance
"The 'Cadillac tax' will have a very powerful effect on health care costs, and that certainly a good thing. But the way the tax helps to keep health costs down is primarily by shifting it to workers," said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation who did the analysis. "While it certainly sounds good to control heath care costs, the way it is likely to happen won’t feel very good to consumers." The opposition to the tax comes from a motley collection of unlikely allies, beyond the usual cast of anti-tax Republicans. (Johnson, 8/25)

The New York Times: White House Is Pressed To Help Widen Access To Hepatitis C Drugs Via Medicaid
Federal and state Medicaid officials should widen access to prescription drugs that could cure tens of thousands of people with hepatitis C, including medications that can cost up to $1,000 a pill, health care experts have told the White House. The experts, from the Public Health Service and President Obama’s Advisory Council on H.I.V./AIDS, said restrictions on the drugs imposed by many states were inconsistent with sound medical practice, as reflected in treatment guidelines issued by health care professionals and the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Pear, 8/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Report: VA Falls Short On Mental-Health Care Despite Hiring Push
The Department of Veterans Affairs lacks enough full-time psychiatrists to meet demand for services and those on staff aren’t being used efficiently, despite a multiyear, multibillion-dollar effort, says a report from the department’s internal watchdog. The VA hasn’t been “fully effective” in hiring psychiatrists or in using those it has, the VA’s Office of Inspector General reported Tuesday, adding that the department has focused on meeting overall hiring goals rather than on hiring personnel to fill gaps at specific facilities. (Kesling, 8/25)

The Washington Post: Could Cameras In Operating Rooms Reduce Preventable Medical Deaths?
Chris Nowakoski’s wife died in Wisconsin during what should have been a routine procedure on her pacemaker. Danny Long’s wife in North Carolina suffered catastrophic neurological injury during a surgery to relieve numbness in her extremities. A doctor perforated the colon and esophagus of Deirdre Gilbert’s daughter in Texas, then operated on her after she was dead. (Jackman, 8/25)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Jeb Bush’s False Claim That Planned Parenthood Is ‘Not Actually Doing Women’s Health Issues’
Jeb Bush, who cut off state funding for Planned Parenthood as Florida governor, is a part of a chorus of Republicans calling for the federal government to pull funding for the group. He doubled down on his attack of Planned Parenthood during a recent town hall event, and his comments went viral on social media almost immediately. How accurate is his description of “women’s health issues” offered by Planned Parenthood and supported through federal funds? (Lee, 8/26)

ProPublica/The Washington Post: Abortion Foes Find New Ways To Get Details About Patients, Doctors
The legal skirmish, and others like it nationwide, reveal a quiet evolution in the nation’s abortion battle. Increasingly, abortion opponents are pursuing personal and medical information on women undergoing abortions and the doctors who perform them. They often file complaints with authorities based on what they learn. Abortion opponents insist their tactics are generally not aimed at identifying women who have abortions, but are meant to uncover incidents involving patients who may have been harmed by poor care or underage girls who may have been sexually abused. (Ornstein, 8/25)

Politico: The Man Behind The Planned Parenthood Sting Videos
David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, wanted to ensure the sting videos accusing the women’s health organization of illegally profiting from the sale of fetal tissue had staying power beyond the “contemporary 24-hour news cycle.” The eight tapes already made public have galvanized the anti-abortion movement and put federal and state funding for Planned Parenthood on the chopping block. Probes of the group are underway in Congress and several states. And conservatives on the Hill are threatening to shut down the federal government if their demand for cuts are ignored. (Pradhan, 8/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Planned Parenthood Unit Sues Louisiana Over Medicaid Funding
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Inc. Tuesday asked a federal court to block Louisiana from cutting off Medicaid funding to the organization following the release of videos on fetal tissue research. The organization and three patient co-plaintiffs filed for an injunction to stop enforcement of an order by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal that would bar Medicaid funds from going to Planned Parenthood facilities in the state beginning Sept. 2. (Armour, 8/25)

The Washington Post: Planned Parenthood Sues Over Louisiana Funding Cut
Planned Parenthood on Tuesday asked a federal court to block enforcement of an order by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal that would bar patients from receiving medical care through the organization using Medicaid. Officials with the group, along with three patients who are co-plaintiffs in the case, allege that Jindal’s order is illegal and will cut off a vital service used by 5,200 Louisianans. (Somashekhar, 8/26)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Sues Louisiana Over Cut To Medicaid Funds
Planned Parenthood asked a federal judge Tuesday to stop Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration from ending Medicaid payments to the organization's Louisiana clinics. Jindal, a Republican presidential candidate, announced plans earlier this month to cut off the Medicaid funding to the Baton Rouge and New Orleans health centers, citing hidden-camera videos that accuse the national organization of profiting from fetal tissue sales after abortions. Planned Parenthood denies the allegations, saying the videos are heavily edited and misleading. (8/25)

Los Angeles Times: Dispute Arises Over Use Of State Money For County Diversion Program
An internal tussle has developed that could complicate Los Angeles County’s ambitious plan to send more mentally ill criminal defendants into treatment programs rather than jail cells. County supervisors want to cover the cost with a blend of county and state money. But some officials are questioning whether supervisors can legally tap some of the accounts they have in mind. (Sewell, 8/25)

The Washington Post: How Companies Make Millions Off Lead-Poisoned, Poor Blacks
But to critics, Access Funding is part of an industry that profits off the poor and disabled. And Baltimore has become a prime target. It’s here that one teen — diagnosed with “mild mental retardation,” court records show — sold her payments through 2030 in four deals and is now homeless. It’s here that companies blanket certain neighborhoods in advertisements, searching for a potentially lucrative type of inhabitant, whose stories recall the legacy of Freddie Gray. (McCoy, 8/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Bill Would Ban Synthetic Marijuana In New York City
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Tuesday she planned to introduce legislation to ban the sale of synthetic marijuana, a drug that has prompted increasing alarm in law-enforcement and public-health circles. “This is a concern that’s growing. We’re trying to get a handle on it,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said a news conference near City Hall. (Gay, 8/25)

The Washington Post: Maryland Launches Initial Plans To Fight Heroin Epidemic
Maryland will add treatment beds for heroin addicts on the Eastern Shore, boost law enforcement efforts to disrupt dealers and launch a public-awareness campaign about the dangers of addiction as part of an initial state response to a growing and deadly overdose epidemic, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said Tuesday. (Hicks, 8/25)

USA Today: Vegas Health Clinic Gambles On A New Brand Of Primary Care
Walk into Turntable Health in downtown Las Vegas and you’d be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into a trendy technology start-up rather than a doctor’s office. Most of the patients are hip casino workers and techies in their 20s and 30s. While waiting to see the doctor, they spin records on the turntable, play video games on the Xbox or stretch out at the in-house yoga studio. (Farr, 8/25)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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