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KHN First Edition: November 5, 2015


First Edition

Thursday, November 05, 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 for 2015." (Galewitz, 11/5)

USA Today: Obama Makes Personal Push For Open Enrollment
As concerns increase about higher health insurance premiums on the government exchanges, President Obama on Wednesday urged navigators and others helping with the new open enrollment to persevere to get more people signed up for plans. "You are changing people’s lives with your work," Obama said on a conference call with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. (O'Donnell and Jackson, 11/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Health Co-Ops’ Failures Spur Finger-Pointing
But the nonprofits have been caught in a financial squeeze. A federal formula to spread out risk among insurers resulted in many co-ops paying steep fees. At the same time, lawmakers eager to chip away at the Affordable Care Act put restrictions on a federal government program to cover insurance company shortfalls. Of the 23 operating co-ops, 11 have recently folded or said they would close. One other never got off the ground. (Armour, 11/4)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Why Health Reform Might Increase Malpractice Lawsuits
A possible unintended consequence of one of health reform's biggest goals -- curbing excess health care spending -- could be a surge in malpractice lawsuits, a provocative study published in the British Medical Journal Wednesday suggests. Researchers tracked more than 24,000 Florida physicians over a nine-year period and found that in six specialties, doctors who spent the most health care resources on hospitalized patients had the lowest likelihood of being sued. (Johnson, 11/4)

The Washington Post: Chris Christie Continues To Talk About Drug Addiction On The Campaign Trail
Christie has signed bills improving access to drug prevention and treatment. In 2013, he signed a so-called "Good Samaritan" law that provides immunity from arrest for people who call 911 if they are with someone who overdoses while doing drugs. New Jersey also made Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of opiates, available to friends and family members of known drug users. But he has taken a hard line on marijuana, calling medical marijuana programs a "front for legalization" and vowing to crack down on the drug from the federal level if he is elected president. (Zezima, 11/4)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Bernie Sanders Proposes Ending Federal Marijuana Ban
Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is proposing to end the federal prohibition on marijuana. The Senate bill set to be introduced by Mr. Sanders would remove marijuana from the list of substances controlled under federal law and repeal federal penalties for possessing or consuming it. “The time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off of the federal government’s list of outlawed drugs,” Mr. Sanders said on the Senate floor last week. (Tau, 11/4)

The Washington Post: Debate Over Medicare, Social Security, Other Federal Benefits Divides GOP
Republicans are openly feuding over whether to seek drastic changes to Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement programs, risking a potentially damaging intraparty battle ahead of the 2016 elections. The rift was exemplified this week by the biggest GOP stars of the moment. Newly installed House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said he plans to pursue a “bold alternative agenda” that would include major revisions in entitlements. At the same time, leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump railed against proposals to end or significantly change Medicare. (Costa and O'Keefe, 11/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Rep. Kevin Brady Gains Edge To Become House Ways And Means Chairman
Rep. Kevin Brady (R., Texas) will likely become the next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after winning an intraparty contest Wednesday. ... Mr. Brady will become one of the party’s leading voices on tax, trade and health policy. He said in a statement that he wanted to implement a “pro-growth agenda” for the country. “This includes taking real steps toward fixing this broken tax code, reforming welfare, saving Social Security and Medicare for the long term and enlarging America’s economic freedom to trade,” he said. (Rubin, 11/4)

The Washington Post: Brady Gets Nod For Ways And Means Chair
Brady’s nomination is also the latest victory for the small group of hard-line conservatives who helped force Boehner’s ouster. The race to replace Ryan as chairman came down to Brady, a southern conservative with a strong background in healthcare policy, and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a business-friendly Boehner ally with a history of working with Democrats. Ways and Means oversees some of the most important issues on the Republican agenda — including tax policy, trade, Social Security and Medicare — making its chairmanship one of the most coveted positions in Congress. (Snelll, 11/4)

The Wall Street Journal's MoneyBeat: Retrophin, Valeant Shares Slump On Senate Drug Price Investigation
The latest bad news for pharmaceutical stocks: a bipartisan Senate investigation into how they price their drugs. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R.,Me.), who lead the Senate Special Committee on Aging, announced the investigation Wednesday morning and sent letters to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.VRX.T -6.01%, Retrophin Inc.RTRX -13.38%, Turing Pharmaceuticals and Rodelis Therapeutics requesting documents related to drug price increases. (Farrell, 11/4)

USA Today: Senate Panel To Investigate Drug Price Hikes
A special congressional committee launched an investigation of pharmaceutical pricing Wednesday, focusing on recent medication cost hikes at four companies. Amid cost complaints from patients and the medical community, the Senate Special Committee on Aging sent letters seeking information from Valeant Pharmaceuticals International (VRX), Turing Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin (RTRX) and Rodelis Therapeutics. The companies have been the subject of numerous media reports about drug pricing. (McCoy, 11/4)

The Associated Press: Senate Panel Summons Price-Hiking CEO Of Turing Pharma
A Senate committee has launched an investigation into exorbitant drug price hikes by Turing Pharmaceuticals and three other companies, responding to public anxiety over rising prices for critical medicines. The Senate’s special committee on aging requested documents and information Wednesday from Turing, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and two other drugmakers already under scrutiny for recent price spikes. Notably, the senators called for a face-to-face meeting with Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO, Martin Shkreli, “as soon as it is practicable.” (Perrone, 11/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Health Law Energizes GOP Voters
Republican Matt Bevin’s victory in the Kentucky governor’s race Tuesday highlighted the enduring power of public sentiment about the federal health law to energize GOP voters as the national parties prepare for the 2016 elections. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, played a central role in the contest, which Mr. Bevin won resoundingly, 53% to 44%, against Democrat Jack Conway. The Republican pledged to dismantle the state’s health exchange—which earned praise for its relatively smooth launch—and to roll back or modify the expansion of Medicaid under the law. If he follows through, it would mark the first time a state significantly reversed implementation of the health law. (Campo-Flores and Radnofsky, 11/4)

The New York Times: Kentucky’s Next Governor, Matt Bevin, Rode In On Outsider Status
The incumbent Democrat, Gov. Steve Beshear, used his executive authority to establish state-based health insurance exchange, Kynect, under the measure, and also expanded Medicaid, which now covers an additional 420,000 more Kentuckians — almost 10 percent of the state’s population. Mr. Bevin, who gave a radio interview but made no public appearances on Wednesday, has pledged to end Kentucky’s state exchange, and vows to stop enrolling new people in Medicaid. (Stolberg, 11/4)

Los Angeles Times: Matt Bevin's Victory In Kentucky Highlights Democrats' Southern Demise
The Democratic Party’s half-century of decline across the South was all but complete Wednesday after Kentucky elected a Republican governor who campaigned against abortion, gay marriage and, for a time, Obamacare. ... He ran television commercials calling Conway, Kentucky’s attorney general, “pro-abortion,” “anti-coal” and a champion of President Obama’s “liberal agenda” — reprising themes that swept many Republicans into office in last year’s midterm elections. ... For Bevin, Obama’s unpopularity in culturally conservative states like Kentucky proved a major asset. His advertising leaned heavily on tying Conway to the president. (Finnegan, 11/4)

The Associated Press: GOP Views Kentucky Election As Victory Over Health Care Law
The election of a conservative outsider as Kentucky governor has given Republicans a laboratory to show the rest of the country how they'd replace President Barack Obama's health care law. Three years into a coverage expansion that has brought the share of uninsured Americans to historically low levels, Matt Bevin's lopsided victory underscores how politically divisive the law remains. But experts say slamming the brakes in a state already deeply entrenched in the Affordable Care Act would cost lots of time and money, testing the new Republican administration's ability to rein in costs. (11/4)

USA Today/The Louisville Courier-Journal: Bevin's Election Puts Ky. Health Care In Cross Hairs
Republican Matt Bevin’s election Tuesday as governor has placed Kentucky’s widely lauded health insurance expansion under the Affordable Care Act squarely in the crosshairs, with the governor-elect having pledged to eliminate or at least scale back the plan also known as “Obamacare.” More than a half-million Kentuckians now get health coverage through the federal law implemented under executive order of Gov. Steve Beshear. That includes more than 400,000 low-income Kentuckians covered through the Medicaid expansion and another 100,000 who have purchased private plans, many with federal subsidies to offset the costs. (Yetter and Kenning, 11/4)

Politico: Kentucky Health Law Repeal: Not So Fast
Matt Bevin won the Kentucky governorship on a vow to dismantle Obamacare, but the obstacles he faces rolling back a law that covers nearly one in 10 Kentuckians offers a preview of the struggles that a Republican president would face living up to a “repeal and replace” pledge in 2017. Even before the votes were cast, Bevin had started hedging his repeal bet, saying he would not take coverage away from people who have it. He can give the health law in his state a more conservative veneer. But he can’t scrap it completely. (Pradhan and Demko, 11/4)

The Washington Post: Stuck With GOP Legislature, McAuliffe Faces A ‘fork In The Road’
Some Democrats frustrated by Republicans’ opposition to Medicaid expansion and gun control argue that Tuesday’s loss leaves McAuliffe free to blast the policies and politics of his conservative foes. Others say he should work with Republicans and use his coming two-year budget to build a legacy on education, workforce development and economic development. (Portnoy and Vozzella, 11/4)

The Washington Post: Off-Year Elections Reveal A 2016 Map With Sharper Borders
The 2015 elections were rougher for Democrats in redder states, as they suffered a surprisingly large defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race, failed to win a majority in the Virginia Senate and saw voters thump an LGBT rights ordinance in Houston. But in blue states and cities, the party held or gained ground. As the parties head into a new presidential year, the country’s partisan divide has deepened. Republicans walked away from Tuesday with the big wins. Democrats walked away with fresh confidence that their map can win a third presidential election in a row. (Weigel, 11/4)

The Associated Press: Virtual Doctor Visits Offer Convenience, Lower Costs
When you're coming down with a cold, there are a few items you typically reach for to start feeling better: cough drops, herbal tea, maybe an over-the-counter medication. For most of us, though, a smartphone wouldn't top that list. But that may change as health care companies increasingly steer customers toward streaming video apps that connect patients with doctors online. (Perrone, 11/4)

The Associated Press: $54M Settlement Reported In Probe Of Medicaid Drug Charges
State authorities have reported a $54 million settlement with two drug companies to close an investigation into Medicaid overcharges. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says Delaware-based AstraZeneca LP will pay 49 states and the federal government $46.5 million and Pennsylvania-based Cephalon Inc. will pay $7.5 million. (11/4)

Los Angeles Times: Federal Judge Slaps Justice Department For Limits On Medical Marijuana
A recent federal court ruling in San Francisco is a blow to Justice Department efforts to limit the sale of medical marijuana in California and 22 other states, according to legal experts and government officials. In a scathing opinion last month, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer challenged the Justice Department’s narrow interpretation of part of a law passed by Congress last year that bars the department from spending any money to prevent a state from implementing its medical marijuana laws. (Phelps, 11/4)

Los Angeles Times: California Congresswoman Who Had Abortion To Serve On Planned Parenthood Committee
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), who once spoke about her own abortion on the House floor, will serve on a newly formed House select committee investigating claims that Planned Parenthood profited from providing fetal tissue to researchers. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) named Speier and five other Democrats to serve on the panel. Speier told the Los Angeles Times that she asked for the assignment. (Wire, 11/5)

The Associated Press: Recovery After Overdoses: Stopping Heroin's 'Revolving Door'
In a small but growing number of places, people who land in hospitals after being revived by the drug are being guided toward long-term treatment. That's largely because decision makers have heard so many stories about people being brought back from the brink — sometimes repeatedly — and then turned loose to use again. The drug, pronounced nuh-LOX-ohn but often known by the brand name Narcan, is administered via shot or nasal spray and can almost immediately revive a victim of an overdose on heroin and its painkiller relatives, known as opioids. It's widely distributed to anyone likely to encounter an overdose victim, including police, paramedics and users' families. (11/4)

NPR: Tribal Clinic Deploys A Gym To Fend Off Diabetes
The clinic's local efforts target an illness that's expanding rapidly among Native Americans, who are twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes, according to the Indian Health Service. Particularly alarming is the impact of the disease on Native American young people ages 10 to 19. Statistics show those children and teens are nine times more likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic white kids (Romero, 11/4)

NPR: California Law Adds New Twist To Abortion, Religious Freedom Debate
The latest front in the debate over religious freedom is all about an 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper. This particular piece of paper is a notice — one the state of California will soon require to be posted in places known as crisis pregnancy centers. These resource centers, often linked to religious organizations, provide low-cost or free services to pregnant women, while encouraging these women to not have abortions. (McEvers, 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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