Happy Friday! As tempting as it might be this weekend to catch up on your extra z’s (and as someone who wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every morning I feel you) resist! Or so experts say. I, on the other hand, say we’re all a bit tired from staying up to watch the Nats win the World Series and we deserve that extra hour when the clock falls back on Sunday.
Now here’s what you might have missed if you were busy celebrating.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released her plan on how she would pay for “Medicare for All.” The proposal leans heavily on employers, who Warren said would “pay slightly less than what they are projected to pay today” since they’ll no longer be providing health care for their workers. She would also ramp up her signature wealth tax and cut military spending. For all of this to work, Warren is banking on substantial savings in administrative costs. And the middle class won’t see even “one penny” in tax hikes, she said.
As she only just dropped the plan this morning, I’m sure we’ll see a plethora of reactions through the weekend and into the campaign. But at first glance the main one seems to be: Good luck getting that past the major health care players (insurers, hospitals, providers) … not to mention a potentially GOP-led Senate.
The politically fraught plan is unlikely to reassure vulnerable Democrats who are fretful about running down-ticket of progressives who are embracing Medicare for All. Where health care was a winning topic for the Dems in the mid-terms, candidates running for competitive seats worry the issue could become more of a headache than anything else.
And should we be expecting such a detailed plan from the crafter of the bill himself? Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) essentially said, don’t hold your breath. “I don’t think I have to do that right now,” in response to questions about costs.
The Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment season kicked off today with one of the most stable marketplaces we’ve seen yet. Premiums are lower on average, more insurers have come back to play, and there’s a general sense that the rough storms have been weathered. Experts still project, though, fewer people signing up this year. And a federal appeals court ruling over the health law’s constitutionality hovers like a dark cloud on the horizon.
In news that shocked no one, Senate Democrats failed to pass legislation undoing the expansion of “junk” insurance plans. It was largely symbolic move to force Republicans supporting the administration to vote on the record against the health law—which has become a handy little political tool for Dems now that Americans have become attached to provisions such as protections for people with preexisting medical conditions.
Indiana was the second Republican-led state in recent weeks to pump the brakes on adding work requirements to its Medicaid program. The move follows Arizona’s announcement that it would be pausing implementation and comes despite enthusiastic encouragement from the Trump administration. It’s the latest roadblock on a fairly bumpy road for work requirements—which goes to show that just because you have the political capital doesn’t mean implementation is going to be smooth sailing.
Meanwhile, over in Tennessee, sharp negative criticism has forced leaders’ hands into reworking a controversial plan to shift the state’s Medicaid program into a block grant system. However, the changes won’t be made public until after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services gets to see them.
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Any other news coming out of the hearing over Missouri’s last-remaining abortion clinic was mostly overshadowed this week by the revelation that the state’s health department was tracking patients’ menstrual periods on a spreadsheet. While state officials were quick to offer assurance that the women’s privacy was not breached, many were still perturbed, to say the least. “From an ethical standpoint, it’s frankly bonkers,” said one OB-GYN.
And, as expected, a judge blocked Alabama’s strict abortion ban, which would effectively make the procedure illegal and criminally punish doctors with harsh sentences for performing one. The bill’s supporters, however, have their eyes on Roe v. Wade and see the ruling as just a necessary step on the way to the Supreme Court.
A lawsuit filed by a fired Juul executive claims that the company knowingly shipped 1 million nicotine pods that were contaminated. Siddharth Breja accused the former CEO Kevin Burns of shooting down concerns over the product by saying “half our customers are drunk” so they won’t notice. Both Burns and Juul denied the allegations.
The coverage of the wildfires in California has been so extensive and dramatic, it’s impossible to link to just one story. The Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle and many other California media organizations have done a fabulous job of covering every angle of the disaster.
But for health care stories in particular, I recommend checking out our own California Healthline offerings.
In the miscellaneous file for the week:
• ProPublica offers a chilling story about a patient identification error that resulted in the wrong man being removed from life support. The realization came days too late for the patient who died minutes after the care was halted.
• Fecal transplants were getting a lot of interest and buzz—and then came a startling death of one of the patients involved in an experimental trial. The group of doctors involved take a hard look at what went wrong in a frank and public self-examination of their missteps involved.
• Why doesn’t Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is not only one of the richest men in the world but also deeply involved in health care issues, contribute more money to fighting Alzheimer’s? His science adviser says it’s because they feel “throwing money at the issue” just isn’t going to move the needle at all.
• A new study has a stark warning for parents who don’t see the benefits of vaccines: It’s not just the measles you have to worry about. Getting infected with the virus is like a “car crash” for your immune system. Kids are far more vulnerable to other dangerous diseases up to years later. It’s flown under the radar, though, because people don’t connect a bout of pneumonia down the road to a measles infection months earlier.
And that’s it from me! Have a great weekend.