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KHN First Edition: October 27, 2015


First Edition

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

NPR: White House And GOP Congressional Leaders Reach Budget Deal
Just days before the election of a new speaker of the House, lame-duck Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made good on one last promise — that he'd try to "clear the barn" for his successor. In one fell swoop, two thorny issues were crossed off the to-do list: raising the debt ceiling by next Tuesday, and coming up with a budget agreement. ... The tentative agreement raises federal spending by $80 billion over the next two years, evenly splitting that increase between defense and domestic programs. Some of that is paid for by cuts to Medicare and Social Security disability benefits. Negotiators also agreed to lift the debt ceiling until March 2017. (Chang, 10/27)

The New York Times: Budget Deal Isn’t Boehner’s ‘Grand Bargain’ But Gets Job Done
It is no grand bargain, but it is a big deal. ... It would give a little breathing room for more spending on politically popular domestic programs like health care research, federal law enforcement and the Coast Guard, while defusing tension between Republican hawks itching for more military spending and budget hawks demanding strict adherence to statutory spending limits. And it would avert premium increases of as much as 50 percent for millions of older people on Medicare, a potent political force.(Hulse, 10/27)

Los Angeles Times: White House And Republican Leaders Reach Budget Deal
The deal is likely to face opposition from both right and left. The package also would raise the nation's borrowing limit and avert the risk of a credit default, which could come as early as Nov. 3. In addition, the deal is expected to block price increases on seniors who use Medicare Part B, halting forthcoming boosts in their premiums and deductibles. The package also would raise the nation's borrowing limit and avert the risk of a credit default, which could come as early as Nov. 3. In addition, the deal is expected to block price increases on seniors who use Medicare Part B, halting forthcoming boosts in their premiums and deductibles. (Mascaro, 10/26)

The Wall Street Journal: White House, Congressional Leaders Reach Tentative Budget Deal
For it to pass the House, the pact will need to quickly win backing from most Democrats and at least a few dozen Republicans who have frequently balked at spending and debt-ceiling bills they say don’t do enough to shrink the budget deficit. At the same time, the White House and GOP leaders will have to make sure the provisions used to pay for the deal don’t alienate liberal Democrats, who could oppose changes to safety-net programs. ... The agreement would also repeal a delayed provision of the 2010 health law requiring employers to automatically enroll workers in company plans. (son, Timiraos and Hughes, 10/27)

USA Today: Congress, White House Near Deal To Avert Budget Crisis
The agreement would also set a two-year budget plan that would raise the strict government-wide spending limits — $520 billion for defense programs, $493 billion for non-defense — put in place by the 2011 "sequester." The official said it would add $50 billion to those totals in the first year and $30 billion the year after, divided equally between defense and non-defense spending. (Singer, Jansen and Kelly, 10/26)

Politico: John Boehner's Parting Gift To Paul Ryan
If Boehner can shepherd the deal through the House in his final hours in Congress, and the Senate sends it to the White House, Ryan would start out as speaker with more running room than Boehner ever enjoyed. ... Yet it's the kind of agreement that is born of old-fashioned, actual compromise between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, sources involved in the talks say. If the package makes it to the House floor — which it could by Wednesday — both sides say it has something for everyone to like. Senate action would come afterward. (Sherman and Bresnahan, 10/26)

Politico: Conservatives Already Trashing New Budget Deal
To pay for the increased spending, congressional negotiators dug into a combination of health care savings and smaller revenue-raisers. But even though the boost in spending would be paid for — a key part of the GOP leaders’ sales pitch — some conservative lawmakers signaled they still wouldn't support the plan. ... Those pay-fors include a repeal of a piece of Obamacare, according to congressional sources. It would repeal Obamacare’s requirement that large employers automatically enroll employees in their health plans. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a different bill to repeal that provision would save the federal government $7.9 billion over a decade. (Kim, Everett and Haberkorn, 10/26)

The Washington Post: Congress, White House Reach Two-Year Budget Deal
The introduction sets up a vote as early as Wednesday on the bipartisan budget deal which would increase military and domestic spending and avert a potentially catastrophic default in exchange for long-term spending cuts. ... e timeline is tight for building support for the plan with the Treasury Department saying the debt ceiling will be hit by Nov. 3. ... he agreement includes about $80 billion in additional spending over two years, divided equally between defense and domestic programs. Those spending increases would be offset by savings from changes to the Social Security disability insurance fund and Medicare payments to doctors and other health care providers. (Snell, 10/27)

The Associated Press: AP-GfK Poll: Use Default, Shutdown Threats To Cut Spending
A divided public thinks it’s worth shutting the government or halting its ability to borrow to pay bills unless President Barack Obama consents to spending cuts, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found. ... Some specific goals of GOP lawmakers fare poorly when they are in the balance: There’s little taste for forcing a shutdown over halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood, repealing Obama’s health care overhaul or blocking a nuclear deal with Iran. The survey was conducted earlier this month as Obama and the GOP-controlled Congress crept toward a pair of deadlines that, without action, could trigger jolting political and economic reverberations. (Fram and Swanson, 10/27)

The New York Times: Revamped HealthCare.Gov Opens With New Tools For Gauging True Cost Of Insurance
Consumers on Monday began shopping online for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act on a newly remodeled version of that worked more or less as promised by the government. When a consumer searches for health plans on the federal website, the results are listed in order of price — the premium — from the cheapest to the most expensive. But consumers can also see plans ranked by deductible, or the amount they must pay up front before the insurance begins to pay. (Pear, 26)

The Associated Press: Health Insurance Prices Up 7.5 Percent For Benchmark Plans
The federal government says the cost of a benchmark plan on will increase 7.5 percent for 2016 coverage, but most people will still be able to buy a plan for less than $100 a month, after tax credits. ... Insurers in many states had underpriced their plans and are raising rates because of medical inflation and higher claims than expected. Insurers are trying to find the right prices in the new marketplace. (10/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Premiums For Health Insurance Bought On Exchanges To Climb In 2016
The Obama administration said many consumers will see noticeable premium increases when buying health coverage on insurance exchanges in 2016, acknowledging for the first time what many health-care experts had predicted. ... The higher premiums are likely to intensify Republican’s claims that the health law isn’t holding down costs. The Obama administration is urging customers to go back online during open enrollment, which begins Nov. 1, and shop around to see if they can limit the impact of the cost increases. (Armour, 10/26)

USA Today: Premiums Have Bigger Increase For 2016
About 70% of those who return to the federal insurance exchange when open enrollment starts Nov. 1 will pay less than $75 a month after they receive tax credits, a government analysis released Monday shows. ... The new report did not address the important issue of total out-of-pocket costs, which include deductibles, co-payments and other cost sharing. Many people who shop based on premium costs alone can be alarmed when they see how much they have to contribute to their health care on top of their monthly premiums. (O'Donnell, 10/26)

Politico: Obamacare Rates To Rise 7.5 Percent Next Year
But the average rate hikes will vary dramatically from state to state — skyrocketing more than 30 percent in Alaska, Montana and Oklahoma while dropping 12.6 percent in Indiana. ... Those benchmark plans, which are among the most popular sold on the law's health insurance exchanges, are important because they're used to calculate how much federal support low- and middle-income exchange customers will receive toward their monthly premiums. (Demko, 10/26)

The Washington Post: 2016 Affordable Care Act Insurance Rates Are Climbing
The analysis is based on hundreds of health plans sold in local markets within 37 states that use, the federal online insurance marketplace. It excludes plans in other states that have created separate ACA insurance marketplaces. The rates reflect the prices of the second-least expensive health plan in each market for 2016 in a tier of coverage known as silver. ACA health plans are divided into four tiers, all named for metals, depending on the amount of customers’ care that they cover. Silver plans have proven by far the most popular. Officials at HHS issued the analysis as less than a week remains before the start on Nov. 1 of a third open-enrollment season for Americans eligible to sign up for health plans under the insurance marketplaces created by the 2010 health-care law. (Goldstein, 10/26)

The New York Times: Valeant Forms Committee To Investigate Ties With Pharmacy
Embattled Valeant Pharmaceuticals International said on Monday that its accounting related to its relationship with a specialty pharmacy was legal and appropriate, but added that its board was nonetheless forming a special committee to investigate the relationship. Valeant, based in Laval, Quebec, disclosed for the first time last week that it had acquired an option to buy the specialty pharmacy, Philidor Rx Services, which dispenses some of Valeant’s dermatology drugs. (Pollack, 10/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Finds No Illegal Activity At Company
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. tried to reassure shareholders on Monday that its accounting and disclosures were sound. But not all investors were convinced, and the shares continued their slide. After a tumultuous week, which saw the stock plunge almost 35%, management convened a conference call with investors Monday morning, attempting to quell their anxiety. (Rapoport and Rockoff, 10/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Things To Know About Valeant Pharmaceuticals
A report issued Wednesday by short seller Andrew Left’s Citron Research accused Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. of creating fraudulent invoices through a network of pharmacies it controls. The report compared Valeant to Enron, the energy-trading firm that collapsed in a 2001 accounting scandal. Shares of Valeant have fallen sharply since. The company said Monday that it properly accounted for its much-debated relationships with specialty pharmacies and found “no evidence whatsoever” of any illegal activity at the company. (Rockoff, 10/26)

Reuters: From Pilot To Profit-Maker, Valeant's Pharmacy Rose Quickly
The pharmacy at the centre of suspicions over Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc's business practices began as a small pilot project two years ago and quickly grew to account for 7 percent of the drugmaker's revenue. Valeant disclosed on Monday details of its relationship with Pennsylvania-based Philidor Rx Services, defending the pharmacy against allegations of illegal activity while pledging to review the business carefully. (10/26)

The Wall Street Journal: Senators Seek FTC Probe Of Drug Makers Over Saline Shortage
Four U.S. senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether suppliers of saline solution have illegally inflated prices to exploit a chronic shortage of the hospital staple. The senators sent a letter Monday to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez stating that prices for saline have risen 200% to 300% since a shortage began in late 2013. The letter was signed by two Democrats— Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota-—and two Republicans from Utah— Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch. (Loftus, 10/26)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Jeb Bush’s Incorrect Claim About A Silly Obama Health-Care Promise
This statement by former Florida governor Jeb Bush is a particularly instructive example. It started with a misleading claim by then-Sen. Barack Obama, campaigning for the presidency in 2008. It then has morphed into a recurring GOP claim that has been repeatedly been proven false by The Fact Checker,, and PolitiFact. And yet here it is again. We’re not going to give up. Time for a refresher course! (Kessler, 10/27)

The Washington Post: End-Of-Life Care Vastly More Expensive For Dementia Patients Than For Others
Care in the last five years of life costs much more for patients with dementia than for those who die of heart disease, cancer, or other causes, a new study shows. In addition to costing more across the board, out-of-pocket spending for patients with dementia is 81 percent higher than for people with other diseases. according to the study, conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Dartmouth College and University of California, Los Angeles and funded by the National Institute on Aging. (Bahrampour, 10/26)

NPR: Task Force Urges Screening Of Overweight Adults For High Blood Sugar
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now says all overweight and obese Americans between 40 and 70 years old should get their blood sugar levels tested. The advisory group's previous recommendation, drafted in 2008, made no mention of weight, instead suggesting that doctors routinely test the blood sugar of patients who have high blood pressure, another risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. (Bichell, 10/26)

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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