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KHN First Edition: November 4, 2015


First Edition

Wednesday, November 04, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

The New York Times: Failed Co-Ops Add Ammunition To G.O.P. War On Health Law
The financial failure of more than half the nonprofit health insurance companies created under the Affordable Care Act has handed Republicans a new weapon in their campaign against the health law, thrown the Obama administration on the defensive once again and left more than a half-million consumers in the cold. “Any start-up faces the inherent risks of building a business from the ground up,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, the chief operating officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told Congress on Tuesday at a contentious hearing of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health. “As with any new set of business ventures, some co-ops have succeeded while others have encountered more challenges.” (Pear, 11/3)

The Associated Press: More Than Half Of Health Law's Insurance Co-Ops Are Closing
Republicans and Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee traded blame for the mess, which is forcing several hundred thousand people to find new coverage for 2016. Republicans said the taxpayer-financed program exemplifies the problems of "crony capitalism" in which the government backs certain businesses for political purposes. Democrats countered that deep funding cuts forced by the GOP worsened the problems and contributed to the financial instability of many co-ops. (11/3)

The Washington Post: More Than Half Of ACA Co-Ops Now Out Of Insurance Marketplaces
More than half of the nonprofit health insurance co-ops formed through the Affordable Care Act are now off the market for the coming year, with the last-minute departure of a plan in Michigan. On Tuesday, two days after the start of the new enrollment season in insurance exchanges created under the health-care law, the Web site of Michigan’s Consumers Mutual Insurance posted notice that it will not sell coverage for 2016. ... The latest gyrations are occurring as the co-ops become new fodder for the partisan acrimony that has surrounded the 2010 law since its beginnings. At a hearing Tuesday afternoon of a House Ways and Means subcommittee, Republicans accused the Obama administration of wasting taxpayers’ money on an aspect of the law that they say is failing. Democrats countered that a series of GOP-forced budget cuts crippled many co-ops’ chances to thrive. (Goldstein, 11/3)

The New York Times: Obama Administration Plans Forum On High Drug Prices
Trying to turn up the political heat on the pharmaceutical industry, the Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it would hold a forum this month on the high prices of some prescription drugs. The move came amid reports of price manipulation and opinion polls that identify drug prices as a top concern for many consumers and voters. Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats have called for efforts to stop what they call price gouging by drug makers. Senior House Democrats are forming a panel to explore possible legislation on drug pricing. (Pear, 11/3)

NPR: Wellness Programs Add Financial Advice To Improve Employee Health
About half of all U.S. employers now offer financial wellness programs, although how they define them varies. Many companies have long offered lectures on topics like retirement. But increasingly, say analysts tracking the trend, employers are tailoring their programs to the worker — more like a personal trainer who works on your budget rather than your waistline. Most large companies are expanding their financial wellness programs this year, says Rob Austin, director of retirement research at consulting firm Aon Hewitt. And employers realize one-on-one counseling is a far more effective way to reach people and address their particular concerns. (Noguchi, 11/3)

Politico: Ryan Pitches Unified GOP Agenda To Senators
At the beginning of this year, House and Senate Republicans huddled together in Hershey, Pa., to plot strategy and temper expectations that the GOP could unilaterally move legislation over Democratic objections in the Senate. But hopes for a unified front faded during the year as the House and Senate GOP sparred over immigration policy, surveillance legislation and how to defund Planned Parenthood. Finally, House conservatives resorted to begging the Senate to change its arcane rules; senators are now studying whether such a proposal is feasible. ... Ryan is clearly seeking a do-over — Republican senators said that he emphasized to them that he would be a diligent communicator, pointing to his five Sunday show appearances this weekend as evidence he is serious about coordination. (Everett, 11/3)

The Washington Post: Being GOP’s Next Great Communicator Will Be Delicate Task For Paul Ryan
In his years as House Budget Committee chairman, Ryan laid out spending blueprints that embraced ideas such as privatizing portions of Social Security, cutting Medicaid and converting Medicare to a voucher-based program — all of which provided fodder for Democratic attacks. Addressing reporters on Tuesday at his first news conference as speaker, Ryan said he would not shy away from presenting controversial policy prescriptions in an election year. ... The tax plans put forth by the 2016 GOP presidential nominees hew by and large to the principles Ryan has embraced in the past — reducing the number of income tax brackets, lowering rates, and eliminating loopholes and deductions. But Ryan’s ideas on reforming entitlement programs could prove more divisive. National front-runner Donald Trump, for instance, has pushed back on suggestions of major changes to Social Security and Medicare. (DeBonis, 11/3)

The Associated Press: Policy Fights, Funding Battles Still Pose Shutdown Threat
Despite a broad budget deal, the White House and congressional Republicans must resolve dozens of policy issues and spending fights if they are to avoid a holiday season government shutdown. Hot-button battles over Planned Parenthood, the environment and money for agencies like the IRS could still derail a must-do spending bill to keep the government running. (Taylor, 11/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Deaths Becoming A 2016 Presidential Election Issue
Christopher Stawasz, manager of an ambulance service in Nashua, said the city set a record of 28 overdoses in September, then topped it with 37 in October. “It’s surreal,” he said. “It’s just day after day.”Across the state, overdoses are on track to break last year’s record of 326 deaths. The pattern is so alarming that participants in an October WMUR Granite State poll ranked drug abuse as the most important issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, surpassing jobs and economy for the first time in eight years. That is prompting a conversation in the state with the nation’s first primary that is remarkably different from prior elections in its expressions of compassion rather than condemnation. (Haddon, 11/3)

Politico: Ben Carson's Medicare Muddle
Ben Carson's Medicare problem isn't going away. The former neurosurgeon announced last week that he had shelved his plan to end the popular government health care program for seniors. But the few components of a new plan he's revealed have only added to the confusion about what, exactly, he intends to accomplish -- and his opponents are beginning to pounce. (Cheney, 11/4)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Ben Carson’s Claim He Did Not Have ‘An Involvement’ Or ‘formal Relations’ With Mannatech
One of the buzziest moments of the CNBC debate was Carson’s rejection of his “involvement” with Mannatech Inc., a multi-level nutritional supplement company. A quick Google search surfaces Mannatech promotional videos featuring Carson, so it didn’t take too long for viewers to debunk his answer. Mannatech and its co-founder in 2009 agreed to a $7 million settlement with the Texas attorney general over allegations that the company falsely marketed its dietary supplements as remedies for cancer and other serious illnesses. The company did not admit to wrongdoing. (Lee, 11/4)

NPR: Americans Are Using More Prescription Drugs; Is Obesity To Blame?
Prescription drug use is rising across the United States. More people are taking medications and they're taking more of them. A study published Tuesday by researchers at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows that 59 percent of adults used a prescription drug in a 30-day period. That's up from just 50 percent when the survey was last conducted a decade earlier. (Kodjak, 11/3)

The Washington Post: Nearly 60 Percent Of Americans — The Highest Ever — Are Taking Prescription Drugs
In a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that the prevalence of prescription drug use among people 20 and older had risen to 59 percent in 2012 from 51 percent just a dozen years earlier. During the same period, the percentage of people taking five or more prescription drugs nearly doubled, to 15 percent from 8 percent. One likely factor driving the increased use: obesity. (Dennis, 11/3)

The Washington Post: Big And Deadly: Major Foodborne Outbreaks Spike Sharply
Major foodborne outbreaks in the United States have more than tripled in the last 20 years, and the germs most frequently implicated are familiar to most Americans: Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. In the most recent five-year period -- from 2010 to 2014 -- these multistate outbreaks were bigger and deadlier than in years past, causing more than half of all deaths related to contaminated food outbreaks, public health officials said Tuesday. (Sun, 11/3)

The New York Times: Matt Bevin, Republican, Wins Governor’s Race In Kentucky
Heading into Election Day, Republicans fretted that Mr. Bevin was frittering away an opportunity. But Bill Stone, a former chairman of the Republican Party in Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, said many analysts had underestimated “how reviled” Mr. Obama and the Democrats are in Kentucky. Mr. Obama’s health care law was an especially contentious issue in the race, and some see the Bevin victory as a rebuke to Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, who expanded Medicaid under the measure. An estimated 420,000 Kentuckians, nearly 10 percent of the state’s population, now have coverage as a result. Mr. Bevin, a fierce opponent of the health care law, at first said he would reverse it, but has since softened his position and said he would stop enrolling new people but would not take coverage from those who had it. (Stolberg and Binder, 11/3)

The Washington Post: Businessman Who Campaigned As Outsider Wins Kentucky Governor's Race
Republicans made every effort to nationalize the race, tying Conway to the national Democratic Party and, more specifically, to President Obama. The state is heavily Republican at the federal level, but Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has won two elections in recent years and enjoyed relatively strong approval ratings. Also at issue was the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Bevin said that he would have rejected the federal funds, which many GOP governors have done but which polls show is an unpopular stance. Democrats pilloried him for it, hoping it would be their ticket to victory. (Blake, 11/3)

Reuters: Republicans Win Kentucky Governor's Race, Second Time In 44 Years
Bevin, who rode Tea Party support to a narrow victory in a four-way Republican primary, defeated State Attorney General Jack Conway, who quickly conceded on Tuesday night after his late October lead in the polls evaporated on election day. ... Bevin had pledged to roll back the expansion of Medicaid to provide health coverage to the poor under Obama's health plan as started by the current governor, which Conway had supported. (11/3)

The Wall Street Journal: Republican Matt Bevin Wins Kentucky Governor’s Race
The race between Mr. Bevin, a 48-year-old businessman, and Democrat Jack Conway, the 46-year-old state attorney general, was the most high-profile of three gubernatorial contests this year. ... His win also suggests that arguments against the health law, also known as Obamacare, remain a potent line of attack, analysts say. Elsewhere, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi easily won re-election against Democrat Robert Gray, a little-known truck driver. The third gubernatorial race, in Louisiana, between Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, will be decided in a runoff on Nov. 21, after the two garnered the most votes in a first round of balloting last month. (Campo-Flores, 11/3)

Politico: Republican Bevin Wins Kentucky Governor's Race
The general election was ugly, with both candidates repeatedly impugning the other’s integrity and Conway repeatedly blitzing Bevin with negative ads branding the eventual victor as a hypocrite and a liar. Bevin was outspent for most of the contest and had his tactics consistently questioned by his fellow Republicans. But a late $2.5 million spending blitz from the Republican Governors Association helped Bevin close the gap in television advertising in the final weeks. (Robillard, 11/3)

The Washington Post: GOP Win In Kentucky Sets Up Unprecedented Affordable Care Act Fight
The disconnect between Obamacare and KYnect was one of the great paradoxes of American politics. In polls, Kentucky voters rejected Obamacare at roughly the rate they rejected the president, 2-1. But they were fond of KYnect, which Beshear created by executive order, bypassing a gridlocked Kentucky legislature. Month by month, Kentuckians took advantage of the state's Medicaid expansion or the plans offered on the exchange, and the state's uninsured rate plummeted from 20.4 percent to 9 percent. Beshear predicted that "the Democratic nominee will make this a major issue and will pound the Republicans into the dust with it.” On Tuesday night, it was the Democrats eating dust. (Weigel, 11/3)

The Washington Post: McAuliffe’s Hopes For Senate Majority Dashed
Republicans held onto the Virginia Senate in fiercely contested elections Tuesday, leaving Gov. Terry McAuliffe without legislative leverage or political momentum as he works to deliver Virginia for his friend and ally Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016. ... "Having said that, he’s a person of remarkable resilience,” Holsworth added. “He’s not the kind of guy who gets depressed by some defeat. He’ll move on to some Plan B to carve out a legacy on economic development and some agreement with Republicans on education, while he knows he will not get the Medicaid expansion that he so wants.” (Vozzella and Portnoy, 11/3)

USA Today/Cincinnati Enquirer: Ohio Voters Say No To Legalizing Marijuana
Unofficial election results found that the proposed constitutional amendment, known as Issue 3, was defeated 65.1% to 34.8%. Voters did write into the Ohio Constitution a provision known has Issue 2 that prohibits the establishment of a “monopoly, oligopoly or cartel” in the state’s founding document. The ballot issue, which the state legislature wrote expressly to defeat the marijuana language, passed 52.6% to 47.4%. (SAker, 11/3)

The Associated Press: Ohio Votes Down Legalizing Pot For Medical, Recreational Use
Failure of the proposed state constitutional amendment followed an expensive campaign, a legal fight over its ballot wording, an investigation into petition signatures — and, predominantly, a counter campaign against a network of 10 exclusive growing sites it would have created. It was the only marijuana legalization question on the 2015 statewide ballots. About 65 percent of voters opposed the measure, compared to 35 percent in favor. (Smyth, 11/4)

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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