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KHN First Edition: October 23, 2015


First Edition

Friday, October 23, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

The New York Times: Investigation Finds Errors In Coverage And Payments Under Affordable Care Act
Federal investigators from the Government Accountability Office said Thursday that they had discovered many errors in eligibility decisions under the Affordable Care Act that had led the government to pay for duplicate coverage for some people and an excessive share of costs for others. The investigators said some people were receiving subsidies for private insurance at the same time they were enrolled in Medicaid. (Pear, 10/22)

The Associated Press: Premiums Expected To Rise In Many Health Law Markets
Premiums are expected to rise in many parts of the country as a new sign-up season under President Barack Obama's health care law starts Nov. 1. But consumers have options if they're willing to shop, and an upgraded government website will help them compare. Online health insurance markets are entering their third year, offering people who don't have access to job-based coverage a taxpayer-subsidized private alternative. That's helped cut the share of Americans who are uninsured to about 9 percent, a historical low. Still, the many moving parts of the Affordable Care Act don't always click smoothly, and Americans remain divided about "Obamacare." (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/22)

The Associated Press: California Eyes People Eligible For Health Care Subsidies
Heading into a third enrollment season with less fanfare and a more modest budget, California health exchange officials said Thursday they will strategically target about 750,000 uninsured people who qualify for health insurance subsidies but haven't signed up for coverage. The agency will spend $29 million on an advertising campaign aimed at lower-income and middle-class residents who don't know there's help available to pay for health insurance, Covered California Executive Director Lee said. That compares to a $43 million advertising budget last year and $55 million the first year. (Lin, 10/22)

The Associated Press: Ninth Cooperative Formed Under Affordable Care Act Closing
A South Carolina health insurer has become the ninth insurance cooperative formed nationwide under the Affordable Care Act to fold. Consumers' Choice Health Insurance Co. said Thursday that it will not sell policies in 2016, a decision that will leave 67,000 individuals and business customers looking for new coverage. (Murphy and Smith, 10/22)

The Washington Post: Paul Ryan Officially Jumps Into The Race For Speaker
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) officially announced his bid for House speaker Thursday, yielding to pleas from across the Republican party that he step in and lead in a time of crisis. ... House Republicans continued to coalesce behind Thursday as two influential GOP blocs threw him their support. (Costa and Debonis, 10/22)

Los Angeles Times: As Paul Ryan Makes His Bid For Speaker Official, He Faces A Risky Road Ahead
Risks loom large for the boyish Wisconsin congressman, who until recently had enjoyed a lengthy run as a popular GOP figure, but who nevertheless failed to secure all the conditions he demanded as trade-offs for taking the leadership job. Instead, Ryan now appears willing to settle for less than full-throated support from the conservative base as he tries to steer the GOP away from dysfunction and redefine the speaker's office -- a potential career-killer for someone with presidential aspirations -- on his terms. ...Ryan has always done well as the party's deep thinker, the architect of the steep austerity cuts to Medicare and other safety net programs in the GOP budget. (Mascaro, 10/22)

The Washington Post: The Race To Replace Ryan At Ways And Means Has Begun
The race to replace Paul Ryan as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee is on and it is shaping up to be a two-man battle between Republican Reps. Kevin Brady and Pat Tiberi. ... Brady, who chairs the panel’s health subcommittee, is a conservative who is viewed as an effective member of the committee and takes policy issues seriously. ... Tiberi, who chairs the trade subcommittee, is an Ohio moderate with close ties to outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the business community, which has helped him with fundraising. ... The next chairman will have to work closely with Ryan, who has made overhauling the tax code and entitlement programs the cornerstone of his career. (Snell, 10/22)

Politico: House Republicans Scramble For Debt Ceiling Plan
Congress has a debt-ceiling problem again. A big one. House GOP leaders initially planned to vote on a red-meat proposal Friday pitched by the Republican Study Committee to increase the debt ceiling while imposing new limits on executive-branch power. That measure stood no chance of passing the Senate, but would at least show effort. ... Boehner is still trying to hammer out a broader budget deal with the White House that would boost defense and infrastructure spending while making offsetting cuts in entitlement programs. But Obama is playing a strong hand and has refused to make any major concessions. (Bresnahan and Sherman, 10/22)

The Washington Post: Puerto Rico Rescue Plan Raises Eyebrows At Senate Hearing
Weiss outlined a series of actions that the administration wanted Congress to consider to help Puerto Rico, which has been suffering through a decade-long recession and is buried under $73 billion in debt. He said lawmakers should create a new class of bankruptcy only available to U.S. territories that would allow Puerto Rico to restructure all of its debt. The plan would also broaden the availability of federal tax breaks for island residents, including the earned-income tax credit, widen access to Medicaid and create a mechanism for congressional oversight of the island’s troubled finances. (Fletcher, 10/23)

Politico: Dr. Ben Carson's Prescription: Abolish Medicare
Carson, who now leads the GOP field in Iowa according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll, would eliminate the program that provides health care to 49 million senior citizens, as well as Medicaid, and replace it with a system of cradle-to-grave savings accounts which would be funded with $2,000 a year in government contributions. While rivals have been pummeled for proposing less radical changes, Carson hasn't faced the same scrutiny -- and his continued traction in polls has left GOP strategists and conservative health care wonks scratching their heads. (Cheney and Millman, 10/22)

The Washington Post: After Patient Deaths, FDA Warns About Liver Damage Risk Of Hepatitis C Medications
Federal regulators on Thursday warned that two hepatitis C medications from drug maker AbbVie can cause "serious liver injury" in patients with advanced forms of the disease. The Food and Drug Administration said it had received numerous reports of patients who either died or had to undergo liver transplantation after receiving the treatments, known as Viekira Pak and Technivie. (Dennis, 10/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant To Hold Conference Call On Monday To Address Critical Report
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. said it plans to hold a conference call at 8 a.m. EDT on Monday to address recent criticism of its business practices that has sent its stock price tumbling this week. Valeant said it would “lay out the facts” regarding allegations brought by short-seller Citron Research in a note on Wednesday. The report fanned concerns about Valeant’s accounting, raising questions about its use of certain pharmacies to supply its drugs and its accounting for the dispensing. (Dulaney, 10/22)

The Wall Street Journal: Quest Diagnostics Forecasts Soft Revenue For Year
Quest Diagnostics Inc. on Thursday said it expects revenue for the year to come in at the low end of its guidance, as the laboratory-testing company reported flat revenue in its diagnostic-information business in the third quarter. Quest narrowed its earnings guidance to a range of $4.75 to $4.80 a share, from its prior guidance of $4.70 to $4.85 a share. The company said it expects revenue to come in at the low end of its forecast of $7.49 billion and $7.57 billion. (Dulaney, 10/22)

The Associated Press: Hospital Shares Sink As Community Predicts 3Q Earnings Miss
Hospital stocks tanked Thursday after another big chain warned Wall Street that it won't meet third-quarter earnings expectations. Community Health Systems said Wednesday after markets closed that patient admissions fell about 2 percent at its established locations in the quarter, and it saw a decrease in the percentage of people covered by commercial insurance, which offers the best reimbursement. The Franklin, Tennessee, chain expects adjusted earnings for the quarter that ends Sept. 30 to be 56 cents per share. (10/22)

NPR: How Generic Drugs Can Cost Small Pharmacies Big Bucks
Pharmacist Narender Dhallan winces as he looks at a computer screen in his drugstore on a recent morning. For the second time in two hours, he has to decide whether to fill a prescription and lose money or send his customer away. This time it's for a generic antifungal cream that cost him $180 wholesale. The customer's insurance, however, will pay Dhallan only $60 to fill it. (Kodjak, 10/22)

The Associated Press: Texas Serves Subpoenas At Planned Parenthood Clinics
Health investigators served subpoenas seeking hundreds of pages of patient and staff records at Planned Parenthood clinics across Texas on Thursday, as officials move to halt Medicaid funding to the organization that has been repeatedly targeted by the state's top conservatives. Planned Parenthood said investigators visited clinics in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, and a health center that does not provide abortions in Brownsville, on the Mexico border. They asked for patient health records and billing documents dating back to 2010, as well as personnel files that included the home addresses of staff members, Planned Parenthood said. (Weissert, 10/22)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Texas Health Officials Demand Hundreds Of Documents From Planned Parenthood
Texas health investigators on Thursday served orders for hundreds of documents at Planned Parenthood offices across the state, including patient records and employee addresses. The move came three days after the state announced plans to pull public funding from the organization, energizing the national debate over the nonprofit’s fetal tissue donation program. (Paquette and Somashekhar, 10/22)

The Washington Post: David Vitter, Once The Favorite, Has A Fight On His Hands In La. Governor’s Race
Meanwhile, Edwards, the small-town son of a rural sheriff, touts his background as a West Point cadet and an Army Ranger who likes to hunt and opposes abortion — all part of a strategy to win back conservative whites lost to Republicans in recent years. He has also appealed to left-of-center Democrats by calling for an increase in the minimum wage, promising to approve an expansion of Medicaid in the state and highlighting his vociferous opposition to Jindal as the leader of the Democratic minority in the state House. (Bridges, 10/22)

The New York Times: David Vitter Is Everyone’s Target In Louisiana Governor’s Race
In broad strokes, it is hard to differentiate the three Republicans and one Democrat running in Saturday’s multiparty primary for governor in Louisiana. All of them are anti-abortion, pro-gun and against same-sex marriage; all express support for some version of Medicaid expansion in the state; and all are critical, if not outright disdainful, of the fiscal record of the current governor, Bobby Jindal. (Robertson, 10/22)

The Washington Post: Care Of Disabled Citizens In Virginia Will Be Scrutinized In Court On Friday
The Justice Department is trying to increase the pressure on Virginia to comply with a 2012 court settlement mandating major changes to how the state cares for the severely disabled. At a court hearing scheduled for Friday in Richmond, federal lawyers will seek hard deadlines for Virginia to fund more Medicaid vouchers that pay for care outside of institutional settings; boost construction of privately run group homes; and revamp what critics call an ineffective system of care for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. (Olivo, 10/22)

NPR: New Jersey Governor Facing Lawsuit From Nurse Quarantined During Ebola Scare
Nearly one year after Kaci Hickox was quarantined in New Jersey upon her return from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, she is suing Gov. Chris Christie and state health department officials. She says they unlawfully detained her. Represented by the ACLU of New Jersey and two New York law firms, Hickox claims that she was held against her will for three days, even after she tested negative for Ebola. (Wagner, 10/22)

The Washington Post: Kaci Hickox, Rebel Ebola Nurse Loathed By Conservatives, Sues Chris Christie Over Quarantine
Hickox was convinced that MSF’s detailed infection control policies — which included hand-washing with chlorinated water, wearing protective gear and adhering to a “no-touch” policy — had protected her. Yet, after she arrived at Newark Airport, she was quarantined against her will as a governor with presidential aspirations — current Republican contender Chris Christie — said those returning from Ebola-stricken nations couldn’t be trusted to monitor themselves for symptoms, and developed screening procedures with the possibility of mandatory isolation. (Moyer, 10/23)

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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