Tagged The Health Law

Past As Prologue: Questioning Buttigieg’s Claim About Keeping Your Health Care

As the Democratic presidential campaign moves to the battleground of South Carolina this weekend, candidate Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is highlighting his health plan as he seeks to slow the momentum of the front-runner, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In a video ad airing across the state, Buttigieg argues that his health plan — called “Medicare for All Who Want It” — offers Americans their choice of insurance plans, in a way he says Sanders’ more sweeping “Medicare for All” plan does not.

The Sanders plan would eliminate private insurance and move everyone into a government-run program.

Under Buttigieg’s proposal, the ad says, “Everyone gets access to Medicare, if they choose.” Specifically, according to campaign documents, people or employers could buy into a government-provided health plan, which the campaign says would provide an “affordable, comprehensive alternative” to what is sold on the private market.

But, the voiceover adds, “if you like your private plan, you can keep it.”

This isn’t the first time a politician has made such a promise. Arguing in favor of the Affordable Care Act, then-President Barack Obama repeatedly said the health law would let people keep their private health plans, if they liked them.

That didn’t pan out: Millions of Americans’ plans were canceled, spawning months of controversy. In 2013, PolitiFact rated Obama’s statement the “Lie of the Year.”

With that context, we decided to look deeper at Buttigieg’s remark. We reached out to his campaign but never heard back.

An Uncertain Market

Experts we talked to said the former mayor’s remark is remarkably similar to Obama’s ― right down to the pitfalls it encounters.

Those policy analysts said Buttigieg is trying to differentiate his plan from Sanders’ sweeping proposal, arguing his offering is more moderate than Sanders’ and preserves choice. He suggests many Americans would be able to pick between buying private insurance or opting into the government plan.

But does that mean that if you like your plan, you can keep it? As the Obama White House learned, not necessarily.

“It’s like déjà vu all over again,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

The problem is that private insurance availability isn’t up to the government. To be sure, state and federal regulators have the power to dictate, for example, the inclusion of certain benefits and to set basic consumer protections. But the government cannot specifically require insurance companies to offer plans, and any carrier has the option to stop providing coverage.

Already, market forces dictate what health insurance is available from year to year. For example, negotiations between an insurer and physicians could mean that an insurer drops doctors from its network. Changing profit margins could drive a private carrier to exit a certain market. An employer looking to trim expenses might decide to change health insurers, changing coverage offerings for employees.

Buttigieg’s health plan — which would more generously subsidize people buying private insurance than the ACA does and create a public health insurance option that individuals and employers could buy ― wouldn’t change any of those economic scenarios.

“When you have private plans offered and sold by private companies, those private companies are going to make business decisions that might affect your coverage,” Corlette said. “They can opt to get out of the business.”

That’s been especially clear in the ACA individual marketplace. In many counties, only one private insurer sells coverage on the marketplace. It’s impossible to predict, but a competing public option might change the financial incentives for those plans and push some of those carriers to abandon the exchange. If that happened, people using that plan would lose the insurance they have, regardless of how they feel about it.

Put more forcefully, “There’s no way the government can guarantee a private plan will continue, without mandating it will,” said Cynthia Cox, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

So, she added, suggesting that people who like their private plans will have the option to keep them under Buttigieg’s proposal is “probably not true.” (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

The Employer Question

This is especially the case when it comes to the nearly 160 million people who get their insurance from an employer.

Already, that group experiences volatility when it comes to their health insurance. In 2019, 53% of employers providing coverage considered changing the plan or the carrier they offered, according to a KFF survey. Of that group, almost a fifth — 18% ― ultimately did change insurance carriers.

That flux would likely increase under a plan like Buttigieg’s. Already, many employers (particularly smaller ones) indicate frustration with providing a health benefit that is increasingly complex and expensive. If a public option were cheaper, more might shift employees into that pool, dropping private insurance.

“Even if you don’t want the public option, your employer might decide that they do,” Cox said.

How big the change would be is difficult to gauge. It depends, for instance, on how generous the public option is, how much it costs employers and whether current private insurance trends continue.

Still, “any change you make to the health care environment would cause changes to reverberate throughout the system,” said Sherry Glied, a health economist and dean of New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. “Any government action will cause change to happen more than they would otherwise.”

It’s worth noting that many people may not be affected. Under the ACA, for instance, 4 million lost their plans, or fewer than 2% of all people who had coverage.

Most people who move from private insurance to the public option would likely have better benefits, said Benjamin Sommers, a health economist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But, some would be unhappy to lose the existing, private coverage that they know.

“The more accurate soundbite would be most people with private insurance would be able to keep it,” he added. “That would beg the question of who isn’t included there — and the answer is, we don’t know.”

And, in contrast with Sanders’ Medicare for All single-payer proposal, Buttigieg’s plan would preserve much of the current private insurance. But Buttigieg suggests that Medicare for All Who Want It — if administered well — could function as a “glide path” to a Medicare for All world, eventually bringing everyone into the public system.

“There’s good reason to think some of the private insurance competition won’t fare well against ‘Medicare for All Who Want It,’ ” Sommers said. “You might see some of the private plans dropping out. And that may be a sign the policy is working.”

Our Ruling

In a new campaign ad, Buttigieg claims that under his proposal to overhaul the health care system, “if you like your private plan, you can keep it.”

This may be true for some Americans who have private coverage, but it is not true for all. It ignores the inherent instability of the private insurance markets — in which plans are canceled or changed all the time, people often don’t get to pick which private plan is even available to them, and government intervention would likely exacerbate that volatility.

Introducing a public option, as Buttigieg intends to do, could create more incentives for employers to drop private coverage and switch to the public Medicare plan — and, in some cases, for private carriers to exit the individual marketplace. The fact that it would be less disruptive than Medicare for All doesn’t change this.

Buttigieg’s claim has some truth to it, but leaves out key facts and context. We rate it Mostly False.

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Congressional Candidates Go Head-To-Head On Health Care — Again

The California Democrats who fought to flip Republican congressional seats in 2018 used health care as their crowbar. The Republicans had just voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. House — and Democrats didn’t let voters forget it.

Two years later, Democrats are defending the seven seats they flipped from red to blue in California. And once again, they plan to go after their Republican opponents on health care in this year’s elections.

But this time around, it’s not just about the Affordable Care Act, whose fate now rests with the federal courts. Democrats are highlighting the high costs of prescription drugs, surprise medical bills and cuts to safety-net programs.

Health care “remains the single-biggest priority for most voters in 2020,” said U.S. Rep. Josh Harder, a Democrat who represents California’s 10th congressional district, in the northern San Joaquin Valley, which includes the cities of Modesto, Turlock, Tracy and Manteca.

Harder, who defeated Republican Jeff Denham in 2018, made the case then that eliminating the federal health law and its protections for people with preexisting conditions would harm thousands of people in his district, including his younger brother, whose premature birth yielded $2 million in hospital bills.

Health care affordability — from drug costs to premiums — is still the No. 1 issue his constituents raise in conversations with him, he said.

“The problems haven’t been solved,” said Harder, who blamed the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate for stalling on health care legislation addressing prescription and other health care costs. “A lot of folks out here feel like there’s still an unbelievably long period before they can see a doctor, and they think that the costs are way too high.”

Multiple calls and emails to Republican congressional candidates and the California Republican Party requesting comment were not returned. California voters will select their party’s congressional candidates in the Super Tuesday primary March 3.

Health care is indeed a top issue for voters, confirmed Mollyann Brodie, executive director of public opinion and survey research for the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News, which produces California Healthline, is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

“What concerns people the most is health care costs and their own affordability of health care,” Brodie said. “And when we asked people what they thought Congress should be working on, prescription drug costs came right on top.”

A national Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll from September 2019 found that 81% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans surveyed said lowering prescription drug costs should be a top priority for Congress. Voters in both parties also want Congress to maintain protections for people with preexisting conditions and limit surprise medical bills.

Both Democratic and Republican candidates are taking note and are likely to feature health care prominently in their campaigns, but their messages will be different, said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, a campaign analysis site.

For example, progressive Democrats often advocate for “Medicare for All,” a national health care program that would cover everyone in the U.S.

Republicans oppose this idea fervently.

“Republicans will talk about a government takeover of health care, socialism, Democratic efforts to get rid of private health insurance and the cost of Democratic plans,” Gonzales said.

Ted Howze, one of three Republicans gunning in the primary to replace Harder, fits this description. He is running for Congress after “personally struggling with the failure of the health care system,” he said during a January debate in Modesto. His first wife died in 2013 from an undiagnosed heart condition “that could have been treated,” according to his campaign website.

Among his top three priorities, he said, is making quality health care affordable for all Americans. But he proposes to do so through the private market, not more government-run programs.

“I will support any plan that covers preexisting conditions and that increases transparency and competition to drive costs down,” he said during the debate.

In at least one California district, health care has popped up in campaign advertising.

Twelve candidates are vying for the 25th Congressional District seat, which includes portions of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The seat was vacated by former U.S. Rep. Katie Hill, a Democrat who resigned in October.

Voters in that district will face a double election on March 3: The first is a special election for the remainder of Hill’s term, which runs through the end of this year. The second is the primary for the full 2021-23 congressional term.

Among the candidates is former U.S. Rep. Steve Knight, the Republican who lost his seat to Hill in 2018. After voting to repeal Obamacare in Congress, he introduced a bill that he argued would have protected people with preexisting conditions. His campaign did not return multiple calls and emails for comment.

State Assembly member Christy Smith, a Democrat who is running for the seat, shared a personal story about prescription drug costs in her first television ad.

Smith’s mom, a nurse, “died too young because she couldn’t afford the insulin to treat her diabetes and heart disease,” Smith says in the ad.

“My mom couldn’t afford the medicine and care she needed. I’m running for Congress to make sure you can.”

Another Democratic candidate, Cenk Uygur, co-founder of “The Young Turks,” a progressive YouTube news show, also made health care the topic of his first TV ad. Tens of thousands of people die every year because they don’t have health insurance, he says in the ad. “What if your own child was one of them?”

Democrats may find more health care fodder for their campaigns as the year progresses, said Ivy Cargile, an assistant professor of political science at California State University-Bakersfield.

For instance, she said, on Feb. 10 the Trump administration released its $4.8 trillion 2020 federal budget proposal, which includes deep cuts to Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people.

Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, has about 13 million enrollees. “Let’s assume this goes through,” she said. “That’s going to be fresh in the mind of voters going into the general election.”

This KHN story first published on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

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Obamacare A Disgrace? Biden Highlights Bloomberg’s Negative Remarks About The Affordable Care Act.

Sparring over health care during the Nevada Democratic presidential primary debate, former Vice President Joe Biden took issue with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s record on the Affordable Care Act.

“From the moment we passed that signature legislation, Mike called it a disgrace,” Biden said, a claim he repeated another time during the debate. 

Bloomberg sought to refute that charge, arguing that he defended the law and believed it should be expanded.

It was a heated moment. Both candidates are trying to tie themselves to former President Barack Obama, who spearheaded the 2010 legislation. So we decided to dig in.

We reached out to both campaigns for comment. We didn’t hear back from Bloomberg’s campaign. The Biden campaign sent a CNN article, which cited a speech Bloomberg gave at the Dartmouth Presidential Lecture in July 2010 — just a few months after the health care legislation was passed in March. In the speech, Bloomberg called the Affordable Care Act “a disgrace.” We found a video of the speech on YouTube. 

The remarks 

In the video, Bloomberg was unsparing. 

“We passed a health care bill that does absolutely nothing to fix the big health care problems in this country. It is just a disgrace,” he said. “The president, in all fairness, started out by pointing out what the big problems were, but then turned it over to Congress, which didn’t pay any attention to any of those big problems and just created another program that’s going to cost a lot of money.”

Those aren’t standalone remarks. As recently as 2014, Bloomberg called the law “really dysfunctional” during a talk he gave at the annual meeting of SIFMA, one of the financial industry’s trade groups. 

Both times, Bloomberg was still a registered Independent — he didn’t become a Democrat until 2018.

It’s also worth noting that Bloomberg wasn’t espousing a minority view. The ACA’s approval rating was underwater until 2017, according to polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.)

Bloomberg’s response

On the debate stage, Bloomberg sought distance from those remarks, saying he is a “fan of Obamacare.”

“I wrote something supporting it either in the New York Post or the Daily News,” he said.

The op-ed he appears to be referring to — published March 27, 2017, in the New York Post — does indeed talk about the ACA. But it comes years after Bloomberg’s mayorship ended. And while words like “disgrace” don’t appear, calling the piece a “defense” of the law isn’t entirely fair.

In it, Bloomberg noted some key shortcomings — for instance, the health law left 30 million people uninsured. He also argued in support of some ideas more popular with Republicans, such as high-risk insurance pools, as a way to bring down costs.

“It’s regrettable that none of these ideas was seriously considered in the rush to repeal ObamaCare,” Bloomberg wrote at the time.

It is worth noting that Bloomberg’s current health care plan would build on the ACA, largely by increasing subsidies for people buying private insurance on the exchanges, and by installing a Medicare-like public option. (That plan is quite similar to what’s been touted by Biden himself, as well as by candidates like former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.)

Our ruling

Biden said that Bloomberg called the ACA “a disgrace.”

Evidence supports that. And it’s not the only time Bloomberg took issue with the law — even if it is a core component of his current proposal for health reform. 

We rate this claim True.

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Surge In Enrollment As Californians Avoid Penalty, Receive State Aid

Hundreds of thousands of new enrollees signed up for 2020 coverage through Covered California, driven by new carrot-and-stick state policies that provide financial aid to help some people afford their premiums while penalizing those who don’t have coverage, state health officials announced Tuesday.

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said the health insurance exchange is giving consumers who remain uninsured another chance to enroll: Effective immediately, those who were not aware of the new penalty or financial aid can sign up for coverage during a special enrollment period that will last through April.

Covered California is the state’s Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace, where eligible individuals, families and small businesses can purchase plans and may qualify for federal tax credits and/or the new state-based subsidies based on their incomes.

“This has proven the case that the Affordable Care Act, as designed and not kneecapped, works and works well,” Lee said.

The new state penalty encouraged people to check the insurance exchange, he said. The subsidies encouraged people to buy.

About 418,000 Californians newly enrolled in individual or family plans through Covered California by the Jan. 31 enrollment deadline, 41% more than last year and the highest new enrollment since 2016, according to preliminary data from the exchange.

About 1.1 million existing Covered California enrollees also renewed plans, bringing the total number of enrollees to more than 1.5 million.

On healthcare.gov, the federally run health insurance exchange, about 8.3 million people enrolled in new plans or renewed their coverage this year, down slightly from 8.4 million in 2019.

California is one of six states and the District of Columbia that require most of their residents to purchase health insurance or face a penalty. Congress eliminated the Affordable Care Act’s federal tax penalty, effective last year.

California’s penalty mirrors the federal one that was nullified. In many cases, it will amount to $695 for a single adult and about $2,000 for a family of four. But for a lot of people, the financial hit could be substantially larger.

The state projects the penalty could raise $317 million in the first year, which is intended to partially fund the subsidies. Lee said he would forgo the extra revenue if it meant people are getting covered.

“The penalty is on the books but nobody wants the money,” he said. “We want it to be an economic nudge to get people to get covered.”

People who were motivated by the penalty to shop for insurance might have found coverage cheaper than last year.

Some of the new state financial aid is available to low-income customers, but California became the first state to offer subsidies to middle-income people who make too much to qualify for the federal tax credits: people whose incomes are between 400% and 600% of the federal poverty level, or about $51,000 to $76,000 a year for an individual and $104,800 to $157,200 for a family of four. Those thresholds are too high to qualify for federal aid but low enough to make health insurance a financial burden.

The average state assistance for this group is about $500 a month, Lee said.

About 625,000 people qualified for the new state subsidies, including 32,000 middle-income enrollees, Lee said.

The subsidies vary by income, household size, location and age. Some went to low-income residents who also qualify for federal tax credits.

Evette Tsang and her husband, both insurance brokers in Sacramento, serve mostly Chinese-speaking immigrants. Her clients used their state subsidies this year to purchase more comprehensive silver-tier plans with higher premiums rather than the cheaper bronze plans with lower benefits.

“After these few years, they start to see the importance of health insurance,” Tsang said. “Before, they only wanted bronze, but now they’re going to silver.”

Deborah Kelch, executive director of the Insure the Uninsured Project, said a lot of the success of this year’s enrollment numbers was the product of an aggressive marketing campaign urging Californians who hadn’t been able to afford insurance in the past to take a second look.

“They did so much great outreach,” Kelch said. “At this stage, Covered California has a really good formula they’re using. There are TV ads, they have their bus tour, they work with community organizations.”

According to Lee, Covered California budgeted $47 million for advertising this year, including $6 million for the special enrollment period.

Despite the advertising dollars, Lee said, there still isn’t enough awareness about the penalty and subsidies, necessitating the special enrollment period through April 30.

While she wants everyone to get covered, insurance broker Tsang isn’t looking forward to the new enrollment period and the extra work it will bring. Nearly all her clients knew about the penalty, she said, and it was the No. 1 reason they signed up.

California already has a longer enrollment window than the federal government’s healthcare.gov exchange, which lasts only six weeks.

Combined with other factors, the extended period encourages higher enrollment and a better mix of healthy and sick people in the insurance pool, said Laurel Lucia, director of the Health Care Program at the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California-Berkeley.

“With the state mandate and the new state subsidies, we project the uninsured rate will remain flat over the next few years,” Lucia said.

That’s the important comparison, according to Lee. While new enrollment in the federal exchange has dropped by 48% since 2016, new enrollment in Covered California has been relatively stable since then, dropping by 2%.

This KHN story first published on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

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Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Happy Friday! And Happy Valentine’s Day, where we at KHN have compiled some of the best #HealthPolicyValentines from Twitter (this seems the right group for that level of wonkiness!). Check out some great ones, like this from Laura Marston:

“One vial a week
Keeps me alive
Used to cost $20
Now it’s $275.”

Now on to equally fun things, like budgets!

President Donald Trump released his proposed budget this week with only the vaguest of a health care plan mentioned. A mystery pot of $844 billion signaled deep cuts to Medicaid and subsidies under the health law. In particular, an obscure passage referred to “ending the financial bias that currently favors able-bodied working-age adults over the truly vulnerable.” Critics were scratching their heads how the released budget aligned with Trump’s promise to protect people’s coverage. “You can’t cut $1 trillion from these programs and protect the most vulnerable,” said Aviva Aron-Dine of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Associated Press: Mystery $844B Pot in Trump Budget Signals Medicaid Cuts

The budget also calls for an almost 16% cut to the CDC (yes, the agency handling the coronavirus outbreak). But top officials say that’s because the administration wants the CDC to narrow its focus to its core mission of preventing and controlling infectious diseases and handling public health crises.

The Washington Post: Trump Budget Cuts Funding for Health, Science, Environment Agencies

Trump also wants to cut the budget for the National Institutes of Health by 6.5%. (Yes, that would affect the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is working on a vaccine for the coronavirus.)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump Proposes $4.8 Trillion Budget, With Cuts to Safety Nets

Another odd little nugget in the budget: Trump wants to strip the FDA of its authority over tobacco products and create an agency within HHS solely for that purpose.

Stat: Trump Doesn’t Want the FDA to Regulate Tobacco

For a full breakdown of the budget’s details, check out our roundup here.

This week, the coronavirus strain got an official name, which is — drum roll, please —COVID-19. Although the announcement probably set off celebrations among scientists and researchers who have been driven up a wall because everyone has been simply calling it “coronavirus,” I am here to report that a day into its official designation 95% of headlines are stilling using only the generic term.

— It is, however, important to note that WHO officials were careful not to name the disease after a particular region or people so as to avoid further stigmatization surrounding any outbreaks.

Time: What’s in a Name? Why WHO’s Formal Name for the New Coronavirus Disease Matters

— As the death toll climbs in China, officials have expanded their “wartime” campaign to round up all the people who may be infected. But, as you can imagine, that is not going perfectly. Not only is it stoking tensions among an angry and scared nation whose residents aren’t happy with how the government is handling the crisis, but also it’s thrusting people who haven’t even tested positive for the virus into situations where they become vulnerable to infection.

The New York Times: China Expands Chaotic Dragnet in Coronavirus Crackdown

— Readers of The Friday Breeze know I’ve been harping on the fact that our national attention has been focused on COVID-19 even though we have only 15 (non-fatal) confirmed cases of it here and the common flu is far more deadly to us. Well, there’s a psychological basis for why we tend to panic over things that statistically are unlikely to affect us. Pretty much we can be terrible at accurately assessing risk.

The New York Times: Coronavirus ‘Hits All the Hot Buttons’ for How We Misjudge Risk

— It was a bit of a roller-coaster week with data coming out of China. At first, it seemed the cases were slowing down, but then the diagnostic criteria were tweaked, and all of a sudden we had nearly 15,000 cases added in one night.

The New York Times: Coronavirus Cases Seemed to Be Leveling Off. Not Anymore.

— CDC Director Robert Redfield said that the United States is essentially trying to buy time with its containment strategy, but it is quite likely there will eventually be person-to-person transmission of the virus here. (Which means people other than evacuees from Wuhan will start getting it.)

Stat: CDC Director: More Person-To-Person Coronavirus Infections in U.S. Likely

— And you can see how easily that could happen, given a U.S. evacuee was mistakenly released from the hospital even though she was infected with the coronavirus.

CNN: First US Evacuee Infected With Coronavirus Was Mistakenly Released From Hospital

— In an update from the cruise from h-e-double-hockey-sticks: Tensions continue to rise along with COVID-19 cases among the passengers and crew of a ship quarantined off the coast of Japan. As one health official said this week: Remember, quarantines are to keep those outside of its boundaries safe, not those within.

The New York Times: Quarantined Cruise Passengers Have Many Questions. Japan Has Few Answers.

— WHO has been heaping praise on China for its response to the crisis. And while other experts acknowledge the organization is in the tenuous position of not wanting to anger China enough that they break off relations, critics say the excessive compliments are setting a bad precedent about what a good pandemic response looks like.

The Wall Street Journal: The World Health Organization Draws Flak for Coronavirus Response

— Meanwhile, the coronavirus research filed is quite small. That’s because, despite the buzz these kinds of outbreaks create, eventually the world’s attention will be caught by a different shiny object and both the funding and interest in researching the virus will fade.

Stat: Fluctuating Funding and Flagging Interest Hurt Coronavirus Research

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) got their wrists slapped by a powerful Nevada union this week for “viciously attacking” members and their families online. At the heart of the matter: The union had released information critical of Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan. The clash put Sanders — who denounced any harassment as “unacceptable” — in an awkward spot just before the Nevada caucuses next week.

Politico: Nevada Culinary Union Lays Into Sanders Supporters After Health Care Backlash

A new survey found that even when patients plan ahead, many are still hit with surprise medical bills, especially if they receive anesthesia during a procedure. With health care spending rising again (driven by high costs like the out-of-pocket price tag for an emergency room visit), the report is a reminder that the issue is likely to be top of mind with voters come November.

Meanwhile, lawmakers well aware of that fact are moving forward with legislation that would favor an arbitration method for dealing with the surprise costs. This strategy is favored by hospitals and providers, and not embraced by insurers.

Reuters: Surprise Surgery Bills Happen Even When Patients Plan Ahead

Modern Healthcare: House Committee Advances Provider-Friendly Surprise Billing Fix

In a little bit of breaking news, a federal appellate court just shut down CMS’ approval of Arkansas’ Medicaid work requirement. The panel upheld a lower-court ruling that found the requirements arbitrary and capricious.

Modern Healthcare: D.C. Circuit Nixes Arkansas Medicaid Work Requirement

Juul has vowed time and again that it hasn’t marketed its products to teenagers. But new revelations from a Massachusetts lawsuit that the vaping company bought ads on Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network are challenging those promises.

The New York Times: Juul Bought Ads Appearing on Cartoon Network and Other Youth Sites, Suit Claims

The VA is no stranger to controversy, but the latest bout comes at a bad time for the agency. The abrupt firing of the agency’s well-liked undersecretary in combination with allegations that VA Secretary Robert Wilkie sought to dig up dirt on a woman after she said she was sexually assaulted at a VA facility have shaken the agency just as it is preparing to launch an ambitious health plan.

The New York Times: Veterans Affairs, a Trump Signature Issue, Is Facing Turmoil Again

Meanwhile, Trump continued to downplay brain injuries sustained by troops from an Iran missile strike even as the number of cases jumped past 100.

The New York Times: More Than 100 Troops Have Brain Injuries From Iran Missile Strike, Pentagon Says

In the miscellaneous file for the week:

— It’s notoriously hard to get any gun measures passed … except these advocates seem to be having some success. Their strategy? Go hyper-local.

NBC News: How Moms Are Quietly Passing Gun Safety Policy Through School Boards

— What’s going on with the Equal Rights Amendment and why has it become a fight over abortion? Politico takes a deep dive into its history about how the battle around the amendment has shifted in the nearly 40 years since it was introduced.

Politico: How the Debate Over the ERA Became a Fight Over Abortion

— New parents eager to better balance family and work life in the only industrialized country in the world without a paid family leave policy have started bringing their babies to their offices.

Stateline: You Can Bring Your Baby to Work (But Wouldn’t You Rather Be at Home?)

— In another crushing disappointment, an Alzheimer’s drug that had sparked high hopes was the latest to fail to live up to expectations.

The Associated Press: Drugs Fail to Slow Decline in Inherited Alzheimer’s Disease

That’s it from me. And remember, if you ever feel like flexing your poetic muscles outside of Valentine’sDay, we accept haiku submissions year-round. Have a great weekend!

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