Tucked away in an obit on a physicist’s death this week was the latest reality check-slash-gut punch on the state of spending in our health system. Leon Lederman, aka the man who coined the phrase “God particle,” died Wednesday at 96. A few years back, he auctioned off his Nobel Prize medal for $765,000 to help pay for his health care costs. What happens when you don’t have one of those lying around?
Do you need a mental break from following the play-by-play of the Supreme Court battle? Well here’s what you may have missed in health care.
If you think you can escape the phrases “Medicare-for-All” or “preexisting conditions” over the next few weeks, I’m sorry to break the bad news. Both sides have homed in on those key talking points, and we’ll be hearing a lot on both topics for the foreseeable future.
On the Republican side: Candidates are urging voters to believe they’ll preserve the popular insurance protections on preexisting conditions, but it’s difficult to convey that message while there’s a GOP lawsuit underway that would strip them away. To try to get ahead of the issue, some Republican lawmakers released a (non-binding) resolution vowing to keep the guarantees. But with no details on how they’ll accomplish it (turns out it’s hard to get insurers to just offer desserts without eating your veggies, too), the topic remains a thorn in their side.
The Washington Post: GOP Candidates Pay the Price for Attempts to Kill Obamacare and Its Guarantee of Coverage For Preexisting Conditions
The Hill: Vulnerable House Republican Unveils Resolution on Pre-Existing Conditions ’
(Side note: President Donald Trump did offer a way to cover costs for guaranteed preexisting conditions coverage: getting “a little more money from China.” From The Washington Post. )
Over to the Dems, who have their own vulnerabilities: “Medicare-for-All” has become something of a litmus test for Democrats, especially for progressive candidates, but that doesn’t mean the plan hasn’t left them open to attack from the right. At the same time, moderates in the party would prefer to focus on shoring up the health law.
The Wall Street Journal: Some Democrats Want Medicare for All. Others Aren’t So Sure
The Washington Post Fact Checker: GOP Ads Falsely Depict Democrats As Supporters of Sanders’s Health Plan
And, if you’d like a blast from the past (or a peek into the future?), check out the preexisting conditions checklist for Iowa Farm Bureau plans (the ones the state can sell that don’t fall under health law restrictions).
The Hill: Iowa to Sell Health Plans That Can Disqualify People Based on Pre-Existing Conditions
A lot of news coverage these days focuses on the individual marketplace, but a look at shifting costs for people who receive insurance through their employers paints a grim picture of why health care matters to many voters. Not only has the number of workers who face an annual deductible grown, but the average deductible has crept higher and higher for more than a decade.
The Associated Press: Survey: Companies Continue to Pass Health Costs to Workers
So, I’m not a negotiator. But apparently, if you can haggle, there are all sorts of lucrative clauses, side deals and kickbacks baked into the system that you can use to your advantage to get lower costs for care. Good luck! I’ll be over here wondering why we can’t all get that price.
NPR/ProPublica: Health Insurance Industry Insider to Employers: Learn to Negotiate
Hundreds of detained migrant children are being roused in the middle of the night for under-the-cover-of-darkness journeys to a tent city in West Texas. Advocates are alarmed that they’re being moved from shelters with formal schools and visits from legal representation to a pop-up tent city that has few such regulations in place.
The New York Times: Migrant Children Moved Under Cover of Darkness to a Texas Tent City
Meanwhile, a disturbing inspector general report found numerous safety violations at an immigration detention center in California, including nooses made from bedsheets in 15 of 20 cells (which were “not a high priority” to remove, guards said, per LAT’s coverage); detainees’ rotting teeth from delays to see dentists (and suggestions that they use string from their socks to floss); and more.
Los Angeles Times: Nooses in Cells, Rotting Teeth — Report Details Harsh Conditions at Adelanto Immigration Facility
Pharma failed to attach to the fast-moving opioid legislation its much-desired “doughnut hole” change, which would have let companies off the hook for paying to cover more drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. But the industry is not giving up — and Congress might be more willing to play ball in the lame-duck session post-midterms.
Politico: Why Congress Is Poised to Give the Drug Industry a $4B Windfall
One street over. That’s all it took in a Washington state neighborhood for children to have a better chance of being lifted out of poverty. One street. A new, detailed (and very interesting) map looks at how location plays a part in the economic outcomes of children in low-income families. It’s also leaving advocates and city planners wondering if offering incentives to move into the neighborhoods with better statistics would be enough to change these families’ futures.
The New York Times: Detailed New National Maps Show How Neighborhoods Shape Children for Life
In the miscellaneous must-read file:
• Missouri is now down to one abortion clinic, and some of its laws are poised to land in the Supreme Court. Understanding the high-stakes legal developments that got the state to where it is a roller-coaster ride.
KCUR: Timeline: Abortion Restrictions in Missouri on a Possible Path to the U.S. Supreme Court
• Is a little radiation good for you? Like sunlight? That’s at least what Trump administration officials are betting on.
The Associated Press: Proposed Rule Change Worries Some About Radiation Regulation
• The lawsuits against Purdue Pharma have been likened to Big Tobacco’s reckoning in the 1990s. But experts see a big difference: The painkiller-maker will likely not have to pay nearly as much in the expected settlement.
Stat: Opioid Settlement Will Take Time, But May Cost Less Than the Big Tobacco Deal
• Time and again, following the money proves pretty interesting. Here’s a look at the industry behind “hardening” schools for mass shootings, and how it had stalled before the massacre in Parkland, Fla.
The Associated Press: Lawmakers Buy Industry Fix to Stop Mass School Shootings
• Australia is on track to all but eliminate cervical cancer in the coming decades. How did they do it? (Hint: It has to do with aggressive vaccination policies.)
The New York Times: In Australia, Cervical Cancer Could Soon Be Eliminated
Speaking of vaccinations, here’s your reminder to get your flu shot! Winter is coming.
Have a great weekend!
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.