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First Edition

Thursday, October 19, 2017
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Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Medicare Vs. Medicare Advantage: How To Choose
As health insurers struggle with shifting government policies and considerable uncertainty, one market remains remarkably stable: Medicare Advantage plans. That’s good news for seniors as they select coverage for the year ahead during Medicare’s annual open enrollment period (this year running from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7). For 2018, 2,317 Medicare Advantage plans will be available across the country, “the most we’ve seen since 2009,” said Gretchen Jacobson, associate director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s program on Medicare policy. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) (Graham, 10/19)

Kaiser Health News: Despite GOP Efforts To Corral Medicaid Spending, States Expand Benefits
While congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump have been seeking major cuts in federal funding of Medicaid, 26 states this year expanded or enhanced benefits and at least 17 plan to do so next year, according to a report released Thursday. The increased benefits were largely for mental health and substance abuse treatment, but states also added telemedicine and dental care, according to the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the National Association of Medicaid Directors. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) (Galewitz, 10/19)

The New York Times: Trump Pulls Back From Senate Deal To Fund Health Subsidies
President Trump on Wednesday backed away from his endorsement of a bipartisan Senate proposal to stabilize health insurance markets, throwing the legislative effort into doubt even as the chief architect of the deal predicted that it would become law before the end of the year. The latest actions by the White House confused Republicans on Capitol Hill and irked Democrats — but in the end, their effect was not clear. (Kaplan and Pear, 10/18)

The Associated Press: Republican Says He’ll Push Health Deal, Trump Keeps Distance
The authors of a bipartisan plan to calm health insurance markets said Wednesday they’ll push the proposal forward, even as President Donald Trump’s stance ricocheted from supportive to disdainful to arm’s-length and the plan’s fate teetered. “If something can happen, that’s fine,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “But I won’t do anything to enrich the insurance companies because right now the insurance companies are being enriched. They’ve been enriched by Obamacare like nothing anybody has ever seen before.” (Fram, 10/18)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Signals Opposition To Bipartisan Health-Care Deal
Mr. Trump touched off confusion on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning, tweeting he “can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made fortune w/O’Care,” echoing criticism from conservatives that the deal is a bailout for insurers, a characterization the sponsors dispute. ... Mr. Trump’s comments on Wednesday cheered conservatives, troubled some Republicans who support the bill and left many Democratic lawmakers frustrated. Some Capitol Hill aides said they thought Mr. Trump’s remarks might be a negotiating tactic to get more concessions from Democrats, and GOP lawmakers began looking at potential changes that might ultimately get the president’s backing. (Armour and Peterson, 10/18)

The Washington Post: Trump Appears To Back Further Away From Bipartisan Health-Care Push
President Trump became the subject of an unusual public lobbying campaign over the fate of the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday as Senate Democrats and a key Republican sought to salvage a bipartisan health deal while conservatives pressured the president to disavow the agreement. ... The convoluted campaign, in which Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) insisted that a deal remained in reach even as he blasted the president’s “zigging and zagging,” underscored the unpredictable nature of dealmaking in Trump’s Washington. With constantly shifting alliances, the city’s key political players are jockeying to win the president’s support one issue at a time. (Eilperin and Sullivan, 10/18)

The Hill: 24 Hours Later, Senate Health Deal All But Completely Dead
A Senate healthcare deal to extend critical ObamaCare payments to insurers appears all but completely dead just 24 hours after it was announced. President Trump reversed course Wednesday and said he opposed the deal, while Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office said the Senate should keep its focus on repealing and replacing President Obama’s signature law. (Sullivan and Roubein, 10/18)

The Hill: Ryan Opposes ObamaCare Payments Deal 
A spokesman for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday indicated Ryan won’t support a bipartisan deal to stabilize the ObamaCare insurance markets as opposition to the proposal mounts. "The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare,” Doug Andres wrote in an emailed statement. (Roubein, 10/18)

The Hill: Schumer: Trump Doesn't Understand ObamaCare Payments Deal 
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) ripped President Trump's comments on a bipartisan deal to extend key ObamaCare payments to insurers, arguing he doesn't understand the agreement.  "Frankly the president doesn't know what he's talking about in the compromise. ... The president ought to know what he's talking about when he tweets about bills. Because on this one he had no understanding of what it's about," Schumer said from the Senate floor. (Carney, 10/18)

The Hill: GOP Senator Floats Changes To Bipartisan ObamaCare Deal 
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is floating changes to a bipartisan deal to stabilize insurance markets that would pull the measure to the right. Johnson said he’s discussed the changes with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — the Senate Health Committee chairman who brokered the deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — and Johnson contends they’re crucial to shoring up support for the bill in the House. (Roubein, 10/18)

Politico: Obamacare Fix Could End Up In Year-End Package
GOP lawmakers acknowledged they’ll eventually have to contend with shaky insurance markets and an estimated $1 billion hole Trump carved into the health care law last week when he eliminated remaining payments due this year. The money to fund a key insurance subsidy program could be resurrected as part of a year-end spending agreement. Even if the deal struck by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray goes nowhere, Republican sources say it's only a matter of time before Congress must find some way of addressing the reeling insurance markets — a vote the GOP sources know will infuriate lawmakers and their base. (Haberkorn and Bade, 10/18)

The Associated Press: States Ask US Court To Keep Up Health Subsidies Cut By Trump
Top government lawyers representing 19 U.S. states on Wednesday asked a federal judge in California to force the administration of President Donald Trump to make health care subsidy payments that Trump abruptly cut off last week. The monthly payments would normally be scheduled to go out Friday. The states, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, asked a judge in San Francisco for an emergency court order by 4 p.m. Thursday requiring they be paid on time. (10/18)

Los Angeles Times: California And Other States Seek Emergency Order To Stop Trump Administration From Cutting Off Healthcare Subsidies
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra asked a federal court Wednesday to issue an emergency temporary restraining order to block the Trump administration from cutting off cost-sharing subsidies that help reduce the price of healthcare for millions of Americans. A week after California and 17 other states filed a lawsuit challenging the decision on its merits, the same attorneys general requested a restraining order to avoid immediate harm to millions of people who get subsidized healthcare through the Affordable Care Act, Becerra said. (McGreevy, 10/18)

The Hill: Bipartisan Group Of Governors Calls On Congress To Stabilize ObamaCare Markets 
A bipartisan group of 10 governors is calling on Congress to vote on a deal to stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance markets. “We urge Congress to quickly pass legislation to stabilize our private health insurance markets and make quality health insurance more available and affordable,” the governors wrote Wednesday in a letter to House and Senate leaders from both parties. (Roubein, 10/18)

The Associated Press: Trump's Health Subsidy Shutdown Could Lead To Free Insurance
If President Donald Trump prevails in shutting down a major "Obamacare" health insurance subsidy, it would have the unintended consequence of making free basic coverage available to more people, and making upper-tier plans more affordable. The unexpected assessment comes from consultants, policy experts, and state officials trying to discern the potential fallout from a Washington health care debate that's becoming harder to follow. (10/19)

The Associated Press: Uncertainty Reigns Ahead Of New Health Care Sign-Up Period
Jason Sanford has heard so many rumors about the changing health care landscape that every few weeks he dials a local information desk, seeking just a rough estimate of what his diabetes medication will soon cost him. The answer is the same every time: It's too early to say, even with the next open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act beginning in two weeks. (10/18)

NPR: When States Asked For Insurance Waivers, They Didn't Like The Answers
It was the Friday before a Monday deadline, and federal health officials in Washington, D.C. were working feverishly with their counterparts in Oklahoma to finalize the details of a new state reinsurance program. Emails flew between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington and Oklahoma's Department of Health. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, the only ACA insurer in the state, was on board. Everything had to be done by Monday, Sept. 25, so the insurance company could set new, presumably lower, health insurance rates for 2018. (Kodjak, 10/19)

The Associated Press: Judge Orders Government To Allow Abortion For Immigrant Teen
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the government to allow a pregnant 17-year-old immigrant, who was detained after entering the country illegally, to undergo an abortion. After a brief hearing that included a testy exchange with government lawyers, Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered the government to move "promptly and without delay" to transport the teenager or allow her to be transported by others to the nearest abortion provider. (10/18)

The Washington Post: Federal Judge Bars Govenrment From Blocking Abortion For Jane Doe, Undocumented Teen Immigrant
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the pregnant teen, cheered the judge’s ruling as a major victory for abortion and immigrant rights. “We never should have had to fight this in the first place,” said Brigitte Amiri, a senior ACLU staff attorney who argued the case on Wednesday. “It should never have been something that we needed to go to court over.” (Sacchetti, 10/18)

Los Angeles Times: Judge Rules Detained Teenage Immigrant Must Be Allowed To Have An Abortion
At a hearing Wednesday, a lawyer for Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions had suggested that because the woman was not legally a U.S. resident, she was not covered by the constitutional right to end her pregnancy. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan rebuked the government lawyers at the hearing. Her order directs officials to transport Jane Doe to the clinic of her choice and allow her to obtain an abortion by Saturday. (Lauter, 10/18)

The Associated Press: Former Drug Czar Nominee Marino Defends Role In Opioid Law
President Donald Trump’s former nominee to be the nation’s drug czar is defending his role in writing a law that critics say weakened the government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., said he’s proud of his work on the 2016 law, which passed without opposition in the House and Senate and was signed by President Barack Obama. (10/18)

The Associated Press: Maryland Congressman Joins Fight Against Opioid Epidemic
Rep. John Delaney, D-Potomac, announced Tuesday that he is co-sponsoring legislation to make it easier for the Drug Enforcement Administration to combat the opioid epidemic. The bill, called the “Opioid Immediate Suspension Order Act of 2017,” was introduced Monday by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia. Four Democratic representatives, including Delaney, have co-sponsored the legislation, but no Republicans, according to Connolly’s office. (Jacob, 10/18)

The New York Times: F.D.A. Approves Second Gene-Altering Treatment For Cancer
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the second in a radically new class of treatments that genetically reboot a patient’s own immune cells to kill cancer. The new therapy, Yescarta, made by Kite Pharma, was approved for adults with aggressive forms of a blood cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, who have undergone two regimens of chemotherapy that failed. (Grady, 10/18)

The Washington Post: Cutting-Edge Immunotherapy Treatment Approved For Another Deadly Cancer
The treatment is for adults with certain types of large B-cell lymphoma who have not responded to or who have relapsed after at least two other kinds of treatment, such as chemotherapy and bone-marrow transplants. The group numbers about 7,500 patients a year in the United States.The one-time infusion, known as CAR T-cell therapy, is made by Kite Pharma, which is based in Santa Monica, Calif., and recently was bought by Gilead Sciences for $11.9 billion. Kite announced Wednesday that the treatment's brand name will be Yescarta and its price will be $373,000. (McGinley, 10/18)

The New York Times: Lack Of Sleep Tied To Diabetes In Pregnancy
Lack of sleep may raise the risk for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes — abnormally high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy — can lead to excessive birth weight, preterm birth or respiratory distress in the baby, among other problems. It can also increase the mother’s risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life. (Bakalar, 10/18)

The New York Times: Concussions In Teenagers Tied To Multiple Sclerosis Risk
Here’s yet another reason to protect young athletes from head trauma: A large-scale new study found that concussions in adolescents can increase the risk of later developing multiple sclerosis. The risk of multiple sclerosis, or M.S., an autoimmune nervous system disorder with an unknown cause, was especially high if there were more than one head injury. (Reynolds, 10/18)

The Wall Street Journal: New York City Public Hospital System To Get Relief From State
The head of New York City’s public hospital system said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has agreed to disperse hundreds of millions in aid to the agency, ending a funding dispute that left the hospitals dangerously low on cash. Stanley Brezenoff, interim president and chief executive of NYC Health + Hospitals, said in a letter to agency employees Wednesday that the state had agreed to distribute some $380 million in federal and city funds under the state’s control to the system over the coming months. (Gay, 10/18)

The Washington Post: Maryland To Offer Online Shopping Tool For Common Medical Procedures
The Maryland Health Care Commission, the state’s independent regulatory agency, is unveiling a website on which people scheduling a hip replacement, knee replacement, hysterectomy or vaginal delivery can see price differences among different providers for the same procedure. The site is launching amid rising health-care costs and as some consumers turn to insurance plans with high deductibles. (Itkowitz, 10/18)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2017 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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