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KHN First Edition: September 23, 2015


First Edition

Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Employers Shift More Health Costs To Workers, Survey Finds
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock reports: "Premiums for job-based medical insurance rose moderately — 4 percent in 2015 — but employers continued to shift in expenses to workers, according to a new survey. The average premium for single coverage rose to $6,251 while the average premium for a family plan increased to $17,545, according to a survey published Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust." (Hancock, 9/22)

Kaiser Health News: IOM: Teamwork Key To Reducing Medical Diagnostic Errors
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "Almost every American will experience a medical diagnostic error, but the problem has taken a back seat to other patient safety concerns, an influential panel said in a report out today calling for widespread changes. Diagnostic errors — defined as inaccurate or delayed diagnoses — account for an estimated 10 percent of patient deaths, hundreds of thousands of adverse events in hospitals each year and are a leading cause of paid medical malpractice claims, a blue ribbon panel of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) said in its report." (Appleby, 9/22)

Kaiser Health News: Stemming The Cycle Of Toxic Stress – For The Kids’ Sake
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "Samantha McVey brought her 4-month-old daughter, Ruby, to The Children’s Clinic for a routine check-up and vaccinations. But within minutes of sitting down with Dr. R.J. Gillespie, McVey was describing her turbulent childhood with a drug-addicted father who spent time in prison. “How do you think that affects your parenting now?” Gillespie asked. 'I don’t want my kids to have to go through that,' said McVey, 23." (Gorman, 9/23)

The Wall Street Journal: HHS Secretary Says Coming Sign-Up Season Will Be Toughest Yet Under Health Law
Top Obama administration officials said Tuesday they were anticipating their toughest sign-up season yet for insurance coverage under the health law. Officials aim to make a dent in the number Americans still uninsured in the law’s third enrollment period. They are eyeing about 10.5 million people who could buy coverage through or state sites, often with federal subsidies to offset premiums, but who have resisted signing up as the law rolled out. (Radnofsky, 9/22)

USA Today: Feds Say Nearly 18 Million Now Insured Through Obamacare
Citing just-released federal data, Burwell said the 17.6 million people who gained coverage included children up to age 26 who were able to stay on their parents plans, the expansion of Medicaid and the availability of the state and federal insurance exchanges. Speaking at Howard University in Washington — one of the historically black colleges and universities — Burwell also noted that the uninsured rate dropped 10.3% among African-Americans as 2.6 million gained coverage. Four million Latino adults also became insured, representing an 11.5% decline in the rate of uninsured Hispanics. (O'Donnell, 9/22)

The Associated Press: Uninsured Are Getting Harder To Sign Up
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Tuesday gave three reasons why the 2016 sign-up season will be a bigger challenge: The most eager customers have already signed up; many of the remaining uninsured are young adults who may not see the value of coverage and those who remain are juggling tight household budgets. (9/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Audit Finds Deficiencies In New York State’s Health-Insurance Exchange
Some controls New York state relied on to make sure people were eligible for health-insurance coverage and subsidies on the state-run exchange were deficient, potentially letting some consumers get benefits they weren’t entitled to, an audit found. The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services reviewed a sample of 45 randomly selected applicants and analyzed their supporting documentation to see if the New York exchange followed federal regulations in determining eligibility for coverage and subsidies. (Armour, 9/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Spending Bill Is On Track, But Shutdown Threat Persists
Conservatives in both chambers have been wrestling for weeks with how to respond to videos released by an antiabortion group showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing procuring fetal tissue from abortions to provide to third parties for medical research. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) began setting up the votes expected to create a path for a spending bill to clear Senate procedures before the government runs out of money. But the bigger question is whether House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) will be willing to go along with a plan unpopular among many of his most conservative lawmakers, who say the must-pass spending bill should strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood. (son and Armour, 9/22)

Politico: GOP Freshmen Urge Party To Avoid Shutdown
Nearly a dozen House GOP freshmen are urging their colleagues to avoid a government shutdown next week and pass a short-term spending bill a week before federal agencies run out of money. In a “Dear Colleague” letter, eleven new Republicans urged their fellow GOP lawmakers to pass a continuing resolution by Sept. 30 - and not hold any stopgap spending bill hostage over funding for Planned Parenthood. (Bresnahan and Bade, 9/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Blocks Bill Banning Abortions After 20 Weeks Of Pregnancy
The Senate on Tuesday blocked a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, thwarting one component of a Republican antiabortion push sparked by the release of undercover videos. A group of 40 members of the Democratic caucus and 2 Republicans defeated the 20-week abortion ban in a 54-42 procedural vote Tuesday. The measure, already approved by the House in May, needed 60 votes to advance in the Senate. But the vote didn’t douse the abortion debate still roiling both chambers of Congress. (son and Armour, 9/22)

Politico: Senate Blocks 20-Week Abortion Ban
The vote on the "fetal pain" bill was 54-42, short of the 60 needed to move ahead. Two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois — and three Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin (W.V.), Bob Casey (Penn.) and Donnelly (Ind.)—crossed party lines. None of those five votes were surprising, given the lawmakers' stance on abortion and their statements about this legislation. Four senators, including Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.) Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) Parry Murray (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) did not vote. (Ehley, 9/22)

The New York Times: Health Insurers Seeking Mergers Play Down Antitrust Concerns
The chief executives of two of the nation’s largest health insurance companies told skeptical senators on Tuesday that consumers would benefit if the federal government approved their plans to acquire two other big insurers. But Consumers Union, a consumer advocacy group, expressed doubts about the deals, and Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, objected to the mergers, saying they could cause harm by reducing competition. (Pear, 9/22)

The Associated Press: CEOs Of Aetna, Anthem Make Case For Health Insurance Mergers
Leaders of two major health insurers planning multibillion dollar acquisitions made their case to Congress that bigger can mean better in their industry, but concerns are being raised in Washington about how these deals will affect consumers and competition. Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer Anthem plans to buy Cigna for $48 billion, and rival Aetna is looking to acquire Medicare Advantage coverage provider Humana for about $35 billion in a wave of consolidation that swept through the industry this summer. The deals came under scrutiny Tuesday at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing. (9/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Health Insurers Aetna, Anthem Defend Deals, Say Markets Will Stay Competitive
The chief executives of Aetna Inc. and Anthem Inc. defended their merger deals before a Senate subcommittee, facing sharply critical testimony that raised questions about the impact of health-insurance consolidation. Aetna is seeking to acquire Humana Inc., in a $34 billion transaction focused largely on the private Medicare plans known as Medicare Advantage. Anthem aims to take over Cigna Corp. in a $48 billion deal. The two deals together would shrink the top five U.S. health insurers to a big three, each with annual revenue of more than $100 billion. The third player would be UnitedHealth Group Inc. (Wilde Mathews and Kendall, 9/22)

Los Angeles Times: Health Insurance CEOs Vow Mergers Won't Make Marketplace Less Competitive
Proposed mega-mergers between health insurance giants prompted by the Affordable Care Act won’t harm the level of competition in the market, two chief executives pledged Tuesday to skeptical lawmakers. The recent plans by Aetna Inc. to acquire Humana Inc., and by Anthem Inc. to buy Cigna Corp., have raised concerns over the economic impact that such mergers, which would eliminate two of the five largest insurers to create three companies, would have on consumers. The Justice Department is investigating the deals. (Howard, 9/22)

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton Proposes Cap On Patients’ Drug Costs As Bernie Sanders Pushes His Plan
With voter fury rising over the high cost of prescription drugs, Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed capping out-of-pocket drug expenses at $250 a month on Tuesday while a rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, extolled his own plan and long record for pushing to lower drug costs. While Republican candidates for the White House want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and generally oppose interfering with the drug industry, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders are competing fiercely with each other to press for greater competition and new regulations to rein in pharmaceutical companies. (Healy and Sanger-Katz, 9/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Hillary Clinton Focuses On Middle-Class Concerns About Health-Care Costs
Hillary Clinton, laying out her health-care agenda, is trying to shift the national debate surrounding the divisive Affordable Care Act to focus squarely on rising out-of-pocket costs of care. In Iowa on Tuesday, the Democratic presidential contender put forth ideas to control prescription-drug spending. On Wednesday, she’ll talk about other consumer costs, such as high copayments and deductibles. (Meckler, 9/22)

The Wall Street Journal Washington Wire: Health Lobbyists Aren’t Cheering Hillary Clinton’s Prescription Drug Plan
Hillary Clinton‘s prescription drug proposals are likely to get mixed reactions from the insurance lobby — and drugmakers already have come out swinging. The new head of the America’s Health Insurance Plans industry group said in an interview shortly before Mrs. Clinton’s plans were released that insurers have identified pharmaceutical price surges as a key threat to health costs, and that they plan to continue fighting on the issue. (Radnofsky, 9/22)

USA Today: Hillary Clinton Unveils Plan To Lower Prescription Drug Costs
Hillary Clinton on Tuesday unveiled a plan to rein in prescription drug costs by forcing pharmaceutical companies to reinvest their profits into research and allowing for more generic and imported drugs. The proposal, which she outlined in a speech in Iowa on Tuesday, would also allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs and cap out-of-pocket expenses for individuals with chronic health problems. (Przybyla, 9/22)

The Washington Post: Clinton Proposes Cap On Out-Of-Pocket Costs For Prescription Drugs
Clinton’s plan has several moving parts, some aimed at directly curbing profits of pharmaceutical companies and others to give the government a stronger role in constraining drug prices or making lower-priced medicine more available. She would allow Americans to reimport U.S.-made drugs from countries where they tend to be sold at lower prices. She would also allow the Medicare program to negotiate prices with drug manufactures. (Gearan and Goldstein, 9/22)

Politico: Biden Surges In New Bloomberg Poll
Vice President Joe Biden surged in a new national Bloomberg Politics poll of Democratic voters and independent voters leaning toward the Democratic Party released Wednesday morning, even though he has not announced his intentions for the presidency. Hillary Clinton earned a plurality of 33 percent, followed by Biden at 25 percent and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 24 percent. Other candidates are polling within the margin of error. (Gass, 9/23)

NPR: Rising Health Deductibles Take Bigger Bite Out Of Family Budgets
Health care costs continue to rise, and workers are shouldering more of the burden. The big reason? Skyrocketing deductibles. More companies are adding deductibles to the insurance plans they offer their employees. And for those who already had to pay deductibles, the out-of-pocket outlays are growing. (Kodjak, 9/22)

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare Costs Rise Again, And The Burden Continues To Shift To Workers
American workers saw their out-of-pocket medical costs jump again this year, as the average deductible for an employer-provided health plan surged nearly 9% in 2015 to more than $1,000, a major new survey of employers shows. The annual increase, though lower than in previous years', far outpaced wage growth and overall inflation and marked the continuation of a trend that in just a few years has dramatically shifted healthcare costs to workers. (Levey, 9/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Employer Health Coverage For Family Tops $17,000
The average cost of employer health coverage passed $17,000 for a family plan this year, despite continued muted growth on a percentage basis, according to a major survey. The average annual cost of an employer family plan rose 4%, to $17,545, from $16,834 last year, according to the annual poll of employers performed by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation along with the Health Research & Educational Trust, a nonprofit affiliated with the American Hospital Association. The share of the 2015 family-plan premium borne by employees was 29% of the total, the same percentage as last year. (Wilde Mathews, 9/22)

The Washington Post: Turing CEO Martin Shkreli Promises To Lower Price Of Drug Previously Hiked 4,000 Percent — But Would Not Say By How Much
Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli announced Tuesday night that the company will roll back the price of the drug Daraprim, but did not commit to a specific price. The company had faced intense criticism in recent days from patient advocacy groups, doctors, politicians -- as well as from within its own industry -- after it raised the price of the 62-year-old drug from $18 to $750 or more than 4,000 percent after it purchased rights to the drug last month. The medication is a critical treatment for a parasitic infection that can be fatal to those with compromised immune systems due to conditions like AIDS/HIV and cancer. (Cha, 9/22)

The Washington Post: Most Americans Will Get A Wrong Or Late Diagnosis At Least Once In Their Lives
This critical type of health-care error is far more common than medication mistakes or surgery on the wrong patient or body part. But until now, diagnostic errors have been a relatively understudied and unmeasured area of patient safety. Much of patient safety is focused on errors in hospitals, not mistakes in diagnoses that take place in doctors’ offices, surgical centers and other outpatient facilities. (Sun, 9/22)

The Associated Press: Whistleblowers: VA Inspector General A 'Joke'
The Department of Veter

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