Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. In Ohio, New Abortion Clinic Opens, Bucking National Trend

Since the Roe v. Wade decision, Ohio has been a trendsetter in passing laws that restrict abortion. That’s why it is especially unusual that in a small Ohio town just south of Cleveland, a new clinic that performs abortions opened its doors. (Sarah Jane Tribble, WCPN, 8/31)

4. Political Cartoon: 'Defriended?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Defriended?'" by J.C. Duffy.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

A JURY WILL DECIDE A CALIF. DOCTOR’S FATE

Was it a pill mill?
Patients got pain meds quick, but
Does that mean murder?

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. Judge Allows Group To Claim Moral Objection To Health Law's Mandate On Birth Control Coverage

A federal judge ruled that employers, such as the organization March for Life, can claim an exemption to this requirement based on moral or ethical grounds, as well as religious ones.

The New York Times: Judge Allows Moral, Not Just Religious, Contraception Exemptions
Employers do not need to provide insurance coverage for contraception even if their objections are moral rather than religious, a federal judge here ruled on Monday. The case concerned a group called March for Life, which was formed after the Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right to abortion in 1973 in Roe v. Wade. The group, Monday’s decision said, “is a nonprofit, nonreligious pro-life organization.” (Liptak, 8/31)

The Associated Press: Judge Sides With Anti-Abortion Group In Birth Control Case
The decision from U.S. District Judge Richard Leon adds to the legal debate surrounding the law’s requirement that contraceptives for women be included among a range of cost-free, preventive benefits offered to employees. ... March for Life, which holds annual anti-abortion marches in Washington, was founded in 1973 following the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade opinion that established the legal right to abortion. The organization contends that life begins at conception and opposes coverage in its health insurance plans for methods of contraception that it likens to abortion. (Tucker, 8/31)

The Washington Post: Pro-Life Group Beats Obamacare Contraception Rule In Court
Now, a U.S. District Court has ruled that, like some like-minded religious groups, March for Life does not have to offer coverage for a service it doesn’t believe in. “March for Life has been excised from the fold because it is not ‘religious,'” Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote in his opinion. “This is nothing short of regulatory favoritism.” (Moyer, 9/1)

CQ Healthbeat: Judge: Secular Groups Merit Obamacare Contraception Exemption
A federal judge struck down part of the 2010 health care law’s contraception mandate on Monday, ruling that the government can’t deny an exemption to secular groups that oppose abortion. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, in a 29-page ruling in Washington D.C., ruled it unconstitutional for the Department of Health and Human Services to give religious groups that oppose abortion an exemption to the mandate, but not give one to March for Life, an advocacy group best known for an annual anti-abortion march that draws large crowds to the National Mall. (Ruger, 8/31)

6. Public, Private Employers Develop Plans, Strategies For Looming Cadillac Tax

In other news, a government report finds that fewer Americans are going without health care because of cost concerns and the number of people in Colorado who have health insurance reaches a historic high.

The Huffington Post: Fewer Americans Go Without Medical Care Due To Cost, Survey Says
More than 15 years have passed since this small a share of Americans didn't get medical care they needed because of the cost, a new federal government report reveals. During the first three months of 2015, 4.4 percent of Americans surveyed said they went without health care at some point in the past 12 months because they couldn't afford it, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research released on Tuesday. (Young, 9/1)

Colorado Public Radio: Colorado Uninsured Rate Drops To Record Low
The number of Coloradans who have health insurance has reached a historic high, according to a new survey from the non-profit, non-partisan Colorado Health Institute. ... There were predictions that a sharp uptick in coverage would overburden the system, making it harder for people to get health care. So far that hasn't happened. The survey found only a slight increase in the percentage of people who couldn't get an appointment when they needed. Also, the report documents glaring disparities. Hispanics are uninsured at higher levels than other groups, while higher uninsured rates continue to affect residents of the Western Slope. (Daley, 9/1)

Kaiser Health News/Health News Colorado: Medicaid Drives Historic Coverage Gains In Colorado
Colorado’s uninsured rate has plummeted from a recent high of 15.8 percent four years ago to 6.7 percent this year, but the success of the Affordable Care Act in Colorado is almost entirely the result of Medicaid expansion, according to a much anticipated survey from the Colorado Health Institute. The survey found that nearly one in three of the state’s 5.3 million residents now get insurance through Medicaid or other public health insurance programs. (Kerwin McCrimmon, 9/1)

7. Alaska Supreme Court Greenlights Medicaid Expansion

The state's high court did not grant a temporary restraining order to opponents of the expansion plan and allowed enrollment to begin today.

Alaska Dispatch News: Alaska Supreme Court Allows Medicaid Expansion To Take Effect Tuesday
Medicaid expansion will start in Alaska Tuesday after the Alaska Supreme Court said it would not block enrollment in the broadened health care program. The court’s order Monday marks a victory for Gov. Bill Walker in an ongoing lawsuit between his administration and the state Legislature over the legality of expanding Medicaid without legislative approval. ... While the Supreme Court denied the Legislature’s motion for a temporary restraining order, which would have temporarily stopped enrollment in expanded Medicaid, the underlying lawsuit pitting the Legislature against the Walker administration still stands. (Hanlon, 8/31)

The Associated Press: Alaska Supreme Court Won't Block Medicaid Expansion
Thousands of lower-income Alaskans will become eligible for Medicaid after the Alaska Supreme Court on Monday refused to temporarily block the state from expanding the health care program. The win capped a big day for Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who earlier flew with President Barack Obama from Washington, D.C., to Anchorage. (Thiessen, 9/1)

And in the news from Texas -

The Texas Tribune: Abbott Courting Feds For Health Care Money, Emails Show
Shortly before 1 a.m. on July 15, Gov. Greg Abbott sent an email from his personal account to his top advisers about an editorial published by the Houston Chronicle. Its author, Ken Janda, had written that Texas' health care safety net system for the poor and uninsured was “in serious danger of meltdown" because state leaders were refusing to expand health coverage to a million uninsured Texans living in poverty. The governor told aides he wanted to “see the financials” of Janda’s nonprofit Community Health Choice, a health insurer affiliated with the Harris Health System, one of Texas’ largest public hospitals. (Walters, 8/31)

Marketplace

8. Patent Rule Change For Generics Reportedly Could Increase Federal Health Care Costs By $1.3B Over Decade

Meanwhile, as the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs grab attention from lawmakers and government officials, Politico reports that disease advocacy groups have been conspicuously quiet in the debate.

The Wall Street Journal: Drug-Industry Rule Would Raise Medicare Costs
A patent law change sought by the pharmaceutical industry could cost federal health-care programs $1.3 billion over a decade by delaying new generic medicines, an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found this summer, according to people familiar with the matter. Pharmaceutical trade groups are asking Congress to exempt drug patents from being challenged through an administrative process that is cheaper and faster than the federal courts. The procedure has become popular with generic-drug companies looking to sell copies of brand-name products. (Walker, 8/31)

Politico Pro: Disease Groups Sit Out Protest Over Drug Prices
Outrage over prescription drug prices is coming from every corner of the health care arena with one notable exception: disease advocacy groups. Despite the influence that dozens of these groups enjoy on Capitol Hill, most have been conspicuously silent on the issue, instead remaining focused on their push for research dollars and access to cures. (Norman, 8/31)

In another industry development, Google teams up with Sanofi to take on diabetes -

Bloomberg: Google Pairs With Sanofi To Move Diabetes Patients To Cloud
Google Inc.’s life science unit is still seeking a name but it already has a foe: diabetes. The U.S. Internet giant on Monday agreed to work with French drugmaker Sanofi to devise new ways of managing a disease that afflicts 382 million people worldwide, adding to recent deals with Novartis AG and DexCom Inc. The companies didn’t disclose financial details of the agreement. (Bennett, 8/31)

And in other drugmaker news, Bristol-Myers Squibb is acquiring rights to a mid-stage fibrosis drug while Bayer moves to the final stage of testing an experimental medication for chronic heart failure and diabetic kidney disease -

Reuters: Bristol-Myers Buys Rights To Acquire Fibrosis Drug Developer
Drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb said it bought rights to a mid-stage fibrosis drug and its privately held developer for up to $1.25 billion, boosting its pipeline for drugs that treat tissue scarring. The deal gives Bristol-Myers access to Promedior Inc's lead experimental drug, PRM-151, which is being tested to treat two types of fibrosis. (8/31)