Latest Kaiser Health News Stories

The Good, The Bad And The Weird: A Deeper Look Into What Actually Made It Into Spending Deal–And What Was Cut

KHN Morning Briefing

The House passed the sweeping legislation on Tuesday, sending it to the Senate ahead of a Friday deadline for a government shutdown. The bill will, among other things, repeal three health law taxes in a win for insurers. Media outlets dive into the particulars of what’s included — like a tobacco age ban and money for wildfire safety — and what is not. Provisions in the latter category might act as a cautionary tale for progressive Democrats as they try to push ahead with “Medicare for All.”

Constraining Specialists From Billing Out-Of-Network Prices Would Lower Health Spending By $40B A Year

KHN Morning Briefing

Specialists like anesthesiologists have more power to negotiate higher in-network payments because they’re able to bill so much out-of-network. Limiting that power would have a significant effect on spending, a new study finds. Congress has been working to find a way to curb out-of-network surprise bills, but although they’ve made progress in recent weeks, nothing has passed yet.

Health Highlights In Congress’ $1.4 Trillion Spending Bill: Tobacco Age, ‘Cadillac Tax,’ Medical Research And More

KHN Morning Briefing

Lawmakers released details Monday of a bipartisan deal that would allocate $1.4 trillion in federal spending for the remainder of the fiscal year to avoid a shutdown. Among other health-related measures, it includes a provision raising the minimum purchasing age for tobacco to 21, which advocates say is a “good step” toward a “substantial reduction” in smoking among young people. Media outlets cover the ins and outs of the bills and the ways they touch on health care.

Hospitals Aim To Bolster Communities’ Overall Health To Help Address Socio-Economic, Racial Inequities

KHN Morning Briefing

Health systems are trying innovative ways–like building a warehouse distribution facility and committing to hiring marginalized workers–to improve overall health outcomes. The push is part of a larger trend for health systems to tackle problems beyond just treating patients. In other hospital news: price transparency, co-ops, mental health care, a $1.8 billion settlement, and more.

Frustrated With Cumbersome, Clunky Diabetes Devices, Patients Are Turning To DIY Technology

KHN Morning Briefing

Many feel like the tools available on the market weren’t built by people actually living with the disease, and so those with technology experience are taking matters into their own hands. In other health and technology news: virtual reality, the data Catch-22, prosthetics, cyberattacks, and Apple’s push into the health industry.

Promising Greater Safety, A Tiny Widget Creates Chaos For Tube Feeders

KHN Original

A standard connector for feeding tubes was supposed to improve patient safety by preventing accidental misconnections to equipment used for IVs or other purposes. But critics say the design instead could keep patients from real food and inadvertently creates a host of new risks, including for vulnerable premature infants.

New York Life Eyeing Cigna’s Business That Sells Non-Medical Insurance Through Employers In Possible $6B Deal

KHN Morning Briefing

Cigna has been working to trim debt after last year’s acquisition of pharmacy-benefits manager Express Scripts Holding Co. for $54 billion. In other news from the health industry: a corporation misses the deadline to close the deal on four Verity Health hospitals and a look at the small Medicare reduction that could make a big difference in premiums.

Escalating Public Feud Between Azar And Verma Reaching ‘Soap Opera’ Levels Of Melodrama

KHN Morning Briefing

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has now summoned HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma to meet at the White House this week to see if they can continue to work together amid the bickering. Meanwhile, allegations continue to emerge about who is leaking what information and the motives behind the riff.

UnitedHealth To Acquire Specialty Drug Provider Diplomat Pharmacy At A Steep Discount

KHN Morning Briefing

“This combination will expand the innovative specialty pharmacy and infusion solutions OptumRx can offer to the consumers and clients we serve,” said John Prince, the chief executive of OptumRx, a division under UnitedHealth. In other health industry news: cigarette stocks rebrand, a former executive pleads guilty to fraud, Banner Health agrees to a settlement over a data breach.

Trump, HHS Publicly Support CMS Chief Verma Amid Latest Controversy Over $47,000 Claim For Stolen Jewelry, Property

KHN Morning Briefing

CMS Administrator Seema Verma filed a claim with the government after $47,000 worth of jewelry and other property was stolen during a work trip. According to White House aides, President Donald Trump is standing by Verma, despite the fact that she’s embroiled in another controversy over spending millions on communications contracts as well as an increasingly hostile and public feud with HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Meanwhile, HHS says it was “perfectly appropriate” for Verma to file the claim.

White House Supports Surprise Medical Bills Plan, But That Doesn’t Mean It Will Be Smooth Sailing From Here On Out

KHN Morning Briefing

Efforts to address surprise medical bills had stalled until a bipartisan agreement emerged over this past weekend. The White House praised lawmakers’ “delicate work” to reach a deal, which is a compromise between two other strategies for dealing with the costs. But even with the White House’s support, question marks remain about whether the deal can be pushed through both chambers and sent to President Donald Trump by the end of the year.

VA Opens Institute To Pursue Research On Artificial Intelligence

KHN Morning Briefing

As a national health system, the VA has amassed a significant amount of data—possibly giving it a leg up because lack of trustworthy and accessible data has traditionally been one of the major roadblocks to AI development. In other health technology news: a website helps patients with rare diseases find more information about them.

Verma Sought To Have Taxpayers Reimburse Her For $47,000 In Stolen Jewelry, Property In Work-Related Trip

KHN Morning Briefing

The government ultimately reimbursed CMS Administrator Seema Verma $2,852.40 for her claim. HHS has a longstanding policy of paying for certain goods when they are lost during a work trip, so long as they “are not inherently for other uses.” Meanwhile, tensions between Verma and HHS Secretary Alex Azar have reportedly escalated to a point that an outside counsel was brought in to investigation allegations of sex discrimination.

Bipartisan Breakthrough Focusing On Arbitration May Kick-Start Stalled Surprise Medical Bills Negotiations

KHN Morning Briefing

Tackling surprise medical bills was touted as an issue that might actually make it through the severely divided Congress, but then talks broke down earlier in the year when it came time to choose a strategy to move forward with. Now a proposal from key House and Senate leaders, built on the idea of a dispute resolution system, could be gaining traction.