Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'Played Out?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Played Out?'" by Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker, from 'Dustin'.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

TOUGH DECISION IN CALIFORNIA

Governor Brown signs
Right-to-die bill, reflecting
On what he would want.

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Campaign 2016

5. Clinton's Health Plan Takes On Issues Of Obamacare Affordability

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times looks at how a new phase in the health care debate could impact the 2016 elections while NPR reports on an algorithm that could help campaigns identify politically persuasive language, like "pre-existing" and "mandate," that strike a chord with voters.

The New York Times: Hillary Clinton’s Health Care Proposals, Focused On Cost, Go Well Beyond Obama’s
Hillary Rodham Clinton, as she offered up a sheaf of new health care proposals, said she was “building on the Affordable Care Act.” But lurking in those proposals was a veiled criticism of President Obama’s signature domestic achievement: For many families, the Affordable Care Act has not made health care affordable. Mr. Obama has spent five years minimizing cost issues still confronting many health care consumers. Mrs. Clinton is taking those on without apologies. She would go beyond the president’s 2010 law, capping a patient’s share of the bill for doctor visits and prescription drugs. She would repeal the law’s planned tax on high-cost employer-sponsored insurance — a tax the White House says is needed to constrain the growth of health spending. (Pear, 10/6)

Los Angeles Times: How The Debate Over Healthcare Is Changing - Just In Time For The 2016 Election
With the first primaries of the 2016 presidential campaign just months away, the national healthcare debate is poised to enter a new phase, more focused on consumers’ pocketbooks than on re-litigating the 5-year-old Affordable Care Act. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is campaigning on a detailed program to crack down on rising drug prices and runaway medical bills, is making a play for the hearts of voters increasingly irritated about what they have to pay for healthcare. In the process, Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has issued an implicit challenge to her Republican rivals, who continue to campaign with broadsides against Obamacare but few details about how they would address consumers’ basic healthcare worries. (Levey, 10/7)

NPR: Inside The Message Machine That Could Make Politicians More Persuasive
It sounds like a politician's dream: a machine that can tell you exactly what to say to change a voter's mind. Well, that's what a political scientist has come up with — at least, a first tentative step in that direction. Using text from a pro-Obamacare website and testing different combinations of sentences on volunteers, an algorithm created by Northeastern University assistant professor Nick Beauchamp was able to identify optimally persuasive terms that make people more inclined to support the landmark health care law. Sentences including words like "pre-existing," "condition," "coverage" tended to leave study volunteers feeling more positive about the law. "States," "federal" and "government" were among the topics that turned people off Obamacare. (Detrow, 10/6)

Meanwhile, in the New Hampshire Senate race -

The Associated Press: Hassan's Political Philosophy Shaped By Advocacy For Son
A dozen years before running for governor in New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan got her start in public service at the invitation of then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, the woman she now hopes to serve alongside in the U.S. Senate. A lawyer at the time, Hassan caught Shaheen's eye for her advocacy work on behalf of children with disabilities, including her son Ben. Now 27, Ben was born with cerebral palsy and cannot walk or speak. Hassan believed he and children like him should have the same access as any child to a good education — and she fought for it. ... Now in her second, two-year term, Hassan's aiming higher: On Monday, she announced she'll challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte in what is likely to be one of country's most expensive and closely watched contests as the two parties vie for control of the Senate. (Ronayne, 10/6)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. HHS Is Upgrading Healthcare.gov's Window Shopping Option For Insurance

The ability to quickly browse plans is popular with consumers and needed some repair, The Associated Press reports. At the same time, Politico Pro looks at Republican lawmakers' strategy on the Cadillac tax.

The Associated Press: Gov't Health Insurance Website Getting Upgrades
Consumers shopping on the government's health insurance website should find it easier this year to get basic questions answered about their doctors, medications and costs, according to an internal government document. A slide presentation dated Sept. 29 says HealthCare.gov's window-shopping feature is getting a major upgrade. Window shopping is a popular part of the website that allows consumers to browse for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance plans. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/7)

Politico Pro: Republicans Are In No Rush To Kill The Cadillac Tax
Seemingly everyone hates the Affordable Care Act's "Cadillac tax" on health benefits — which is precisely why efforts to repeal it are likely to go nowhere fast. Republicans say they won't simply let Democrats off the hook for creating what's proving to be a wildly unpopular tax. They want Democrats to give them something big in exchange for killing it, such as agreeing to scrap other parts of the health care law. (Faler, 10/6)

In other insurance news -

The Washington Post: Want To Get Your Partner’s Child Insured? Put A Ring On It, Federal Employees Told.
The Obama administration reversed a policy Monday that had allowed unmarried federal employees and retirees in same-sex domestic partnerships to obtain insurance coverage for children of their partners under certain conditions. The change, applying to the separate insurance programs for health care and for vision and dental care, is a fallout of the June U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring all states to allow and recognize same-sex marriage. It overturns a policy that itself was a result of a ruling by the high court two years earlier and could be a harbinger of other changes in eligibility for federal employee benefits. (Yoder, 10/6)

7. Reactions Mixed On Utah's Medicaid Expansion Plan At First Public Hearing

Meanwhile in Kansas, a local hospital renews debate over Medicaid expansion.

The Associated Press: Medicaid Plan Gets First Public Hearing But No Vote Yet
State lawmakers held the first public hearing Tuesday evening on a new plan to help thousands of Utah's poor get health insurance by expanding Medicaid. They didn't take any action on the plan, however, after hearing hours of testimony from doctors, advocates for the poor and more. The proposal would help poor residents get health insurance mostly through private insurance plans. Doctors, hospitals and others would help pay the state's cost through higher taxes and fees. (Price, 10/6)

Elsewhere, insurance marketplace and data privacy news comes from Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey -

The Connecticut Mirror: Auditors Question Access Health’s Information Security
State auditors have raised concerns about the ability of Connecticut’s health insurance exchange to ensure that information about its customers is secure. In a report released Tuesday, the auditors cited concerns raised by a security expert who reviewed the exchange following a 2014 security breach and suggested that the quasi-public agency should develop a system for responding to reported security deficiencies. (Levin Becker, 10/6)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: N.J. Health Insurer Defends Plan As Lawmakers Object
New Jersey's largest health insurer on Monday defended a new alliance it has struck with some of the state's hospital systems that's intended to lower costs for consumers, even as lawmakers questioned the criteria it used to choose its partners. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey last month announced it had formed the Omnia Health Alliance with six of the state's 20 hospital systems and a physicians group. The only South Jersey hospital system included in the alliance is Inspira. (Seidman, 10/6)

Marketplace

8. Key Pharmacy Benefits Manager Will Offer Two Expensive Cholesterol Drugs To Some Patients

Express Scripts says it will add both of the new cholesterol-lowering drugs to its list of covered drugs, but it will closely adhere to federal guidelines about who should get the medicines.

The Wall Street Journal: Express Scripts To Cover Both New Cholesterol Drugs
The first major showdown between two new effective but expensive cholesterol-lowering drugs resulted in a draw. Express Scripts Holding Co., the big pharmacy-benefits manager, said it would include both drugs—Praluent from Regeneron Inc. and Sanofi SA and Repatha from Amgen Inc., on its national list of covered medicines. ... Insurance coverage for the two agents, known as PCSK9 inhibitors, has been an unanswered question since the drugs were approved this summer. The list price for Praluent is about $14,600 a year while Repatha is priced at $14,000. (Winslow, 10/6)