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KHN First Edition: September 9, 2015


First Edition

Wednesday, September 09, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Planned Parenthood Isn’t The Only Health Program At Risk Of Losing Funds
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Rovner reports: "Federal funding for Planned Parenthood will clearly be a flash point when Congress returns this week from its summer break. But the fate of many other health programs, from the National Institutes of Health to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy, hang in the balance as well, as lawmakers decide whether and how to fund the government after the current fiscal year expires Sept. 30." (Rovner, 9/8)

The Associated Press: Health Insurance Signups Near 10 Million In Midyear Report
About 9.9 million people have signed up and paid for health insurance under President Barack Obama's health care law, the administration said Tuesday, a slight dip from a previous count but on track toward the administration's year-end goal of 9.1 million. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that 84 percent of those, or more than 8.3 million, were receiving tax subsidies to help with the cost. A Supreme Court decision earlier this summer upheld insurance subsidies in all 50 states, a major victory for the White House. (9/8)

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Enrollment Drops Slightly To 9.9 Million
The new numbers were released Tuesday by the Obama administration in the latest quarterly report on the insurance marketplaces created by the federal health law. The tally was a drop from the 10.2 million people who were enrolled in plans by the end of March.Such attrition has been a regular process since the marketplaces opened in the fall of 2013, as consumers who select health plans during the annual open enrollment period drop coverage through the year or fail to pay premiums. (Levey, 9/8)

The Wall Street Journal: 'Cadillac’ Health Tax Fight Heats Up
A looming tax on generous employer health plans could imperil flexible spending accounts, a popular benefit that lets employees set aside tax-free money for certain medical expenses. The Affordable Care Act’s tax on high-cost employer health insurance is scheduled to start in 2018, when it will impose a 40% levy on benefits that exceed a government-set threshold. Employers already are reviewing or trimming health plans to minimize the effect of this “Cadillac tax,” benefit experts say. (Armour, 9/8)

The Wall Street Journal: About 9.9 Million Enrollees Pay For Health Insurance On State, Federal Sites
The number released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows the Obama administration is still on track to meet its goal of 9.1 million to 9.9 million people who have paid for coverage through the insurance exchanges by the end of 2015. Robust sign-ups and premium payments are critical for the Obama administration because Republicans hoping to repeal the health law would likely seize on lackluster enrollment as a sign the ACA was faltering. (Armour, 9/8)

USA Today: Nearly 10 Million People Have Paid For Obamacare Plans
HHS said the 10 states with the highest rate of consumers who received tax credits were: Mississippi (95.4%), Wyoming (92.2%), North Carolina (91.6%), Florida (91.3%), Alabama (90.9%), Louisiana (90.7%), Georgia (90.0%), Arkansas (90.0%), Wisconsin (89.6%) and Alaska (88.8%). The states with the lowest rate of consumers who received credits are: District of Columbia (10.2%), Minnesota (54.8%), Colorado (55.3%), Hawaii (61.4%), New Hampshire (62.8%), Vermont (64.2%), Utah (65.6%), Kentucky (69.8%), Maryland (70.7%) and New York (71.4%). (O'Donnell, 9/8)

The Washington Post: Coverage In Affordable Care Act Health Plans Wanes Since Winter
The figures also mean that health plans sold on the exchanges are covering slightly fewer people as the year goes on. Between the end of March and the end of June, the number of people with active coverage dipped by about 300,000. Still, taken together, the data released on Tuesday suggest that insurance through the exchanges is on target to reach the level the Obama administration has predicted for the end of this year. (Goldstein, 9/8)

The Associated Press: Congress Starts Planned Parenthood Hearings, Accusations Fly
A prominent abortion foe is accusing Planned Parenthood of violating federal laws barring for-profit sales of fetal tissue, while a defender of the group says it's done nothing illegal as Congress begins long-awaited hearings that are already weaving accusations, emotion and politics. Clandestinely recorded videos show that Planned Parenthood "violates various federal laws," and only banning research using fetal tissue from abortions or abortion itself "will prevent the inevitable abuse," James Bopp Jr., general counsel for National Right to Life, said in testimony prepared for Wednesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing. (9/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Planned Parenthood Fight Threatens To Bring Shutdown
Rising conservative anger against Planned Parenthood is upending congressional GOP leaders’ plans to avoid a government shutdown when federal funding runs out at month’s end. Republicans in full control of Congress for the first time since 2006 are eager to keep the government running when the next fiscal year starts on Oct. 1. But they face mounting resistance from some House Republicans who won’t vote for any government funding bill unless it cuts off funding for Planned Parenthood. Their opposition follows a string of videos purporting to show the group profiting from the sale of fetal tissue to medical researchers. Planned Parenthood has denied the allegations. (son and Armour, 9/8)

The Associated Press: Nearly 330K Virginians Sign Up For Coverage Under Health Law
President Barack Obama’s administration says that nearly 330,000 Virginia residents have signed up and paid for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. The administration said Tuesday that 327,026 residents had enrolled through the end of June. Of those, nearly 84 percent, or more than 274,000, were receiving financial assistance from the federal government. (9/8)

USA Today: Feds To Focus On Health Inequities Among Minority, Rural And Poor Seniors
Federal regulators announced a new plan Tuesday to make health care for minority and poor senior citizens more equitable, a challenge that persists 30 years after the Department of Health and Human Services issued a powerful report on the problem. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released its first plan to address health equity in the mammoth Medicare program. The "equity plan" focuses on six priority areas, including increasing the ability of health care workers to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. (O'Donnell, 9/8)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: What We Know About How Health Insurance Affects Health
One of the most basic assumptions underlying the Affordable Care Act is the compelling idea that people with health insurance will be healthier. It follows, right? People who learn they have diabetes will be prescribed drugs to manage their disease. People who find out they have high cholesterol or blood pressure early will get the medical advice and treatments to prevent heart disease. (Johnson, 9/8)

The Associated Press: Ted Cruz Cozies Up To Donald Trump, Aims For His Supporters
Trump has never held office, so he's not one of Cruz's standard targets: the "campaign conservatives" who "say one thing and then do another." But he's certainly flip-flopped. He now echoes the Republican call to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law, but once advocated a single-payer health care system, an even farther reaching overhaul that Cruz assails as "wild-eyed socialism." (9/8)

The New York Times' DealBook: Concordia Healthcare To Acquire Drug Maker Amdipharm Mercury
The Concordia Healthcare Corporation of Canada said on Tuesday that it had agreed to acquire the drug maker Amdipharm Mercury from the European private equity firm Cinven in a deal that valued the company at about $3.5 billion, including debt. The deal is expected to expand Concordia’s geographic footprint to more than 100 countries and give it access to 190 complementary and niche pharmaceutical products, Concordia said. (Bray, 9/8)

Los Angeles Times: Diabetes Nation? Half Of Americans Have Diabetes Or Pre-Diabetes
About half of all Americans have either diabetes or pre-diabetes, according to a new report. And experts in the field say that's good news. That's because the study finds that after two decades of linear growth, the prevalence of diabetes in the United States has finally started to plateau. In a paper published Tuesday in JAMA, the authors write that their findings are consistent with other studies that show the percentage of people with diagnosed diabetes remained steady from 2008 to 2012. (Netburn, 9/8)

The Associated Press: Surgeon General Calls For Steps To Promote Healthy Walking
Take a walk: That's the U.S. surgeon general's prescription for sedentary Americans — but communities will have to step up, too, and make neighborhoods easier and safer for foot traffic. Only half of adults and just over a quarter of high school students get the amount of physical activity recommended for good health, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in a "call to action" being issued Wednesday. (Neergaard, 9/9)

NPR: Preemies' Survival Rates Improve, But Many Challenges Remain
These are the tiniest babies born. Some weigh only a pound or two. And can fit in the palm of your hand. Extreme preemies — born somewhere between 22 and 28 weeks — have a better chance of surviving now than they did 20 years ago, doctors report Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. But many of these babies still have severe health problems. (Doucleff, 9/8)

The Washington Post: Justice For One Fired VA Whistleblower. But Exposing Problems Is Still Treacherous.
Whistleblowers were the first to expose what became the biggest scandal to hit the agency tasked with caring for former troops: lying about wait-times for health appointments to help veterans with everything from suicidal thoughts to cancer. Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amid the national scandal. His replacement, Robert McDonald, has promised wide-ranging reforms at the VA. He announced that he wanted to make “every employee a whistleblower” and create a new culture that “celebrates them.” But today, the VA has the highest number of complaints of any agency in the federal government, higher than the Department of Defense, which has twice the number of employees. (Wax-Thibodeaux, 9/9)

The Associated Press: Parents, Unemployed Focus Of NYC Mental-Health Experiment
A $30 million, city-sponsored experiment in training non-professionals to provide mental health help will focus on people who work with parents of small children, the unemployed poor and young people who aren't in work or school, according to City Hall's charity arm. Those target populations, described to The Associated Press as the city prepares to solicit proposals from community groups, flesh out plans to explore whether non-professionals can form a psychological front line in the nation's biggest city. The idea has gained some traction among mental health advocates, though they also have cautioned that it's no substitute for professional help. (Peltz, 9/9)

The New York Times: Cuomo Pledges Advice And Assistance To Puerto Rico
The assistance was largely in the form of expertise and influence, including promises to push Washington to increase federal health care funding on the island and to develop a plan to evaluate and improve its current Medicaid program; to send state teams specializing in agriculture and energy issues; and to hold a “commercialization summit” to help find funding for “promising early-stage Puerto Rican businesses.” (McKinley, 9/8)

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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