Sunday, September 27, 2015

Health Care Reform Articles - October 1, 2015

New Kennedy tape shows frustration with Clintons, health bid


WASHINGTON — Some 15 years had passed since Bill and Hillary Clinton’s health care legislation failed when Senator Edward M. Kennedy sat for a 2008 oral history interview, but his frustration over the couple’s handling of the measure seemed to anger him as much as ever.
“I think everybody understands now that that was a catastrophic mistake,” Kennedy told a historian from the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, according to transcripts released this week.

“Was there any consultation about this strategy with people in the Congress?” interviewer James Sterling Young asked.
“No,” Kennedy replied.
It will be no surprise to Kennedy watchers that the Massachusetts Democrat was upset with the way the Clintons launched their failed effort to pass health care legislation in the early 1990s or that Kennedy was perturbed that he — the longtime champion of such a bill — was kept out of the loop. But his words are bound to revive a memory that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was given authority over the health care proposal by her husband, might prefer be long forgotten.
Kennedy’s lament about the Clintons is among thousands of pages of transcripts of oral history given by Kennedy and 170 people who interacted with him at crucial periods. The transcripts are to be released Wednesdayjointly by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston. The institute provided Kennedy’s interview about health care issues to the Globe as a preview of the release.
A more complete set of Kennedy’s 19 interviews and those given by others is slated to be posted online Wednesday, giving the public a fresh chance to review the senator’s career.

Clinton expected to break with Obama on healthcare ‘Cadillac’ tax

By Sarah Ferris - 09/21/15

Hillary Clinton will seek to align herself with ObamaCare’s successes and use it to attack the GOP on Tuesday as she begins to map out her long-awaited healthcare agenda.

The effort could also lead to a public break with the Obama administration on healthcare for the first time.
After months of delivering nothing but praise for ObamaCare, presidential candidate Clinton is expected to weigh in — and oppose — one of the law's most controversial taxes: The “Cadillac tax."
If she joins her 2016 Democratic rivals in calling for the repeal of the tax on generous healthcare plans, she will distance herself from most ObamaCare supporters but also unlock important endorsements from unions that staunchly oppose it.

Clinton will drop the first details of her healthcare plan during a campaign event in Iowa on Tuesday, part of a two-day, three-state tour. Her speech will come weeks after hinting earlier this summer that she has concerns with the tax.

“Hillary Clinton believes protecting, defending and improving the Affordable Care Act is a top issue for this campaign, so she plans to highlight its benefits and go on offense against Republicans for their never-ending push to repeal,” a campaign official told The Hill on Monday.

Looking beyond the law’s current scope, she will also target the rising costs of prescription drugs and out-of-pocket healthcare costs — two policy areas that were largely left out of the Affordable Care Act. Rising costs have become a rallying cry of Clinton’s Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who recently introduced legislation targeting the “skyrocketing” costs of drugs.
Sanders, as well as presidential hopeful, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, have both come out in opposition of the Cadillac tax, putting pressure on Clinton to do the same or risk losing big-dollar union support.

The Democratic threat to Obamacare

by Charles Lane

Who says there’s no bipartisan consensus in the United States? Based on their campaign promises so far, if any of the leading contenders for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations actually wins in November 2016, Obamacare as we know it is doomed.
The Republicans, of course, pledge to repeal the whole thing. The Democrats, by contrast, merely want to hollow it out, by removing a crucial systemic reform, the absence of which will make the Affordable Care Act less able to meet its twin goals of curbing costs and expanding coverage.
Specifically, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has just joined her main rivals, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, in calling for the repeal of Obamacare’s excise tax of 40 percent of the value of employer-paid health insurance plans that exceeds $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families; the tax takes effect in 2018.
Health-care economists universally praised this feature of Obamacare because it attacked the wasteful and regressive tax exclusion for employer-paid health plans, a $250 billion-plus annual item, 35 percent of which accrues to the top 20 percent of the income distribution scale.
Reducing the value of that tax break would help slow health-care cost growth, because it encourages many employers to pay employees not higher wages but generous “Cadillac benefits,” prompting the recipients, in turn, to overutilize medical care. 
As it happens, the mere anticipation of the tax has already caused employers to right-size their benefits packages, just as Obamacare’s authors intended. This is one reason, among many, that health-care cost growth has remained moderate even as health reform has brought millions of new consumers onto the insurance rolls.

Prescription Drug Costs Are Rising as a Campaign Issue

Drug Price Gouging Enters Spotlight as Candidates Take on Big Pharma

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton among those calling for reforms to pharmaceutical marketplace
Amid a growing scandal over two pharmaceutical companies' price hikes on two vital medications, voices from the political sphere are promising renewed action to tackle price gouging in the medical marketplace.
On Sunday, Turing Pharmaceuticals increased overnight the price of Daraprim, a malaria medication, from $12.50 to $750 a pill. Around the same time, a separate drug company, Rodelis Therapeutics, sent the cost of tuberculosis drug Cycloserine from $15 to $360 a pill.
After ensuing outrage, Rodelis rescinded the increase and handed Cycloserine back to the nonprofit organization from which it had purchased ownership of the drug brand. But Turing refused to back down.
Turing CEO Martin Shkreli defended his company's actions from widespread criticism, telling Bloomberg TV about the Daraprim decision, "This drug saves your life for $50,000. At this price, it's a no-brainer."
Shkreli's actions and cavalier defense did little to soothe public furor. But among the continued outcry, some politicians stepped up with their own solutions to the issue of unregulated medication costs.
Hillary Clinton on Monday tweeted, "Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I'll lay out a plan to take it on."
While the official plan will not be unveiled until the Democratic presidential candidate's speech in Iowa later Tuesday, early reports indicate that it would force pharmaceutical companies to reinvest profits into disease and treatment research and allow Medicare to lower and cap out-of-pocket expenses for consumers.
Bernie Sanders, Clinton's current chief rival for the nomination, has also sponsored legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Many of the provisions in his bill are echoed in Clinton's new plan.
Sanders also sent Turing a letter on Monday demanding information on the company's price hike.
"The enormous, overnight price increase for Daraprim is just the latest in a long list of skyrocketing price increases for certain critical medications," Sanders said in a joint statement with Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
"Without fast access to this drug, used to treat a very serious parasitic infection, patients may experience organ failure, blindness or death," Sanders and Cummings said.
Indeed, Daraprim is widely considered one of the best medications for toxoplasmosis or people whose immune systems are weakened by HIV/AIDS or cancer. The Infectious Diseases Society of America slammed Turing's action, saying it burdens patients and creates unsustainable costs for the country's healthcare system.

Clinton proposing $250 monthly cap on prescription drug costs for patients

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is proposing a $250 monthly cap on the amount patients with chronic and serious medical problems would have to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs as a way to reduce the effect of skyrocketing drug prices on consumers.
The cap is part of Clinton’s program to alter and expand the Affordable Care Act, the signature domestic policy achievement of President Obama, if she is elected to succeed him. Clinton will discuss the prescription drug plan Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa. Some details were provided by her campaign in advance.
Clinton herself telegraphed the plan with a Twitter message Monday vowing to go after “price-gouging” by drug companies. She cited the nearly 5,000-percent increase in the per-pill cost of a drug to treat parasitic infections.
That price hike was profit-driven, Clinton said Monday at a political rally in Little Rock, Ark. The Democratic front-runner said she would crack down on such price increases because “nobody in America should have to choose between buying the medicine they need and paying rent.”
Clinton is calling her health-care ideas a way of refining the Affordable Care Act, the sprawling 2010 law that is reshaping parts of the U.S. health-care system. But her ideas would navigate the law into a realm of drug prices that its authors largely sidestepped.
Clinton is taking some political risk by a full-throated endorsement of a law that remains divisive, though polling shows sharp partisan differences in support for it. Clinton casts the issue as an example of retrograde Republican ideas that would undo progress she claims under Obama.
“All the Republican candidates for president are determined to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.  Actually, Republicans in Congress have tried to repeal it 54 times,” Clinton said Monday in Little Rock.

Big Price Increase for Tuberculosis Drug Is Rescinded

A New Effort Has Doctors Turn Patients Into Donors

Monday, September 21, 2015

Health Care Reform Articles - September 21, 2015

A Huge Overnight Increase in a Drug’s Price Raises Protests

Trapped in the System: A Sick Doctor’s Story

What Bernie Sanders means by ‘democratic socialism.’ (You still have your choice of pajamas.)

GOFFSTOWN, N.H. -- The shorthand that the media uses to describe Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has changed.
“It used to be that I was known as ‘the longest-serving independent in the history of the United States Congress,’ which is true,” Sanders said during an appearance Saturday at Saint Anselm’s College here. “Now I’m a ‘self-professed democratic socialist.’ Things change when you run for president.”
In response to a student’s question, Sanders, whose campaign for the Democratic nomination has surged in recent weeks, went on to give a lengthy of explanation of what “democratic socialism” is -- and is not.
“So what does that mean?” Sanders asked the students. “Does anyone here think I’m a strong adherent of the North Korean form of government? That I want all of you to be wearing similar colored pajamas?”
Democratic candidate for president, Sen. Bernie Sander's (I-Vt.) campaign is surging, but does he even have a chance against Hillary Clinton? The Fix's Chris Cillizza explains. (Pamela Kirkland and Randolph Smith/The Washington Post)
When the laughter died down, the longest-serving independent in Congress asked how many of the students were familiar with the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland and Norway.
“Are these democratic societies? Obviously they are,” Sanders said, relaying that voter turnout in Denmark tends to approach 90 percent.
“Is it a society where the government owns every mom-and-pop store?” he asked. “Of course not. You have all kinds of capitalist entrepreneurship going on, a lot of wealth being created. But what else do you have? … An effort to make sure that all people benefit from the wealth that’s being created. So you have a much more equitable distribution of wealth and income. … I talked to a guy from Denmark, and he said, ‘In Denmark, it is very hard to become very, very rich, but it’s pretty hard to be very, very poor.’ And that makes a lot of sense to me.”

Hillary Clinton to go on offense over GOP plans to repeal Obamacare

Hillary Rodham Clinton will begin filling in details this week of her proposal to tweak the Affordable Care Act, and she will attempt to use Republican presidential candidates’ opposition to the health-care-expansion law against them. 
Clinton plans a series of events in Louisiana, Arkansas and Iowa to needle Republicans over their opposition to a law that has greatly reduced the number of uninsured Americans, her campaign said. Some details of her strategy were provided exclusively to The Washington Post ahead of her first health-care-related event on Monday.
The focus on health care represents a shift for national Democrats and a full embrace of a law that had a troubled rollout and has not always polled well. Unlike in the 2012 election, when many Democrats tiptoed around their support for Obama’s namesake law, Clinton is making it a central part of her argument that she should succeed him.
Clinton frequently praises the 2010 law, often known as Obamacare, but says it does not go far enough. She wants to address the quickly rising cost of prescription drugs, for example, and has said she is examining possible changes to the Cadillac tax, as it is often called, on premium health-care plans. She also often says that mental health care and ­substance-abuse treatment need to be simpler and cheaper to obtain. Several Republicans competing for the 2016 nomination have said they would repeal the law immediately upon taking office.
Nearly 9 million people were added to the health insurance rolls last year, according to Census Bureau data released this month. That reduced the number of uninsured Americans to slightly more than 1 in 10. That is down from just over 16 percent in 2009, when President Obama took office with a pledge to pass a national health-care mandate.

Josh Freed: Time to build the Great Wall of Canada before Trumpmania explodes