Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'Get The Message?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Get The Message?'" by Steve Kelley, The Times-Picayune.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: IT’S BEEN FIVE YEARS!

When the health law passed
Obama said he would quit
smoking. He meant it!

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. Half Empty Or Half Full: Differing Views Of Federal Health Law

A Wall Street Journal forum examines various perspectives about the successes and challenges of the Affordable Care Act. Also in the news, a report about the effect of the "coverage gap" on communities in Tennessee, guidance for people looking to enroll on the marketplaces, Rhode Island's efforts to improve its tracking for health and human services benefits and South Dakota's governor is expected to announce next month his preference on Medicaid expansion.

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: At WSJ CEO Council, Health Law’s Success Depends On Which Number You Prefer
By now, supporters and opponents of the Affordable Care Act often divide along “glass half full or half empty” lines over similar facts, and each perspective was on display at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council on Tuesday. “We believe coverage in general has been improved” by the 2010 law, said Health and Human Services senior counselor Leslie Dach. ... His agency has estimated that the law has extended coverage to 17.6 million people .... Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, speaking after Mr. Dach, pointed to Congressional Budget Office estimates suggesting that as many as 35 million people are still without coverage, and 27 million will be uninsured five years from now, to argue the health law has required too much to do too little. (Radnofsky, 11/17)

The Associated Press: Report Shows Impact Of State's Health Care 'Gap'
A new report reveals the negative impact that the state's health care "gap" is having on local communities. The report was released this week by the Tennessee Justice Center in Nashville. People in the health care gap earn too little to pay for private insurance, but don't qualify for TennCare, the state's version of Medicaid. (11/18)

The Providence Journal: R.I. Faces Millions More In Cost Of Benefits Tracking Computer System
The development of a new computer system to determine eligibility for state health and human services benefits will cost an extra $10 million in the current budget year and another $4.9 million the following year, state lawmakers were told on Tuesday. UHIP is intended to replace 20-year-old independent computer systems to allow for integrated verification of eligibility for such assistance as Medicaid, Affordable Care Act subsidies through HealthSource RI and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps). (Salit, 11/17)

(Sioux Falls, S.D.) Argus Leader: Daugaard Weighing Medicaid Expansion
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard plans to address Medicaid expansion in his Dec. 8 budget address, his chief of staff said Tuesday. “It’s the governor’s hope that he would be able to provide a recommendation one way or the other,” Tony Venhuizen said. The governor’s office said expanding the program could extend eligibility to 55,000 additional South Dakota residents. And the cost to the state could range from $30 million to $33 million a year beginning in 2020. (Ferguson, 11/17)

It turns out the health law had a personal health effect for the president -

5. Don't Just Stick With Your Current Health Plan; Shop Around For 2016, Study Advises

Insurance premiums could jump 15 percent next year for millions of consumers if they keep their 2015 plans, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation. KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.

Kaiser Health News: Study: Health Plan Buyers Will Save Money If They Shop
You better shop around. For holiday gifts? No, for a 2016 health insurance plan on the federal marketplace, healthcare.gov. Millions of consumers who are enrolled this year could pay higher rates if they stay in the same health plan next year, according to a study released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Galewitz, 11/18)

The Washington Post: Rate Hikes Widespread For Popular HealthCare.gov Insurance Unless People Switch Plans
The analysis shows that premiums are escalating for 2016 in virtually all of these plans. And in nearly three-fourths of the counties where consumers can buy coverage through the federal insurance exchange, the plan that was the lowest-price option for 2015 will no longer have the least expensive premium next year. The findings by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy organization, reinforce a message that the Obama administration has been spreading since the Nov. 1 start of the third year's enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act: Consumers risk insurance-premium sticker shock unless they are willing to switch to a different plan. (Goldstein, 11/18)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. McConnell Says Senate GOP Will Go Forward With Push To Defund Planned Parenthood

This steps comes despite concerns from some GOP moderates. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's pick to run the Food and Drug Administration faced tough questioning during a Senate hearing.

Politico: Senate GOP Presses Ahead With Planned Parenthood Defunding
Senate Republicans are still planning to force Planned Parenthood defunding legislation through the chamber using a fast-track process — despite concerns from some GOP moderates. GOP leadership briefly mulled dumping the defunding provision from a broader measure that dismantles key parts of Obamacare, in an effort to mollify worried moderates. Senate Republicans have struggled to corral 51 votes for the package, which will be passed using a fast-track "reconciliation" process, amid growing opposition from both the conservative and moderate wings of the party. (Kim, 11/17)

The Hill: Planned Parenthood Defund Language To Stay In ObamaCare Repeal Package
Senate Republican leaders initially wanted to vote on the ObamaCare repeal bill this week, but they’ve had trouble rounding up enough votes in part because moderates have balked at the Planned Parenthood language. McConnell, however, held course Tuesday and vowed it would not be dropped to make the bill more enticing for Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). He told reporters the repeal package “will contain a defund of Planned Parenthood,” adding, “we’ll be moving to that after Thanksgiving.” Senate GOP sources say the package, which will move under special budgetary protections that allow it to pass with a simple-majority vote, still does not have enough support. As many as eight Republican senators are threatening to vote no either because of the Planned Parenthood language or because of concern it does not go far enough to repeal the landmark healthcare reform law. (Bolton, 11/17)

The Associated Press: Senate Panel Questions FDA Nominee On Drug Prices, Approvals
President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration defended his record Tuesday as senators pressed him about rising drug prices, slow approval times for new drugs and his ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Robert Califf, 64, is currently the No. 2 official at the agency, which regulates consumer products from medications to seafood to e-cigarettes. He joined the FDA as deputy commissioner earlier this year after more than 30 years as a prominent cardiologist and medical researcher at Duke University. (Jalonick, 11/17)

STAT: Califf: I'll Never Lower FDA's Approval Standards
Dr. Robert Califf, President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration, defended his acceptance of drug industry funding Tuesday and promised never to lower the agency’s safety standards. (Kaplan, 11/17)

Campaign 2016

7. Clinton Gains Backing Of Large Health Workers Union, Draws Sharper Contrasts With Sanders On Health Policies

Meanwhile, while on the campaign trail in Texas, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton took jabs at Gov. Greg Abbott for turning away from the health law's Medicaid expansion.

The Associated Press: Large Health Care Workers Union Backs Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton won the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union on Tuesday, giving her the support of a labor powerhouse that backed President Barack Obama in 2008. The nation's largest health care union represents about 2 million nurses, health care workers and other caregivers and is among the most ethnically diverse unions in the country. The decision is a blow to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose supporters had pushed against an endorsement. (Thomas, 11/17)