Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Hard Pill To Swallow'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Hard Pill To Swallow'" by John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


500 percent?
That’s a hefty boost – and some
Dems want to know why.

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Capitol Hill Watch

4. Senate Clears First Hurdle To Averting A Government Shutdown

The Senate easily overcame a filibuster regarding a short-term spending bill that does not include a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. The chamber could vote as soon as today on that measure, and then send it to the House. The legislation must be passed by Oct. 1 in order to avoid a government shutdown.

The Hill: Senate Advances Bill To Prevent Shutdown
A short-term bill to fund the government through Dec. 11 overcame a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Monday, just days before the deadline to avoid a shutdown. Senators voted 77-19 to end debate on the continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government. The move paves the way for final passage before the Oct. 1 deadline. (Carney, 9/28)

Politico: Senate Easily Advances Bill To Avoid Shutdown
The suspense over whether the GOP-led Congress would keep the government open beyond Sept. 30 ended altogether when Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation plans last week. The stunning move ensures that the Ohio Republican would be free to rely on Democrats to pass a clean funding bill without political retribution from his conservative agitators. (Kim, 9/28)

The Washington Post: Congress Moves Closer To Preventing A Shutdown
If all goes according to the plan hatched by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House could clear the stop-gap funding bill on Wednesday, averting a shutdown with hours to spare before the Oct. 1 deadline. ... Cruz railed against Planned Parenthood and the Iran deal on the Senate floor following the vote Monday, saying he believes the “votes are cooked” in Congress. ... The Texas Republican and other conservatives for weeks have been calling on GOP leaders to confront Obama over abortion policies by using the spending bill needed to avert a shutdown this week to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. But they are now focusing their attention on December. (Snell and Zezima, 9/28)

Politico: Shutdown Clash To Return In Force By December
But the glide path to avoiding a shutdown this week sets up an even bigger clash in December, when lawmakers have to agree on a new funding bill for the new fiscal year. Democrats at both ends of the Capitol, as well as in the White House, will demand raising the current caps for domestic spending. But hawkish Republicans have long insisted on boosting cash for defense programs, while fiscal conservatives will abhor any additional spending overall. (Kim, 9/28)

Politico: Cruz Sternly Rebuked By GOP
Ted Cruz can’t even get a protest vote in the Senate anymore. On Monday night, Cruz’s colleagues ignored his attempt to disrupt Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to fund the government without attacking Planned Parenthood. In an unusual rebuke, even fellow Republicans denied him a “sufficient second” that would have allowed him a roll call vote. (Everett, 9/28)

The Hill: Cruz Foiled In Bid For Planned Parenthood, Iran Amendments
Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday was blocked from trying to link the Iran nuclear deal and a one-year ban on federal funding for Planned Parenthood to a government funding bill. The Texas Republican, who is running for president, was blocked from offering his amendment during a voice vote. He tried to get a roll call vote but couldn't get the necessary support from his colleagues. (Carney, 9/28)

The Washington Post: After Boehner, Conservatives Must Answer Crucial Question: Who’s Next?
Hard-line conservative Republicans, emboldened by their role in the resignation of House Speaker John A. Boehner, are struggling to recruit a candidate with enough political capital and grass-roots support to challenge Boehner’s heir apparent. That contender, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), announced his bid for speaker Monday, but by sharing Boehner’s relaxed personality and center-right Republican politics, he would almost certainly face similar problems from the conservative wing from the start and skepticism about whether he can truly give voice to the base’s frustrations. (Costa and DeBonis, 9/28)

5. Planned Parenthood Official, House GOP Lawmakers To Duel At Hearing

Tuesday's hearing will be the first congressional appearance for representatives of the reproductive health organization since controversy emerged over its provision of fetal tissue for research.

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Makes First Hill Appearance Since Videos
In Planned Parenthood’s first congressional appearance since being embarrassed by surreptitiously recorded videos, the organization’s president said she is “proud” of its provision of fetal tissue for research but also sought to minimize the organ donations as a small part of its work. Trying to take the offensive, Cecile Richards also criticized the Republicans who control Congress for not investigating David Daleiden and the other anti-abortion activists who made the recordings. (Fram, 9/29)

ABC News: House GOP, Planned Parenthood Chief to Face Off Over Undercover Videos
House conservatives aren't expected to force a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding this week, but they are gearing up for a public face off with the organization and its president, Cecile Richards. Richards is set to appear on Capitol Hill today to testify before the House Oversight Committee. (Weinberg, 9/29)

Fox News: Planned Parenthood President Says She's 'Proud' Of Organization's Actions Amid Controversy
Planned Parenthood's president will tell a House committee Tuesday that she is "proud" of the work her organization does, even as the organization is embroiled in a controversy over videos depicting the sale of fetal tissue. Cecile Richards will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee Tuesday morning. It will be her first appearance since the scandal erupted this past July. (9/29)

In related news, both Planned Parenthood and its opponents are experimenting with strategies to advance their respective positions -

USA Today: Republicans Try New Way To Defund Planned Parenthood, Avoiding Shutdown
Republicans this week will launch a new strategy to try to defund Planned Parenthood now that it's clear that Congress will vote this week to keep the government open without addressing the issue. The House also is expected to consider this week the creation of a select committee to investigate allegations that the nation's largest abortion provider discussed selling tissue and organs from aborted fetuses for profit. Planned Parenthood vehemently denies the allegation, saying that undercover videos taken by anti-abortion activists were heavily edited and misleading. (Kelly, 9/28)

The New York Times: Planned Parenthood To Offer Free S.T.D. Testing On National Pink Out Day
Planned Parenthood, which provides an array of health services, including abortions, through clinics and affiliates nationwide, is under criticism by Republicans over the use of aborted fetuses in medical research. The Republicans want to cut off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood, and some lawmakers have even threatened to shut down the federal government in order to do so. Fighting back, Planned Parenthood has declared Tuesday to be “National Pink Out Day,” and said it expected millions of supporters to rally in the group’s defense. (Herszenhorn, 9/28)

6. Congressional Democrats Push For Answers On Valeant's Price Hikes

The Canadian drug maker increased the price of two heart drugs by 525 percent and 212 percent the day it acquired their rights, prompting U.S. lawmakers to seek answers on the hikes.

The Associated Press: Congressional Democrats Push For Valeant Pharma Subpoena
Congressional Democrats are pressing a Republican committee chairman to force a pharmaceutical company to turn over documents tied to price hikes imposed earlier this year. Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter Monday to Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, asking him to issue a subpoena to Valeant Pharmaceuticals and to invite the Canadian company to testify next week. (9/28)

Reuters: U.S. House Democrats Slam Valeant's Drug Price Hikes; Shares Sink
Democratic lawmakers on Monday attacked "massive" price increases of two heart drugs by Canada's Valeant, fueling a rout in drugmaker shares on worries of a government and insurer clampdown on U.S. drug prices. All 18 Democratic members of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform urged their chairman to subpoena Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc and force it to provide documents relating to price increases of 212 percent for Isuprel and 525 percent for Nitropress. Valeant boosted the prices immediately after buying the heart drugs last February. (Pierson and Berkrot, 9/28)

Health Law Issues And Implementation