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KHN First Edition: November 3, 2015


First Edition

Tuesday, November 03, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Texas’ Changing Relationship To Obamacare
Houston Public Media's Carrie Feibel, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The online federal insurance marketplace opened for business Sunday. It’s the third year of open enrollment for these subsidized plans, established by the Affordable Care Act. Many Texans still oppose the law, even though the state is home to the most uninsured people in the country. For the moment, Texas Republicans still consider the Affordable Care Act to be political kryptonite. Sen. Ted Cruz continues to criticize it. Attorney General Ken Paxton just filed another lawsuit attacking part of it. Gov. Greg Abbott has said he won’t consider the Medicaid expansion, because he considers Medicaid a dysfunctional entitlement program that should not be allowed to expand." (Feibel, 11/3)

Kaiser Health News: Why Nearly Half Of The Obamacare Co-Ops Have Folded
As open enrollment begins for the health exchanges, one development that’s turning into a concern is the collapse of a number of alternative insurance plans known as co-ops. KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey joins PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff to answer real Americans’ questions about shopping for coverage. Watch the video. (11/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Montana Is 30th State To Expand Medicaid Under Health Law
Montana became the 30th state to opt into the health law’s expansion of Medicaid on Monday, after federal officials said they’d signed off on a plan under which the state would increase the number of low-income residents it covers but impose certain eligibility conditions. The announcement brings the Obama administration to a critical milestone in its effort to persuade states to go along with a key tenet of the Affordable Care Act, after a 2012 Supreme Court decision that effectively gave the states a choice over the matter. (Radnofsky, 11/2)

The Washington Post's The Fix: The GOP’s Potent New Anti-Obamacare Argument, In 2 Maps
In 2013, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) articulated what was a general belief among Democrats: the Affordable Care Act would help the party. Granted, the timeframe Reid predicted was that it would help last November. ... But the idea that being the party that helped Americans get access to affordable health care would be a boon was not unique to Reid. For a long time, Obamacare was viewed fairly negatively, according to regular polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation. In recent surveys, though, attitudes are about evenly split. So maybe the legislation is poised to be a boon for Democrats in 2016! Or, maybe not. (Bump, 11/2)

Reuters: Valeant Sends Letter To Doctors, Seeks To Reassure Over Pharmacy Ties
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc sought to reassure doctors on Monday that the company's decision to cut ties to a controversial specialty pharmacy would not disrupt doctors' ability to prescribe the company's drugs to patients. In a letter to healthcare professionals seen by Reuters, Chief Executive Officer Michael Pearson said that Valeant would pay for the cost of its products through Nov. 8 and make sure patients could fill their prescriptions with no out-of-pocket expenses, wherever possible. Patients on government-run health plans such as Medicare are not eligible. (11/2)

The Wall Street Journal's CIO Report: Quest Diagnostics CIO Leads Move Beyond Lab Tests Into Data Analytics
Quest Diagnostics Inc.DGX +1.93%, facing revenue pressure as health insurers contain costs, is trying to move beyond lab tests. CIO Lidia Fonseca is leading efforts to capitalize off of Quest’s enormous stockpiles of data, which include 20 billion test results, and offering new data services to hospitals and health insurance companies. “The analytics for us are really a new source of revenue,” said Ms. Fonseca. “We’re not just a lab anymore, we’re a lab plus an insights company,” she said. (King, 11/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Team Health Rejects AmSurg’s Higher Cash Bid
Team Health Holdings Inc. rejected a revised merger offer from AmSurg Corp., another provider of outsourced physician services, that raised the cash portion of the cash-and-stock bid by $4 a share but not the deal’s overall value. AmSurg has given Team Health a deadline of 4 p.m. EST Tuesday to engage in talks or it will withdraw its offer. A representative for Team Health declined to comment on the ultimatum. (Minaya, 11/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Pamplona To Acquire MedAssets In $1.86 Billion Deal
MedAssets’ shares rose 29% to $30.5 in recent premarket trading to reflect the offer of $31.35 a share, a 32% premium to Friday’s close. The companies said the deal represented an enterprise value of about $2.7 billion. A Pamplona spokeswoman said the deal includes debt of roughly $800 million. Pamplona plans to combine the health-care technology and services company’s revenue-cycle-management segment with Pamplona-owned health-information-management firm Precyse, which currently is a strategic partner of the MedAssets revenue cycle unit. (Stynes, 11/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Benefits Of Bleach: A Hospital Adopts A Grandmother’s Preferred Germ Killer
As the infection-control czar of the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, Brian Koll often turns to federal and state health authorities, as well as researchers and colleagues, for the latest on controlling antibiotic-resistant germs. Dr. Koll has an additional resource in his quest to eradicate superbugs in his seven-hospital system: his grandmother Dora. Although she has been dead 28 years, Dr. Koll says he relies on her advice every day. (Lagnado, 11/2)

The Wall Street Journal: The Death Rate Is Rising For Middle-Aged Whites
White, middle-aged Americans are dying at a rising rate, a new study shows, a startling reversal that suggests addiction and mental-health issues are setting back decades of gains in longevity. Suicide, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses and chronic liver diseases largely drove the rise, which occurred between 1999 and 2013, according to the report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (McKay, 11/2)

The Washington Post: A Group Of Middle-Aged Whites In The U.S. Is Dying At A Startling Rate
An increase in the mortality rate for any large demographic group in an advanced nation has been virtually unheard of in recent decades, with the exception of Russian men after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The rising death rate was accompanied by an increase in the rate of illness, the authors wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Bernstein and Achenbach, 11/2)

The Washington Post: Va. Elections For Legislature, County Boards And Mayor Drive Voters To Polls
In a district covering Prince William and Manassas, Democrat Jeremy McPike and Republican Hal Parrish are vying for the seat held by Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William), who is retiring after 40 years. Parrish, the Manassas mayor, opposes Medicaid expansion, has an A-minus rating from the National Rifle Association and cast the tiebreaking vote allowing hospital-style restrictions on Manassas abortion clinics. McPike, who works for the city of Alexandria, favors Medicaid expansion, gun control and abortion rights.

Politico: GOP Mounts Late Offensive In Key Kentucky Race
Bevin, for instance, once voiced skepticism of early-childhood education. But he later backtracked and said suggestions that he didn’t support early-childhood education were “absolute bunk.” Bevin opened his campaign by pledging to reverse Medicaid expansion in the state, a stance from which he has since repeatedly tried to step away. (Robillard, 11/2)

The Associated Press: Kentucky Governor's Race Hinges On Health Insurance
The campaign for Kentucky's next governor ends Tuesday as voters elect someone to replace a popular two-term Democratic governor in a race that has turned on health insurance for 500,000 people and public preschool options. Republican Matt Bevin, Democrat Jack Conway and independent Drew Curtis have contrasted sharply in a race watched closely for its proximity to the 2016 presidential election and for its competitiveness in one of the nation's last two-party states. (Beam, 11/3)

The Associated Press: Highlights From California Marijuana Legalization Measure
A ballot initiative spearheaded by tech billionaire Sean Parker that seeks to legalize recreational marijuana use in California was submitted to state officials on Monday. Although the Adult Use of Marijuana Act is one of at least a dozen marijuana legalization measures vying for a place on the November 2016 ballot, it has received support from key interest and advocacy groups and stands poised to secure significant financial backing. (11/2)

Reuters: Dismissal Of Chicago Retiree Healthcare Lawsuit In Hands Of Judge
An Illinois judge said on Monday he will rule no later than Dec. 11 on motions by Chicago and its four pension funds to dismiss a lawsuit that could greatly increase the cash-strapped city's retiree healthcare costs. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil Cohen heard nearly three hours or arguments by Clint Krislov, a lawyer representing Chicago retirees, who claimed his clients are entitled to lifetime healthcare coverage, and Richard Prendergast, the city's attorney, who contended the lawsuit should be tossed because it is based on faulty facts. (11/2)

Los Angeles Times: How Much Does Severe Obesity Cost California? About $9.1 Billion
We know obesity increases your risk of having high blood pressure, getting diabetes and being diagnosed with certain cancers. Now it turns out it can also increase costs for your state government. A study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs found that medical care associated with severe obesity cost state-run health programs $8 billion in 2013. California's program for the poor, known as Medi-Cal, took the biggest hit, spending $1.3 billion that year on severe obesity-related care. (Karlamangla, 11/2)

The Associated Press: Political Fight Hits Hard In Illinois’ Poorest Corner
The only public health clinic in Illinois’ poorest county is in a former synagogue off a largely abandoned main street, a bright spot with multicolored windows where seniors can get flu shots and moms get help feeding their kids. But today the lights are off and the doors locked. A sign on the door apologizes for the inconvenience: Because of the impasse over the state budget, we are only open on Wednesdays. (Burnett, 11/2)

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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