Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'Quest For The White Whale?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Quest For The White Whale?'" by Bob Englehart, Hartford Courant.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

KEEPING SCORE?

Cruz says GOP
Is losing with surrenders.
But what is success?

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Capitol Hill Watch

3. Senate Vote On Stop-Gap Spending Bill -- Including Planned Parenthood Rider -- Expected To Fail

Democrats are expected to block the measure being considered today, which includes language to defund the reproductive health organization. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said there will not be a shutdown and he likely will advance a clean version of the bill for a vote. Meanwhile, party dynamics continue to play out as part of this debate. News outlets also report on the impact a temporary shutdown could have.

The Associated Press: Democrats Poised To Filibuster Stopgap Funding Measure
The Senate is preparing to vote on legislation that would keep the government open beyond next Wednesday's deadline at a price Democrats are certain to reject — stripping taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood. The stopgap spending bill is widely expected to fail Thursday. The next steps aren't set in stone, although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has promised there won't be a government shutdown. That suggests he would soon press ahead with a stopgap measure that's free of the Planned Parenthood dispute. (9/24)

The Associated Press: GOP Pragmatists Protest Tea Party Shutdown Tactics
Rank-and-file Republican lawmakers are increasingly protesting the tactics of tea party colleagues who demand that legislation to keep the government open also take away federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The leading proponent of bringing the fight over funding the group to a possible government shutdown remained unbowed. (Taylor, 9/23)

The Washington Post: Van Hollen On Government Shutdown: Patients Will Be Turned Away From NIH
Patients with critical illnesses will be turned away and research will be disrupted if the government shuts down again on Oct. 1, the director of the National Institutes of Health and the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee warned Tuesday. With just four legislative days remaining until the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said that during the 16-day shutdown in 2013, new patients were not allowed in to the clinical facilities of the Bethesda medical campus. (Bernstein, 9/22),

The Hill: CBO: Defunding Planned Parenthood Increases Government Spending
Permanently defunding Planned Parenthood would end up increasing government spending by $130 million over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO, Congress’s nonpartisan scorekeeper, projects that defunding Planned Parenthood would actually end up increasing government spending, because it would result in more unplanned births as women lost access to services such as contraception. Medicaid would have to pay for some of those births, and some of the children themselves would then end up qualifying for Medicaid and other government programs. (Sullivan, 9/23)

The Washington Post: Shuttering The Government Actually Costs More Than Keeping It Open — More Than $2 Billion Last Time
Budget hawks in Congress may stand their ground on wasteful spending, but shutting down the government is no example of fiscal frugality. ... The reports run through a lengthy list of disruptions in 2013. They include a backlog in veterans’ disability claims, nearly 6,300 children left out of Head Start, patients left out of cancer studies at the National Institutes of Health, halted consumer-safety work, delays in tax refunds. The Food and Drug Administration delayed “nearly 500 food and feed domestic inspections and roughly 355 food safety inspections under state contracts,” the budget office said. (Rein, 9/24)

4. Pope's Message To U.S. Touches On Health Care For Poor, Contraception And Abortion

On the second day of his U.S. tour, Pope Francis' speech to Congress is eagerly anticipated. Abortion and access to health care are among the topics he's likely to speak on as he has already been pushing Catholic hospitals to provide free health care for the poor. Yesterday the pope made an unscheduled stop at the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns fighting the Obamacare contraception mandate, to show his support.

Politico: Boehner Braced For Pope's Message
Still, Francis will likely please the GOP on other fronts. He’s expected to touch on the need to end abortion, defend traditional marriage and protect religious liberty, even if he uses opaque terms. As the threat of a government shutdown looms, Francis also may discuss the need for bipartisanship, though he’ll likely use a term such as “political unity.” (Toosi, 9/24)

USA Today: Pope Pushes Catholic Hospitals, Clinics To Do More To Help Poor
Pope Francis, who will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, is pushing Catholic hospitals and clinics to increase their free health care to the poor as many House and Senate Republicans try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which provided health coverage to millions of low-income Americans. Anthony Tersigni, CEO of St. Louis-based Ascension — the largest non-profit health system in the USA — will be in the gallery during the pope's address. Tersigni, who chairs the International Association of Catholic Hospitals, will meet with Francis in the Vatican in November to discuss the pope's push to get Catholic-owned health care providers to do more to help the poor. (O'Donnell and Ungar, 9/23)

Reuters: Pope Visits U.S. Nuns Involved In Obamacare Contraception Lawsuit
Pope Francis on Wednesday made an unscheduled stop to a convent of nuns to show his support for their lawsuit against U.S. President Barack Obama's healthcare law. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the visit to the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor for what he called a "brief but symbolic visit." Last August, a federal appeals court in Denver put on hold its ruling that the order of Roman Catholic nuns must comply with a contraception mandate in the law, giving the group time to petition the U.S. Supreme Court. (9/23)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. Fewer Americans Support Federal Spending On Health Care Since Obamacare, Study Shows

In other news related to the health law, recent UAW contract negotiations shine a light on how the looming "Cadillac tax" is impacting workers and businesses. And a watchdog says that New York's health exchange needs to improve its income verification system.

The Washington Post's The Fix: Study: Obamacare Has Made Americans More Conservative About Health Care
On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton issued her defense of the Affordable Care Act and proposals to change the landmark health law, signaling the next battle in a war with all the signs of a political stalemate. Americans are basically evenly split in their assessments of the law and sharply divided along partisan lines; Republican presidential candidates want to scrap the law, while Democrats support keeping it (Clinton) or expanding it (Bernie Sanders). None of this is new to anybody, nor expected to change anytime soon. (Clement, 9/23)

Real Clear Politics: 'Cadillac Tax' Is Hated, But It Might Be Working
In a bit of poetic justice, a tax named after an automobile brand got a boost from contract negotiations in the Motor City. That new federal levy, officially called an excise tax on high-cost health coverage, is better known as the "Cadillac tax." Under this provision of the Affordable Care Act, employer-sponsored health coverage worth more than $10,200 per year to an individual or $27,500 per year to a family will be subject to a 40 percent tax on the amount that exceeds the threshold. The tax doesn't take effect until 2018, and as we get closer to that date, pressure in Congress is building to repeal it. (Eisenhower, 9/24)

The Associated Press: Federal Agency Examines NY Health Exchange Controls
A federal oversight agency says the New York Health Exchange's internal controls sometimes were ineffective in verifying household income and reconciling inconsistent data for people enrolling for coverage and financial assistance. The Department of Health and Human Services inspector general says that doesn't necessarily mean the exchange improperly enrolled applicants, noting that other controls did work, like verifying Social Security numbers. (9/24)

6. Kansas Hospitals In Jeopardy Without Medicaid Expansion, Health System Leader Says

Citing declining revenues and pending hospital closures, the CEO of Kansas' largest health system, Via Christi Health, is joining other medical groups to urge state lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback to reconsider their refusal to expand Medicaid.

Wichita Eagle: Via Christi, Citing Revenue Declines, Will Renew Efforts To Expand Medicaid In Kansas
Via Christi said it is losing nearly $14 million a year as a result of the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid. The hospital is joining with other medical groups in an effort to push the state to expand eligibility for the federal and state insurance program for people with low incomes or who are disabled. As part of that push, the hospital released an update Wednesday on its finances saying it lost $14 million in both 2013 and 2014 because Medicaid was not expanded. (Dunn, 9/23)

The Kansas Health Institute News Service: Via Christi Leader: Kansas Hospitals Hurting Due To 'Failure' To Expand Medicaid
Kansas’ “failure” to expand Medicaid is putting health care providers in jeopardy, the head of the state’s largest health system said Wednesday. Jeff Korsmo, CEO of Wichita-based Via Christi Health, issued a statement calling on Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to drop their opposition to expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. (McLean, 9/23)

Campaign 2016

7. Clinton Takes Aim At High Out-Of-Pocket Medical Costs

A day after taking on high drug costs, Hillary Clinton, who is campaigning to become the Democratic presidential nominee, detailed a series of health policy proposals to help Americans afford the rising price tag of seeing the doctor.

The Wall Street Journal: Hillary Clinton Aims To Limit Consumers’ Health-Insurance Costs
Each idea is geared toward addressing gripes that have grown louder in recent years among people who have insurance. Among the biggest complaints are so-called high-deductible plans, which offer relatively low monthly premiums but require people to pay several thousand dollars before coverage kicks in. Such plans have become increasingly common options for people who buy through the health law or get coverage as part of their job. Insurance networks also have generated considerable consumer heartburn. (Radnofsky, 9/23)