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KHN First Edition: October 15, 2015

KHN

First Edition

Thursday, October 15, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Don’t Just Renew Your Medicare Plan. Shopping Around Can Save Money.
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Susan Jaffe writes: "Ten years after a prescription drug benefit was added to Medicare, 39 million older or disabled Americans have coverage to help pay for their medicine, including most of the 17 million with private insurance policies known as Medicare Advantage, an alternative to traditional Medicare. The annual enrollment period for these private drug and Advantage plans for 2016 starts Thursday and runs through Dec. 7." (Jaffe, 10/15)

The New York Times: Check Your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, Then Check It Again
Thursday is the start of the annual open enrollment period for Medicare, the federal health plan for people over age 65. If you have traditional fee-for-service Medicare and you are satisfied with your coverage, you don’t need to change anything. But if you also buy a stand-alone prescription drug plan, or if you are enrolled in a private Medicare managed-care plan — known as a Medicare Advantage plan — health experts say you should review your policy and compare options, even if you are happy with your current coverage. (Carrns, 10/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare Rates Set to Soar
That is creating uncertainty for many seniors on Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient care such as doctor’s visits. About 30% of the roughly 52 million people enrolled in Part B could see a 52% rise in those premiums if Congress and the Obama administration don’t find a way to freeze or reduce the increase. Open enrollment for Medicare for 2016 starts Thursday, though Congress could subsequently act to prevent the rise. (Armour and Tergesen, 10/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Few Options For Seniors Facing A Jump In Medicare Premiums
Unless Congress or the Obama administration intervenes, nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries may see a 52% increase in 2016 premiums for Part B, which covers doctor visits and other types of outpatient care. There are steps some affected individuals may be able to take to sidestep the increase, but there can be significant trade-offs. (Tergesen, 10/14)

USA Today: Medicare Part B Premiums To Rise 52% For 7 Million Enrollees
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, 10/14)

The Wall Street Journal: Federal Audit Finds Faults In Kentucky Health Insurance Exchange
Kentucky sometimes failed to ensure that all consumers who signed up for insurance on the state’s health exchange were eligible for coverage, the latest federal audit found. The audit, released Thursday by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, found that some of the Kentucky exchange’s controls for confirming consumers’ eligibility weren’t effective. Earlier audits also identified deficiencies in the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov, as well as state-run exchanges in California, Connecticut and New York. (Armour, 10/15)

The Associated Press: Employers Offer Cash To Push Shopping Around For Health Care
Paula Bennett pockets about $3,000 a year from her employer mainly for driving around 80 miles roundtrip for a deal on doses of her Crohn's disease treatment Remicade. The extra income comes through SmartShopper, a program offered by some employers to provide cash to workers who choose quality health care options with lower prices. (10/14)

The New York Times: Devotion To Fiscal Policy May Keep Ryan From Taking House Speaker’s Job
Each one could be called the Ryan Plan, for short, or the Ryan Budget: a single-minded — Democrats would say absurdist — quest by Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to drastically cut federal spending and taxes, transform Medicare essentially into a voucher program, partly privatize Social Security. ... Those sweeping budget proposals, the product of a young, heavy-metal-loving policy wonk’s obsession with transforming American fiscal policy, catapulted Mr. Ryan to prominence within the Republican Party. ... Republicans, on the other hand, passionately embraced them, and Mr. Ryan came to be seen as one of his party’s most influential thinkers on fiscal issues. His budget proposals showcase the thinking and philosophy of a lawmaker who many Republicans believe is now their best choice for speaker of the House... But Mr. Ryan’s personal dedication to fiscal issues could mean he might prefer to remain in the powerful, more policy-oriented post of chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee (Herszenhorn, 10/14)

Politico: CBO: Debt Limit Must Be Raised In Next 30 Days
Lawmakers must raise the debt limit in the next 30 days, the Congressional Budget Office warned Wednesday. The nonpartisan agency said the Treasury Department will run out of the accounting maneuvers as well as the cash reserve it's used to stave off default "sometime during the first half of November." (Faler, 10/14)

The Associated Press: GOP Lawmaker Obtains Planned Parenthood Videos
Anti-abortion activists have given Congress lengthy, unedited videos they recorded showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing their retrieval of fetal tissue, a Republican House committee chairman said Wednesday. Democrats complained that the recordings seemed to be copies and not originals. That could mean they wouldn’t help resolve conflicting claims about whether the videos — including shorter versions that abortion foes began posting online this summer — were misleadingly edited. (Fram, 10/14)

The Washington Post: Meet The Millennial Who Infiltrated The Guarded World Of Abortion Providers
Daleiden, 26, is the anti­abortion activist who masterminded the recent undercover campaign aimed at proving that Planned Parenthood illegally sells what he calls aborted “baby body parts.” He captured intimate details of the famously guarded organization, hobnobbing at conferences so secretive that they require background checks and talking his way into a back laboratory at a Colorado clinic where he picked through the remains of aborted fetuses and displayed them luridly for the camera. (Somashekhar, 10/14)

Los Angeles Times: Hillary Clinton Just Backed Healthcare For Immigrants In The U.S. Illegally
Over the last year, California politicians have been blazing a trail many doubted the rest of the country would follow: offering free healthcare to hundreds of thousands of people in the country illegally. But on Tuesday, presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton took a stance on the contentious issue during a televised Democratic debate, boosting it onto a prominent national stage. (Karlamangla, 10/14)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Democratic Debate Spotlights Health Care For Illegal Immigrants
The Democratic debate made clear that the two leading candidates for the party’s presidential nomination both would allow illegal immigrants to buy coverage on government websites, but not much more. That’s about the same as the status quo. The 2010 health-care overhaul — supported by all the candidates on the stage Tuesday night — requires people to prove legal residency to shop for coverage on HealthCare.gov or obtain tax credits to help pay premiums. They also can’t enroll in Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor that also locks out many legal immigrants. The Obama administration extended those rules to children granted immigration enforcement reprieves under a 2012 executive action, and has said it would do the same for adults. (Radnofsky, 10/14)

Los Angeles Times: Democratic Candidates Court Culinary Union, The Kingmaker Of Nevada
The quest for union support already appears to have had an impact on the candidates’ positions on at least one issue. Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley have all called for repeal of the “Cadillac tax” in the Affordable Care Act, a 40% levy on certain generous employer-sponsored health coverage plans, which is set to take effect in 2018. Getting rid of that tax is a prime issue for the Culinary Union and other labor organizations that have negotiated substantial benefit plans for their members. (Lee, 10/15)

The Washington Post's The Fix: Abortion And Planned Parenthood Were Absent From Tuesday’s Debate. Paid Leave Was Not.
Let's acknowledge this off the top. A certain set of videos, congressional hearings, efforts to defund a large organization and a big announcement from that same agency that it would change the terms of its fetal tissue program have occupied a lot of time and attention over the last few months. But Tuesday night, it seemed as if the words "abortion" and "Planned Parenthood" almost went missing from the first Democratic debate. (Ross, 10/14)

The Wall Street Journal's MoneyBeat: Biotechs Bounce After Receiving Little Focus In The Democratic Debate
No news is good news for biotechs. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index is getting reprieve Wednesday, up 1.9% midday versus the S&P 500’s 0.1% decline, after the recently contentious topic of drug pricing received little attention in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential candidate debate. ... Despite Mrs. Clinton being vocal about her disdain for drug costs lately, the topic only briefly came up during Tuesday’s debate when candidates were asked which enemy they are most proud of. Mrs. Clinton named drug companies in a list that also included health insurance companies, Iranians, Republicans and the National Rifle Association. (Scholer, 10/14)

The New York Times: Valeant Under Investigation For Its Drug Pricing Practices
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, which has come under fire for aggressively increasing the prices of its drugs, said late Wednesday that it had received two federal subpoenas related to its pricing, distribution and patient support practices. The subpoenas were issued by the United States attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Massachusetts. (Pollack, 10/14)

The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth Revenue Surges, But Bottom Line Flat
UnitedHealth Group Inc. said revenue soared 27% in its third quarter, as the company continues to benefit from momentum in its health-services business. UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, is also being helped by increased membership in its insurance operations, and its recent deal to buy pharmacy-benefit manager Catamaran Corp. (Dulaney, 10/15)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Has Struggled With Blood Tests
On Theranos Inc.’s website, company founder Elizabeth Holmes holds up a tiny vial to show how the startup’s “breakthrough advancements have made it possible to quickly process the full range of laboratory tests from a few drops of blood.” The company offers more than 240 tests, ranging from cholesterol to cancer. It claims its technology can work with just a finger prick. Investors have poured more than $400 million into Theranos, valuing it at $9 billion and her majority stake at more than half that. ... But Theranos has struggled behind the scenes to turn the excitement over its technology into reality. (Carreyrou, 10/15)

The Associated Press: Utah To Argue It Has Right To Block Planned Parenthood Money
State attorneys will try to convince a judge on Thursday that Utah's decision to block federal money from going to Planned Parenthood is not unconstitutional and allowed under contracts with the organization. A judge ruled late last month that the money should temporarily keep flowing to Planned Parenthood, but that order expires Thursday and the organization wants to see it extended. (10/15)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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