- KFF Health News Original Stories 5
- Pacemakers Get Hacked On TV, But Could It Happen In Real Life?
- Laws Spreading That Allow Terminal Patients Access To Experimental Drugs
- As California Expands Medicaid To New Beneficiaries, Many Others Are Dropped
- Jonathan Gruber Video Comments Roil Health Law Politics
- Paying On Faith: Ministries Offer Alternative To Health Insurance
- Political Cartoon: 'Betty, Oops!'
- Health Law 5
- Health Marketplace Chief Pleased With 'Good Couple Of Days'
- With Sign-Up Season Underway, State Exchanges Offer Positive Reviews
- From Quirky To Earnest, Pitches Target Millennials, Latinos, Southerners
- Obama, Insurers Forge Bonds As Health Law Is Implemented
- Alaska, Montana Governors Push For Medicaid Expansion
- Public Health 2
- Doctor's Death Highlights Need For Better Ebola Testing
- Court System Set Up To Help Families Hurt By Vaccines Is Clogged
- State Watch 1
- State Highlights: Kaiser Permanente, Target Set Up Clinics; Mass. Town Irate About Smoking Plan
From KFF Health News - Latest Stories:
Concerns about the potential vulnerability of medical devices are getting the attention of regulators, health care providers and manufacturers. (Daniela Hernandez and Julie Appleby, )
Five states have approved the measures this year, but critics note that they don’t address the issues of patient costs and don’t mean the drug makers will necessarily make the medications available. (Michelle Andrews, )
Previous enrollees in the program for low-income residents must reapply and many are finding the new applications too onerous to complete, advocates say. (Jenny Gold, )
Videotaped comments by a former consultant on the Affordable Care Act has created serious political blowback for the Obama administration, just as the administration seeks to focus attention on the health law's second open-enrollment season. ( )
The ACA’s coverage mandate spurs growth in health-care sharing ministries, in which members agree to abide by Christian principles and contribute to each other’s medical expenses. (Ann Doss Helms, Charlotte Observer, )
KFF Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Betty, Oops!'" by John Deering, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
WILL OVERHAULING MEDICARE REMAIN A PRIORITY?
John Boehner’s of age --
of Medicare age, that is –
It’s a big birthday!
made the point, loud and quite clear.
But without Graeters.
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if we can include your name. Haikus follow the format of 5-7-5 syllables. We give extra brownie points if you link back to an original story.
Opinions expressed in haikus and cartoons are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions of KFF Health News or KFF.
Summaries Of The News:
Healthcare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan tells state insurance commissioners about websites' early successes. Nonetheless, consumers are reporting some bumps as they enroll.
The Associated Press:
Healthcare.gov Gets Steady Traffic; Hits Bump
HealthCare.gov got steady consumer interest and also hit a bump Monday, the first weekday of the new sign-up season under the president's health overhaul. Consumers trying to open their existing accounts on the website got this message off and on during the afternoon: "HealthCare.gov has a lot of visitors right now! We need you to wait here, so we can make sure there's enough room for you to have a good experience on our site." At other times, this message was displayed: "We're busy making HealthCare.gov even better! Sorry you can't get what you need right now. Please come back and visit again later." Spokeswoman Lori Lodes said one problem was fixed and issues will be addressed as they arise. Other areas of the website were working normally, she added. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/17)
Smoother Start, But Some Struggle With Healthcare.gov
Sign-ups have generally gone more smoothly than last year for HealthCare.gov, although some consumers and insurance agents are having problems with the site that are reminiscent of last fall's open enrollment experiences. Numerous log-in and password failures were reported Monday, but federal officials call these cases the exception. (O'Donnell and Ungar, 11/17)
Quiet Start Seen For Obamacare Enrollment Period
The federal health insurance marketplace set up under the Affordable Care Act has gotten off to a relatively uneventful start in its second year. The healthcare.gov website, in other words, is working. (Boulton, 11/17)
Meanwhile, The Associated Press takes a quick look at premium increases in Florida, one of the key states for enrollment efforts -
The Associated Press:
Health Premiums Increase 10 To 15 Percent In Fla.
The average monthly premiums for mid-range health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act increased as much as 20 percent in Florida, but also decreased slightly in one county, year over year. According to an Associated Press analysis, rural counties and counties where senior citizens make up a significant portion of the population in Florida saw the biggest increases in premium costs for "silver" plans from 2014 to 2015. (Schneider and Kennedy, 11/17)
Obamacare's Annual Check-Up: Three Things You Need to Know
re are three important -- and conflicting -- facts about the federal health-care law with its second open enrollment season now underway: One, a year removed from HealthCare.Gov’s debacle, the law is working better than many had ever thought it would. The uninsured rate, per Gallup, has dropped from 18.0% last year to 13.4% now. Many premiums for 2015 are lower than expected. (Todd, Murray and Dann, 11/17)
Several outlets reported on that Gallup poll -
The Chicago Sun-Times:
Disapproval Of ObamaCare Has Never Been Greater
While the second sign-up season for Obamacare is gearing up and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said she expects "strong and healthy growth" for 2015, Americans' disapproval of the Affordable Care Act has hit an all-time high. A new Gallup poll shows only 37 percent approve of the health care law, which is a new low, while 56 percent of Americans say they disapprove of it, which eclipses the previous high by 1 percentage point. Since the end of 2012 when Americans were mostly split on the law, the divide has been gradually growing over the last two years. (Merda, 11/17)
Gallup: 'New Numerical Low' For Obamacare
Support for Obamacare continues to decline, with the law hitting a new low in approval, and a new high in disapproval, as the second enrollment period has opened for Americans, according to Gallup. (McCalmont, 11/17)
The Fiscal Times:
Obamacare’s Approval At Lowest Rating On Record
Some 100,000 people signed up for health coverage on the state and federal exchanges on the first day of Obamacare’s second open enrollment period this weekend—compared to just six people last year amid a nightmarish rollout plagued with website issues. And despite the seemingly successful technical launch on Saturday, Obamacare is still not winning any popularity contests. (Ehley, 11/17)
The Washington Post also noted that the health law is working its way into popular culture -
The Washington Post:
‘Last Man Standing’ Still Has A Lot To Say About Obamacare
It can be tough for a sitcom to take on a timely topic, particularly in the political arena. That’s partly a factor of TV production schedules, partly the hesitance about shoehorning a serious issue in between laugh tracks. But on Friday night, ABC’s “Last Man Standing” managed to jump into current events — specifically, the Obamacare debate. (Yahr, 11/17)
The Kentucky governor's office reported that more than 1,100 people purchased or renewed their coverage during the first weekend of open enrollment. Also, in Massachusetts, officials reported that about 12,000 people logged on to check their eligibility, and, in Minnesota, the online marketplace operated largely without interruption.
The Associated Press:
Kynect's First Weekend Nets More Than 1,100 Plans
The governor's office says more than 1,100 people purchased a health insurance plan or renewed their current plan during the first weekend of kynect's open enrollment. Kynect is the health insurance exchange Kentucky officials set up after the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act. People who qualify can use the website http://kynect.ky.gov to purchase health insurance plans with the help of a federal discount. People can also use the website to sign up for Medicaid. (11/18)
About 12,000 Checked Insurance Eligibility Via Website
Yes, it worked. The Massachusetts Health Connector’s website really did work. That was the message from state officials Monday at a press briefing held to release statistics from the overhauled website’s first weekend of operation. (Freyer, 11/18)
Minnesota Public Radio:
MNsure Aims To Erase Memories Of Disastrous Start In Second Year
Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace began its second open enrollment without interruption, a marked contrast to its debut a year ago. When the MNsure website launched in 2013, website delays and long waits for consumers who called seeking assistance frustrated and angered many people seeking a health plan. But when the MNsure site reopened for enrollment in private health plans over the weekend, it worked largely without interruption. (Zdechlik, 11/17)
In related news, Oregon's move to healthcare.gov also went relatively smoothly, though the federal website did present users with some challenges -
Oregon's Early Use Of Healthcare.gov Largely Successful, But Faces Some Glitches
Days into Oregonians' first use of Healthcare.gov, reviews are generally good, though the federal health insurance exchange is not without glitches and challenges, according to agents, insurers and consumers. (Budnick, 11/17)
Meanwhile, Maryland officials released information about the costs associated with last year's botched system -
The Baltimore Sun:
State Details Payments To Former Contractor On Botched Health Exchange
With the staggered rollout of the Maryland health exchange's new website going as planned — and about 500 applications for health insurance completed in the first two days — officials paused to offer a window into the costs associated with the old system deemed so dysfunctional that it had to be scrapped. The exchange released details Monday of what it paid to Noridian Healthcare Solutions, the North Dakota company that served as the prime contractor until April, when the board voted to switch to technology used in Connecticut. (Cohn, 11/17)
An Illinois exchange ad mocks young people with a no-cost insurance plan called "Luck," while Georgia navigators reach out to the state's growing Latino population, and coalitions of non-governmental groups join forces to sign up uninsured people in southern states.
In The South, Obamacare Advocates Try To Outmaneuver Opponents
In Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and other states, there is intense organizing by coalitions of groups to sign people up for Obamacare, which started open enrollment on Nov. 15 for its second year. In some states, these efforts are led by openly liberal groups, such as the Texas Organizing Project, which is involved heavily in ACA promotion but also backed Democrat Wendy Davis’ unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign. (Bacon, 11/17)
Illinois Health Officials Mocks Millennials With 'Luck' Insurance Ad
Illinois health officials are offering millennials a new insurance plan that promises no paperwork and no monthly premiums. But it also has “no real benefits” or “real care of any kind,” according to the new tongue-in-cheek ad from “Get Covered Illinois.” The 30-second ad promotes a healthcare plan called “Luck” and features 20- and 30-somethings wearing casts, neck braces and eyepatches made of cardboard and masking tape. The plan’s logo is crossed fingers and its slogan is “You’ll be okay, probably.” (Ferris, 11/17)
The Miami Herald:
U.S. Health Boss: Florida At Crossroads For Obamacare Signup
Florida will play a crucial role in national efforts to sign people up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Monday during an appearance at Florida International University. “Florida actually has a very large uninsured population and so it’s a place where many of the people we're trying to reach are. In addition, though, Florida led the nation in terms of those enrolling in the federal marketplace last year,” Burwell said during a panel discussion with local healthcare advocates and nonprofit groups at FIU’s College of Law in West Miami-Dade. Nearly a million Floridians signed up for coverage in 2014. Enrollment for 2015 coverage began Saturday. (Nehamas, 11/17)
Georgia Health News:
Exchange Workers Put Priority On Latino Outreach
Georgia’s Latino/Hispanic population, which was small for most of the state’s history, has grown strongly and steadily since about 1990. They now constitute about 8 percent of the state’s population, but they account for 17 percent of the uninsured in Georgia. (Miller, 11/17)
Kansas Health Institute News Service:
Kansas Consumers Have More ACA Enrollment Options
Sherry Calderwood wishes she could turn back the clock. Last fall, she and her husband decided not to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace because it cost too much. The 45-year-old waitress, who banters with legislators and lobbyists at a popular Topeka breakfast spot just a few blocks from the Kansas Statehouse, had gotten by for years without coverage and thought her luck would hold. It didn’t. Sapped of energy and bruised from head to toe, she recently went to the doctor and was given a preliminary diagnosis of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, an autoimmune disease that thins the blood and in extreme cases causes internal bleeding. Thousands of dollars in tests and hospital stays later, doctors still haven’t pinned down the reason for Calderwood’s condition. Before Obamacare, Calderwood’s diagnosis would have made it virtually impossible for her to get health insurance. (McLean, 11/17)
The once-tense relationship between the White House and the industry has evolved into a mutually beneficial partnership, reports The New York Times. Meanwhile, state insurance regulators are discussing contingency plans should the Supreme Court decide to invalidate subsidies in states that rely on the federal insurance exchange, according to Politico Pro.
The New York Times:
Health Care Law Recasts Insurers As Obama Allies
As Americans shop in the health insurance marketplace for a second year, President Obama is depending more than ever on the insurance companies that five years ago he accused of padding profits and canceling coverage for the sick. Those same insurers have long viewed government as an unreliable business partner that imposed taxes, fees and countless regulations and had the power to cut payment rates and cap profit margins. But since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, the relationship between the Obama administration and insurers has evolved into a powerful, mutually beneficial partnership that has been a boon to the nation’s largest private health plans and led to a profitable surge in their Medicaid enrollment. (Pear, 11/17)
SCOTUS Subsidies Case Weighs On States
Insurance regulators in states where HHS runs the Obamacare exchanges are discussing contingency plans or workarounds should the Supreme Court strip the law’s insurance subsidies across a wide swath of the country. (Pradhan, 11/17)
And The Wall Street Journal examines the White House visits of controversial consultant Jonathan Gruber -
The Wall Street Journal:
Health Adviser Gruber Logged Regular White House Visits
Jonathan Gruber, the economist at the heart of a fresh debate about the Affordable Care Act, has had more than a dozen appointments to visit the White House since Democrats began drafting the health law in 2009, records show. The visits included at least one group meeting with President Barack Obama ... The White House in recent days has tried to distance itself from Mr. Gruber, a 49-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, since a 2013 video surfaced last week in which he said the law passed because of the “huge political advantage” of the legislation’s lacking transparency. He also referred to the “stupidity of the American voter.” (Armour and McCain Nelson, 11/17)
Other outlets explore how more providers are asking for pre-payments for non-emergency care -
Louisville Courier-Journal/USA Today:
Health Plans Lead To More Hospital Pre-Pay
[Mark Edwards'] experience, being asked to pay a sum upfront for surgery, has become increasingly common as doctors' practices and hospitals navigate the world of employer-provided high-deductible health plans and the launch of the federal Affordable Care Act. Hospital executives say they're struggling to keep their mountains of bad debt in check when patients frequently can't pay the share required under insurance plans for non-emergency tests, procedures and services. (Schneider, 11/16)
A newly elected governor in Alaska and a Montana incumbent advocate expansion of the federal-state program for the poor, while a federal court rejects Maine's effort to drop some young people, and California is sued for dropping many beneficiaries from its rolls.
Alaska's Medicaid Future Uncertain Despite Pro-expansion Governor
Alaska Gov.-elect Bill Walker's finally determined victory Saturday over incumbent Republican Sean Parnell could mean Alaska will be one of the next states to expand Medicaid. But whether the GOP-controlled Legislature will attempt to block such a move is open to debate. “I would hope the Legislature would try not to block him on his first major policy move,” said Les Gara, a Democratic member of the Alaska House of Representatives. Walker ran a campaign that included criticizing the Legislature, a tactic that could come back to haunt him in a Medicaid expansion fight, said Tom Anderson, a political consultant and former Republican state legislator who is now a partner at Optima Public Relations. (Dickson, 11/17)
The Associated Press:
Bullock Budget Pushes For Medicaid Expansion
Mont. Gov. Steve Bullock released a two-year budget proposal Monday that pushes for Medicaid expansion and water, sewer and road projects as well as money for pre-kindergarten programs and increased funding for mental health services. Overall the proposal would increase state spending by 5.5 percent in fiscal year 2016 and 2.83 percent in 2017. Bullock said the increases are offset by expected revenue growth of 7 percent in 2016 and just over 6 percent in 2017. He said his priorities encompass improving the state's economy, education and health care. (Baumann, 11/17)
U.S. Court Rejects Maine's Effort To Trim Medicaid Rolls
A federal appeals court on Monday rejected Maine's effort to trim some young people from its Medicaid rolls, saying the move would violate the Affordable Care Act. Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage, a critic of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, which is also known as Obamacare, had proposed in 2012 cutting non-disabled 19- and 20-year-olds from the state's Medicaid program to help balance the budget. A judge on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said on Monday the move would violate a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that forbids states from tightening Medicaid eligibility requirements for at least nine years. (Sherwood, 11/17)
Kaiser Health News:
As California Expands Medicaid To New Beneficiaries, Many Others Are Dropped
When it comes to expanding health coverage to its poorest residents, California could be taking two steps forward and one step back. Even as the state celebrates its enrollment of more than 2.7 million low-income Californians in Medi-Cal in 2014, it may drop an unusually high number of beneficiaries from its rolls by year’s end. (Gold, 11/18)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Pa. Prepares For Health Care Coverage Onslaught
The state Department of Public Welfare chief said Monday that her agency was prepared for an onslaught when enrollment for "Healthy PA," Pennsylvania's Medicaid expansion alternative, begins in less than two weeks. The website dedicated to enrolling hundreds of thousands of uninsured low-income Pennsylvanians under the Affordable Care Act is seeing a spike in users following the launch of a $2 million statewide ad blitz. The state anticipates that about 600,000 people - many of them the working poor - are eligible to get coverage beginning Jan. 1 under the Corbett administration's proposal, which uses Medicaid funding to pay private insurers. (Worden, 11/17)
Medicaid Officials Extend Current Indiana Program
Federal Medicaid officials renewed Indiana’s current waiver program for one more year in order to give the state and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services more time to negotiate on an expansion of the program under the health care law. Republican Gov. Mike Pence submitted his new plan for approval in July, but talks between the state and CMS officials have become difficult in recent months. Pence met with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in October. Burwell later said that the two sides have been discussing the “core parameters that are both statutory and policy in terms of what Medicaid needs to provide.” (Adams, 11/17)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was among the Democrats who chose to welcome the House Speaker to Medicare and Social Security as part of his birthday greetings.
The Wall Street Journal:
Boehner’s Birthday Celebrated With Social Security Messages
Democrats and Republicans have spent several years clashing over Social Security and Medicare, two giant federal programs, and that clash is even present in birthday greetings. On Monday, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) celebrated his 65th birthday. While one doesn’t often mention age when it comes to birthday greetings, the Twitter accounts for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) were quick to point to it, and wrap in a pitch for the programs. (Paletta and Andrews, 11/17)
Pelosi To Boehner: Welcome To Medicare And Social Security!
Nancy Pelosi wished John Boehner a happy 65th birthday on Monday via Twitter. But the minority leader couldn’t resist gigging the House speaker by mentioning issues dear to Democrats: Social Security, the so-called third rail of American politics, and Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors. ... Perhaps that’s a hint to Republicans not to touch the federal programs near and dear to senior citizens? When Pelosi turned 74 in March, Boehner sent her Graeter’s chocolate ice cream and gelato. (Camia, 11/17)
By inking what's being described as one of the year's biggest deals, Actavis will be -- based on sales -- one of the world's largest drug makers.
The New York Times:
Allergan Escapes Valeant’s Pursuit, Agreeing To Be Bought By Actavis
Allergan agreed on Monday to be acquired for $66 billion by Actavis in a deal worth $219 a share in cash and stock. The deal would be the biggest ever for Actavis and the largest acquisition in a year full of big deals, eclipsing Comcast’s $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable and AT&T’s $48.5 billion purchase of DirecTV. It would be the third-largest health care deal ever in the United States, according to Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ. (Gelles, 11/17)
The Associated Press:
Actavis To Spend $66 Billion On Allergan
Actavis, which is buying Botox-maker Allergan for $66 billion in one of the biggest acquisitions announced so far this year, plans to stay committed to developing new products. CEO Brent Saunders said Monday that the combined company will have more than two dozen products in late-stage clinical testing, which is usually the last and most expensive development phase, and it will work to support research. (Murphy, 11/17)
The Wall Street Journal:
Actavis Agrees To Buy Botox Maker Allergan
Two years ago, Actavis PLC was a relatively small seller of generic medicines with an unpronounceable name. After it seals its $66 billion deal for Allergan Inc., announced Monday, the company would be one of the globe’s largest drug makers by sales, led by the antiwrinkle treatment Botox. The rapid rise of Actavis was fueled by seismic changes reshaping health care, and then turbocharged by Allergan’s heated efforts to slip from the grasp of a hostile suitor. (Rockoff, 11/17)
The Wall Street Journal also reports on what the deal might foreshadow for the health care sector -
The Wall Street Journal:
Health Care Likely Continue M&A Streak, PE May Not Benefit
Actavis PLC’s $66 billion offer for Botox maker Allergan Inc. may be a precursor of things to come. ... Kathrin Kudner, a member of Dykema’s health care practice group, said activities will likely be driven by strategic mergers and hospital consolidation, an area private equity hasn’t been hot on in recent years. “A large number of free standing community hospitals are looking at partnerships or acquisitions, given high technology costs, high personnel cost, and decreasing government reimbursement,” she said. (Oh, 11/17)
New data show 10 percent of all Veterans Affairs patients are still waiting a month or longer for appointments, USA Today reports.
New Data Show Long Wait Times Remain At Many VA Hospitals
More than 600,000 veterans — 10% of all the Veterans Affairs patients — continue to wait a month or more for appointments at VA hospitals and clinics, according to data obtained by USA TODAY. The VA has made some progress in dealing with the backlog of cases that forced former secretary Eric Shinseki to retire early this year. For instance, the VA substantially cut the overall number of worst-case scenarios for veterans — those who had waited more than four months for an appointment. That figure dropped from 120,000 in May to 23,000 in October. Much of that improvement occurred because patients received care from private providers. (Hoyer and Vanden Brook, 11/16)
A physician who became ill treating patients in Africa received an incorrect diagnosis.
The Washington Post:
Death Of Second Ebola Patient In U.S. Shows Need For Early, Accurate Tests, Experts Say
[Dr. Martin] Salia’s death highlights what experts say is a critical need in the ongoing fight against the worst Ebola outbreak in history: the ability to quickly and accurately diagnose the disease in order to halt its spread and give patients the best chance for survival. Salia, whose wife, a U.S. citizen, and two children live in Maryland, had tested negative for the disease shortly after developing symptoms, and he celebrated with colleagues in Freetown. That joy turned to anguish when a confirmatory test came back positive three days later, on Nov. 10. (Sun and Dennis, 11/17)
An Associated Press analysis finds the efforts are not working and instead have "heaped additional suffering" on families.
The Associated Press:
Vaccine Court Keeps Claimants Waiting
A system Congress established to speed help to Americans harmed by vaccines has instead heaped additional suffering on thousands of families, The Associated Press has found. The premise was simple: quickly and generously pay for medical care in the rare cases when a shot to prevent a sickness such as flu or measles instead is the likely cause of serious health complications. But the system is not working as intended. (Weiss, Pritchard and Thibodeaux, 11/18)
A selection of health policy stories from California, Kansas, Arizona, Massachusetts, New York and Iowa.
Los Angeles Times:
Kaiser Permanente Joins Forces With Target Corp. On In-Store Clinics
HMO giant Kaiser Permanente entered the growing retail clinic business for the first time by joining forces with Target Corp. on four in-store locations in Southern California. Three Kaiser clinics inside Target stores opened Monday in Fontana, San Diego and Vista. A fourth clinic in Fullerton is scheduled to open next month. These types of in-store clinics are expanding nationwide, driven by a shortage of primary care doctors and an influx of newly insured patients under the federal health law. (Terhune, 11/17)
San Jose Mercury News:
Kaiser Partners With Target To Run Clinics
Kaiser Permanente has teamed with Target for a new approach at the retailer's in-store health clinics that will broaden the level of medical care offered. Kaiser plans to launch four clinics in Southern California Target locations before the end of the year, staffed with licensed nurses and equipped with teleconference lines for physician consultation. Target said it operates 79 clinics staffed by Target employees, but will be able to include more care options at Kaiser-staffed clinics, such as pediatric care and women's wellness exams, while offering convenient flu shots and other simple offerings. (Owens, 11/17)
The New York Times:
Firestorm Erupts In Anti-Smoking Massachusetts Town
The fury — and make no mistake, it is white-hot fury — went way beyond the ordinary wrath of offended citizenry. A plan [in Westminster, Mass.] to ban the sale of tobacco has ignited a call to arms. The outrage is aimed at a proposal by the local Board of Health that could make Westminster the first town in the country where no one could buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco. (Seelye, 11/17)
Kaiser Health News:
Laws Spreading That Allow Terminal Patients Access To Experimental Drugs
Earlier this month, Arizona voters approved a referendum that allows terminally ill patients to receive experimental drugs and devices. It’s the fifth state to approve a "right-to-try" law this year. Supporters say the laws give dying patients faster access to potentially life-saving therapies than the Food and Drug Administration’s existing "expanded-access" program, often referred to as "compassionate use." But critics charge they’re feel-good laws that don’t address some of the real reasons patients may not receive experimental treatments. (Andrews, 11/18)
The New York Times:
Brooklyn Hospital Is Told To Keep Girl, 2, On Life Support Amid Organ Donation Fight
A judge on Monday ordered a Brooklyn hospital to keep a 2-year-old girl on life support for at least another day, as her parents argue over whether her organs should be donated. The girl, Thaiya Spruill-Smith, was declared brain-dead on Friday, after injuries apparently caused by her stepfather violently shaking her. Almost since birth, the little girl has been the subject of a custody dispute between her father and mother; that argument will resume in court on Tuesday, with the resolution likely to determine the fate of her organs. (Clifford and Hartocollis, 11/17)
State Tweaks Timeline For Duals Project
State health officials last week dropped Alameda County and its 26,000 dual-eligibles from Cal MediConnect, California's demonstration project for Californians eligible for Medi-Cal and Medicare. (Gorn, 11/17)
The Des Moines Register:
Pharmacy Regulators Hear Testimony On Medical Marijuana
Patients, medical professionals and drug-abuse prevention specialists testified Monday about whether Iowa should relax its strict ban on medical uses of marijuana. The conflicting opinions were offered to a committee of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, which is considering renewing its recommendation that the state reclassify marijuana in a way that could make it easier to use legally for medical purposes. (Leys, 11/17)
In California, That MRI Will Cost You $255 — Or $6,221
Prices for common medical tests like mammograms and MRIs are notoriously opaque. Negotiated rates between insurance companies and doctors or hospitals are sealed tight by contract. We know there's price variation, but comparing what one insurance company pays versus another is virtually impossible. That's why we here at KQED in San Francisco turned to members of our audience to help us find out what medical tests and devices cost. Together with our collaborators KPCC in Los Angeles and ClearHealthCosts.com, a New York City startup dedicated to health cost transparency, we created an online form to make it easy for people to share what they paid — and to make it easy for you to see apples-to-apples comparisons of prices. (Aliferis, 11/17)
The Topeka Capital-Journal:
Kansas Trying Software For Mental Health Treatment
Kansas is piloting a software program that led to improved health for people with serious mental illnesses in Missouri. The Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas received a $40,000 grant from the Tower Mental Health Foundation to begin using Care Management Technologies software with Medicaid-eligible patients who receive mental health care and primary care for a chronic condition at one of their centers. Eight community mental health centers are participating in the pilot. (Hart, 11/17)
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
The Washington Post:
Obamacare’s Biggest Obstacle Now May Be Its Public Image
Despite the bad publicity surrounding the health-care overhaul, most Americans who have received coverage through the government’s exchanges report being happy with it. More than seven in 10 newly insured Americans rate both the quality of their health care and their coverage “excellent” or “good,” according to a new Gallup poll. That’s about in line with the ratings that insured Americans overall give their health insurance. When it comes to the costs of their coverage, people newly insured through Obamacare are actually more satisfied than the general population of insured people. ... All of this makes me wonder if Obamacare will eventually follow the same political arc as Medicare: fiercely opposed by conservatives until they realize people really like it, leading both parties to become champions of its expansion. (Catherine Rampell, 11/17)
The Washington Post's Plum Line:
Obamacare’s Year Two Is Off To A Good Start. But The Politics Are Still Terrible.
Hatred of the ACA is inextricably entwined with hatred of Barack Obama. When Obama leaves office in January 2017, the fire of that hatred will begin to cool. ... it will increasingly become indistinguishable from the broader health care landscape. Without Obama making Republicans newly angry each and every day, instead of everything in the health care system being Obamacare, it’ll just be the health care system, with strengths and weaknesses that might or might not require legislation to address. (Paul Waldman, 11/17)
Reality Check On Obamacare Year Two
Enrollment opened for the second year of Obamacare this weekend, and so far we know two things. First, the software works a whole lot better than it did last year. And second, the major markets generally have at least one silver plan that's not much more expensive than the lowest-cost silver plan from 2014. This is undoubtedly major progress. What we still don't know is what people will actually be paying. (Meghan McArdle, 11/17)
The Washington Post:
Why Uber Loves Obamacare
As Obamacare's second-ever enrollment period gets underway, the program has a big cheerleader in Silicon Valley: the chief executive of Uber, the ambitious ridesharing company that lets private car owners overnight become professional drivers. Travis Kalanick, also a co-founder of Uber, said the health-care law has been "huge" for his business. By creating a functioning individual market for health insurance, people have more flexibility to pursue the jobs they want, Kalanick said. (Jason Millman, 11/17)
Dallas Morning News:
Hospitals Seek A Texas Way To Expand Medicaid
Expanding Medicaid may be anathema to Texas political leaders. For hospitals, though, it would be a godsend. (Jim Landers, 11/17)
The Wall Street Journal:
Jonathan Gruber, Transparency And Obamacare’s IPAB
The administration faced a political firestorm last week, when videos emerged featuring MIT professor—and paid Obamacare consultant—Jonathan Gruber making comments on “the stupidity of the American voter,” and claiming that only a deliberately opaque and deceptive process was essential to the law’s enactment. But the administration may soon face a policy controversy as well—for the law features a board that can operate in nontransparent ways, and which will empower technocrats like Mr. Gruber himself. ... Designed to control health spending, the [Independent Payment Advisory Board] of 15 experts—nominated by the president, based in part on suggestions from congressional leaders, and confirmed by the Senate—will have the power to make binding rulings to slow the growth in Medicare outlays. (Chris Jacobs, 11/17)
The New York Times:
The Impolitic Jonathan Gruber
Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a strong supporter of health care reform. But his careless comments at academic forums last year, caught on videotapes that surfaced recently, can only harm the reform cause. Mr. Gruber said in one comment that the Affordable Care Act relied on a “lack of transparency” and the “stupidity of the American voter” to gain passage. He said in another comment that the “Cadillac tax” on expensive employer-provided health insurance passed only because voters were “too stupid to understand it.” Both comments are doubly offensive. First, they insult ordinary Americans. And they’re largely wrong. (11/17)
The Washington Post:
Thanks To Jonathan Gruber For Revealing Obamacare Deception
Democrats are desperately distancing themselves from Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber. He “never worked on our staff,” President Obama said this weekend in Brisbane, Australia, (even though Gruber was paid almost $400,000 by his administration, is the intellectual author of the individual mandate and met in the Oval Office with Obama and the head of the Congressional Budget Office to pore over the bill). “I don’t know who he is,” Nancy Pelosi declared on Capitol Hill (even though she repeatedly cited him by name during the Obamacare debate). The reason Democrats are running from Gruber is the same reason conservatives should be thanking him: Gruber has exposed what liberals really think of the American people. (Marc A. Thiessen, 11/17)
Latest Ebola Death Shows Danger Remains
Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced Thursday that she would not extend her country's state of emergency, citing progress in the Ebola fight. Liberia is winning because they take the threat seriously, right down to the level of bus coin boxes. The Obama administration's priority has been less seriousness .... "America in the end is not defined by fear," the president said in October. "That's not who we are." He has opposed quarantine measures ... and the White House arranged a photo opportunity of the president hugging recovered nurse Nina Pham. The message strategy promotes the idea that Ebola is hard to catch and relatively easy to control. (James S. Robbins, 11/17)