Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'Money's No Object(ion)'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Money's No Object(ion)'" by Steve Kelley and Jeff Parker, from 'Dustin'.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Want a mammogram?
You had best be wary; as
The price can vary

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Capitol Hill Watch

3. House Republicans Set Up Special Panel To Investigate Planned Parenthood

The special committee will look into the reproductive health group following controversial videos that featured organization employees talking about fetal tissue use for research following abortions.

The Washington Post: Special House Committee Will Investigate Planned Parenthood, Abortion Issues
House Republicans voted Wednesday to create a special committee to investigate a wide range of practices related to abortions and fetal tissue procurement in the latest and perhaps most lasting consequence of an activist campaign targeting Planned Parenthood. The new 13-member select Energy and Commerce subcommittee would continue the work of three House panels that have investigated Planned Parenthood since July, when antiabortion activists first released undercover videos depicting some of the group’s executives discussing its handling of tissue harvested from aborted fetuses for research. (DeBonis, 10/7)

The Associated Press: House OKs Special Panel To Probe Planned Parenthood
The Republican-led House voted Wednesday to create a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood and its procurement of fetal tissue as the GOP continued pressing an issue that has galvanized conservatives since secret videos surfaced this summer. The near party-line vote was 242-184, as Democrats dismissed the probe as a wasteful political exercise by the GOP. It was unclear if Democrats would participate in the committee's work. (Fram, 10/7)

USA Today: House Creates Special Panel To Investigate Planned Parenthood
The House voted Wednesday to create a special panel to investigate the handling of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. ... There now will be at least two House investigations of Planned Parenthood going on at once — one by the new "select investigative panel" and a second by the Judiciary Committee. Republican leaders pushed for the latest investigation after they were unable to win passage last month of legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. (Kelly, 10/7)

The Hill: House Creates Panel To Investigate Planned Parenthood
The House voted Wednesday to create a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood and the handling of aborted fetal tissue, all but ensuring an already-fierce partisan battle will continue into 2016. In a nearly party-line vote, lawmakers voted 242 to 184 to establish a 13-member committee with broad power to investigate wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood amid allegations that it has tried to profit from the sale of aborted tissue. (Ferris, 10/7)

Meanwhile, in Louisiana -

New Orleans Times Picayune: Planned Parenthood Wants To Take Bobby Jindal's Administration Back To Federal Court
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast wants to go back to federal court in an attempt to block Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration from terminating the organization's Medicaid contract, which allows it to collect payment for treating thousands of patients in New Orleans. The Houston-based organization, which also operates a clinic in Baton Rouge, filed its second request for an injunction Wednesday (Oct. 7). The filing asks a judge to deny the Jindal administration's decision to terminate the contract rather than seek an administrative appeal. (Litten, 10/7)

The Associated Press: Planned Parenthood Challenges New Medicaid Removal Effort
Planned Parenthood is contesting the new approach Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has taken to remove it from Louisiana's Medicaid program. The organization amended a previously filed lawsuit in federal court Wednesday to keep the state Department of Health and Hospitals from ending its Medicaid provider agreements. (Deslatte, 10/7)

4. Lawmakers Grill Officials Over Plans For New Dietary Guidelines

The administration announces that it will not take food products' impact on the environment into account when setting the guidelines this year, but members of Congress continue to press about the policy.

The Washington Post: Congress Takes Aim At The Science Behind The Government’s Nutrition Advice
The quality of the evidence supporting the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the influential nutritional advice from the federal government, came under steady attack at a Congressional hearing Wednesday, with representatives complaining that the credibility of the national advice has been eroded by shifts in science. Salt? Saturated fat? Eggs? Meat? Opinions about each of these were aired as members of Congress directed their skepticism at the two cabinet secretaries who oversee the development of the nutritional guidelines, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. (Whoriskey, 10/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Environmental Impact Won’t Be Part Of Dietary Guidelines, Officials Say
Federal officials said they won’t consider food products’ impact on the environment as they prepare new U.S. dietary guidelines, rejecting a proposal by a government advisory panel. The decision by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell marks a victory for the U.S. meat industry, which pushed back against the February recommendation by a committee of nutrition experts recruited by the Obama administration. (Gee, 10/7)

The Associated Press: Lawmakers Question Effectiveness Of Dietary Guidelines
Lawmakers on Wednesday asked federal officials whether Americans should trust the government’s dietary guidelines, which inform everything from school lunches to advice from a doctor. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack defended the guidelines before the House Agriculture Committee, pointing out that the latest guidelines haven’t even been written yet. They are released every five years and the 2015 version is due by the end of this year. (Jalonick, 10/7)

The New York Times: Testimony On U.S. Nutrition Guidelines Reflects A Complex Debate
Amid a national conversation about high rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease, uncertainty over what to eat has unnerved many Americans trying to sift through marketing and dieting trends. The latest tussle over the next edition of the government’s nutrition guidelines may not help much. Federal officials and experts are drawing up the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, a series of recommendations updated every five years that will be released in December. ... A congressional committee veered on Wednesday from health to politics, highlighting worries that what ends up on American tables could be affected by special interest groups, environmental concerns and private sector bias as much as by science. (Hauser, 10/7)


5. Pelosi Says Boehner Is Stalling Efforts To Avert Medicare Premium Increase

The increase for next year could be as much as 50 percent for some beneficiaries. In other Medicare news, Sen. Sherrod Brown reintroduces a bill that would bar Medicare Advantage plans from dropping doctors from their networks during the plan year, and a pilot project designed to save money produces mixed results.

The Hill: House Dems Blame Boehner For Stalled Talks On Medicare Deal
Top Democrats are accusing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) of stalling a deal that would stave off massive increases in Medicare premiums for some beneficiaries next year. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday that she has been trying to work out a compromise with Boehner’s office to avoid Medicare cuts that would result in premium hikes as high as 50 percent. But with just two legislative days left until a critical deadline, Pelosi suggested that those talks have stalled. (Ferris, 10/7)

The Fiscal Times: Medicare Doesn't Cover Everything: Here’s How Much Retirees Are Paying For Health Care
It may come as a surprise to some younger Americans that health care isn’t exactly free for retirees on Medicare, but the sticker shock may be downright alarming. An average 65-year-old couple who retires this year will face out-of-pocket health-care costs of $245,000 in their golden years, a jump of 29 percent since 2005, according to a new study from Fidelity Investments. The surge in expected expenditures is due to longer life spans and the rising costs of prescriptions and medical care. (Picchi, 10/7)

USA Today: Medicare Part B Premiums To Rise 52% For 7 Million Enrollees
For seven in 10 Medicare beneficiaries 2016 will be much like 2015. They will pay $104.90 per month for their Medicare Part B premium just as they did in 2015. But 2016 might not be anything like 2015 for some 30% of Medicare beneficiaries — roughly 7 million or so Americans. That’s because premiums for individuals could increase a jaw-dropping 52% to $159.30 per month ($318.60 for married couples). And for individuals whose incomes exceed certain thresholds, premiums could rise to anywhere from $223.00 per month up to $509.80 (or $446 to $1,019.60 for married couples), depending on their incomes. (Powell, 10/7)

USA Today/Motley Fool: The Average American's Medicare Drug Plan Costs: Do You Pay Too Much?
Paying for health care is one of the biggest challenges that older Americans face, and that's why Medicare plays such an important role in the finances for those 65 and older. Yet Medicare can't insulate seniors from all of the increasing cost of healthcare, and those who need prescription drugs face the challenge of finding a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan that both meets their specific needs and is affordable. (Caplinger, 10/7)

Modern Healthcare: Legislation Would Bar Medicare Advantage Plans From Dropping Doctors Midyear
Veva Vesper sees her skin cancer surgeon, Dr. Brett Coldiron, at least twice a month to manage her delicate health condition. Coldiron was an in-network physician when Vesper enrolled in her UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan last year, but she says that changed, much to her surprise. Vesper said UnitedHealthcare dropped her physician from its network, which would have forced her to pay higher out-of-network rates for care. ... “I had great anxiety trying to find another physician,” said Vesper, an Ohio resident who appeared with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) Wednesday as he announced he would reintroduce a bill outlawing Medicare Advantage insurers from cutting doctors out of their networks without cause during the middle of the year. (Herman, 10/7)


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