KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: July 14, 2017

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Opposition To GOP Repeal Bill Inches Up, Intensifies
Public opposition to the Republican effort to replace the Affordable Care Act grew stronger this month, but a core group of Republicans remained in support, according to a poll released Friday. Sixty-one percent of the public said this month they did not like the GOP health care effort, now undergoing a revised push in the Senate. (Rau, 7/14)

Kaiser Health News: Medicare’s Financial Outlook Slightly Improved, Trustees Say
The Trump administration said Thursday that the financial outlook for Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund improved in the past year due to health costs rising more slowly than expected and predictions that enrollees will use hospital services less often. The report said that trust fund would last through 2029, one year later than what was projected last year. Two years ago, 2030 was the projected depletion date. (Galewitz, 7/13)

Kaiser Health News: Transgender Health Care Targeted In Crusade To Undo ACA
Solorah Singleton has been waiting years for breast augmentation. She doesn’t want to jinx it now, but the Philadelphia resident thinks it’s finally within reach. Singleton, 36, was born male but identifies as female. For seven years, she has had regular hormone therapy, never seeing surgery as an option. She previously didn’t have health insurance and didn’t think she could cover the cost of the procedure out-of-pocket. (Luthra, 7/13)

The Associated Press: Revised GOP Health Bill Stresses Bare-Bones Private Coverage
The latest changes to the Senate Republican health care bill are geared to increasing access to bare-bones private insurance. There's also an additional $45 billion to help states confronting the opioid epidemic. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would keep in place Medicaid cuts that GOP governors and Senate moderates have objected to. No Democrats are supporting the plan. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/13)

USA Today: Senate Health Care Bill: Republicans Woo Conservatives In Latest Draft
The draft bill, released on the Senate Budget Committee's website, tries to appeal to conservatives by including a version of an amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would allow the sale of deregulated insurance plans as long as Obamacare-compliant plans are also still sold. Cruz confirmed to reporters that his amendment is in the bill and called that "very significant progress." “If this is the bill, I will support it,” Cruz told reporters Thursday afternoon. But Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who helped craft the original amendment with Cruz, was undecided about how he would vote on the bill because the amendment was changed during negotiations, his spokesman said. (Kelly, Collins and Shesgreen, 7/13)

USA Today: Sick? You Might Not Like The GOP's Latest Health Bill
The Senate dropped a new version of its beleaguered health bill Thursday, tacking on a Ted Cruz proposal in order to win over conservatives like Ted Cruz. It basically lets people buy cheap, bare-bones insurance plans alongside more robust, Obamacare-compliant plans. That's good news for the healthy, and bad news for the sick: If healthy folks flock to cheaper plans, the other plans covering pre-existing conditions will grow more expensive — destabilizing the market in the process, insurance companies say. (Hafner, 7/13)

Los Angeles Times: Divided Senate Republicans Unveil New Version Of Obamacare Repeal Bill
The bill would earmark an additional $70 billion in federal money to help stabilize health insurance markets across the country, funded in part by preserving two Obamacare taxes on wealthy Americans that the previous GOP legislation eliminated. And in an effort to woo several GOP senators from states dependent on Medicaid to address the opioid crisis, McConnell earmarked an additional $45 billion in the bill to confront the epidemic. (Mascaro and Levey, 7/13)

The Washington Post: The GOP’s Under-The-Radar Tax Break For The Upper Middle Class
A new tax break for the upper middle class was offered up Thursday in Senate Republicans' revised version of their bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The legislation would make health insurance premiums more affordable for consumers who buy the kinds of inexpensive policies that are crucial to the GOP health-care agenda. Yet independent analysts caution that the benefits would mainly accrue to affluent households, and the provision might not substantially expand coverage among the uninsured. (Ehrenfreund, 7/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Hospitals Could Gain Under New GOP Health Bill
Among the provisions in the revised version of the Senate Republicans’ health bill is a provision that would restore certain federal funding to some hospitals—but with a catch. Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals were set to lose out on extra funding known as Medicaid “disproportionate share” payments meant to help cover uninsured patients. The Senate GOP’s early health bill restored the funds, but exclusively to hospitals in states that didn’t expand Medicaid. (Evans, 7/13)

Politico: Senate Republicans One Vote Away From Obamacare Repeal Failure
Majority Whip John Cornyn acknowledged GOP leaders don’t have the minimum 50 votes right now but insisted, "We're making good progress." He said he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were not making "state-specific" promises to wavering senators and were instead merely trying to convince them that the bill is better than Obamacare."We're not through yet," Cornyn said of his and McConnell's work. (Everett and Haberkorn, 7/13)

The Associated Press: Trouble For Revised Senate Health Bill; Trump Wants Action
Moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told reporters she had informed McConnell she would be voting against beginning debate on the bill, citing in part cuts in the Medicaid health program for the poor and disabled. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has repeatedly complained that McConnell's efforts don't amount to a full-blown repeal of Obamacare, also announced he was a "no." That means McConnell cannot lose any other Republican senators. (Werner and Fram, 7/14)

Politico: Graham Introduces Repeal Back-Up Plan
A new health care proposal from GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham that would direct much of Obamacare's federal funding directly to the states could offer a starting point for Congress if the Senate GOP effort fails next week, according to a summary of the bill obtained by POLITICO. The bill from Graham is intended to appeal to Republicans as a replacement plan for Obamacare, while he hopes to sell the effort to Democrats as a repair plan. (Everett, 7/13)

The Associated Press: Analysis: Trump Will Take Health Care Credit Or Cast Blame
If congressional Republicans succeed in repealing and replacing "Obamacare," expect a big Rose Garden celebration with President Donald Trump taking credit. If they fail? Trump has already indicated he will hold Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responsible, setting up an intraparty blame game that could be devastating for the GOP. (7/14)

Reuters: Doctors, Nurses Among Hundreds Charged With Defrauding U.S. Health Programs
A total of 412 people, including almost 115 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, have been charged in the sweeping enforcement action, the biggest ever by the multi-agency Medicare Strike Force, the Justice Department said in a statement. More than 120 people were accused of illegally prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics, charges that come as about 91 Americans die daily from opioid-related overdoses. (Simpson, 7/13)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Charges More Than 400 With Committing Health Care Fraud
Justice Department officials said the charges were filed in the past few weeks, and the initiative was the “largest health-care fraud takedown operation” in U.S. history, Mr. Sessions said. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who represents one of the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, called the Justice Department action a “great first step” and a sign that the new presidential administration is taking the scourge seriously. (Wilber, 7/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Social Security, Medicare Face Depletion Within 17 Years, Trustees Say
The trust funds were built when more people paid into the system than received benefits. As the population ages, benefit payments are projected to exceed revenues, drawing down fund balances. Under current law, when the trust funds are emptied, benefits from the programs will be abruptly reduced. The latest projections say retirement benefits would be slashed by 25%. The status of the funds is thus a potential trigger for reforms in the programs. (Zumbrun, 7/13)

The Associated Press: Investors: 'Pharma Bro' Shkreli Was Shady-And Profitable
The jury at the securities fraud trial of "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli has heard investors accuse the quirky former biotech CEO of repeatedly giving them the runaround when they tried to pull their money out of his failing health care hedge fund. But the government witnesses have made a concession that the defense hopes plays in its favor: In the end, they made a killing. (7/13)

The Associated Press: Confusion Over How Anti-Abortion Bill Could Affect St. Louis
Missouri lawmakers are at a standstill on broad anti-abortion legislation more than a month after Republican Gov. Eric Greitens called them into a special session to deal with abortion issues. The legislation calls for several new regulations, such as annual state inspections of abortion clinics. But one of the provisions causing the most confusion addresses a St. Louis ordinance that city leaders say is intended to prevent discrimination based on reproductive health decisions, such as pregnancy and abortion. (7/14)

The Washington Post: ‘We’re Losing More People To The Sweets Than To The Streets’: Why Two Black Pastors Are Suing Coca-Cola
William Lamar, the senior pastor at D.C.’s historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, is tired of presiding over funerals for parishioners who died of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. So on Thursday, he and another prominent African American pastor filed suit against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association, claiming soda manufacturers knowingly deceived customers about the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages — at enormous cost to their communities. (Dewey, 7/13)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.