Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Pearls Before Swine'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Pearls Before Swine'" by Nick Anderson.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

BOEHNER LEAVES HIS HOUSE IN ORDER

Boehner cleaned the barn
before he made his exit.
Angst still in the ranks?

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Capitol Hill Watch

4. House OKs Two-Year Budget Agreement; Senate Action Likely This Week

The agreement raises the federal government's debt ceiling and averts both Medicare premium increases for some beneficiaries and hits to Social Security disability benefits, among other things.

The New York Times: House Approves Budget, Providing ‘Clean’ Exit That John Boehner Sought
The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly adopted a crucial bipartisan budget accord that in one relatively tight 144-page bill stands to end five years of bitter clashes between Republicans and the Obama administration over fiscal policy .... It also will prevent a default on the federal debt that the Treasury Department had said would occur next week without congressional action, and called for cuts in Medicare payments to doctors and other health care providers as well as changes to a Social Security disability program that supporters of the measure said would save the government billions, while preserving the program for decades to come. (Herszenhorn, 10/28)

Los Angeles Times: House Approves Two-Year Budget Deal
The $80-billion bipartisan accord between congressional leaders and President Obama reverses steep spending cuts to defense and domestic programs, and staves off hits to Medicare and Social Security disability benefits. It also raises the federal government’s borrowing limit through March 2017, well after the presidential election. The bill passed 266 to 167. Every Democrat voted for the deal, as did 79 Republicans. Most GOP lawmakers voted no. The Senate is expected to approve the deal. (Mascaro, 10/28)

The Wall Street Journal: House Passes Two-Year Budget Deal
The agreement has drawn GOP opposition in both chambers and on the presidential campaign trail from conservatives upset that it raises spending by $80 billion through September 2017 and extends the government’s borrowing authority through mid-March 2017. ... The legislation also incorporates fixes to two federal safety-net programs lawmakers wanted to address well before next year’s elections. (son, 10/28)

Politico: House Passes Sweeping Budget Bill
Conservatives, on the other hand, loathe the deal. They’ve hammered leaders for negotiating the agreement in secret, without input form the rank and file, and many of them have strong, principled objections to raising the debt limit. (French, 10/28)

The Washington Post: House Passes Budget Deal, Senate Expected To Act This Week
The agreement would lift the so-called sequester spending caps to increase discretionary spending by about $80 billion over two years, an amount that would be split equally among defense and domestic programs. To offset this cost, negotiators tapped a number of sources, including by making changes to Medicare and Social Security, auctioning off spectrum controlled by the government, selling crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and tightening tax rules for business partnerships. (Snell, 10/28)

5. Paul Ryan Takes A Big Step Toward Becoming Speaker Of The House

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is officially nominated by House Republicans to take over the chamber's top job. A final vote is set for today.

Los Angeles Times: Paul Ryan Poised To Become House Speaker After Winning Internal GOP Vote
A final floor vote is set for Thursday, almost ensuring the Wisconsin congressman will replace retiring Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who called it quits rather than continue clashing with hard-right lawmakers. Behind closed doors, signs of GOP unrest remain. Ryan won 200 votes, well over a majority of the House GOP, but less than the 218 he will need in the upcoming floor vote. Still, even those who voted against him believe he will prevail Thursday. (Mascaro, 10/28)

The Washington Post: GOP Hopes Paul Ryan, Presumptive Speaker, Can Unite A Splintered Party
Among the party’s larger group of mainstream conservatives, there was widespread relief that weeks of uncertainty over who would succeed Boehner ended with Ryan agreeing to take the job. There was also open excitement about the type of leader Ryan might be. Ryan has spent much of the past decade burnishing his credentials as a conservative ideas man, from his 2008 “Roadmap for America’s Future” though his four-year tenure as House Budget Committee chairman, his 2012 vice-presidential nomination and his ascent earlier this year to chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. (DeBonis, 10/28)

The Wall Street Journal: As Speaker, Paul Ryan Stands To Get Bigger Spotlight For Policy Ideas
Mr. Ryan also could highlight more of his party’s vision for strengthening the fraying federal safety net, particularly Medicare and the troubled Social Security Disability Insurance program. But those changes are politically fraught. In the face of liberal criticism, Mr. Ryan’s own ideas for revamping Medicare have evolved in recent years from establishing an individual voucher system to enacting a less-sweeping change known as “premium support” in which the government pays insurers on behalf of enrollees. He has also delayed some cost controls in recent versions of his Medicare overhaul. (McKinnon, 10/29)

The New York Times: Paul Ryan Set To Take Over As Speaker, Hoping To Manage The Chaos
[Retiring Speaker John] Boehner delivered Mr. Ryan from his most vexing conflicts by negotiating an $80 billion bipartisan budget agreement that would increase spending for the military and some popular domestic programs, lift the debt ceiling and avert premium increases of as much as 50 percent for millions on Medicare right before an election. ... But the relief may be short-lived. The budget deal creates room for the House and Senate appropriations committees to draft a huge spending bill for the current fiscal year that can increase spending on defense as well as politically popular programs like medical research, federal law enforcement and wildfire suppression. But the spending bills already drafted are replete with conservative policy prescriptions, from crippling Mr. Obama’s signature health care law to blocking his climate change and financial regulations. Mr. Ryan will have to decide how far to push that clash with the president. (Steinhauer, 10/29)

The New York Times also explores House Speaker John Boehner's exit strategy -

The New York Times: ‘It’s Been A Good Run,’ Boehner Says As His 25 Years In Congress Draw To A Close
But despite criticism that he was a weak speaker who had to regularly cajole his conference rather than dictate marching orders, Mr. Boehner, a longtime fiscal conservative, can claim significant success in influencing federal budgetary policy even if it took a rolling series of near economic calamities to do so. He won $2 trillion in spending reductions in a 2011 budget deal, set Medicare on a course to save $3 trillion over the long term with a bipartisan deal earlier this year and helped preserve most of the tax cuts enacted during the George W. Bush administration. (Hulse, 10/29)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Officials Scramble To Make Sure Consumers Have Tools They Need To Pick The Right Health Insurance

With the health law's open enrollment period just days away, plans are in place to make sure that healthcare.gov and the online marketplaces run by some states offer consumers comprehensive ways to compare health plans, check physician networks and estimate costs. Meanwhile, news outlets also report on local strategies to enroll people in new coverage and an insurer's exit from the Wisconsin marketplace.

Los Angeles Times: The Scramble To Get Consumers To Buy The Right Health Coverage Through Obamacare
State and federal health officials, facing growing concerns about the cost of insurance plans offered through the Affordable Care Act, are scrambling to deploy new Web-based tools to help Americans find the most economical coverage. This fall, state and federal insurance marketplaces created by the law, including in California, plan to offer consumers more comprehensive ways to compare health plans, check physician networks and estimate their total healthcare costs. (Levey, 10/29)

The Austin American Statesman: United Way Helping Residents Navigate Health Insurance Options
In an effort to ensure Williamson County residents have access to health care, United Way of Williamson County will be helping residents apply for health insurance through the health insurance marketplace. State and federally certified bilingual, health insurance marketplace navigators will be working to help individuals, families and small business owners get health insurance during the 2015 open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 31. (10/28)

Meanwhile, it's also Medicare open enrollment season -