Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Calling It?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Calling It?'" by Monte Wolverton, L.A. Daily News.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

NEGOTIATORS COME TO TERMS ON TRANS-PACIFIC TRADE

A vexing stalemate
On drug issues had to be
Smoothed to make the deal.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. Is Repealing 'Cadillac Tax' A Terrible Idea? Many Health Care Economists Think So

Meanwhile, a federal program created by the health law to cushion health insurers' Obamacare risks will fall short of the industry's ask. Insurers wanted $2.87 billion in payments but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will only dole out $362 million.

The Fiscal Times: How Scrapping The Cadillac Tax Will Drive Up Health Care Costs
From Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side to key Republican lawmakers in Washington, including Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, there is a growing bipartisan push to repeal the so-called “Cadillac Tax” on high-cost health insurance plans that is due to kick in in 2018 under the Affordable Care Act. (Garver, 10/2)

CNN Money: Big Shortfall In Obamacare Risk Program Could Hurt Insurers
A key federal program designed to cushion health insurers' risks in the Obamacare exchanges has a massive shortfall, which could throw some insurers into financial turmoil. Insurers requested $2.87 billion in so-called "risk corridors" payments for 2014, but will only receive $362 million, or 12.6%, said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees Obamacare. (Luhby, 10/2)

In state Medicaid news, Arkansas' plans for a hybrid expansion move forward, Virginia's governor again urges state lawmakers to expand and 1 in 4 Connecticut residents who lost Medicaid coverage signed up for private insurance. Also in thenews, on Arizona's health insurance marketplace next year, companies are dropping their PPOs -

The Associated Press: Arkansas Panel Moves Closer To Medicaid Proposals
A much-anticipated report to lawmakers on Arkansas' hybrid Medicaid expansion won't resolve the muddied future of a program providing coverage to more than 200,000 people. But it could at least provide some clarity on the options the Legislature faces, and how difficult finding consensus on the program will be. The task force formed to look at the state's "private option" is expected to hear from the Stephen Group, the consultant lawmakers hired to study the expansion and the overall Medicaid program. Wednesday's report by the consultant marks a turning point for the 16-member panel, with a December deadline fast approaching to issue recommendations on the Medicaid expansion. (DeMillo, 10/3)

The Connecticut Mirror: About One In Four Who Lost HUSKY Signed Up For Insurance
About one in four low-income parents who lost Medicaid coverage in September signed up for a private health plan through the state’s health insurance exchange before the deadline last week – a total of 166 people. Officials had hoped to boost the number who signed up in the final weeks before the deadline, but just 26 people signed up between early September and the end of the month. (Levin Becker, 10/5)

In other news related to Medicaid and the safety net -

McClatchy: GAO: Safety Net Programs Account For Billions In Improper Payments
Three health and safety net programs for the poor and elderly accounted for most of the federal government’s $124.7 billion in improper payments in fiscal 2014, the Government Accountability Office reported Thursday. The figure, which represents improper payments across 124 federal programs, is up roughly 20 percent from $105.8 billion in fiscal 2013, according to a new GAO report. (Pugh, 10/3)

5. Supreme Court Begins Term With Divisive Social Issues On The Docket

Abortion and questions related to religious objections to contraception are among the issues the court will likely tackle.

The New York Times: Supreme Court Prepares To Take On Politically Charged Cases
The last Supreme Court term ended with liberal victories, conservative disarray and bruised relations among the justices. The new one, which opens on Monday, marks the start of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s second decade on the court and will reveal whether the last term’s leftward drift and acrimony were anomalies or something more lasting. The court will decide major cases on politically charged issues, including the fate of public unions and affirmative action in higher education. It will most probably hear its first major abortion case since 2007 and revisit the clash between religious liberty and contraception coverage. (Liptak, 10/4)

The Associated Press: Familiar, Divisive Social Issues On Supreme Court Agenda
The Supreme Court is starting a new term that promises a steady stream of divisive social issues, and also brighter prospects for conservatives who suffered more losses than usual in recent months. ... Future cases will deal with abortion, religious objections to birth control, race in college admissions and the power of public-sector unions. Cases on immigration and state restrictions on voting also could make it to the court in the next nine months. The term will play out against the backdrop of the presidential campaign, in which some candidates are talking pointedly about the justices and the prospect of replacing some of them in the next few years. Four justices are in their 80s or late 70s, led by 82-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Sherman, 10/5)

Los Angeles Times: Why Liberals Fear New Supreme Court Term Could Hurt Abortion Rights And Unions
After legalizing same-sex marriage and upholding provisions of President Obama’s legacy healthcare program for a second time, the Supreme Court justices return to work Monday in a new term that will put liberals on the defense. If the five conservative justices prevail in the year ahead, they could deal a severe blow to labor unions, rein in abortion rights under Roe vs. Wade, restrict college affirmative-action programs and shift political power away from Democratic-controlled election districts by redefining who gets counted as an eligible voter. (Savage, 10/5)

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Faces Politically Charged Election-Year Docket
The contraceptives-coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act is also making a return. The court already told the government last year, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, that the mandate impinged on the religious freedoms of some employers directed to carry it out. And, because the court long ago decided that states may impose some restrictions on abortion, the question in a coming case will be, how far may they go before it becomes an “undue burden” on a woman’s right? The court has provided little guidance on what that term means. (Barnes, 10/4)

Politico: 5 Cases To Watch As Supreme Court Term Begins
Litigation over state efforts to limit abortion by regulating clinics and doctors is making its way to the high court. And the justices are already facing a batch of petitions involving the rights of religious institutions to opt out of providing contraception under Obamacare. Both issues seem likely to land on this term's docket, although the justices haven’t formally taken up either. (Gerstein, 10/4)

USA Today: On High Court's Docket: Race, Labor, Politics -- And Abortion?
The Supreme Court embarks on a new term Monday that would make Yogi Berra proud: It truly is déjà vu all over again. The justices will rule on affirmative action for the third time in four years. They will rule on public employee union fees for the third time in five years. They will deliver verdicts on class-action lawsuits and death penalty appeals, as they do virtually every year. Before the term is out next June, they likely will consider the Affordable Care Act's so-called "contraceptive mandate" for the second time in three years and update what they meant a generation ago in ruling that states could not place an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions. (Wolf, 10/4)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. The Selection Of The Next House Speaker Has Become More Complicated

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, announced Sunday that he would challenge Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., outgoing Speaker John Boehner's hand-picked successor, to take over the top spot in the House. In other news from Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama has nominated Michael J. MIssal to be the Veterans Affairs inspector general -- a move long called for by members of Congress.

The Washington Post: Rep. Jason Chaffetz Launches Bid For House Speaker, Shaking Up GOP Leadership Race
The Republican chairman of a high-profile House committee on Sunday shook up the race to succeed outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner, launching a challenge to the heavy favorite, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The bid by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, comes amid unrest from conservatives driven by doubts that McCarthy (Calif.) will be any more inclined than Boehner to embrace the right flank of the House Republican Conference. ... [Chaffetz] is well versed in the hand-to-hand political combat of cable news and talk radio and has become the party’s face on a variety of issues, including Secret Service failures and government funding for Planned Parenthood. (DeBonis and Viebeck, 10/4)

The Associated Press: Obama Nominates Veteran Lawyer As VA Watchdog
President Barack Obama has nominated Michael J. Missal, a lawyer with extensive experience in the federal government and private sector, to serve as the next inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The nomination of a permanent inspector general for the VA has been long sought by members of Congress who say it will bring more accountability to an agency that has struggled to meet some veterans' health care needs and provide timely decisions on benefits. (Freking, 10/2)

Meanwhile, House Democrats are expressing their opposition of the creation of a select committee to investigate Planned Parenthood -

And more than 20 mental health organizations are urging Congress to repair the nation's broken mental health system -

USA Today: Groups Call On Congress To Reform Mental Health System
A day after a mass shooting in Oregon, 23 mental health groups are calling on Congress to pass legislation aimed at repairing the USA's broken mental health system. The groups delivered a letter to congressional leaders Thursday, just hours before the attack at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. left 10 people dead. The shooting was the latest in a series of mass killings perpetrated by unstable young men, many of whom were mentally ill. (Szabo, 10/2)

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