Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Head For The Hills'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Head For The Hills'" by Edgar Argo.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: RESOLVE OR REPLAY?

All those not paying
Attention to history
Doomed to repeat it.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. Insurance Co-Ops Set Up By Health Law Face Economic Challenges

Three of the 23 insurance startups have failed, despite initial funding from the federal government. Also in news about the health law, an examination of which states are getting the bulk of premium subsidies, the most recent auditor report on the problems that hobbled the launch of the healthcare.gov website, and a study looking at the penalties being levied on hospitals.

The New York Times: Tough Going For Health Co-Ops
Late last month, the Nevada Health Co-op became the third casualty among 23 insurance start-ups created under the federal health care law to inject competition for coverage in certain parts of the country. Set up as nonprofits with consumer-led boards, the co-ops were designed to provide affordable insurance coverage to individuals and small businesses. They were intended under the law to offer alternatives — and hopefully cheaper prices — to the plans sold by large established insurance companies in some regions. (Abelson, 9/15)

Modern Healthcare: Premium Subsidies Flow Heavily To Populous, Poor States
More than half of this year's $27 billion in Affordable Care Act premium subsidies are going to five states, which has created a big but risky business opportunity for health insurers. Many Republican-led states with high numbers of low-income residents are also among the leading recipients of the law's premium subsidies, according to recent CMS data. (Herman, 9/15)

The Fiscal Times: Auditors Accuse Feds Of Mismanaging $600 Million In Obamacare Contracts
Last July, as the price tag for the Obamacare enrollment system climbed to $2.1 billion, a scathing report by the Government Accountability Office accused the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of negligent management practices and lack of oversight of contractors hired to create and fix Healthcare.gov—the primary portal to enroll Americans in Obamacare. Today, the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services went further. They reviewed 20 of the 62 contracts that were awarded to create the federal marketplace for Obamacare—worth a cool $600 million—and found that CMS failed to manage each contract properly. (Leo, 9/15)

The Huffington Post: Is Obamacare Punishing Hospitals The Wrong Way?
Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are fined up to 3 percent of their Medicare payments if too many Medicare patients return to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. By giving hospitals a financial incentive to reduce readmissions, the idea is to encourage better quality care. ... Yet a study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that many readmissions are unavoidable, especially those involving patients like our hypothetical homeless man with pneumonia. The authors of the paper, who are all affiliated with Harvard Medical School, examined 29 patient characteristics -- including race, education, disability, alcohol intake and prescription drug benefits -- to see whether they had an impact on readmissions. (Satran, 9/15)

In state news about the health law --

The Washington Post: Rates For Health Plans On D.C. Marketplace To Rise 4% On Average
Most D.C. residents who buy health insurance through an online marketplace under the federal Affordable Care Act will see a modest increase in prices next year. Insurance plans for individuals will cost, on average, 4 percent more — a gentler increase than in Maryland, where the most popular plan will cost on average 26 percent more starting in January. (Zauzmer, 9/15)

The Associated Press: Lawmaker: Hold Off On Vendor Request For Insurance Exchange
A state legislator asked an Arkansas panel Tuesday to hold off on looking at vendors for setting up a state-run insurance exchange as lawmakers look at broader reforms to Medicaid and health care. Sen. David Sanders asked the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace's board of directors to delay releasing to vendors a request for qualifications for information technology for the insurance exchange for individual consumers. Sanders co-chairs the marketplace's legislative oversight committee. (DeMillo, 9/15)

And the Obama administration announces new funding for community health centers.

The Hill: Community Health Centers Get Another $500M Boost Under ObamaCare
The Obama administration is injecting another half-billion dollars into community health centers across the country, which are facing growing demands under ObamaCare. The government-backed health centers, which have expanded massively under the Affordable Care Act, have been put into a new political context this summer as Republicans in Congress try to defund Planned Parenthood. Republicans are arguing that the 1,300 community health centers nationwide could absorb the millions of women who could lose their doctors if Planned Parenthood loses its federal or state funding. (Ferris, 9/15)

Campaign 2016

5. Obamacare High On List Of Targets For GOP Presidential Candidates

As Republican presidential hopefuls vie for the attention of dissatisfied voters, the health law is a talking point they frequently use on the campaign trail.

The New York Times: Republicans Vow To Erase Obama’s Record, But Such Promises Are Rarely Kept
For all the talk of Republican fractiousness, the party’s 2016 presidential field has united around one principle: erasing President Obama’s record. ... The candidates gathering to debate on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library merely start with the Affordable Care Act as a target.On larger initiatives, constitutional checks and balances pose high barriers. To repeal the Affordable Care Act, a Republican president would need to persuade Congress to disrupt existing health insurance for millions of Americans. Even policies subject to more executive control, under presidents with sharp ideological edges, often prove resistant to change. (Harwood, 9/15)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Candidates Must Win Over Dissatisfied Voters
Anti-Washington sentiment has been churning for years—especially among Republicans—but no one candidate has emerged at a national level to harness it. Voters angry about the economy, President Barack Obama, and his health care law helped propel Republicans into control of the House in 2010 and of the Senate in 2014. Now, one reason many Republicans say they are chafing at the status quo is because they are disappointed in the GOP-controlled Congress, which they say hasn’t brought enough change or more effective opposition to the president. (Hook and O'Connor, 9/16)

And in news about Democratic candidates -

NBC News: Bernie Sanders Defends Price Tag Of His Agenda
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told NBC News/MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that a Wall Street Journal report that found his proposals will cost $18 trillion was "significantly exaggerated." ... The newspaper reported that Sanders calls for a government run health care program would alone total $15 trillion. When combined with his ideas for expanding social security, making tuition free at public colleges and investing in infrastructure, the total price tag comes to about $18 trillion over ten years, according to The Journal. (Rafferty, 9/15)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. Reid, McConnell 'On Same Page' In Push To Prevent A Government Shutdown

Congress has just 15 days left in September to reach a budget agreement and avoid a temporary government shutdown. The process has become complicated by the Planned Parenthood controversy, which has triggered a flurry of activity of its own -- including a House government oversight panel subpoena for unedited videos about Planned Parenthood’s provision of fetal tissue for research.

Politico: Shutdown Watch: Reid, McConnell On Same Page
The must-pass [government funding] measure has gotten tangled up in the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood, with conservative lawmakers pressuring Republican leaders to cut off federal funding for the women’s health group. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, trying to stave off the specter of a shutdown from the GOP-controlled Congress, has said he wants a funding bill free of provisions such as defunding Planned Parenthood that would be broadly, if not unanimously, opposed by Democrats. (Kim, 9/15)

The New York Times: With Possible Shutdown Nearing, Obama Looks To Take Budget Fight To G.O.P.
Congress hurtled toward a government shutdown on Tuesday, with Republicans threatening to block a budget deal if it includes financing for Planned Parenthood, as President Obama prepared to join the fight by pushing Republicans to scrap a multibillion-dollar tax advantage for private equity managers. In a speech on Wednesday, Mr. Obama is expected to call on Republicans to end the tax break and use the funds to pay for spending increases on domestic and national security programs, and he will enlist business leaders to help him make his case. (Herszenhorn and Hirschfeld Davis, 9/16)

Politico: Government Shutdown: How Close Are We?
Congress has just 15 days left in September to reach a budget agreement and the stakes are high: Without a deal, the government will shut down for the second time in three years. ... How do these last-minute negotiations affect government agencies? And is there a better way for lawmakers to reach a budget deal? To answer these questions, The Agenda’s Danny Vinik sat down with renowned budget expert Stan Collender. (Vinik, 9/15)

The New York Times: Pennsylvania Republican Offers Compromise On Planned Parenthood
As the House and Senate return on Tuesday to begin confronting a spending impasse, Representative Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, says he has come up with a way to avert a possible government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding: a bill that would take away money only from clinics involved in selling tissue from aborted fetuses. That program came under fire after a series of undercover videos surfaced this summer claiming that affiliates of the group profit from it illegally. (Planned Parenthood has denied the charges.) Some Republicans now say they will not vote for a short-term spending measure unless Planned Parenthood is cut off. (Steinhauer, 9/15)

The Associated Press: House Chairman Subpoenas Uncut Planned Parenthood Videos
A House committee chairman issued a subpoena Tuesday for an anti-abortion group’s unedited videos about Planned Parenthood’s provision of fetal tissue for research. The subpoena by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who heads the House Oversight and Gove
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