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KHN First Edition: October 22, 2015


First Edition

Thursday, October 22, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

The Associated Press: Crunch Time At Small Businesses As Health Care Demands Loom
It's crunch time for thousands of small business owners who must comply with requirements of the health care law for the first time. Companies with 50 to 99 full-time employees must offer affordable insurance to employees and their dependents starting Jan. 1. They must also file tax forms with the government by Jan. 31 detailing the cost of their coverage and the names and Social Security numbers of employees and their dependents. While companies of all sizes are subject to the law must file the forms, smaller businesses without big staffs to handle the paperwork may have to hire someone to do it — at a cost of hundreds or thousands of dollars. (10/21)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: What Paul Ryan Believes In
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday he would run for speaker of the House--under certain conditions. The job could yield many headaches, but he'll at least have the last laugh over Newt Gingrich, the former speaker who has criticized Ryan's proposals to overhaul Medicare. ... Throughout his 16 years in Congress, he has advocated steadily for profound changes in the way Americans receive help from the government. He has sought to introduce market forces into federal programs, give state authorities more say over how those programs are administered, and force recipients of welfare to submit to careful monitoring by state-appointed caseworkers. (Ehrenfreund, 10/21)

Politico: Paul Ryan Prizes Family Time, Opposes Family Leave
One of Paul Ryan’s conditions for becoming speaker is that he be able to spend time with his family. But when it comes to federal policies on family leave, Ryan has opposed virtually every measure proposed over the past several years. In 2009, for instance, Ryan voted against the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, which would have allowed federal employees to substitute up to four weeks of available paid leave to take parental leave. The bill passed a then-Democratic House with 24 Republican votes, but the legislation never made it to the Senate floor. (Levine, 10/21)

Los Angeles Times: House GOP Floats Debt Limit Alternatives As Deadline Looms
Meanwhile, House GOP leaders are considering scheduling a Friday vote on a debt limit bill produced by the conservative Republican Study Committee. It would establish procedures designed to force the House to vote on $3.8 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade, to add teeth to the non-binding budget Republicans adopted this spring. It would also mandate a vote on a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget and would impose a ban on new regulations. ... The White House has made it clear that any increase in the so-called debt limit must be "clean" of other policies that would make it appear that Obama is negotiating away concessions in exchange for the must-pass legislation. In 2011, before his re-election, Obama gave $2.1 trillion in spending cuts in exchange for a comparable increase in the debt cap.(Taylor, 10/21)

Politico: Tiberi Vs. Brady Race Likely For Ways And Means Chair
Rep. Pat Tiberi is planning to run for the top slot on the House Ways and Means Committee if Rep. Paul Ryan becomes the next speaker. The Ohio Republican's move could tee up a major battle for the powerful tax-writing gavel. Texas Rep. Kevin Brady is also expected to make another run for the position. (Palmer and Sherman, 10/21)

The Associated Press: Biden Takeaways: Clinton Gets A Boost From VP's Decision
Without Biden in the race, Clinton can more easily present herself as the heir to Obama's legacy and the candidate in the best position to preserve the president's health care law and pursuit of immigration reform. His decision also likely solidifies Clinton's position with the diverse coalition of black, Hispanic, female and gay voters who fueled Obama's winning campaigns. (10/21)

The Associated Press: Clinton Questions Plans For Health Insurers To Merge
Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Wednesday that two major health insurers preparing multibillion dollar acquisitions could tip "the balance of power" too far away from consumers. The Democratic presidential candidate said in a statement she had "serious concerns" with the proposed acquisition of Cigna by Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer Anthem, and plans by Aetna to acquire Medicare Advantage coverage provider Humana. (10/21)

USA Today: Hillary Clinton Takes Aim At Aetna-Humana Merger
In her statement, Clinton said the companies should "commit to passing on savings and efficiencies to consumers as lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs.’’ Her comments are part of a broader health care agenda focused on the need to lower prescription drug and other out-of-pocket health care costs. As she attempts to strengthen her position in the Democratic presidential field, Clinton is appealing to her party’s progressive base that has made reining in corporate excess, particularly on Wall Street, a top priority. (Przybyla, 10/21)

The Associated Press: Obama Says US Will Tackle Prescription Drug Abuse
On stage at a crowded community center, Obama heard from advocates, health care workers, law enforcement officials and policy makers about the depth of a problem that has long simmered at the state level but just recently risen to the national political stage. ... est Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the U.S. — more than twice the national average, according to a report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (Hennessey, 10/21)

The New York Times: Obama Strikes Personal Note As He Urges Help For Addiction
President Obama came on Wednesday to a hotbed of one of the deadliest epidemics in American history and, as he had at a prison in Oklahoma in July, saw a life he might have led in the stories of drug addicts and their parents. “I did stuff, and I’ve been very honest about it,” he said, referring to his admissions of illegal drug use in his youth. “So when I think about it, there but for the grace of God.” (Harris, 10/21)

USA Today: Obama: Everyone Has To Help Fight Drug Abuse
Obama outlined a plan that includes better training for doctors and other health care professionals to handle drug abusers and easier access for treatment. The administration is also launching a media advertising campaign designed to make people aware of the dangers of heroin and abuse of prescription drugs. (Jackson, 10/21)

The Washington Post: Obama Announces New Steps To Combat Heroin, Prescription Drug Abuse
Faced with a nationwide epidemic of heroin and prescription drug abuse, the Obama administration announced Wednesday that it will take steps to increase access to drug treatment and expand the training of doctors who prescribe opiate painkillers. The efforts, which President Obama unveiled at a forum here, are likely to have a modest effect on the steep increase in heroin and prescription drug overdoses, which now kill more people than car accidents each year, and the barriers to treatment that many addicts face. (Mufson and Zezima, 10/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos CEO: Company Is In A ‘Pause Period’
Theranos Inc. founder and Chief Executive Elizabeth Holmes said Wednesday that the Silicon Valley laboratory company is in a “pause period” as it seeks to get its proprietary technology approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “We have to move, as a company, from the lab framework and quality systems to the FDA framework and quality systems,” Ms. Holmes said, speaking at the WSJD Live global technology conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. (Carreyrou, 10/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Rebuts Critical Report That Pummels Stock
In a chaotic day of trading, once-highflying Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. defended itself Wednesday against some of the most severe criticism yet of its business practices, denying allegations of improper accounting from an investor who is betting against the company. The short-seller’s report knocked Valeant’s stock down 40%—wiping some $20 billion from its market value—before the stock made up some of the loss after analysts expressed support and shareholder William Ackman jumped in to buy more stock. (Rockoff and Farrell, 10/21)

USA Today: Valeant Shares Plunge On Negative Research Report
The stock at one point plunged below $90 per share, a more than 30% intra-day drop. The sell-off followed allegations in the report by short-seller Citron Research that Valeant might have created "phantom accounts" as part of a purported "fraud to create invoices to deceive the auditors and book revenue." ... Valeant issued a response that attempted to rebut the Citron Research report by calling it "false and misleading." The company said the allegations "appear to be an attempt to manipulate the market in an effort to drive down Valeant’s stock price." The high-stakes financial debate focuses on the Valeant's links to Pennsylvania-based pharmacy Philidor RX Services. (McCoy, 10/21)

The Wall Street Journal: Community Health’s Preliminary Third-Quarter Results Miss Target
Hospital operator Community Health Systems Inc. reported preliminary third-quarter results well below analysts’ projections and cut its outlook for the year, citing a decline in admissions and a deterioration in payer mix. Typically, commercial payers, Medicare and Medicaid, which all combined account for a larger share of the company’s revenue in the latest period, negotiate for lower rate increases. (Armental, 10/21)

The Washington Post: Why It’s So Hard To Find A Mental Health Professional
The demand for mental health service is growing nationally, and comprehensive mental health legislation is gaining momentum in Congress for the first time in years. But both forces could run up against a counter-force: a shortage of psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and therapists in much of the country. More than half of U.S. counties have no mental health professionals and so "don't have any access whatsoever," according to Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. (Sun, 10/21)

The Wall Street Journal: White House Calls For Bigger U.S. Role In Puerto Rico Debt Crisis
The White House made its most forceful call for federal intervention in Puerto Rico’s debt crisis on Wednesday, outlining legislation to restructure more of the $72 billion in debt issued by the commonwealth. ... The plan further recommends an overhaul of the island’s Medicaid program and access to the earned-income tax credit, a popular tax break designed to boost workforce participation among the poor, for Puerto Rico. (Kuriloff and Timiraos, 10/21)

The Washington Post: Obama Backs Special Bankruptcy Protection For Puerto Rico
In addition to urging Congress to offer Puerto Rico the new type of bankruptcy protection, the administration is also recommending that Congress broaden access to the island’s Medicaid program, a move that would pump money into its teetering health-care system. It also wants the island workers to have access to a broader array of federal tax credits, including the earned-income tax credit, in an effort to pump up its dismal 40 percent labor force participation rate. (Fletcher, 10/21)

Los Angeles Times: Shigella Outbreak Spreads As More San Jose Restaurant Customers Get Sick
Public health officials are now estimating the number of people who contracted a bacterial infection after eating at a San Jose seafood restaurant exceeds 90, a dozen of whom wound up in intensive care. At least 93 patients suffered fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea after eating at Mariscos San Juan Restaurant No. 3 in the 200 block of North 4th Street over the weekend, according to the Santa Clara Department of Public Health. Many patients required hospitalization, and 12 needed intensive-care treatment. (Rocha, 10/21)

Reuters: Ohio: Senate Votes To End Funds For Planned Parenthood
State senators advanced a bill on Wednesday that would eliminate state and federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics. Ohio is among a string of states to consider cuts in response to undercover videos about the group’s handling of fetal tissue. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 23 to 10 on party lines to advance the measure, which would strip funding from Planned Parenthood clinics in the state and any organization referring patients to them. (10/21)

NPR: What To Do With California's Mentally Ill Defendants?
Mentally ill defendants like Bock, who are declared incompetent to stand trial, are supposed to be transferred to state mental hospitals for treatment within two or three months. But more than 300 of them throughout California are languishing in county jails because there's simply no bed space. (Shafer, 10/21)

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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