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KHN First Edition: November 6, 2015

KHN

First Edition

Friday, November 06, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: Small Businesses Snub Obamacare’s SHOP Exchange
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "After nearly two years in operation and millions of dollars spent in development, the small business health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act is struggling to catch on. Nationally, about 85,000 people, from 11,000 small businesses, have coverage through the online marketplace known as the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, according to the latest federal data released in May. Those totals do not include employers that began coverage in 2014 and have not yet renewed their coverage through HealthCare.gov for 2015." (Galewitz, 11/5)

Kaiser Health News: Marketplace Plans Covering Out-Of-Network Care Harder To Find
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Health plans that offer coverage of doctors and hospitals outside the plan’s network are getting harder to find on the insurance marketplaces, according to two analyses published this week. Two-thirds of the 131 carriers that offered silver-level preferred provider organization plans in 2015 will either drop them entirely or offer fewer of them in January, an analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found. Those cutbacks will affect customers in 37 states, according to the foundation." (Andrews, 11/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Failure Of Half Of U.S. Health Insurance Co-Ops Sparks New GOP Criticism
Several Republicans Thursday heaped blame on the Obama administration for the failure of more than half of the cooperatives set up under the health law to infuse competition into the insurance market. The collapse of 12 out of 23 operating co-ops is providing a fresh opportunity for the GOP to criticize the Affordable Care Act and make the health law a talking point in the presidential election. The criticism was aired at a hearing by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee to examine the failing startups, which received more than $1 billion in federal loans that may not be paid back. (Armour, 11/5)

The Wall Street Journal: New Federal Initiative Aims To Enroll Northern New Jersey’s Uninsured
When Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell hosts a round-table discussion Friday at a health clinic in Jersey City, N.J., she is expected to do the predictable: encourage people to enroll in health insurance offered through the Affordable Care Act. More surprising is a new federal enrollment effort targeted for northern New Jersey. The state typically fares better than many other states when percentages of the uninsured are compared. (Ramey, 11/5)

USA Today: Obama's Day: Health Care, Tribal Conference
President Obama faces a busy Thursday, speaking with a succession of radio hosts about health care and hosting an annual conference of tribal nations. In the afternoon, Obama will promote his health care law with radio hosts from Tampa, Atlanta, Dallas, Kansas City, and Seattle, the schedule says, emphasizing "the importance of reducing the number of people without health insurance." The round of interviews comes during a new enrollment period, and at a time that the Obama health care law is under attack from Republican presidential candidates. (Jackson, 11/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Federal Officials Warn States On Hepatitis C Drug Restrictions
In a sign of growing government interest in rising prescription-drug costs, federal officials on Thursday said state Medicaid programs may be violating federal law by denying patients expensive hepatitis C medications. They also asked drug makers to provide information on their pricing arrangements with health insurers, which officials said could help ease the financial burden on state budgets. (Walker, 11/5)

The Associated Press: Feds Worry That Low-Income People May Not Get Hepatitis Cure
Confronting the consequences of high-priced drugs, the Obama administration Thursday pointedly reminded states that they cannot legally restrict access by low-income people to revolutionary cures for liver-wasting hepatitis C infection. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also sent letters to several drug manufacturers, requesting details of what they are doing to make their medications more affordable. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/5)

The Associated Press: Pfizer Doubling Patient Income Limit For Free Drug Program
As the furor over soaring U.S. prescription drug prices escalates and outrageous price hikes by several smaller drugmakers give the entire industry a black eye, the biggest U.S.-based drugmaker is expanding financial assistance to patients. Pfizer Inc. says it's doubling its income limit for people to receive dozens of its medicines without a copayment because more patients need help. Patients' insurance plans generally must then pay the bulk of the drug's cost. Some critics say this isn't the best way to keep drugs affordable for everyone. (11/5)

Los Angeles Times: Bernie Sanders' Momentum Stalls In An Unlikely Place: Union Halls
Despite Sanders’ deep support for labor, the national nurses’ organization that Almada sought to join is the only major union to endorse Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. It is dwarfed by much larger labor groups that are lining up with his arguably less committed, less reliable rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. National unions representing more than half of America’s 14.6 million unionized workers are already in Clinton’s corner, and many of the rest are heading in that direction. It is creating significant tension in some of the organizations and raising the question of whether the Sanders campaign is faltering or if union leadership has lost touch with its rank and file, large numbers of whom are turning out to support Sanders with unrivaled enthusiasm. (Halper, 11/6)

The Associated Press: Seeking To Regain Traction, Sanders Plans New Policy Push
Sanders’ campaign is considering a speech, possibly in New York, to provide more details on his economic policies, including how he would seek to structure tax rates to pay for his domestic policy agenda and seek to regulate Wall Street. Other topics he plans to address are how he would serve as commander-in-chief and a domestic policy agenda that will include proposals on family and medical leave, a Medicare-for-all health care system and an expansion of Social Security benefits. (Lerer and Thomas, 11/6)

The Washington Post: Ben Carson’s First Foray Into Politics, On Both Sides Of A 1992 Abortion Debate
Th e doctor wore hospital scrubs and spoke directly to the camera. “Let us not be duped,” Ben Carson said. It was 1992. Maryland voters were about to decide on a ballot measure proposing to loosen state restrictions on abortion. Abortion opponents had a powerful new ally: the daring neurosurgeon whose up-from-poverty story had made him a Baltimore hero. ... “A humdinger,” thought Frederica Mathewes-Green, an antiabortion activist. But then, after the ad had run for 10 days, a colleague called her to the office TV. “There he was, standing behind the podium with their logo on it and saying that he didn’t know this would be a political ad,” Mathewes-Green recalled. Carson was at a news conference, organized by abortion rights activists. He was denouncing his own ad. That episode was one of Carson’s first forays into politics, and it left both sides of the fight thoroughly bewildered. (Fahrenthold and Weigel, 11/5)

Politico: Bush Shares More About Daughter's Addiction Struggles
Jeb Bush is opening up about his daughter’s struggle with drug addiction. The former Florida governor has addressed the issue before, and he has discussed his own use of marijuana when he was young, but he spoke more emotionally about his daughter Noelle's addiction in an interview with The Huffington Post posted on Thursday. (Collins, 11/5)

The Wall Street Journal: House Republicans Eye Targets Beyond Planned Parenthood
A number of congressional Republicans are moving away from making Planned Parenthood funding their biggest goal in coming spending battles and instead are looking to pick more winnable policy battles such as curbing the Internal Revenue Service or environmental regulations. Not all Republicans are willing to abandon a campaign popular among GOP voters and activists to strip federal funding from the women’s health organization. (son, 11/5)

The Washington Post: Brady To Be Next Ways And Means Chair
Rep. Kevin Brady will be the next chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, where he will oversee tax laws and large entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. The Texas Republican was formally approved for this post by the full House Republican conference Thursday morning after being nominated for the job on Wednesday by a panel of House GOP leaders. (Snell, 11/5)

The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Searches For Director To Oversee Laboratory
Diagnostics startup Theranos Inc. is seeking to hire a laboratory director to oversee one of its key facilities amid questions raised in laboratory circles about the qualifications of a physician who now runs the lab. The blood-testing company has been operating its Newark, Calif., lab for the past 10 months under the supervision of Sunil Dhawan, a dermatologist without a degree or board certification in pathology or laboratory science. (Carreyrou, 11/5)

The Associated Press: VA Wrongly Tells Veterans They’re Dead, Cuts Off Benefits
As it turns out, Rieker is one of six Tampa Bay area residents who were getting veterans benefits, but then were declared dead — despite being very much alive. U.S. Rep. David Jolly, who represents a section of Florida’s Gulf Coast near Tampa, said he’s handled a total of five such cases in the past 18 months, and a neighboring congressman in the Tampa Bay area received a similar call as well. (Lush, 11/5)

Los Angeles Times: California Hospitals Could Cut Inpatient Costs 25% And Save $10 Billion, Study Says
California hospitals may be wasting $10 billion a year on excessive patient stays despite the state's reputation for tightly managed care, according to a new analysis of state data. The report finds that inpatient costs at 275 hospitals statewide could be reduced by 25%, yielding the $10 billion in savings among patients covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance. (Terhune, 11/5)

The New York Times: Doctor In Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Trial Denies Improper Relationship
Prosecutors alleged that the legislator had “funneled half a million dollars of taxpayer money and other official benefits” to the doctor for his cancer research, and that Dr. Taub in turn steered patients with asbestos-related legal claims to the law firm, which shared its fees with Mr. Silver. Mr. Silver has pleaded not guilty to fraud, extortion and money laundering charges. (Craig and Weiser, 11/5)

The Wall Street Journal: In Sheldon Silver Trial, Testimony Turns To State Grants
Assemblyman Sheldon Silver and Robert Taub, the Columbia University oncologist at the center of one of the politician’s alleged schemes, were close enough that Mr. Silver would occasionally give Dr. Taub gifts such as handmade matzo, the physician testified on Thursday. But though the two “had a friendship,” Dr. Taub said he would keep referring his patients to the former Assembly speaker “because I may need him in the future—he is the most powerful man in New York State,” according to an email the physician sent his nurse in 2010. (Orden, 11/5)

The Associated Press: Lung Cancer Patient Sues To Get Medical Marijuana ID Card
A New Hampshire woman with late-stage lung cancer filed a lawsuit against the state health commissioner Thursday in hopes of getting a medical marijuana identification card before dispensaries open. Under a state law passed more than two years ago, people suffering from a limited number of diseases and medical conditions can purchase marijuana with approval from their doctors. The Department of Health and Human Services started accepting applications this week from patients and their caregivers, but identification cards won't be issued until the Alternative Treatment Centers get authorization to start dispensing marijuana. (11/5)

The Associated Press: NY Governor, NYC Mayor Join Puerto Rico Health Care Rally
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined thousands of demonstrators Thursday demanding equal treatment for Puerto Rico on federal health care. The demonstrators were protesting Medicaid reimbursements in the U.S. territory that officials say are 70 percent lower than on the U.S. mainland and Medicare reimbursements that are 40 percent lower. (11/5)

NPR: CDC Investigating As E. Coli Outbreak Linked To Chipotle Sickens 39
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is assisting the Washington State Department of Health and the Oregon Health Authority in investigating an outbreak of E.coli infections linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill. Thirty-nine people have been sickened with a strain of E. coli known as Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 (STEC O26) in Washington and Oregon. Fourteen people have been hospitalized in those two states. (Aubrey, 11/5)

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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