Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Wild West'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Wild West'" by Hilary Price.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Make us bargain shop
Health costs are so transparent
Fund that HSA!

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. Sky-High Deductibles Make Health Care Unaffordable For Some Insured

With enrollment for 2016 open to consumers, The New York Times reviews the state plans offered on healthcare.gov and finds that more than half have a deductible of $3,000 or more.

The New York Times: Many Say High Deductibles Make Their Health Law Insurance All But Useless
Obama administration officials, urging people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, have trumpeted the low premiums available on the law’s new marketplaces. But for many consumers, the sticker shock is coming not on the front end, when they purchase the plans, but on the back end when they get sick: sky-high deductibles that are leaving some newly insured feeling nearly as vulnerable as they were before they had coverage. (Pear, 11/14)

Elsewhere, residents in Florida, Texas and Georgia are urged to take advantage of open enrollment season -

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Recruiters Seek Uninsured At Food Fairs And Churches
Their shared goal: Increase the number of Americans buying health plans. It won’t be easy. About 1.3 million Floridians signed up for individual coverage during the 2015 open enrollment on the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. That was tops in the country – even higher than in California and Texas, which have more people. Like most states, Florida’s uninsured rate has fallen sharply – to 15 percent from 22 percent in 2013, according to Gallup. (Galewitz, 11/16)

Georgia Health News: HHS Chief Urges Atlantans To Enroll In Exchange
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell visited Atlanta on Friday to support efforts to sign up more people during the health insurance exchange’s open enrollment period. Burwell, at an enrollment assistance center, noted that Atlanta is in a challenge competition with 19 other cities to sign up the most uninsured people into the exchanges, which were created under the Affordable Care Act. (Miller, 11/13)

And in New York, three insurers agree to automatically enroll customers of the failed co-op who do not choose an alternate plan -

Politico New York: Three Insurers Agree To Take Health Republic Customers
Three insurers — Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, MVP Health Care and Fidelis Care — have agreed automatically to enroll customers from Health Republic Insurance of New York, the insolvent co-op that was ordered to wind down on Nov. 30, leaving its 200,000 beneficiaries without health insurance for December. The three companies have agreed to take those customers who do not choose their own plan by the end of the month and have agreed to credit any deductible and out-of-pocket payments Health Republic customers have made during 2015, the Cuomo administration announced Friday. (Goldberg, 11/13)

Campaign 2016

5. Clinton Raises Concerns About Sanders' Health Care Plan, Takes Heat On Her Drug Cost Proposal

In the Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton suggests that the U.S. should move forward with President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act rather than move to Sen. Bernie Sanders' proposal for Medicare for all.

The Washington Post: Clinton Faces Sharp Attacks On Wall Street Ties, Iraq Vote At Second Democratic Debate
During the debate. Clinton attacked two key policy Sanders policy proposals – one to make public colleges tuition-free, and another to give all Americans government-run health insurance – as impractical or unfair, in a part of the second Democratic debate seemingly aimed at moderate voters. ... Clinton also criticized Sanders’s plan, which he calls “Medicare for All,” for essentially eliminating President Obama’s health-care law. But Clinton took an unusual tactic: she said Sanders’ plan did not build the federal government up enough. It would leave some decisions to the state governments, which might be run by Republicans. (Fahrenthold, 11/14)

STAT News: Clinton Shows Vulnerability On Drug Costs In Debate
Hillary Clinton’s response to a question about her drug costs plan in Saturday’s presidential debate is likely to invite more scrutiny of a key part of that plan: her cap on out-of-pocket expenses. During the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Clinton was asked about her proposal to limit out-of-pocket expenses to $250 per month, part of a broader plan to put the brakes on rising prescription drug costs. The critical question: wouldn’t that simply translate into higher insurance premiums for consumers? (Robbins, 11/14)

6. Administration, Lawmakers And Candidates Seeking Ways To Control Drug Prices

Consumers' concern about medications that can cost $100,000 a year or more is spurring politicians of all stripes and federal officials to search for remedies. Also in political news, calls by Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both seeking the Republican presidential nomination, for the Senate to move to the right of the House on a repeal measure is causing waves, and Dr. Ben Carson's health politics come under scrutiny.

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers, Candidates Target High Drug Prices
Lawmakers and the Obama administration are ratcheting up efforts to target pharmaceutical companies over high-priced drugs, a sign that legislators are trying to bridge partisan differences to tackle a key driver of rising health care costs. Some specialty drugs can now run $100,000 or more a year, and the issue has been amplified by several high-profile cases in which makers boosted prices dramatically and rapidly. (Armour, 11/15)

The Associated Press: Presidential Politics Complicates Life In The Senate
In the presidential campaign, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are rising in the polls. Back in the Senate, their ambitions can sometimes cause a nuisance for fellow lawmakers, including vulnerable Republicans up for re-election next year. The latest example: Rubio and Cruz are pushing for the Senate to go farther than the House when it takes up legislation to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law. They want to make good on promises to repeal "Obamacare" in its entirety, rather than a more targeted repeal approved recently by the House. (Werner, 11/14)

The Associated Press: Carson Sometimes Deviates From GOP Health Care Thought
Ben Carson lambastes “Obamacare” as much as the next Republican presidential candidate, but the neurosurgeon-turned-politician has a history of health care ideas that puts him outside mainstream conservative thought on the issue. Private insurance companies, he has said, should be little more than “non-profit service organizations,” with government capping their profit margins. Meanwhile, the federal government could offer catastrophic care coverage akin to the National Flood Insurance Program, paid for with taxes on insurers’ profits. (Barrow, 11/16)

Coverage And Access

7. High Court To Hear Texas Abortion Law Challenge

The case, which is the first major abortion challenge to come before the Supreme Court since 2007, will likely have a major impact on the 2016 elections.

The Associated Press: Justices Agree To Hear First Abortion Case Since 2007
The Supreme Court is giving an election-year hearing to a dispute over state regulation of abortion clinics in the court's first abortion case in eight years. The justices said Friday they will hear arguments, probably in March, over a Texas law that would leave about 10 abortion clinics open across the state. A decision should come by late June, four months before the presidential election. (Sherman, 11/15)

The Texas Tribune: Supreme Court To Take Up Challenge To Texas Abortion Law
Setting up what could be a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take up a legal challenge to Texas’ 2013 abortion law, which could shut down about half of the state’s 19 remaining abortion clinics. The high court's decision could spell out how far states can go in restricting abortion. The Texas restrictions, passed as part of House Bill 2, would require abortion facilities meet hospital-like ambulatory surgical center standards, including minimum sizes for rooms and doorways, pipelines for anesthesia, and other modifications. A separate provision, which has already gone into effect, requires doctors who perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic. (Ura, 11/13)

NBC News: Texas Abortion Law Is About Politics, Medical Groups Say
The Supreme Court said last week it would take on th

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