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KHN First Edition: October 26, 2015


First Edition

Monday, October 26, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: In L.A., Community Health Workers Are Part Of The Medical Team
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "Health officials across the country face a vexing quandary – how do you help the sickest and neediest patients get healthier and prevent their costly visits to emergency rooms? Los Angeles County is testing whether community health workers like Lopez may be one part of the answer. Lopez is among 25 workers employed by the county to do everything possible to remove obstacles standing in the way of patients’ health. That may mean coaching them about their diseases, ensuring they take their medications or scheduling medical appointments. Their help can extend beyond the clinic walls, too, to such things as finding housing or getting food stamps." (Gorman, 10/26)

Kaiser Health News: Fewer Black Men Apply To Medical School Than In 1978
KERA's Laura Silverman, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "hile more black men than before have graduated from college over the past few decades, the number applying to med school has dropped: From 1,410 in 1978 to 1,337 in 2014. Enrollment statistics are similar: 542 black male students enrolled in 1978, compared to 515 in med school in 2014. That’s according to a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Every other minority group — including Asians and Hispanics — saw growth in the number of applicants. And black women also saw an uptick in applications." (Silverman, 10/26)

The New York Times: Health Law’s Revamped Site,, To Debut On Sunday
Starting on Sunday, health care consumers shopping on the Affordable Care Act’s federal website,, can see the cost and benefits of insurance plans for 2016, the Obama administration said Friday. But they will have to wait a little longer for new features that will allow them to search for plans that cover specific doctors and prescription drugs, administration officials said. (Pear, 10/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Insurance Exchange Website To Receive Overhaul
Consumers will see a raft of improvements to the federal website for obtaining health insurance, government officials said Friday, though they cautioned that some enhancements are unlikely to be ready in time for the start of open enrollment next month. Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act begins Nov. 1 in the 38 states that use the website, It also launches in most of the states that run their own sign-up sites. (Armour, 10/23)

USA Today: Federal Health Insurance Site Opens Sunday For Window Shopping
Open enrollment will run from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31. Those who don't have health insurance in 2016 - and aren't eligible for a hardship exemption - will face a penalty of $695 per person on their taxes for the year. Many consumers have purchased plans based on their low premiums only to find their doctors or drugs weren't covered and that high deductibles and cost-sharing made them far from ideal choices. About 10 million people have bought and paid for plans on the federal and state exchanges for 2015. (O'Donnell, 10/23)

The Washington Post: To Open On Nov. 1 With Upgrades And One Delay
One of his deputies, Kevin Counihan, was more circumspect. “Are we going to have bumps in this open enrollment? You bet,” Counihan said. “Are we going to fix the bumps? You bet.” This year, 38 states will rely on as the enrollment system for people to buy health plans under the ACA if they do not have access to affordable health benefits through a job. The online system will become available for consumers to browse their insurance options starting Sunday, a week before a three-month enrollment period begins. Open enrollment also begins Nov. 1 for consumers in the remaining states and the District, which have created their own ACA insurance marketplaces. (Goldstein, 10/23)

Politico: The Ben's Chili Bowl Recruiting Strategy For Obamacare
The renowned D.C. eatery will serve up health insurance along with its half-smokes late at night as part of the drive to sign up many of the remaining uninsured — particularly the so-called young invincibles amid signs that Obamacare enrollment is trending older and sicker. Recruiting younger, healthier people is a make-or-break issue as the health law’s third open enrollment season gets underway Nov. 1. While the administration is tempering expectations by projecting only modest sign-up growth, it is intent on recruiting healthier and therefore less-costly people in a bid to keep a lid on rising premiums and ensure the new insurance marketplaces thrive. (Cook and Pradhan, 10/24)

The New York Times: Thousands Who Didn’t File Tax Returns May Lose Health Care Subsidies
Tens of thousands of people with modest incomes are at risk of losing health insurance subsidies in January because they did not file income tax returns, federal officials and consumer advocates say. Under federal rules, anyone who receives an insurance subsidy must file a tax return to verify that the person was eligible and received the proper amount of financial assistance based on household income. (Pear, 10/25)

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare: 36% Of California's Uninsured Don't Know The Feds Can Help Pay Their Premiums
Survey data released Thursday show that 36% of uninsured Californians are unaware of the premium subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act. In contrast, only 16% didn't know about the tax penalty for lacking health coverage. About 90% of the 1.3 million Covered California enrollees receive subsidies, and more than 200,000 people pay less than $50 a month thanks to that financial assistance. (Terhune, 10/23)

The New York Times: Health Care Co-Op Closings Narrow Consumers’ Choices
The grim announcements keep coming, picking up pace in recent weeks. About a third, or eight, alternative health insurers created under President Obama’s health care law to spur competition that might have made coverage less expensive for consumers are shutting down. The three largest are among that number. Only 14 of the so-called cooperatives are still standing, some precariously. (Abelson and Goodnough, 10/25)

Politico: Collapse Of Kentucky Co-Op Could Be Wildcard In Governor's Race
The sudden collapse of nonprofit health plans supported by tens of millions of dollars in Obamacare loans is igniting a new political wildfire over the health law — and it’s playing out in a tight gubernatorial race in Kentucky. The recent demise of Kentucky Health Cooperative, a nonprofit startup seeded with federal loan dollars under the Affordable Care Act, is part of a bigger, national trend. More than a third of the 23 nonprofit health plans created under Obamacare with $2.4 billion in federal loan dollars have collapsed, and most experts predict more failures on the horizon. Late last week, South Carolina’s co-op became the ninth to fail, following similar crashes in Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska and New York. (Demko, 10/26)

Politico: Obamacare Repeal Hits Resistance From Conservatives
Senate Republicans’ carefully-laid plans to use a powerful fast-track tool to send an Obamacare repeal to President Barack Obama is running into fresh resistance, with new opposition from high-profile conservatives and bubbling concerns from moderates. For months, the GOP-led Congress has planned to use the procedural maneuver known as “reconciliation” to finally shepherd a major Obamacare repeal bill to the president’s desk. The fast-track process ensures Democrats in the Senate can’t filibuster the legislation and foil yet another attempt to gut the law. (Kim, 10/25)

The New York Times: House Republicans’ Budget Bill Deepens Rift As U.S. Debt Deadline Nears
House Republicans on Friday adopted a budget reconciliation package that would repeal core components of the Affordable Care Act and cut off government funding of Planned Parenthood. The move drew criticism from Democrats, who said the measure was wasting valuable time because it has no chance of becoming law and comes just days before the government will default on its debt unless Congress takes action. While the reconciliation package can be adopted in the Republican-controlled Senate with a simple majority — circumventing the usual procedural obstacles — it faces certain veto by President Obama. (Herszenhorn, 10/23)

Los Angeles Times: House Republicans Vote To Repeal Obamacare, Again
House Republicans pushed forward with another vote to roll back the Affordable Care Act on Friday, passing a bill that would repeal several major pillars of President Obama’s landmark 2010 law, including the requirement that Americans have health coverage. The legislation, the latest of more than 50 bills by congressional Republicans to repeal all or part of the health law, would also halt federal funding for Planned Parenthood. (Levey, 10/23)

USA Today: House Passes Bill To Dismantle Key Parts Of Obamacare
The budget reconciliation bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, even though it requires only a simple majority of 51 senators to pass it instead of the super-majority of 60 senators usually needed to approve major legislation. Three conservative Republicans — Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida — said they will oppose it because it does not repeal Obamacare outright. (Kelly, 10/23)

The Associated Press: New Health Overhaul Challenge Reaching Supreme Court
Opponents of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul are taking yet another challenge to the law to the Supreme Court, and say they will be back with more if this one fails.A new appeal being filed Monday by the Pacific Legal Foundation contends that the law violates the provision of the Constitution that requires tax-raising bills to originate in the House of Representatives. (Sherman, 10/25)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Mitt Romney Takes Credit For Obamacare, A Law He Vowed To Repeal
Stemberg, he told the Globe, encouraged him to implement health reform when he served as governor, telling Romney that giving people access to health care would be a way of doing good. It was an idea, the Globe reported, "which Romney said he hadn’t really considered before." "Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Romney told the Globe. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So without Tom, a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.” That seems like a contradictory position from a former presidential candidate who wrote a fundraising pitch in 2010 that started, "President Obama's healthcare bill is unhealthy for America." (Johnson, 10/23)

NPR: Mitt Romney Finally Takes Credit For Obamacare
It's a good thing for him that Mitt Romney isn't running for president again. The 2012 GOP presidential nominee — who has still been bandied about as a potential candidate — just embraced everything that made many conservatives skeptical of him. He admitted that the health care plan he instituted as governor of Massachusetts was the precursor to Obamacare. (Taylor, 10/23)

The New York Times: Calm Manner Has Ben Carson Rising In Polls
Donald J. Trump, who is rarely at a loss for words, admitted “I don’t know what’s going on” when confronted by Ben Carson’s surge past him in early-voting Iowa, where Mr. Trump had led the Republican presidential field for months. ... On Facebook, Mr. Carson answers nightly questions from his 4.3 million “friends,” covering personal topics (his ailing mother is “much better”), policies like a recent suggestion that he would end Medicare (he denied it) and the campaign (the debates are “just a boxing match”). (Gabriel, 10/25)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Ben Carson Would Reshape, Not Eliminate, Medicare And Medicaid
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Sunday suggested he would reshape Medicare and Medicaid but said he wouldn’t eliminate the government health programs entirely. The former neurosurgeon, speaking on the Sunday-morning political shows, struggled to answer specific questions about his plans for the programs. A campaign spokesman declined to provide details about Mr. Carson’s proposals and said the campaign hasn’t yet released a formal plan. (Kendall, 10/25)

The Washington Post: Ben Carson Likens Abortion To Slavery, Wants To See Roe V. Wade Overturned
Ben Carson argued Sunday that abortion should be outlawed in almost all cases, and he likened women who terminate their pregnancies to "slave owners." Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether a woman should have the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, Carson, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, acknowledged upfront that the choice of words would be controversial. (Williams, 10/25)

The Associated Press: Carson: Can A Man Of Great Surgical Skill Lead A Nation?
But the White House is a long way from the operating room, where the doctor with the technical skill unquestionably is the one in charge, not the best deal-maker or diplomat seeking consensus. Carson's lack of executive experience produces deep skepticism from critics in both parties. Yet he's among the leaders in the Republican presidential campaign. In a new Associated Press-GfK poll, Carson has the highest positive and lowest negative rating of any Republican sized up by registered GOP voters, with 65 percent giving him a favorable rating and just 13 percent rating him unfavorably. ... Pediatricians were dismayed when Carson questioned whether children get too many vaccines at once, even as he disputed any link with autism. And though he opposes abortion rights, Carson has defended co-authoring a 1992 study that used fetal tissue, telling CNN there's a difference between performing abortions and using tissue someone else already stored. (10/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant And Pharmacy More Intertwined Than Thought
Around the Phoenix-area offices of mail-order pharmacy Philidor Rx Services LLC, employees said they often ran into a friendly colleague named Bijal Patel who tracked prescriptions. But when the employees got an email from the colleague, they say he used a different name: Parker, the alter ego of Spider-Man. He was among a few workers at Philidor offices who went by one name in person and another in emails during the past two years, according to three former employees. Mr. Patel and the other people weren’t employed by Philidor, though the emails used a Philidor address, these people said. They were employees of drug company Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (Rockoff and Whalen, 10/25)

The New York Times: Texas Orders Health Clinics To Turn Over Patient Data
For example, Planned Parenthood South Texas was told to produce five years of records — whether electronic, paper or ultrasound — concerning any patients billed to Medicaid who had an abortion in which any part of the fetus was removed or preserved for research use. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast was to turn over a complete copy of certain patients’ records, including doctors’ orders, nursing notes and lab tests, as well as the center’s appointment books, patient sign-in sheets and contracts. “We’re concerned about the breadth and depth of what they’re asking for,” said Sarah Wheat, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. (Lewin, 10/23)

NPR: In Maryland, A Change In How Hospitals Are Paid Boosts Public Health
Think for a moment about what would happen if you upended the whole system of financial incentives for hospitals. What if you said goodbye to what's known as fee-for-service, where hospitals are paid for each procedure, each visit to the emergency room, each overnight stay? What if, instead, hospitals got a fixed pot of money for the whole year, no matter how many people came through the door? (Cornish, 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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