Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'The Domino Defect'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'The Domino Defect'" by Lisa Benson.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

WHAT'S IN YOUR MEDICINE CHEST?

Pills for everyone!
Remarkable cures, some are -
Others, mere Band-Aids.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Health Law Issues And Implementation

3. Obama Encourages Navigators To 'Take Every Effort' During Enrollment Outreach

As the third enrollment season gets underway, the president held a conference call to promote the health law. In other Obamacare news, the collapse of so many nonprofit health insurance co-ops leads to finger pointing. And KHN reports on how software problems and better health insurance options elsewhere are said to hold small business enrollment under projections.

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)

Kaiser Health News: Small Businesses Snub Obamacare’s SHOP Exchange
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)

4. GOP Says Success In Ky. Governor's Race Shows Clout Of Opposition To Health Law

Kentucky Governor-Elect Matt Bevin campaigned against the health law and won in part on his vow to dismantle the state's implementation of it. But Politico notes that may be very difficult.

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)

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)

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)

NBC News: First Read: The GOP's Obamacare Experiment Is About To Begin
Perhaps the most significant consequence of Republican Matt Bevin's victory in Kentucky's gubernatorial race last night is that it could result in the dismantling of maybe the most extensive (and successful) effort to implement Obamacare in the entire country. (Todd, Murray and Dann, 11/4)

The Fiscal Times: GOP Fires A Warning Shot In Kentucky In The War Against Obamacare
The Republican victories in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race and Virginia’s state legislative elections on Tuesday provided a jarring wakeup call to Democrats that they could be facing a tough slog in the 2016 campaign. ... One important preliminary finding is that the Kentucky and Virginia election results may be a harbinger for Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare and block a further extension of Medicaid health care benefits to many of the nation’s poorest individuals and families. (Pianin and Matishak, 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 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)

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)

5. Healthcare.gov Problems Still Plague Some Trying To Enroll

Some people in Florida may be going without insurance because of technical problems with the federal health insurance exchange website. In Minnesota, a lawmaker says the exchange there, MNsure, is misleading him about its r budget. Also, MNsure names a finalist for the open CEO job.

Health News Florida: Trying, Failing On HealthCare.gov
For much of this year, Sara Goodrich of Lakeland has gone without health insurance -- despite trying over and over again to complete enrollment on HealthCare.gov. “For the last six months, all of the agents have been telling me something else is the issue. Resubmit here, there's an address error, it's your birthday, for some reason, that would affect my application, and I just said, I am trying to follow the rules here, and you guys aren't helping,’” she said. (Watts, 11/5)

The Pioneer Press: MNsure Officials, State Rep Trade Sharp Words Over Exchange's Budget
A prominent House Republican on Wednesday accused MNsure executives of misleading him about their budget and asked the federal government to stop giving the controversial health care exchange any more money, provoking a war of words with MNsure leaders. At issue are millions of dollars in federal grants provided to MNsure by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. MNsure hasn't yet received permission from the federal government to use these grants next year but counts on them in its budget. (Montgomery, 11/4)

The Associated Press: Sole Finalist Emerges To Lead Minnesota's Health Exchange
Minnesota's health exchange named an experienced former insurance executive as the sole finalist Wednesday to take over as the fourth CEO of the embattled, three-year-old organization. MNsure board members publicly identified Mark Nyquist as the lone finalist for the position. Nyquist has previously worked as a vice president at UnitedHealth Group and several private consulting businesses with clients in the health care field. (Potter, 11/4)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. Senate Panel To Investigate Prescription Drug Pricing

The Special Committee on Aging is now focusing on four companies -- Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Turing Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin and Rodelis Therapeutics -- that have been the subject of recent press reports detailing price hikes.

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
Notably, the senators called for a face-to-face meeting with Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO, Martin Shkreli, “as soon as it is practicable.” A former hedge fund manager, Shkreli has become the public face of the pricing controversy, after his company raised the price of the anti-infection drug Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent. The drug, which Turing acquired in August, is the only U.S.-approved treatment for a deadly parasitic infection that can affect pregnant women and patients with HIV.” (Perrone, 11/4)

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