Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'Hold The Phone'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Hold The Phone'" by Chris Wildt .

Here's today's health policy haiku:

REPEAL? REPLACE? JEB HAS LATEST GOP PLAN

Health law replacement?
Jeb Bush joins growing chorus,
Offers his vision.

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Capitol Hill Watch

3. Senate Republicans' Health Law Repeal Effort Gets Procedural Boost

Meanwhile, some Democratic lawmakers are discussing changes to Obamacare's so-called "Cadillac tax."

Politico: GOP Obamacare Repeal Hits Procedural Speed Bump
Senate Republicans will be able to go ahead with legislation dismantling Obamacare under fast-track rules, according to a procedural ruling reached Tuesday — as long as the GOP makes some changes first. The Senate parliamentarian ruled Tuesday afternoon that some provisions of a GOP bill to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood did not survive the so-called Byrd rule, which governs when the powerful procedural tool known as reconciliation can be used. But top GOP Senate aides also noted the parliamentarian ruled that the bill was "privileged," meaning it can avoid a filibuster. Republicans also maintained that the problem could be resolved relatively easily on the floor with a substitute amendment. (Kim, 11/10)

Reuters: U.S. Democrats Discussing Fix To Health Care 'Cadillac Tax'
U.S. Democratic lawmakers are discussing proposing changes to the "Cadillac tax," a levy on high-cost employer-based healthcare plans passed as part of President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat said on Tuesday. "I'm not proposing eliminating it at this point, I'm open to suggestions for changing it," Illinois Senator Dick Durbin told reporters. (Cornwell, 11/10)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. 5,500 Montana Residents Sign Up For Medicaid In First Week Of Expansion

The state's program requires participants to pay premiums -- up to 2 percent of their income -- and make small co-payments. Also, a new survey examines the number of uninsured across the country and finds states with the biggest drops in their rates are those that expanded Medicaid.

MTN News: In First Week, 5,500 Montanans Signed Up For Expanded Medicaid Coverage
In the first week since federal health officials approved Montana’s expanded Medicaid program, 5,500 people already have signed up for the coverage, Gov. Steve Bullock said Tuesday. ... Montana’s low-cost, expanded Medicaid coverage is available to anyone earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,200 for a single person. Many of those eligible will be required to pay annual premiums equal to 2 percent of their income. They’ll also have to make small co-payments for medical care, ranging from $4 for a doctor’s visit to 10 percent of the charge. However, for most, the total out-of-pocket expense is limited to 5 percent of their annual income. (Dennison, 11/10)

Montana Public Radio: 5,500 Montanans Sign Up For Expanded Medicaid Coverage In First Week
State health officials say they’re surprised at the number of Montanans who are signing up for expanded Medicaid. Jessica Rhoades with the Department of Public Health and Human Services says more than 5,500 people have signed up in a little more than a week since enrollment began. “We are so pleased to see that strong reaction. We knew that this program would be popular, but this is more popular than we even thought. We’re thrilled that these people will be getting the health coverage that they need.” (Jess, 11/10)

The Fiscal Times: The 20 States With The Largest And Smallest Drop In Their Uninsured Rate
The nationwide uninsured rate has fallen to 13.4 percent since the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, was implemented. But uninsured rates vary dramatically across states. A new WalletHub analysis breaks down the numbers at the state level between 2010 and 2014. ... All of the states that saw the largest drop in their uninsured rate have also adopted the Medicaid expansion. This relationship isn’t surprising because the states that fail to expand Medicaid leave many low-income adults in a coverage gap, where their incomes are above Medicaid eligibility requirements but below the lowest threshold for marketplace premium tax credits. (Dent, 11/10)

Campaign 2016

5. GOP Presidential Candidates Spar In Latest Debate, But Health Policies Draw Little Notice

However, during the "undercard" debate -- the forum reserved for candidates pulling in lower poll numbers -- La. Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, saying he "caved" on the health law by expanding Medicaid in New Jersey.

The New York Times: In Republican Debate, Candidates Battle Sharply On Immigration
But policy details and disagreements, for the most part, replaced nasty potshots in the early going on Tuesday night, laying bare real fissures within the Republican Party on immigration, national security, trade and the meaning of being a conservative. The candidates used the 90 seconds they were allotted for each answer to promote their tax proposals, to lament what they said were intrusive business regulations and to delve into the country’s monetary policy. Even when Mr. Kasich sought to speak at one point when he was not called on, it was because he wanted to discuss a value-added tax. (Martin and Healy, 11/10)

The Hill: Fiorina Takes Aim At Drug Companies, Health Insurers
“Every healthcare provider ought to publish its costs, its prices, its outcomes because, as patients, we don't know what we're buying,” Fiorina said to roaring applause at the GOP debate hosted by Fox Business Network in Milwaukee, Wis. Fiorina said both drug companies and insurers have been less than transparent about their practices, as they’ve increased the cost of healthcare. Her attacks on the industry came in response to a question about ObamaCare's employer mandate, which went into effect this year. Beyond repealing the full text of ObamaCare, she did not propose a specific way to alleviate the burdens of the employer mandate. (Ferris, 11/10)

The Associated Press: AP FACT CHECK: GOP Candidates Flub Some Figures In Debate
The fourth debate of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign was thick on economic policy — and with that came a variety of flubs and funny numbers. Some of the claims Tuesday night and how they compare with the facts: ... CARLY FIORINA: “Obamacare isn’t really helping anybody.” THE FACTS: President Barack Obama’s health care law may or may not be good for the country on balance. But it’s clearly helping many people. In the two years it’s been in effect, the share of Americans without health insurance has declined to 9 percent, a historic low. People with pre-existing health conditions can no longer be turned away by insurers, and everyone is required to have coverage or face fines. (Rugaber and Boak, 11/11)

The New York Times: Chris Christie Saves All His Shots For Clinton In G.O.P. Undercard Debate
When Mr. Jindal criticized Mr. Christie for “liberal” policies in New Jersey, he simply said he had no interest in contrasting himself with the Louisiana governor. “I want to talk about what’s going to happen to this country if we have another four years of Barack Obama’s policies,” Mr. Christie said, adding that his success in a blue state qualified him to run strongly nationally. “Wait a minute, records matter,” Mr. Jindal interjected. He criticized Mr. Christie for expanding food stamps and Medicaid in his state. Again, Mr. Christie refused to engage. “Who’s going to be able to beat Hillary Clinton and keep their eye on the ball,” he said. (Gabriel, 11/10)

The Wall Street Journal: In Early Republican Debate, Chris Christie Looks For An Opening
Mr. Christie was joined on stage by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Mr. Jindal took repeated swipes at Mr. Christie, arguing the New Jersey governor had expanded his state’s government. “You caved in to Obamacare, you expanded Medicaid,” Mr. Jindal said, in a reference to the government health-care program for the poor. “We need a conservative, not a big government Republican.” (Hook and Ballhaus, 11/10)

6. Hillary Clinton Details Steps To Improve VA Health System

Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate, made clear her opposition to completely privatizing health care for veterans, instead striking a balance between the traditional system of care and and some vets' interest in seeing private health care providers.

The Associated Press: Clinton Pushes Back Against GOP On Veterans’ Health Issues
Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined steps to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday, casting herself as a protector against proposals to privatize the sprawling health care system for those who have served in the military. In a pre-Veterans Day event, the Democratic presidential candidate said she would seek to improve veterans’ health care, modernize veterans’ benefits system and address an unwieldy bureaucracy that was exposed in a scandal involving chronic delays for those seeking medical care or to have their claims processed. (Thomas, 11/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Hillary Clinton Vows To Fight VA Privatization
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton offered her vision for veterans’ health care Tuesday, promising to fight full-fledged privatization while allowing the government to contract with private providers for a range of health services. In her proposal, Mrs. Clinton struck a balance between support for traditional government-run veterans health programs while acknowledging that many veterans want to access care from private providers as well, given the system’s failings. (Meckler and Kesling, 11/10)

Veterans' Health Care

7. On Veterans Day, White House To Push Measures To Improve Private Medical Care For Vets

In addition to tackling the ongoing health care access issues, President Barack Obama's proposals also target veteran homelessness as well as educational and disability benefits. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald is also urging Congress to stop using VA issues to score political points. And TriWest Healthcare Alliance's president discusses the difficulties in meeting the need of the military backlog.

The New York Times: White House Seeks To Ease Veterans’ Access To Care
The Obama administration on Wednesday will call on Congress to enact measures to help military veterans gain easier access to health care, disability and educational benefits, part of a push to spotlight its efforts to improve the way the government treats veterans after a scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs. President Obama will urge Congress to improve a program that allows veterans to receive private medical care, speed the appeal process for disability claims and pass legislation aiming to improve the quality of schools that serve veterans. (Hirschfeld Davis, 11/11)

The Washington Post: 'Don’t Just Throw Rocks,’ VA Secretary Tells Congress
As he tries to repair a sprawling agency beset by poor morale, growing caseloads, a shortage of medical staff and a crisis last year over manipulated waiting lists to paper over delays in health care, the retired chief executive of Procter & Gamble has felt bipartisan criticism. VA may be the one corner of the government that, because there are veterans in every congressional district, Democrats and Republicans can agree on. And the public criticism of how he is leading the agency — more biting from Republicans, not surprisingly — has been unrelenting, from inaction on firing executives who engaged in misconduct to battles over funding. (Rein, 11/11)