Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'Sixes and Sevens'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Sixes and Sevens'" by Harley Schwadron.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


To sleep, perchance to
dream. The ultimate healing ...
So where is the peace?

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

3. Middle-Class Benefits Could Be At Risk As More Employers Hit 'Cadillac Tax' Thresholds

The tax on high-cost health insurance is set to begin in 2018 but is expected to hit more job-based plans over time. In other Obamacare news, the Connecticut Mirror evaluates the impact of the health law on state hospitals while Florida Healthy Kids warns of pending premium hikes for children.

The Associated Press: Approaching Health Law Tax Is Not Just A Levy On Luxury
The last major piece of President Barack Obama's health care law could raise costs for thrifty consumers as well as large corporations and union members when it takes effect in 2018. The so-called Cadillac tax was meant to discourage extravagant coverage. Critics say it's a tax on essentials, not luxuries. It's getting attention now because employers plan ahead for major costs like health care. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/1)

The Connecticut Mirror: Obamacare And Hospital Finances, In Nine Charts
The financial condition of Connecticut’s hospitals, and how they’ve fared under the federal health law, has been a source of dispute among state lawmakers. Hospitals have faced repeated funding cuts and increased taxes in recent state budgets. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has said hospitals are benefitting from Obamacare, since it has led to more patients with coverage – that is, more paying customers. But hospital officials say that, while they support the coverage expansion, it hasn’t led to a financial windfall, and that state funding cuts and tax hikes, along with cuts in Medicare payments in the health law, have added to the burden they face. (Levin Becker and Chang, 9/2)

The Associated Press: Florida Healthy Kids: Federal Health Law Led To Price Hikes
Florida Healthy Kids Corporation is blaming President Obama's health care law after notifying parents that health insurance premiums will increase for thousands of kids starting next month, jumping from $140 to as high as $284. Healthy Kids, which offers insurance options where parents can pay full-price or get subsidized coverage depending on eligibility, said the increases will affect the families of nearly 34,749 children in the full-pay program. That's about 19 percent of the organization's 178,873 enrollees. (Kennedy, 9/1)

4. As Enrollment Begins Slowly For Alaska Medicaid Expansion, White House Praises Governor's Move

After some legal skirmishes with legislative critics, Alaska officials open up enrollment under Gov. Bill Walker's plan to expand the program for low-income residents. At the same time, Michigan has submitted its proposal for a waiver to federal officials to continue its Medicaid expansion program.

Alaska Dispatch News: Alaska Health Offices Quiet On First Day Of Medicaid Expansion
Tuesday marked the first day for thousands of newly eligible Alaskans to enroll in Medicaid after Gov. Bill Walker expanded the program, but it was a quiet afternoon at a state office in Anchorage that handles applications. ... When asked if anyone had come in to sign up for the newly broadened health care program, a woman who sat behind the front desk said, “I haven’t had anyone yet today.” By some estimates, expanding Medicaid could provide health care coverage for about 40,000 Alaskans. The state Department of Health and Social Services has said it expects 21,000 Alaskans to sign up in the first year. (Hanlon, 9/1)

The Associated Press: White House: Alaska's Medicaid Expansion 'Right Decision'
The White House on Tuesday praised the decision by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker to expand Medicaid to thousands of residents over the wishes of the Republican-led Legislature, calling it the "right decision." Alaska on Tuesday became the 29th state to expand Medicaid, opening up health care through what it calls the Healthy Alaska Plan to an estimated 20,000 low-income residents. (Thiessen, 9/1)

Kaiser Health News: Patience, Persistence Serve Alaska’s Health Commissioner Well In Government – And In Fishing
Valerie Davidson has 50 people coming for dinner to her house in the remote western Alaska town of Bethel. She had planned to catch and cook enough salmon for the main course, but she’s hit a snag. Early in the morning, the state opened the Kuskokwim River to commercial fishing, which means subsistence fishermen can’t fish on it. So Davidson and I are ... stalking the free fish containers around town. That’s where state biologists deposit their test catches after they conduct their daily studies. We have been here for an hour, but Davidson is exceedingly patient and persistent. It’s a strategy she used as she worked to expand Medicaid in Alaska, as health commissioner. (Feidt, 9/2)

Detroit News: State Submits Waiver Request For Expanded Medicaid
The state of Michigan submitted a waiver request to the federal government Tuesday in the hopes that it can continue health care coverage for nearly 600,000 low-income residents under its expanded Medicaid program. In April, state officials said they worried the Obama administration might not grant a waiver on the health care cost-sharing requirements in its Medicaid expansion law — called the Healthy Michigan Plan. The state has been talking with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about the request and expects to restart discussions “in earnest” in the next two weeks now that the waiver has been officially submitted, said Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. (9/1)

MLive: Without Second Medicaid Waiver, Nearly 600,000 Michiganders Will Lose Coverage
The state of Michigan on Tuesday submitted its second waiver application to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which would allow the state's Healthy Michigan program to continue. ... The first waiver Michigan needed, approved in 2013, allowed for some of Michigan's unique ideas like required co-pays and income-based premiums. The second waiver would allow for a soft cap included in Michigan's law that asks people between 100 and 133 percent of poverty level to pay higher premiums or seek coverage on the exchange after being on Healthy Michigan for 48 cumulative months. (Lawler, 9/1)

Capitol Hill Watch

5. McConnell: Efforts To Defund Planned Parenthood Will Fall Short

The Senate majority leader noted that critics of the organization don't have the votes for defunding and that the effort may have to wait for a supportive president. Meanwhile, a Congressional Research Service report concludes that a government shutdown would not impact federal support for Planned Parenthood, and advocates of a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy focus on the votes of four senators.

The Associated Press: Senate Leader: Not Enough Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood
The Senate’s top Republican is conceding that his party will have to await the next president before it can cut off federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood, prompting heated rebuffs from conservatives. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says Republicans lack the votes to halt the payments. He also says that standing in the GOP’s way is President Barack Obama, who doesn’t leave office until January 2017. (Fram, 9/1)

The Washington Post: Mitch McConnell: This Congress Won’t Be Able To Defund Planned Parenthood
"We just don't have the votes to get the outcome that we'd like," McConnell said in an interview taped Monday with WYMT-TV, which serves eastern Kentucky. "I would remind all of your viewers, the way you make a law in this country, the Congress has to pass it, and the president has to sign it. The president's made it very clear he's not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood so that's another issue that awaits a new president hopefully with a different point of view." (DeBonis, 9/1)

The Hill: McConnell: Defunding Planned Parenthood Must Wait For New President
Defunding Planned Parenthood has become a leading cause among some Republicans in the wake of controversial undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the price of fetal tissue for medical research. Planned Parenthood, while apologizing for the tone, denies any wrongdoing, saying officials are discussing legal compensation for expenses and pointing to an analysis that the videos are heavily edited. McConnell said that the Senate would vote again on defunding Planned Parenthood after a failed Senate vote last month, but he said that the votes are not there. (Sullivan, 9/1)

Reuters: Republicans Lack Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood: McConnell
Republicans have threatened to push for cutting off the group's federal support, perhaps tying that demand to several must-pass tax-and-spending measures set to come before Congress after its August vacation. Lawmakers will return to Washington on Sept. 8. Left unresolved, failure to pass those bills could push them to the brink of shutdown by as early as Oct. 1 (Heavey, 9/1)

Politico: Government Shutdown Wouldn't Affect Planned Parenthood Funding
A government shutdown wouldn’t shut down Planned Parenthood. Instead, Planned Parenthood would continue to receive the majority of its federal funding — including all of its Medicaid payments — even if Congress cannot enact a new spending law on Oct. 1, according to a nonpartisan study by the Congressional Research Service, obtained by POLITICO. In addition to that federal funding, most of Planned Parenthood’s financial backing comes from outside the government, making it easier for the organization to weather a government shutdown. (Everett and Haberkorn, 9/1)

Politico: Anti-Abortion Group Targets Four Senators On 20-Week Ban
An anti-abortion group is releasing Web ads targeting four pivotal swing votes ahead of an expected Senate vote to ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Susan B. Anthony List is running ads in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Dakota and Alaska to target Democratic Sens. Bob Casey, Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp, and Republican Lisa Murkowski, respectively. (Haberkorn, 9/1)

Meanwhile, an anti-abortion group releases a ninth video, drawing attention to the controversy regarding Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue research, and The Hill reports on how the current debate may put this research at risk.

Politico: Ninth Planned Parenthood Video Released
Abortion opponents on Tuesday released their ninth Planned Parenthood sting video, this time capturing a tissue procurement company executive talking about rare circumstances in which an abortion has resulted in an intact fetus. The video from the Center for Medical Progress features Perrin Larton, procurement manager at Advanced BioScience Resources, which has worked with a Planned Parenthood clinic in California and provides fetal tissue to researchers with government funding. (9/1)

The Hill: Planned Parenthood Fallout Puts Fetal Tissue Research In Jeopardy
One month ago, six Planned Parenthood clinics allowed women to donate aborted fetus tissue for medical research. Now, there are just two that do — a sign that the future of the programs could be in serious jeopardy. Planned Parenthood has fiercely defended its fetal tissue donations in the face of attacks from an anti-abortion rights organization this summer. But the steady stream of undercover videos of the organization’s operations is taking a toll on its affiliates and partners. (Ferris, 9/2)