Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Throwing Shade'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Throwing Shade'" by Dave Coverly, Speed Bump.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

BERNIE IS CREATING A BUZZ

Single-payer talk...
And universal health care...
Sanders brings them back.

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Capitol Hill Watch

4. Republican Leaders Focus On Avoiding A Government Shutdown

In hopes of avoiding this outcome, Republican congressional leadership is trying to quiet conservative anger over Planned Parenthood funding and related abortion issues. Backers of John Boehner, R-Ohio, who faces discord within his caucus over these issues, say the House Speaker is being “blackmailed” by hard-liners into supporting a shutdown.

The Texas Tribune: Cornyn: The Federal Government Will Not Shut Down
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on Monday dismissed the idea of a federal government shutdown, saying instead that elected officials had a duty to serve despite disagreements within Congress. ... Cornyn’s comments come amid speculation over another federal shutdown continues to swirl, with Cornyn's colleague and presidential candidate Ted Cruz at the center of that speculation. Cruz has said for weeks that a shutdown is possible if Congress continued to fund Planned Parenthood. (Aguilar, 9/14)

Politico: House GOP Obsessed With Boehner's Future
Speaker John Boehner says he’s not worried about his political future, but the Ohio Republican’s fate has become an overwhelming obsession of House Republicans. His backers believe Boehner is being “blackmailed” by conservative hard-liners into supporting a government shutdown. His critics insist they just want their leader to do the right thing. The latest flash point for Boehner is the controversy over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Hard-line conservative Republicans want Boehner to do whatever it takes to shut off funding for the group, even if it means a shutdown. They’re vowing to vote against any spending bill that allows such funding to continue. (Bresnahan and Palmer, 9/15)

In other news from Capitol Hill -

CQ Healthbeat: Drug Costs Could Factor In Senate Research Bill
Growing concern over the cost of prescription drugs – articulated on the presidential campaign trail and in Congress – could force authors of a Senate biomedical innovation package to address the topic later this fall. With a quarter of Americans saying they cannot afford their prescription medications and prices up an average of 12.6 percent in 2014, drug affordability is coming under greater scrutiny just as the Senate begins crafting bipartisan legislation to spur medical innovation. (Zanona, 9/14)

Modern Healthcare: Senate Committee To Evaluate Patient Access To Medical Information
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee on Wednesday will continue its probe into federal health information technology efforts by exploring how patients can improve their care by accessing their own medical records. The committee has met regularly to burrow into the 5-year-old $31.3 billion electronic health-record federal incentive payment program. Previous hearings have focused on the issue of health information technology systems' interoperability, or lack thereof. (Conn, 9/14)

Campaign 2016

5. Universal Health Care High On Sanders' Priority List

Campaign proposals from presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., include a government-run health care program that covers all Americans. News outlets also note his stances on women’s concerns, such as abortion rights and paid family and medical leave. This comes as Hillary Clinton, who is also campaigning to be the Democratic nominee, appears to be losing some of her support among women voters. On the GOP side of the ticket, Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he would repeal the parts of the health law he doesn't like but keep some of the other provisions.

The Wall Street Journal: Price Tag Of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion
Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose liberal call to action has propelled his long-shot presidential campaign, is proposing an array of new programs that would amount to the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history. ... His agenda includes an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges. ... A campaign aide said additional tax proposals would be offered to offset the cost of some, and possibly all, of his health program. A Democratic proposal for such a “single-payer” health plan, now in Congress, would be funded in part through a new payroll tax on employers and workers, with the trade-off being that employers would no longer have to pay for or arrange their workers’ insurance. (Meckler, 9/14)

The Hill: Sanders Renews Calls For Universal Health Care
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is doubling down on his support for universal healthcare after weeks of mostly shying away from the topic on the campaign trail. In a speech Monday at Liberty University in Virginia, Sanders blasted the nation’s healthcare system for killing “thousands of Americans” every year who can’t afford insurance. (Ferris, 9/15)

The Washington Post: Clinton’s Support Erodes Sharply Among Democratic Women
Hillary Rodham Clinton is suffering a rapid erosion of support among Democratic women — the voters long presumed to be the bedrock in her bid to become the nation’s first female president. ... On the stump, Sanders also appeals to women’s concerns, touting his support for abortion rights, equal pay, and paid family and medical leave. ... Clinton is holding several weeks of rallies billed as “Women for Hillary,” but the message she is delivering speaks to broad concerns, focusing heavily on the economic benefits of equal pay, better child care and reproductive rights.(Tumulty, 9/14)

The Columbus Dispatch: Kasich Seeks ‘Fix,’ Not Repeal Of Health-Care Law
Already, [Gov. John] Kasich has set himself apart from other GOP candidates. He would push to repeal the parts of the Affordable Care Act he doesn’t like and keep the things he does, most notably Medicaid expansion, which he supports on moral grounds. According to campaign and administration officials, Kasich wants universal health coverage. He likes Obamacare requirements allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans longer, coverage guarantees for those with pre-existing conditions, and subsidies to help lower-income families buy insurance. (Candisky, 9/15)

In the background -

The Wall Street Journal's CFO Journal: Some Companies Balk At Disclosing Details Of Political Giving
Some disclosure holdouts say they don’t use company funds for political donations, making any policy in that area moot. ... Not everyone agrees. If companies “do zero” political contributions, “they could write that on the website with one sentence,” said Robert Jackson Jr., a professor at Columbia University’s law school. Other holdouts include health insurer Aetna Inc., whose shareholders have made political-disclosure proposals for four years in a row. ... Aetna already discloses contributions to candidates, political-action committees, party committees and trade groups. “The overwhelming majority of our shareholders agree that additional disclosure is not warranted,” said an Aetna spokesman, citing 25% support for Mr. DiNapoli’s proposal. In 2012, Aetna inadvertently revealed in filings that it had poured about $3 million into a group campaigning against the Affordable Care Act—contributions it hadn’t disclosed in its regular political report. (Monga and Murphy, 9/15)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Shoddy Oversight Led To Healthcare.gov Delays, Technical Issues And Cost Overruns, Audit Finds

The report identifies early failures by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services employees to monitor eight companies handling more than $600 million in contracts to build the site. Elsewhere, news outlets report on disappearing PPO options in Florida, rising insurance rates in Georgia and the impact of insurer mega-mergers on the cost and quality of care for consumers.

Bloomberg: How Healthcare.gov Botched $600 Million Worth Of Contracts
The public employees responsible for overseeing $600 million in contracts to build healthcare.gov were inadequately trained, kept sloppy records, and failed to identify delays and problems that contributed to millions in cost overruns. That’s according to a new government audit, published today. It reveals widespread failures by the federal agency charged with managing the private contractors who built healthcare.gov. The audit is the first to document, in detail, how shoddy oversight by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which manages federal health programs including Obamacare, contributed to the website’s early struggles. (Tozzi, 9/15)

Health News Florida: 2016 Florida Health Care Rates Raise A Question: Where Did The PPOs Go?
Florida’s health insurance market for next year is beginning to take shape, and there will be cost increases. But that’s not what’s raising eyebrows. In Florida, managed care health plans will dominate the market place, and the emergence of a new system has some wondering, what is an EPO? First the bad news. According to Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation, healthcare costs will rise an average of 9.5 percent next year. Now, the good news: many consumers won’t pay that. (Hatter, 9/15)

Georgia Health News: Health Insurance Rates Headed Up In 2016
Many Georgians buying individual or family health insurance will see double-digit increases in their premiums for 2016. Insurance rates approved recently by Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens range from hikes of 27 percent and 29 percent for Alliant Health Plans’ individual policyholders to slight decreases for a few plans. (Miller, 9/14)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: What Do Health Insurance Mergers Mean For You?
America’s biggest health insurance companies are about to become bigger. In recent months, Anthem announced plans to buy Cigna, and Aetna announced a deal to acquire Humana. That will leave only three major national companies. Will less competition lead to higher prices? Will it mean lower quality coverage? At a recent hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, an industry group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, tried to dampen those concerns, while the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, along with two health policy experts, warned that consumers could be in for rough ride. (Field, 9/14)