KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Republicans To Focus On Access Instead Of Universal Coverage In Repeal Plans

While many health law advocates are focusing on the millions of people who will be vulnerable to losing coverage if the legislation is dismantled, Republicans say their focus is on making sure people who want insurance can get it -- not making sure everyone has it. Meanwhile, Harry Reid warns that people will die if the law is rolled back, and the 27 percent of Americans younger than 65 who have preexisting conditions make their voices heard on social media.

The New York Times: G.O.P. Plans To Replace Health Care Law With ‘Universal Access’
House Republicans, responding to criticism that repealing the Affordable Care Act would leave millions without health insurance, said on Thursday that their goal in replacing President Obama’s health law was to guarantee “universal access” to health care and coverage, not necessarily to ensure that everyone actually has insurance. (Pear and Kaplan, 12/15)

Politico: Republicans Could Keep Parts Of Obamacare For Up To Four Years
Congressional Republicans say they will vote on repealing and replacing Obamacare “very quickly” early next year but may keep Obamacare in place for as long as four years. The incoming Trump administration and Republicans on Capitol Hill are sorting out the details of how to best deconstruct the Affordable Care Act. One of the thorniest problems is how long to leave parts of the law intact — to give 20 million Americans time to find other arrangements and health insurance companies the ability to develop and price new plans. (Haberkorn, 12/15)

CQ Roll Call: House GOP Aims To Have Obamacare Replacement Ready For Trump
House Republicans hope to be ready in January with a new system to replace President Barack Obama’s health care law, according to Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady. But he declined to provide specifics Thursday. GOP lawmakers on the panel are in the midst of a two-day policy discussion focused on taxes and health care. Republicans “are here in the Capitol while Congress is adjourned for the holidays to make sure we have ready for our new president and administration, the American people, a health care plan that is dramatically different than Obamacare,” the Texas Republican told reporters during a break in the closed-door meeting. (Williams, 12/15)

Morning Consult: Key Republican Panel Huddles To Plan ACA Replacement
Republicans are committed to allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26 and keeping a ban on insurers yanking coverage if costs exceed a certain amount, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady said Thursday after a discussion on replacing the Affordable Care Act. Republicans on the committee huddled on Capitol Hill this week to develop plans for tax and health reform. Brady told reporters the panel is committed to crafting a plan that is affordable for patients and fiscally responsible, but offered few specific details. (McIntire, 12/15)

The Huffington Post: Harry Reid On The GOP: 'They Don’t Have Enough Nerve To Repeal Obamacare'
Congressional Republicans are marching determinedly toward a new session, insisting that a quick repeal of Obamacare will be a top agenda item. Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) doesn’t think they really have it in them. “They don’t have enough nerve to repeal Obamacare. And if they do, they are just a lot more visionless than I can imagine,” Reid told The Huffington Post in an interview this week. “Let them repeal it. They will rue the day.” (Grim and Stein, 12/14)

Politico: Liberal Group Warns Democrats On Obamacare
A prominent liberal outside group issued a stern warning Thursday to Democratic senators who might help Republicans replace Obamacare: Do so at your own political peril. The broadside from the pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America came hours after POLITICO reported that some Senate Democrats would be open to working to rebuild the health care law as long as Obamacare’s core components are preserved. (Everett, 12/15)

Stat: #The27Percent: Patients With Preexisting Conditions Rally Online
Roughly 55 million Americans could lose insurance coverage if Obamacare is repealed, but that’s just a number. Those in jeopardy are making it personal. In a burst of Twitter activism, scores of people have begun sharing details of their health complications online, as well as those of their loved ones, to draw attention to the issue. The hashtag to watch — #the27Percent — reflects the 27 percent of Americans under 65 with preexisting conditions who risk losing health coverage. It was created by Dr. Atul Gawande, the surgeon, author, and executive director of Ariadne Labs, who on Wednesday posted his own testimonial to 178,000 Twitter followers. (Tedeschi, 12/15)

In other health law news —

The Hill: Repeal Of ObamaCare Mandate Could Be Tipping Point 
Immediate repeal of ObamaCare's individual mandate next year could cause chaos in the market and threaten coverage for some of the healthcare law’s enrollees, experts warn.  Congressional Republicans have not yet said whether they intend to scrap the mandate right away, but the bill they unsuccessfully pushed last year — and are now using as a blueprint for 2017 — abolished the mandate immediately. (Sullivan, 12/16)

Modern Healthcare: Republicans Say State Flexibility Key For ACA Replacement 
An Affordable Care Act replacement that emphasizes state flexibility will be a top Republican priority once Congress reconvenes in January, according to congressional staffers. Addressing rising prescription drug prices may also be on the agenda.Republican and Democratic legislative aides shared their parties' agendas in background briefings with reporters Thursday. GOP staffers say under their party's proposed repeal and replacement of the ACA, states must take the lead in deciding how to maintain insurance coverage for the 20 million people who gained coverage under the law. One bill that's drawing interest among Republicans is the Patient Freedom Act, first introduced by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) in 2015. (Dickson, 12/15)

Chicago Tribune: Health Groups Urge Rauner To Fight Obamacare Repeal 
More than 100 Illinois health care advocacy groups, medical providers and social service organizations are urging Gov. Bruce Rauner to tell Congress that proposed changes to Obamacare and Medicaid could result in "grave harm to our communities and the financial well-being of the state." The groups sent Rauner a letter Thursday outlining their concerns and imploring him to pass them on to Congress. (Schencker, 12/15)

Bloomberg: Trump’s Obamacare Threat May Limit Profits At Health Insurer 
Donald Trump’s promises to repeal Obamacare have claimed another victim -- health insurer Centene Corp.’s 2017 profit outlook. The company said in a regulatory filing Thursday that Trump’s victory could limit margins in its business selling Obamacare plans, cutting its 2017 profit projections by about 20 cents. The insurer forecast adjusted earnings of $4.40 to $4.85 a share for 2017, compared with the $4.83 average of analysts’ estimates. (Tracer, 12/15)

The Washington Post: Health Insurers Get Only 1.6% Of $6 Billion They Are Owed For Costly ACA Customers
Hundreds of insurers selling health plans in Affordable Care Act marketplaces are being paid less than 2 percent of nearly $6 billion the government owes them for covering customers last year with unexpectedly high medical expenses. The $96 million that insurers will get is just one-fourth of the sum that provoked an industry outcry a year ago, when federal health officials announced that they had enough money to pay health plans only 12.6 percent of what the law entitles them to receive. (Goldstein, 12/15)

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