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KHN First Edition: September 17, 2015


First Edition

Thursday, September 17, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Nearly 9 Million People Gained Insurance In Health Marketplace’s First Year
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Rovner reports: "The percentage of Americans without health insurance dropped by nearly three percentage points between 2013 and 2014, according the U.S. Census Bureau, from 13.3 to 10.4 percent. Put another way, 8.8 million more people were insured in 2014 than the year before. The annual study from Census is considered the definitive measure of health insurance, although a change in the way health insurance questions are asked make this year’s report comparable to 2013 but not earlier years." (Rovner, 9/16)

Kaiser Health News: In Colorado, Health Insurance Surges But Cost Still A Concern
Colorado Public Radio's John Daley, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "On Wednesday, the Census Bureau gave Obamacare some good news: the uninsurance rate in the country dropped to 10.4 percent in 2014, down from 13.3 percent in 2013. Colorado may be doing even better. According to a survey from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute, the number of Coloradans who have health insurance has reached a historic high. When the Affordable Care Act launched two years ago, CHI found that about one in seven of the state’s residents, or 14 percent, were uninsured. Its latest data show that figure is 6.7 percent." (Daley, 9/16)

Kaiser Health News: In L.A., Longevity And Health In Later Life Vary By Community
Kaiser Health News staff writer reports: "A report on aging in Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest county and one of its most diverse, shows wide disparities in life expectancy among different ethnic groups and neighborhoods. Overall, the life expectancy for Los Angeles County residents was about 82 years in 2011, up from nearly 76 in 1991, according to the report by University of Southern California’s Roybal Institute on Aging. Much of that can be attributed to drops in coronary heart disease, strokes and lung cancer, the report noted." (Gorman, 9/16)

The New York Times: Health Care Gains, But Income Remains Stagnant, The White House Reports
Nearly nine million people gained health insurance last year, lowering the ranks of the uninsured to 10.4 percent of the population. But there was no statistically significant change in income for the typical American household in 2014, the Obama administration said on Wednesday. Median household income in the United States was $53,660 last year, the Census Bureau reported, and the poverty rate — 14.8 percent — also saw no improvement. About 46.7 million people were in poverty in 2014, the bureau said, the fourth consecutive year in which the number of people in poverty was not statistically different from the official estimate for the prior year. (Pear, 9/16)

Los Angeles Times: Poverty Persists But More Have Healthcare
Thanks mostly to the first full-year impact of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the percentage of people without medical coverage fell to 10.4% from 13.3% the previous year. That represents a drop of 8.8 million, to 33 million people who were uninsured for part or all of last year. A decline was expected. Earlier surveys suggested a big increase in health plan enrollment as states expanded Medicaid and millions of Americans signed up for private insurance through new marketplaces created by Obamacare. Every state, racial group and age of individuals saw a decline in the uninsured rate, the Census Bureau said. (Lee, 9/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Percentage Of Uninsured In U.S. Dropped In First Year Of Obama’s Health-Care Plan
Some 10.4% of people in the U.S. were uninsured for the whole of 2014, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday, in a significant drop from the year before that shows the gains and the limits of the sweeping federal health law’s first full year in effect. In all, around 33 million people were without health insurance for 2014, down from 41.8 million in 2013. That marks a shift after years of steady rates on the number of Americans lacking health insurance between 2008 and 2013. The figure is also lower than some other data on the number of uninsured in the wake of the law’s implementation. (Radnofsky, 9/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Many More Americans Now Have Health Insurance
The census report, viewed as a key gauge of American prosperity, underscored how government policy—from expanded health-care coverage to benefits for the poor—has rippled through the lives of many Americans. Weak income growth was especially striking for a year in which employers added the most jobs since 1999 and stock markets hit new highs. The decline in those lacking coverage, driven largely by people receiving Medicaid or buying insurance on their own, was the largest in records that date to 1987. (Timiraos and Radnofsky, 9/16)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Number Of Americans Without Health Insurance Falls As Income And Poverty Rate Stay Level
The report, hailed by ACA supporters, is the first that compares the insurance landscape immediately before those changes began and afterwards. At the same time, the nation's official poverty rate stayed level at 14.8 percent, equivalent to 46.7 million people in poverty. A supplemental poverty measure, considered more accurate by many experts, showed the rate at 15.3 percent, similar to 2013. (Goldstein, Guo and Gamio, 9/16)

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Tensions Grow Over Planned Parenthood Funding
Chances of a government shutdown at the end of the month are growing as Republican leaders face mounting pressure from conservatives determined to use a must-pass spending bill as leverage in the fight over Planned Parenthood. Senior Republicans, intent on avoiding a partial government shutdown, plan to bring a raft of antiabortion measures up for votes in the House and Senate this month in hopes of channeling conservatives’ anger over videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fees for procuring fetal tissue for medical researchers. (son and Armour, 9/16)

Politico: GOP Weighs Delay Of Planned Parenthood Fight
With just seven legislative days until the government shuts down, House and Senate Republicans both privately discussed delaying the fight over Planned Parenthood’s funding until the budget reconciliation process, according to multiple sources in both meetings. Government funding runs out Sept. 30, and dozens of conservative House Republicans want to use the upcoming legislative debate to cut off federal funding for the women’s health group. (Sherman and Bade, 9/16)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Q&A: How We Got To The Verge Of Another Government Shutdown
Talk of a government shutdown has again absorbed Washington – two years after the government was shut down for 16 days when conservative Republicans used a routine spending bill to try to stop the Affordable Care Act from taking hold. This time the issue is abortion, as conservative Republicans are vowing to strip funding for Planned Parenthood from bills to fund the government in the new fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. Here are some basics. (Hughes, 9/16)

Politico: McCarthy, Ryan Call For End To Boehner Drama
However, Boehner does face serious internal challenges, as even his closest allies openly admit. A small pocket of roughly two dozen conservatives — led by members of the House Freedom Caucus — have threatened to try and remove the speaker if they don’t get what they want on a government funding bill by the end of this month. GOP leadership prefers to defund Planned Parenthood as part of the budget reconciliation process, while the Republican hard-liners want to include a prohibition on funding for the group in a must-pass continuing resolution to keep the government open. These conservatives say the issue of cutting off Planned Parenthood’s money is worth the political backlash from a shutdown. (Sherman , Bresnahan and Palmer, 9/17)

The Associated Press: Report: $235M Saved By Year Ban On Planned Parenthood Funds
A Republican bill that would halt federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year could reduce health care access for about 390,000 people while saving taxpayers about $235 million, Congress’ official authority on the budget said Wednesday. The estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office comes as Republicans are pushing for the cut in the wake of videos that show Planned Parenthood representatives discussing how the group provides fetal tissue for research. (Fram,9/16)

The Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Fields Jabs In Republican Debate
Candidates were also at odds on whether to force a shutdown of the government over efforts to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who was a leader of the health-law funding fight that resulted in a 2013 partial government shutdown, said he would do it again—even though many Republicans viewed the 2013 fight as a political loser for their party. The candidates criticized the videos depicting officials at the organization discussing the use of fetal tissue obtained after abortions, but Mr. Kasich said closing the government would be a fruitless effort. “The American people are going to shake their heads and say, ‘What’s the story with these Republicans?’ ” He said he was “sympathetic” to the cause of eliminating the group’s funding but that a government shutdown wouldn’t “work out.” (Hook, O'Connor and Ballhaus, 9/17)

The Washington Post: Fact Checking The Second Round Of GOP Debates
Not every candidate uttered facts that are easily fact checked, but following is a list of 17 suspicious claims. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios when we do a roundup of facts in debates. ... “As the brand new first ever pro-life governor of New Jersey since Roe versus Wade, I defunded Planned Parenthood.” —New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) This is a shift in Christie’s rhetoric, tying his decision to veto Planned Parenthood funding to his anti-abortion beliefs. A review of news coverage from 2010 and Christie’s vetoes of funding measures for Planned Parenthood clinics shows that Christie previously explained his veto as a measure to balance the state budget — not as a pro-life measure. (Kessler and Lee, 9/17)

NPR: Fact Check: Fiorina's HP Record; Trump's Bankruptcies; Vaccines And Autism
Trump has touted his success as a businessman as his chief qualification for the Oval Office. But he also offered up some medical opinions last night, particularly on the question of vaccines. Trump was asked Wednesday night about having previously raised the notion that childhood vaccines could cause autism. That's a long-discredited theory, but he again left open the possibility that they do. ... Trump was quickly set straight by his fellow candidate Ben Carson, who's a retired pediatric neurosurgeon: "We have extremely well documented proof that there's no autism associated with vaccinations." Trump said all he's really advocating is that vaccines be spaced out over a longer period of time, though the American Academy of Pediatrics says there's no evidence that's necessary. (Horsly, 916)

Politico: The POLITICO Wrongometer
Donald Trump stuck to a position that’s totally unsupported by medical evidence — that a link exists behind autism and vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical authorities have said repeatedly that science has demonstrated there is no link between vaccination and autism. Giving children multiple vaccinations at the same has also been proven to be safe, the CDC said. ... The videos that have stirred up so much trouble for Planned Parenthood don’t show what Fiorina claims. An anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, has released several videos alleging that the women’s health organization illegally profits from fetal tissue sales. In one video, a former employee of the fetal tissue procurement company StemExpress — which, until recently, worked with Planned Parenthood — alleges that she saw an aborted fetus’ heart beat after a clinician tapped its heart. That video relies solely on the interview and does not include footage to support her claims. The group’s undercover videos do show specimens of fetal tissue in some Planned Parenthood clinics, but at no point do they include footage of an entire aborted fetus. (/16)

The Washington Post: The GOP’s Dangerous ‘Debate’ On Vaccines And Autism
Whether or not the vaccine “debate” did any damage to Carson, Trump, Paul or the GOP among voters is still unclear. But it was a talking point from a testy night full of politicians pushing back against science and “big government.” Technically, Carson’s answer was in line with the overwhelming scientific consensus that vaccines don’t cause autism. ... But even Carson’s tepid initial response quickly began to unravel. (Miller, 9/17)

Reuters: Cigna CEO Defends Anthem Deal, Says Consumer Will Still Have Choice
Health insurer Anthem's planned $47 billion takeover of rival Cigna will not hurt consumers but increase choice and affordability, Cigna CEO David Cordani said, defending the merger against widespread criticism that it will harm competition. The Anthem-Cigna deal and a plan by Aetna Inc to buy Humana have come in the wake of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and amid pressure on insurers to keep healthcare spending down for their biggest customers - employers and the U.S. government. (9/17)

The Washington Post: New Federal Employee Health Insurance Option Will Mean Savings For Some, Higher Costs For Others
Family coverage premiums in the health insurance program for federal employees and retirees will increase by 7 percent on average for 2016 because of the introduction of a new option covering only the enrollee and one family member. Meanwhile, current family plan enrollees who switch to that new option, called self plus one, will save 6 percent on average compared with current rates, the government projects. (Yoder, 9/16)

The Associated Press: Target, Developing Healthier Habits, Hands Workers Fitbits
Target is going on a health kick, aimed at both customers and its employees. The discount-store chain will push granola bars and healthy grab-and-go snacks over candy at the checkout and hand out free basic activity trackers from Fitbit Inc. to its more 300,000 employees as part of the effort. Target will also give employees extra discounts on fruits and vegetables, said Jodee Kozlak, chief human resources officer. (9/16)

The Associated Press: Man Claims Bias Over Use Of HIV-Blocking Drug
As a gay man, the Boston attorney thought he was doing the responsible thing when he asked his doctor to prescribe Truvada, a drug hailed as a way to halt the spread of AIDS. But when he tried to get long-term care insurance, Mutual of Omaha turned him down, saying it does not offer coverage to anyone who takes the drug. Now, the man is planning to sue the insurer, alleging he was discriminated against because he is gay. He filed a complaint Wednesday with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the first step in a lawsuit. (Lavoie, 9/16)

The Washington Post: Va. Hospitals Pressure State Lawmakers In Ad Campaign For ACA Money
A network of Virginia hospitals on Wednesday adopted a new approach to finding a way to use federal dollars from the Affordable Care Act to relieve the economic burden on the health-care industry: Don’t call it Medicaid expansion. Hospital chief executives gathered at an urban hospital in Richmond to unveil the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association’s ad campaign that will target lawmakers opposed to extending coverage to 400,000 uninsured Virginians and get residents thinking about the importance of community health care. (Portnoy, 9/16)

The New York Times: Jon Stewart Joins 9/11 Workers In Pressing Congress To Extend Benefits
Jon Stewart, the recently retired host of “The Daily Show,” exhorted Congress on Wednesday to permanently extend a law providing treatment and compensation to rescue workers who were injured or sickened by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The bill, which is set to start expiring next month, has long been a favored cause of the comedian, whose shows in 2010 criticizing the law’s Republican opponents and showcasing emergency medical workers with health problems helped prompt its passage. (Mueller, 9/16)

NPR: School Nurses Stock Drug To Reverse Opioid Overdoses
AnneMarie Zagari found her teenage son unresponsive on the couch after he took too many opioid painkillers in 2011. She began pounding his chest and slapping his face, and finally succeeded in reviving him by giving him CPR. It was a terrifying moment. And that panic wouldn't have been necessary if she'd had access to the drug naloxone (also known as Narcan), which can instantly reverse an overdose. (Faust, 9/16)

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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