KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

In This Edition:

From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

Indiana's Claims About Its Medicaid Experiment Don't All Check Out

Indiana's conservative take on Medicaid expansion is up for renewal in the home state of Vice President Mike Pence. But there are some discrepancies between the state's application for renewal and facts about the program. (Jake Harper, Side Effects Public Media, 2/28)

Political Cartoon: 'Bird-Dog?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Bird-Dog?'" by Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

PROMISES, PROMISES

What is the Trump plan?
Nation gets huge coverage.
Specifics? No way.

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.

Summaries Of The News:

Administration News

Trump Says Insurers Will 'Like What They Hear' On Health Care In His First Address To Congress

President Donald Trump's address to Congress comes a day after he released a spending plan that skirts attempts to cut Medicare.

Bloomberg: Trump Promises ‘Something Special’ On Health Care Before Speech 
President Donald Trump said his address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday will offer “something special” on his health-care overhaul efforts, as his administration gets increasingly involved with Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare. ... Trump and congressional Republicans are pushing ahead with their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law also known as Obamacare. Their stated goals have sometimes been at odds -- with Trump promising better, less-expensive care for all, all while not touching entitlement programs like Medicare, and Republicans in Congress admitting that their plan is likely to cover fewer of the 20 million people who gained coverage under the ACA. (Tracer, Edney and Jacobs, 2/27)

The Washington Post: Trump Touts Spending Plan, But Promise To Leave Entitlements Alone Puts GOP In A Quandary
President Trump is preparing a budget that would fulfill some of his top campaign promises by boosting military spending while cutting domestic programs. But his reluctance to embrace cuts to entitlement programs could lead to sharp tensions with Republicans in Congress who have long argued that Medicare and Social Security must be overhauled to ensure the government’s fiscal health. (Phillip and Snell, 2/27)

The Wall Street Journal: House Republicans Expect Trump Will Get On Board With Medicare, Social Security Cuts
House Republicans, confronted with President Donald Trump’s opposition to curbing spending on Medicare and Social Security, said Monday they were optimistic Mr. Trump would change his mind once he looks more closely at the longer-term numbers. White House officials said Monday that Mr. Trump will seek to increase military spending by 10% above budget caps set into law for next year, offset by cuts to nondefense spending, in his first budget proposal next month. (Peterson, 2/27)

The Wall Street Journal: Former Governor Who Embraced Health Law To Rebut Trump’s Speech
Democrats chose a former red-state governor known for embracing the Affordable Care Act to offer rebuttal Tuesday night to President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress. Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who left office in December 2015, is barely known outside his home state and doesn’t represent the populist bent in today’s Democratic politics. But he does come with a résumé entry important to the party’s current identity: He made Obamacare popular. (Epstein, 2/27)

Cleveland Plain-Dealer: Ohio Congress Members Make Political Points With Guests To Donald Trump's Speech 
Donald Trump won't be the only one trying to score political points when he delivers his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. Just as presidents usually invite guests in the audience to highlight their speech's policy initiatives, members of Congress from Ohio and across the nation will bring their own guests, each meant to convey a message. For Democrats Marcy Kaptur of Toledo and Joyce Beatty of the Columbus area, that message is: "Don't mess with the Affordable Care Act." (Eaton, 2/27)

'Nobody Knew That Health Care Could Be So Complicated,' Trump Tells Governors

The president said the intricacies of replacing the health law could slow progress on other priorities, such as the tax overhaul and infrastructure.

The New York Times: Trump Concedes Health Law Overhaul Is ‘Unbelievably Complex’
President Trump, meeting with the nation’s governors, conceded Monday that he had not been aware of the complexities of health care policy-making: “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” The president also suggested that the struggle to replace the Affordable Care Act was creating a legislative logjam that could delay other parts of his political agenda. (Pear and Kelly, 2/27)

The Associated Press: Trump Warns Health Care System Will 'Implode' Unless Fixed
Trump said at a White House meeting with dozens of governors that he hoped to overhaul the American tax system but that was a "tiny little ant" compared to what he would need to do to remake the so-called Obamacare law. The president's first major meeting with governors comes as Congress prepares to move forward on a repeal and replacement of the health care law, one of Trump's main campaign promises. Governors have raised concerns that the changes could undermine their efforts to expand Medicaid in their states and leave them stuck with a bigger share of the health care tab. (Thomas, 2/27)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Calls Health Care ‘So Complicated,’ But Vows To Replace Law
Noting the ACA’s increasing popularity, Mr. Trump said, “People hate it, but now they see that the end is coming, they say, ‘Oh, maybe we love it.’ There’s nothing to love, it’s a disaster, folks, OK? So you have to remember that.” The comments came at a pivotal moment in Republicans’ efforts to undo the ACA after seven years of decrying it as a government takeover of health care. (Radnofsky, Mathews Wilde and Hackman, 2/27)

The Hill: Trump: 'Nobody Knew That Healthcare Could Be So Complicated'
Governors have been split on what should be done with ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion, which brought health coverage to many even in deep-red states. Trump didn't publicly address that issue Monday morning, but said ObamaCare's repeal and replacement will give states more flexibility "to make the end result really, really good for them." "We have come up with a solution that's really, really good I think. Very good." (Hellmann, 2/27)

The Hill: After Meeting With Trump, Governors Say He's Crafting His Own ObamaCare Plan 
President Trump told governors at a meeting at the White House Monday that his administration will put forward its own ObamaCare replacement plan within a few weeks, according to two governors who attended the meeting. The message came in one of several meetings between the administration, lawmakers and top state officials as Republicans try to find a path forward on ObamaCare, particularly the law’s expansion of Medicaid. Several Republican governors and lawmakers from states that accepted the expansion are looking to protect it, creating a thorny issue for the GOP. (Sullivan, 2/27)

President Implores Insurers To Help 'Save Americans From Obamacare'

President Donald Trump held a meeting with executives to get them on board with Republican plans to dismantle the health law.

Reuters: Trump Seeks Help Of Insurers To Smooth Obamacare Transition
President Donald Trump sought on Monday to bring the nation's largest insurance companies on board with his plans to overhaul Obamacare, saying their help was needed to deliver a smooth transition to the Republicans' new plan. "We must work together to save Americans from Obamacare – you people know that and everyone knows that - to create more competition and to bring down prices substantially," Trump told insurers at a meeting at the White House. (Humer and Abutaleb, 2/27)

The Washington Post: Trump Urges Insurers To Work Together To ‘Save Americans From Obamacare’
The meeting included leaders from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Anthem, Kaiser Permanente and the industry lobbying group, America's Health Insurance Plans. "We must work together to save Americans from Obamacare," Trump said in public remarks before the closed-door meeting. The remarks came shortly after Trump lambasted the health-care law at the National Governors Association, telling the audience that health care was "an unbelievably complex subject." (Johnson and Eilperin, 2/27)

CQ Roll Call: Trump To Health Insurers: We've Got A 'Great Plan'
President Donald Trump told insurance executives Monday his plan to overhaul the health care system would be "a great plan for the patients, for the people, and hopefully for the companies." He shared no details about the proposal but said it will be “a very competitive plan” that reduces health care costs and improves access to care “very, very substantially." "I think people are going to like it a lot," the president said, according to a pool report. Participants included top executives from major insurers, including UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Anthem, Kaiser Permanente and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, as well as several smaller plans, including Florida Blue, Independence Blue Cross, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. Matt Eyles, an executive vice president at the insurance company's lobbying arm America's Health Insurance Plans, also attended. (Mershon, 2/27)

Modern Healthcare: Health Insurers Optimistic After Meeting With Trump 
After meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House early Monday, the CEOs of several large health insurers were optimistic about the future of the health insurance industry if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced. The executives discussed plans to stabilize the individual insurance market. CEOs of Aetna, Anthem, Cigna Corp., Humana, UnitedHealth, Kaiser Permanente and several Blue Cross Blue Shield companies attended the meeting. Industry lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans, was also in attendance. (Livingston, 2/27)

GOP Worries Trump's Shifting Rhetoric On Health Law Opens Possibility Of Advocates Hijacking Debate

The president's message on the future of the Affordable Care Act often depends on who he is talking to. Meanwhile, Republicans, who are lacking consensus on some of the fundamentals of replacement, want guidance from the administration.

Politico: Trump Giving Lawmakers Whiplash On Obamacare
President Donald Trump is giving Washington a case of whiplash when it comes to his plan for Obamacare, saying one moment that he’s going to kill it and replace it with something “great” and then publicly flirting with letting it implode the next. Whether the White House can repeal and replace the law this spring — as Capitol Hill leaders say is the goal — largely depends on the president's ability to focus and outline the specifics of what he would like, while convincing reluctant GOP members to back a plan. So far, his rhetoric has been all over the place, offering differing timelines and ideas, depending on the venue and the person he's speaking with. (Dawsey and Haberkorn, 2/27)

Politico: Trump's Speech Can't Mend GOP Schisms On Obamacare
President Donald Trump may rally Republicans on a strategy to repeal and replace Obamacare in his speech to Congress Tuesday night. But the reality is his administration still has to contend with huge divisions within the GOP that have turned its top policy goal into a long and uncertain slog. Republicans lack consensus on such basic questions as how much to spend to reshape the health system, how much financial help to give Americans to buy insurance and how to come up with the money to pay for it all. (Haberkorn, 2/28)

The Associated Press: Divided Republicans Await Guidance From Trump
Congressional Republicans are hoping for clarity from President Donald Trump on key issues like health care when he delivers his first speech to a joint meeting of Congress. It comes as Republicans are discovering, a month into Trump's administration, how difficult it will be to make good on their many promises now that they control Washington in full. (2/28)

Administration's Pace In Filling Top Jobs Slows Regulatory Roll-Back Efforts

Also in the news, President Donald Trump's nomination to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says she will recuse herself from mental health policy decisions because of her husband's child psychiatry practice. Meanwhile, fallout from the travel ban snags some physician rural recruitment efforts.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Slow To Submit Nominations For Top Administration Posts
President Donald Trump wants to overhaul the tax code, replace the national health-care system and roll back regulations on most major industries. He faces at least one immediate obstacle: There is no one there to help him do it. Of 549 key administration positions that require Senate confirmation, just 15 of Mr. Trump’s picks have been confirmed, while an additional 18 await confirmation. For 516 of the positions—or 94% of the total—the White House hasn't yet nominated a candidate, according to the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that works with the White House and campaigns to professionalize the transfer of power between administrations. (Ballhaus, 2/28)

Politico Pro: CMS Pick Elaborates On Possible Recusal From Mental Health Issues 
President Donald Trump’s pick to lead CMS, Seema Verma, said that if confirmed, she will recuse herself from certain mental health policy decisions, including the enforcement of mental health parity laws. Verma said the Office of Government Ethics advised her to steer away from issues that could intersect with her husband's child psychiatry practice at the Indiana Health Group — the largest behavioral health practice in the state. (Ehley, 2/27)

KCUR: Doctors Caught In Middle As Travel Ban Intersects With Rural Recruitment
The travel ban has since been blocked by a federal judge, but the Trump administration is fighting to restore it or implement a new version. The abruptness of the ban caused havoc at the nation’s airports as some people who were en route to the United States or had landed were told they could not enter. Many industries were affected, including an American medical system that relies increasingly on foreign labor. Health centers nationwide, including some in Kansas and Missouri, have long rolled out the welcome mat for foreign doctors. Rural areas in particular have benefited from a special “J-1 visa waiver” program for immigrant doctors who agree to work in underserved areas. (Marso, 2/27)

Capitol Hill Watch

Conservatives Rebel Against GOP Leadership's 'Obamacare Lite' Repeal Plans

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows says he won't support the proposed plan, creating a rift in the party as Republicans try to dismantle and replace the health law.

The Associated Press: Pressure On GOP To Revamp Health Law Grows, Along With Rifts
President Donald Trump declared Monday that "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated." Yet the opposite has long been painfully obvious for top congressional Republicans, who face mounting pressure to scrap the law even as problems grow longer and knottier. With the GOP-controlled Congress starting its third month of work on one of its marquee priorities, unresolved difficulties include how their substitute would handle Medicaid, whether millions of voters might lose coverage, how their proposed tax credits would work and how to pay for the costly exercise. (2/27)

Politico: GOP Conservatives Oppose Leaked Obamacare Plan
House and Senate conservatives are rebelling against a leaked draft of an Obamacare replacement bill, potentially stopping the proposal in its tracks before it's even been officially introduced. On Monday, key conservative leaders huddled to discuss how to react to the House GOP's plan, which would roll back much of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and replace subsidies for Obamacare's insurance exchanges with tax credits. And one after another, they came out in opposition to the plan, culminating in a joint statement from three senators intended to demonstrate the proposed bill cannot pass the Senate. (Everett and Bade, 2/27)

The Wall Street Journal: Disagreement In GOP Over Tax Credits To Replace Obamacare
An influential conservative House Republican said Monday he could not currently support House GOP leaders’ plan for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, highlighting the internal divisions hindering Republicans as they struggle to overhaul the 2010 health-care law. Rep. Mark Walker (R., N.C.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said in a statement Monday night that House Republicans’ plan to repeal the ACA and replace it with a different system of individual tax credits has “serious problems” and that in its current form he could not recommend supporting it to other lawmakers in his group. The RSC had more than 170 members last year. (Peterson and Armour, 2/27)

The Hill: Top House Conservatives Won't Back Draft ObamaCare Replacement
Two top Republicans bucking the draft shows the struggle the party is facing to coalesce around an ObamaCare repeal and replacement plan. Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) acknowledged that the disagreements could slow Republicans down and said President Trump should weigh in. "I think there's a lot of these issues along the way where there's legitimate disagreements, and you really have to have the White House weigh in one way or the other," he said. (Hellmann, 2/27)

Roll Call: Ryan, Trump Describe Obamacare Replacement As ‘Rescue Mission’
President Donald Trump and top congressional Republicans on Monday described their efforts to replace the 2010 health care law as a pressing matter — even though doing so quickly defies their political interests. Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky emerged from an Oval Office meeting with the president to tell reporters that the law is “collapsing.” McConnell sidestepped a question by reciting former President Bill Clinton’s campaign-season assessment that it is the “craziest thing in the world.” (Bennett, 2/27)

The Washington Post: Amid GOP Discord, Schumer Predicts Health-Care Law ‘Will Not Be Repealed’
The top Democratic senator predicted Monday that Republicans will fail to fulfill their long-stated goal of repealing and replacing the federal health-care law, as he went on the attack against President Trump on the eve of his first address to a joint session of Congress. Speaking at a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), pointed to widespread disagreement among Republicans about how to go about undoing key parts of the law, as well as intense pressure from constituents urging them not to rush ahead with their effort. (Sullivan, 2/27)

Health Law

Medicaid Expansion Drives Wedge Between GOP Governors

“We need to find a formula that’s fair for everyone. Maybe that’s going to be an impossibility, but we need to get as close to fairness as we can and give flexibility to the respective states,” Republican Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah says of the issue that dominated the National Governors' Association's winter meeting.

The Associated Press: Plan To Repeal Obama Health Law Shows GOP Governors Are Torn
The nation’s governors don’t want people in their states to lose health coverage under a repeal of the Obama-era health care law, but even after a weekend of bipartisan meetings, they still don’t agree on the best approach to replace it. Governors attending the winter meeting of the National Governors’ Association met Monday morning with President Donald Trump at the White House, where the president marveled about the intricacies of health policy. (Nuckols, 2/27)

CNN: Governors Divided Over Medicaid's Future, But Don't Want Anyone To Lose Coverage
One thing that unites the governors is that they don't want anyone to be left uninsured by the Trump administration's and Congress' drive to repeal the health care law, said Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe, president of the National Governors Association whose effort to expand Medicaid in his state was blocked by Republican lawmakers. ... Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said he left the meeting with the administration feeling good that Americans would be able to keep their coverage. He did not specify why. (Luhby, 2/27)

CNBC: Governors Fear They'll Get Stuck With Bigger Health Care Bill
Now, governors across the country worry that a key element of the proposed GOP overhaul will leave the states stuck with an even bigger bill. A Medicaid proposal by GOP governors, a draft of which was obtained by the Associated Press, urges Congress to change Medicaid from an open-ended federal entitlement to a program designed by each state and funded with fixed block grants within a financial limit. (Schoen, 2/27)

Morning Consult: GOP Tells Governors No Firm Plans Yet on Medicaid Expansion
Governors who gathered for a meeting with congressional Republicans were told a summarized plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act “does not reflect current thinking,” a senior Senate Republican said Monday, as lawmakers remain divided over key provisions such as the Medicaid expansion. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said governors were told that a 19-page summary of how House Republicans could overhaul Obamacare was dated. (Reid and McIntire, 2/27)

Detroit Free Press: Snyder Praises Trump, Says Obamacare Not Working
Gov. Rick Snyder today praised what he called "unprecedented" collaboration with President Donald Trump's administration and Congress as they look at ways of reforming the Affordable Care Act, adding that what has become known as Obamacare across the U.S. has failed to adequately serve Americans. Speaking after he and several other members of the National Governors Association met with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other members of Trump's administration, Snyder spoke about the 2010 health care reform law in what may be his toughest rhetoric to date, saying "it hasn't worked" and that insurance access markets are "collapsing." (Spangler, 2/27)

The Detroit News: Snyder Backs Trump’s Health Care Warning
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder backed President Donald Trump’s warning on Monday that the nation’s health care system is in danger of imploding as he argued for replacing the Affordable Care Act while keeping an expanded health program for the poor. Trump said at a White House meeting with dozens of governors including Snyder that he hoped to reform the American tax system, but that was a “tiny little ant” compared with what the effort needed to overhaul the law also known as Obamacare. He said Congress must make fundamental changes to former President Barack Obama’s law. (2/27)

Seattle Times: Inslee Now ‘More Concerned’ After Meeting With Trump On Health Care, Immigration
Gov. Jay Inslee says he walked away from his first in-person encounter with President Donald Trump feeling even grimmer about the new administration’s plans for health care and immigration. ... Inslee pronounced himself shocked by Trump’s comment at the meeting that, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”  The Democratic governor, whose national profile has been rising as an anti-Trump voice, called the president’s statement irresponsible given the GOP’s sweeping plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. (Brunner, 2/27)

Indianapolis Star: Holcomb Not Yet Backing Specific Changes To Medicaid
Gov. Eric Holcomb is supporting an effort by GOP governors to revamp Medicaid but declined to say Monday whether those changes should include the spending cuts proposed by some Republican lawmakers. “We’ll run the numbers when we know what the equation looks like. There are a lot of different factors,” the Indiana Republican told IndyStar after attending the National Governors Association winter meeting. “What we are seeking as states, as Republican governors, is more control to have a better handle on cost.” Holcomb said he expects the GOP governors' plan to be put forward "within a matter of days, weeks." (Groppe, 2/27)

CQ HealthBeat: Trump Wants A Health Care Plan In Two Weeks
President Donald Trump is pushing forward on an aggressive two- to three-week goal for his own administration's plan to replace the health care law, even as Republican lawmakers and governors say they are still working to find common ground on basic policy issues. "The president today, in our meeting at the White House, asked Dr. Price that question [about the timeline for a replacement plan], and he said he'd have something out in three or four weeks," Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., said after a bipartisan meeting with Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price earlier Monday. "And the president said, 'I want to see it in two,' or something like that." (Mershon and Williams, 2/27)

Boston Globe: Groups Urge Governor Baker To Oppose Medicaid Cuts
More than two dozen groups representing Massachusetts hospitals, nonprofits, labor unions, and other organizations are urging Governor Charlie Baker to oppose any federal policy changes that could threaten Medicaid coverage for thousands of poor and disabled people across the state. President Trump and the Republican-led Congress say they will replace key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, a move that could include Medicaid cuts. Trump spoke with Baker and other governors Monday, again calling for an overhaul of the health care law. (Dayal McCluskey, 2/27)

Getting Patients To Have Skin In The Game Is An Economist's Dream, But It's Also A Political Risk

Although experts believe high costs are being driven by the high prices of medical services in the country, Republicans are instead focusing on getting Americans to pay more for their own coverage. It's a political risk that could backfire on them. In other news, The Washington Post fact checks Rep. Marsha Blackburn's health law claim, pre-existing conditions continue to be a sticky issue, a look at how one CEO managed to not lose big under the Affordable Care Act, and more.

Los Angeles Times: The Political Time Bomb At The Heart Of Republican Obamacare Alternatives: Higher Costs For More Americans
Republicans came into office this year promising to rescue Americans from rising healthcare bills by repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. But the party’s emerging healthcare proposals would shift even more costs to patients, feeding the very problem GOP politicians complained about under Obamacare. And their solutions could hit not only Americans who have Obamacare health plans, but also tens of millions more who rely on employer coverage or on government health plans such as Medicaid and Medicare. (Levey, 2/28)

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s False Claim That Two Key Obamacare Elements Are ‘Republican Provisions’
Among the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010 with zero votes from Republican lawmakers, are provisions that prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage based on a preexisting condition and requiring that adult children up to the age of 26 can be carried on their parents’ health plan. As Republicans craft a replacement for Obamacare, many have suggested that these ideas will be carried forward. Yet we were surprised when we saw that, in response to a question about whether these provisions would be in the replacement, Rep. Marsha Blackburn told people in her district that these were actually “two Republican provisions which made it into the [Obamacare] bill.” (Kessler, 2/28)

Politico: Fears Over Pre-Existing Conditions Haunt Obamacare Debate
Republican lawmakers will resume work on an Obamacare replacement plan this week after facing anxious hometown crowds who fear losing guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. GOP lawmakers have vowed their replacement plan will keep the requirement that insurers accept everyone regardless of potentially costly medical conditions. But the Republican proposals would be different than Obamacare in a key respect: They would allow insurers to charge more to sick people who had been uninsured right before trying to enroll in a new plan. (Haberkorn, 2/27)

NPR: This CEO's Small Insurance Firm Mostly Turned A Profit Under Obamacare. Here's How
Some large health insurance companies have suffered losses under the Affordable Care Act, leading to a few high-profile exits from the health exchanges. Humana is just the latest, announcing in January that it will stop offering health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges at the end of 2017.But the administrators of a smaller, California-based insurer — Molina Healthcare — managed to turn a modest profit in the early years of the health law. How did they do it? (Dembosky, 2/28)

Nashville Tennessean: Tennesseans Want Obamacare Repealed — But Not Yet, MTSU Poll Says
Tennessee voters want Obamacare repealed, but only after Congress has rolled out a replacement plan, according to a wide-ranging new poll from Middle Tennessee State University that exposed the state's deep partisan divides. In addition to the fate of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the poll touched on other controversial topics, including illegal immigration, abortion, President Donald Trump's allegations of voter fraud and school vouchers. In almost every case, voters' opinions seemed tightly tied to their political leanings. (Tamburin, 2/27)

Pioneer Press: Health Insurance Premium Subsidies Are Almost Here. What You Need To Know. 
Eligible Minnesotans should start seeing discounts on their health insurance premiums in May, as part of a $310 million relief package signed into law in January by Gov. Mark Dayton. State officials said Monday that the relief remains on track to arrive this spring as intended. Though the relief bill was passed in January, building computer systems to administer the relief isn’t simple and will take insurance companies eight to 12 weeks from the late-January bill passage. (Montgomery, 2/27)

Medicaid

Ill. Governor Unveils Plan To Move More Medicaid Enrollees Into Managed Care Programs

Gov. Bruce Rauner says the change could save the state money but doesn't speculate on how much that will be. News outlets also report on Medicaid developments in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Minnesota.

Chicago Tribune: Rauner To Revamp Medicaid Program In Hopes Of Saving Money, Improving Care
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday announced plans to revamp the state's system for insuring many of its poorest residents, saying the changes could save taxpayers money and improve health. About 2 million Illinois residents — nearly two-thirds of Illinois residents on Medicaid, a state- and federally funded health insurance program for the poor and disabled — are part of managed care plans. In Medicaid managed care, private insurers administer Medicaid benefits. The state administers benefits in traditional Medicaid plans. Rauner plans to expand Medicare managed care programs to 80 percent of Illinois residents on Medicaid, in every county in the state as well as to children under the care of the Department of Children and Family Services. (Schencker, 2/27)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Medicaid Cuts Would Be Costly To Pennsylvania, Officials Say
State officials are predicting that federal cuts to Pennsylvania’s Medicaid plan, which was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, would cost the state at least $2 billion by 2020. Medicaid covers many elderly Pennsylvanians, children, people with disabilities and those with low income; with the expansion, it now insures more than 2.8 million Pennsylvanians. (Mamula, 2/27)

Kaiser Health News: Indiana’s Claims About Its Medicaid Experiment Don’t All Check Out
Indiana expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in 2015, adding conditions designed to appeal to the state’s conservative leadership. The federal government approved the experiment, called the Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP 2.0, which is now up for a three-year renewal. But a close reading of the state’s renewal application shows that misleading and inaccurate information is being used to justify extending HIP 2.0. (Harper, 2/28)

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Mayo Earnings Hit By Medicaid, Labor Costs
Mayo Clinic's net income slipped last year as the Rochester-based health care giant spent more on staffing for growth initiatives, and saw more losses on patients with Medicaid coverage. Even so, the overall results being released Monday show "it was a strong year," said Kedrick Adkins Jr., the clinic's chief financial officer. (Snowbeck, 2/27)

Veterans' Health Care

VA Vows To Close Gaps That Allowed Drugs To Go Missing

The Department of Veterans Affairs will be adding some inspectors to help check drug inventories across a network of 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics.

In other veterans health care news —

Arizona Republic: Trial Begins In Suit Over Vet's Treatment At Phoenix VA Hospital
A military veteran with terminal prostate cancer survived long enough to get his day in court Monday, quietly observing opening arguments in a $50 million lawsuit filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs for alleged negligence. Steven Cooper, 45,  alleges that a VA nurse practitioner who examined him in late 2011 failed to order a blood test or make a specialist referral that could have detected the disease early, before it became incurable. (Wagner, 2/27)

The Associated Press: Attorney: VA Should Have Diagnosed Client’s Cancer Sooner
A lawyer for a military veteran opened a medical-negligence trial Monday by saying his client’s now-terminal prostate cancer would have been curable had the Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix diagnosed it sooner. Attorneys defending the Veterans Administration countered that a nurse practitioner involved in the case of Steven Harold Cooper complied with the applicable standard of care and the then-40-year-old Cooper was not considered to be at risk from prostate cancer at the time of his first appointment. (Billeaud, 2/27)

Public Health And Education

We're Running Out Of Treatment Options To Fight Superbugs, WHO Warns

The World Health Organization has released a list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” to spur on research and awareness about the threat.

The New York Times: Deadly, Drug-Resistant ‘Superbugs’ Pose Huge Threat, W.H.O. Says
The World Health Organization warned on Monday that a dozen antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” pose an enormous threat to human health, and urged hospital infection-control experts and pharmaceutical researchers to focus on fighting the most dangerous pathogens first. The rate at which new strains of drug-resistant bacteria have emerged in recent years, prompted by overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, terrifies public health experts. Many consider the new strains just as dangerous as emerging viruses like Zika or Ebola. (McNeil, 2/27)

The Washington Post: These 12 Superbugs Pose The Greatest Threat To Human Health, WHO Says
The World Health Organization announced its first list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” on Monday, detailing 12 families of bacteria that agency experts say pose the greatest threat to human health and kill millions of people every year. The list is divided into three categories, prioritized by the urgency of the need for new antibiotics. The purpose is to guide and promote research and development of new drugs, officials said. Most of the pathogens are among the nearly two dozen antibiotic-resistant microbes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in a 2013 report could cause potentially catastrophic consequences if the United States didn't act quickly to combat the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant infections. (Sun, 2/27)

Lawmakers Argue To Keep Opioid Crisis On Front Burner During Health Care Debate

A bipartisan group of House members continues to push for increased financial support to the states for prevention and treatment programs. Meanwhile, news outlets report on the national epidemic from Maryland, Washington and California.

CQ Roll Call: Bipartisan Group Pushes Opioid Help Amid Health Care Law Debate
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is fighting to keep attention focused on last session's top health issue — abuse of prescription opioids, heroin and other drugs —  although Obamacare now dominates the health policy discourse. The group hopes to pressure Congress to provide financial support to states for prevention and treatment, even as Republicans pursue an overhaul of the Medicaid system that could make it harder for states to pay for those services. (Siddons, 2/28)

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Scrambling To Deal With Surging Rate Of Heroin Overdose Deaths
Taylor Sprague was among the last of 1,089 people in Maryland to die from an opiate overdose in 2015, and as the new year rolled around, the epidemic's death toll continued to mount. Final data for 2016 is expected to show that some 2,000 people in Maryland died after overdosing on heroin or other opiates. Opioid overdoses now rank among cancer, strokes and heart attacks as the top killers in Maryland. State health officials say their goal for the next two years is to slow the rate at which the problem is worsening. (Duncan, 2/28)

Seattle Times: Chronic-Pain Patients Feel Sting Of Washington State’s Opioid Crackdown
After years of surging opioid prescriptions, leading to addiction and deaths, the pendulum swung back hard against abuse, culminating in the July shutdown of the Seattle Pain Centers (SPC), a chain of eight Washington clinics. That state action, amid allegations of improper oversight that may have contributed to patient deaths, sent 8,000 patients looking for new providers. Pain-treatment experts express sympathy for “legacy” patients like [Chris] Hegge, who were prescribed high doses of opioids before a new approach took hold with new state rules in 2012. (Young, 2/27)

Orlando Sentinel: Heroin Epidemic Hits Newborn Babies In Orange County 
In 2015, nearly 1 percent of all babies born in Orange County suffered from opioid withdrawal. That’s 249 babies, a noticeable jump from 2014, when 158 newborns were affected, Hardy said. These rates have increased tenfold in the past decade, making Orange the third-most-affected county in Florida behind Hillsborough and Duval, Hardy said. (Miller, 2/27)

Company Taps Into Public's Angst To Push Questionable Genetic Testing

A Stat investigation looks at a California company that claims it can offer a DNA test to determine how a patient would react to pain medication. In other public health news: organ donations; facial expressions; heart disease; and more.

Stat: Genetic Lab Pays Doctors To Push Dubious Tests, Employees Say
A STAT investigation found that Proove employees stationed in physicians’ offices pushed unnecessary tests on patients — a practice called “coercion” by one former manager — and they sometimes completed research evaluation forms on behalf of doctors, rating the tests as highly effective when they weren’t. In fact, Proove tests of DNA captured by swabbing inside a patient’s cheek were so unreliable that many physicians disregarded the results. There was scant evidence, said the company’s former chief scientist, that the tests improved patient outcomes. (Piller, 2/28)

CQ Roll Call: Contentious Liver Redistribution Model Shelved
A controversial proposal to change the way life-saving organs are allocated across the United States for transfers will not advance in its current form. The contractor in charge of developing a plan will instead present several possible alternatives at a meeting in May. The United Network for Organ Sharing in 2014 released a concept document detailing a proposal to transition the current organ redistribution system from the current 11-region model to a new eight-district model. A final proposal was released for public comment in August 2016. Critics, who largely included Southern and Midwestern hospitals, denounced the plan and argued it would favor states with lower liver donation rates. (Williams, 2/27)

NPR: Your Name May Influence Your Facial Expressions
In my head, a person with the name Danny has a boyish face and a perpetual smile. Zoes have wide eyes and wild hair and an air of mild bemusement. There might actually be something to the idea that people who share a name also share a stereotypical "look" to them, researchers say. In one experiment, published Monday in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, scientists found that when people are shown a stranger's face and a choice of five names, they pick the right name about 35 percent of the time. (Chen, 2/27)

Marketplace: New Blood Test Could Improve Treatment For Heart Disease
A simple blood test could help doctors determine whether someone suffers from coronary heart disease, the most common form of heart disease, killing more than 370,000 Americans every year. This test may more accurately identify the condition compared to the current crop of diagnostic tools, including stress tests and CT scans. If approved by the FDA, the blood test could improve health and save money. (Gorenstein, 2/27)

Kaiser Health News: For Some Hospice Patients, A 911 Call Saves A Trip To The ER
Her mother’s breathing had become labored in the wee hours of the night, during what would prove to be the Fort Worth woman’s final days living with lung cancer. Distraught, the daughter called 911.“Her mother was having some pretty severe shortness of breath,” said Tim Gattis, the third paramedic to arrive on scene late last year. “She was certainly working very hard to obtain a breath, and was just not being successful.” (Huff, 2/28)

State Watch

Ga. Gov. Signs Bill To Extend Hospital Bed Tax By Three Years; In Calif., Bay Area State Legislators Work To Reverse Wave of Hospital Closures

Also in this round up of hospital developments -- how urban and rural hospitals are bracing for the impact of unraveling the health law, a Manhattan hospital faces a lawsuit alleging overcharging for medical records and other news highlights.

Atlanta Business Chronicle: Crossover Day Deadline Looms In General Assembly 
Gov. Nathan Deal already has signed into law one of his major to-do items for this year, a bill extending Georgia’s “bed tax” on hospitals for another three years. The tax, supported by several statewide organizations representing hospitals, will raise $311 million a year in state revenue, which will then be levered with more than $600 million in federal funds. Since Georgia is among the states that declined to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, the hospital tax is the only available option for keeping the state’s Medicaid program afloat. (Williams, 2/27)

East Bay Times: East Bay Legislators Fight Back Against Hospital Closures
Bay Area politicians unveiled a new plan aimed at stopping a wave of hospital closures in California, including Berkeley’s Alta Bates Hospital, slated for closure as early as 2020, by giving the state Attorney General the authority to review the impact of the decision before allowing it to move forward. The legislation, authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), focuses on not-for-profit hospitals, such as Kaiser, Alta Bates and Summit. Under current law, California hospitals are only required to give a 90-day notice to the Department of Public Health prior to shutting down operations. If passed, the hospital would also be required to hold at least one public hearing. (Ioffee, 2/27)

Kaiser Health News: Hospitals, Both Rural And Urban, Dread Losing Ground With Health Law Repeal
More than a year ago, she lost her job at a nearby rural hospital after it closed and, as Republicans work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, wonders whether she’ll soon be out of work again. “Many of my friends did not find jobs they love,” she said. “They’re working for less money or only part time. Some haven’t found any jobs yet, even after a year.” Now she runs the pharmacy at Perry Memorial Hospital here, warily watching the Republicans’ repeal efforts. (Varney, 2/28)

The Wall Street Journal: Lawsuit Alleges Manhattan Hospital Overcharges For Medical Records
A Manhattan hospital charges patients for medical records beyond the cost that New York state law allows, a new lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit, filed Friday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleges NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center charged $1.50 per page for records and that the state caps such fees at 75 cents per page. It names both the hospital and IOD Inc., which the complaint says duplicates and copies medical records for the hospital. (Ramey, 2/27)

USA Today: Hospitals Increasingly Try To Keep Patients Away To Save Money
Asked about his health issues, Anthony Tramonte of New Castle, Del., says, “Do you have about an hour? ”It's no wonder: The former postal worker, 72, is on dialysis, has diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and eye problems. He's been hospitalized three times for heart failure in the last few years and was blind for awhile due to his diabetes. (O'Donnell, 2/24)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: What Happened When UW Hospital Cafeteria Made Eating Healthy Easier?
It started with the removal of sugar-sweetened drinks and deep-fat fryers back in 2014. Poof! They were gone. But the culinary staff for the University of Wisconsin Hospital system were just getting started. By the time they were done with a major overhaul of their cafeterias’ food offerings, healthy salads, alternative grains, ethnic specialties and local farm-fresh fruits and vegetables would rule the day, and the plate, for the system’s nearly 15,000 employees and other diners. (Stohs, 2/27)

State Highlights: In Mass., Flu Season Hitting Its Annual Peak; Maternal Death Issues Absent From Texas Legislative Agenda

Outlets report on news from Massachusetts, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio, Texas and California.

WBUR: Mass. Flu Season Peaking, Dominant Strain Poses Added Risk For Elderly
Massachusetts health officials say cases of the flu appear to be hitting their annual peak right around now — and the dominant strain tends to cause severe illness that poses a particular risk for people over 65. "We're probably in the middle of the peak activity [for flu] right now," says Dr. Al DeMaria, the state epidemiologist for Massachusetts. "What we're seeing is the H3N2 strain, which tends to cause more severe disease, especially in older people and people at high risk, so that's a concern," he says. In contrast, "The H1N1 that emerged in 2009 tends to affect younger people and cause milder disease in older people. So we're seeing the bad actor strain among the influenza A viruses." (Goldberg, 2/27)

Texas Tribune: Rise In Texas Maternal Deaths Absent From Legislative Agenda 
Every Texas legislator should know by now that more mothers are dying less than a year after giving birth. At least that’s what Lisa Hollier believes. Hollier is chairwoman of the state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity, which reported in July that 189 Texas mothers died less than a year after their pregnancy ended between 2011 and 2012 — the culprits were mostly heart disease, drug overdoses and high blood pressure. (Evans, 2/28)

Texas Tribune: "Wrongful Births" Bill Heads To Texas Senate Floor 
The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs voted Monday to send a bill to the full Senate that would prevent parents from suing their doctor if their baby is born with a disability. Committee members approved Senate Bill 25 on an 8-0 vote after hearing several people testify for and against it. Abortion opponents say the bill protects children living with disabilities and prevents doctors from potentially encouraging abortions to avoid lawsuits. Groups that support abortion rights argue that the bill would encourage doctors to lie to patients about whether their unborn child has a disability and wouldn't allow families to make informed decisions about whether they want to move forward with their pregnancy. (Evans, 2/28)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Rogers Behavioral Health Plans New Services At Tampa Clinic
Rogers Behavioral Health System is expanding its services at its clinic in Tampa, Fla., including a program focused on treating anxiety, mood and obsessive-compulsive disorder and related problems among children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. “This program will complement and support referring providers, patients and families who deal with the complexity of autism spectrum disorder,” Eric Storch, clinical director of Rogers-Tampa Bay and a professor at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, University of South Florida, said in a statement. (Boulton, 2/27)

Georgia Health News: In A Notoriously Tough Job, Grady Chief Survives And Thrives 
New clinical services were developed at Grady, which has long been the cornerstone of health care in Atlanta. Haupert, though, faced big financial challenges after his arrival. Now he [John Haupert] has passed the five-year mark — an eternity in “Grady years.” The hospital system, counting contributions from Fulton and DeKalb counties, shows a profit. And the new facilities across the campus reflect a startling series of capital improvements. (Miller, 2/27)

Columbus Dispatch: Annual Fee Will Buy You 24/7 Access To OhioHealth Doctor
As part of a traditional practice, the OhioHealth doctor has about 2,500 patients, he said — so many that it keeps him from doing just that. So he's branching out to start what he calls a "personalized" practice with 400 to 600 patients. His new practice, a partnership with OhioHealth and the MDVIP program, will open on March 31 in Upper Arlington. The MDVIP model charges an annual fee — in Seidt's case, $1,800 — and enrolls patients in a wellness program that includes an expansive physical with some items not typically covered by insurance. Patients also can get same-day or next-day appointments and can call or text [Richard] Seidt 24/7. (Viviano, 2/28)

East Bay Times: San Ramon: DEA Busts Physician's Assistant In Xanax Case
A physician’s assistant reportedly operated a business here that advertised itself as providing at-home health and wellness care, but federal investigators say the owner was illegally prescribing painkillers, such as Vicodin, and taking payments under the table. Mark Allen Flores, who ran Concierge Physician Assistants of California, was arrested and charged last week after undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agents bought prescription pills from him, according to court documents. (Gartrell, 2/27)

San Francisco Chronicle: Up In Smoke: Federal Taxes A Big Burden For Pot Shops 
Tax season is rarely cause for celebration for U.S. business owners, but for medical marijuana dispensary operators like Rechif, who runs Bloom Room Cannabis Collective in San Francisco, it tends to be an especially painful period. Thanks to an arcane federal law written and passed in the fever pitch of the war on drugs, marijuana dispensaries are unable to take advantage of the vast array of deductions that other businesses rely on to lower their tax bills each year. (Fracassa, 2/27)

Editorials And Opinions

Viewpoints: While Some Fight To Keep Obamacare, Others Hold Focus In Repeal Battle

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country, including thoughts on how repealing the health law could impact people who want to retire early, how changes to Medicaid might play out in the states and various thoughts on addiction and public health.

The New York Times: The Fight For Obamacare Has Turned
The campaign to let 20 million Americans keep their health insurance is working. It still has a long way to go, and it’s not guaranteed to succeed. But the progress of the last couple months is remarkable. (David Leonhardt, 2/28)

The Washington Post: Calling Republicans’ Bluff On Obamacare
Trump once claimed that the White House was close to finishing its plan. Well, that’s not exactly right. The Post reports that “some lawmakers, state leaders and policy experts who have discussed the matter with either Trump or his top aides say the administration is largely delegating the development of an ACA substitute to Capitol Hill.” But at least they have agreed not to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan, right? Not so fast. (Jennifer Rubin, 2/27)

The New York Times: If Obamacare Exits, Some May Need To Rethink Early Retirement
Here’s another possible consequence of repealing the Affordable Care Act: It would be harder for many people to retire early. Americans reaching 65 become eligible for Medicare. Before reaching that age, some can get retiree coverage from their former employers. But not very many companies, especially small ones, offer medical insurance to retirees. If early retirees are poor enough, they could turn to Medicaid. To retire early, everybody else would need to turn to the individual health insurance market. Without the subsidies and protections the A.C.A. put in place, health care coverage would be more difficult to obtain, cost consumers more where available, and provide fewer benefits than it does today. (Austin Frakt, 2/27)

Cincinnati Enquirer: Black Doctors: Fix The ACA, Don't Repeal It
The Cincinnati Medical Association supports the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, contrary to the Republican majority in the 115th U.S. Congress and President Trump, who are on record advocating repeal of this 2010 law. We see every day the many benefits that this legislation has provided for our patients. Across the nation 11.5 million Americans are covered in the ACA marketplace, more than half – 6.3 million – in Republican congressional districts. Additionally, ACA-associated Medicaid expansion has occurred in 32 states. This increase in access is beneficial for patient continuity of care as well as lessening the burden on our emergency rooms. (Roosevelt Walker III, 2/27)

Boston Globe: A Pre-Existing Condition
On Tuesday night, when the president outlines to a joint session of Congress what he is going to do to the Affordable Care Act, Jen Fox will be sitting right there in the House Chamber, listening to him. Fox, a Hopkinton native and now a student at George Washington University, is an intern in the Washington office of Representative Joe Kennedy, who like all members of Congress gets to bring a guest. Kennedy couldn’t think of anyone better suited to bear witness to the importance of the Affordable Care Act than his intern. (Kevin Cullen, 2/27)

The Washington Post: Republicans’ Alarming Proposal Would End Medicaid As We Know It
Congressional Republicans and President Trump want desperately to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a move that would take health insurance away from as many as 32 million Americans over the first decade if there is no replacement plan. These efforts have garnered national attention, with crowds of outraged constituents dominating town hall meetings. But what Trump and the GOP are trying to do below the radar might even be more alarming — ending Medicaid as we know it by imposing a “per-capita” cap or block grant. (Henry Waxman, 2/27)

Stat: Dear Tom Price: As You Pursue Medicaid Changes, Remember Your Roots
Many of us who choose to do our residency training at Boston Medical Center do so because of its stated mission to provide “exceptional care, without exception” — a motto we take extremely seriously, especially when we find ourselves taking care of Boston’s sickest, poorest, and most vulnerable citizens. We fear, Secretary Price, that the policies the Trump administration is proposing would cut funding to programs like MassHealth. That would endanger patients ... and our ability to provide them with the exceptional care that every American deserves. (Yuvaram Reddy and Christopher Worsham, 2/27)

Sante Fe New Mexican: Bad Signs For State’s Medicaid Expansion
As Gov. Susana Martinez returns to New Mexico after meetings in Washington, D.C., she is probably carrying sober news back to lawmakers: Medicaid expansion is dead. Martinez was one of the first Republican governor to embrace President Barack Obama’s initiative under the Affordable Care Act to expand the government insurance program to low-income working adults who make less than $17,000 a year or a family of four up to $33,000, and had been priced out of the private insurance market. The reality is that New Mexico has a lot of those workers. ... The expansion has helped more than 220,000 residents gain health insurance, and the boost in health care hiring has likely kept the state from falling back into recession. (Bruce Krasnow, 2/27)

Raleigh News & Observer: ACA Changes May Cost NC And Other States That Didn't Expand Medicaid
When the nation’s governors met with President Trump on Monday, North Carolina’s Pat McCrory was not one of them. He was missing, of course, because he lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Roy Cooper. But his absence nonetheless carried strong symbolism regarding a prime concern at the meeting – Medicaid funding. McCrory and other Republican leaders in North Carolina who refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act now find themselves left out as the president and Republicans in Congress weigh how to continue funding for states that expanded. As a result, North Carolina may find itself twice deprived. (2/27)

RealClear Health: It's Time To Trump Addiction
Some people may find it surprising that the three of us are working together in this political environment. However, when it comes to the opioid epidemic, we are willing to put aside party politics so we can save thousands of lives. We urge President Trump to implement his campaign promise to “end the opioid epidemic in America.” The most efficient and cost-effective way to achieve this is by breaking down the barriers to the treatments that actually work. What works best is medication-assisted treatment (MAT) — the combination of behavioral counseling and recovery medication. (Newt Gingrich, Patrick J. Kennedy and Van Jones, 2/28)

The Washington Post: The Trump Administration’s Nonsensical Stance On Marijuana
With Trump’s appointment of Jeff Sessions — one of the nation’s most outspoken anti-drug warriors — as attorney general, it seems the long-simmering tension between state marijuana law reform and federal prohibition is headed for a full-blown confrontation. It’s not surprising, then, that White House press secretary Sean Spicer attracted enormous attention last week when he appeared to presage a federal crackdown on marijuana law reform in the states — which would reverse the lax policy on marijuana set by the Obama administration. (Sam Kamin, 2/27)

The Washington Post: Maryland’s Smart Move To Stop A Smuggling Problem In Prison
Opioids are a scourge across the country, but especially so in the Old Line State. According to the most recent available data, 1,468 people died from overdoses between January and September 2016, with well more than 90 percent of them in combination with opioids including heroin, fentanyl and prescriptions such as Vicodin and Percocet. That figure is even more staggering considering heroin-related deaths have increased by 74 percent from the same period the year before. There also has been a jump in deaths because of the popularity and availability of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin. This substance is now being mixed into street drugs, producing a deadly multiplier effect for users who take too much. (Marc Kilmer, 2/24)

Los Angeles Times: Overregulation Is Forcing Women To Have Late-Term Abortions
In my experience as an OB-GYN, when women decide to end a pregnancy, they want to obtain an abortion quickly. One good reason is the simple fact that early abortion is associated with a lower risk of medical complications compared to later abortion. In many settings, however, women face barriers accessing early care, ranging from mandatory waiting periods to difficulty putting the money together to pay for the procedure. (Daniel Grossman, 2/28)

San Antonio Press Express: Bill Targets State Nursing Home Issues 
Texas does not do well by the more than 93,000 elderly and disabled people who depend on the services of nursing homes for their daily care. That could be changing with recently introduced legislation to eliminate a loophole in the law that allows a large percentage of violators of nursing home regulations, even repeat offenders, to avoid fines. (2/27)