Health Brief: Report Says Some Obamacare Taxes Could Stay Until Replace

By Mary Ellen McIntire

Today’s Washington Brief

  • Congressional Republicans could keep some Affordable Care Act taxes in place as a way to provide revenue for a replacement plan. (The Hill)
  • Roughly a quarter of Americans say the Affordable Care Act is President Obama’s greatest achievement, but slightly more than a quarter say its his biggest failure, a new USA Today/Suffolk poll shows. (USA Today)
  • The Democratic Governors Association told GOP congressional leaders that repealing the ACA could result in nearly $69 billion in uncompensated care, a burden that often falls on states. (The Associated Press)

Today’s Business Brief

  • Biogen’s decision to promote its new CEO from within the company leads investors to believe the drugmaker could still be open to a takeover. (Reuters)
  • While still a top spender on lobbying, the American Medical Association has lost some of its clout as only a fraction of practicing doctors are paying members and political divisions within the organization have become more clear. (Stat)
  • Actelion and Johnson & Johnson are back at the negotiating table after publicly stating they’d failed to reach an agreement for J&J to take over the Swiss drugmaker. (Bloomberg News)

Today’s Chart Review

Mark Your Calendars (All Eastern Times)

No events scheduled
No events scheduled



Global Stock Rally Stalls as Oil Trades Below $53: Market Wrap
Benjamin Purvis and Abhishek Vishnoi, Bloomberg News

Global equities declined amid dwindling volumes, following a slide in U.S. stocks, and crude oil prices held losses amid an unexpected increase in supplies. European stocks edged lower, led by miners, and U.S. stock futures stagnated after the Dow Jones Industrial Average failed to make progress toward 20,000 Wednesday.

Split decision: Americans assess Obama’s legacy
Susan Page, USA Today

Americans in a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll rate the Affordable Care Act as President Obama’s greatest achievement in the White House. Also, as his biggest failure.


GOP considers holding off on repealing ObamaCare taxes
Peter Sullivan, The Hill

Congressional Republicans are considering holding off on repealing some of ObamaCare’s taxes, according to lobbyists familiar with the discussions. GOP lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee discussed the possibility of keeping some of the taxes in place during a retreat last week at the Library of Congress, the sources say.

Democratic Governors Warn Congress on Health Care Repeal
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press

Democratic governors Wednesday warned top Republicans in Congress that repealing the Obama health care law would stick states with billions of dollars in costs for providing medical care to residents made newly uninsured. The Democratic Governors Association to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

HHS Reports Record ACA Sign-Ups as Republicans Plot Repeal
Mary Ellen McIntire, Morning Consult

Sign-ups for Affordable Care Act insurance are up compared to the same time last year, putting the Obama administration on target to meet its goal of 13.8 million covered lives when the 2017 open enrollment period closes. About 6.4 million people have signed up for an Obamacare health plan during this enrollment period, which continues through the end of January.

New Medicare Rules Should Help ‘High Need’ Patients Get Better Treatment
Judith Graham, Kaiser Health News

Doctors have complained for years that they’re not paid adequately for time-consuming work associated with managing care for seriously ill older patients: consulting with other specialists, talking to families and caregivers, interacting with pharmacists and more. That will change on Jan. 1, as a new set of Medicare regulations go into effect.

Obamacare boosted number of people with health insurance in all states, decreased care cost barriers
Dan Mangan, CNBC

A lot of people got health insurance under Obamacare — and they’ve elected a president who has vowed to take it away. A new study out Wednesday notes that all 50 states and the District of Columbia saw decreases — often sharp decreases — in their rates of people lacking health insurance after implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Iowa Medicaid payment shortages are ‘catastrophic,’ private managers tell state
Tony Leys, The Des Moines Register

The for-profit companies running Iowa’s Medicaid program have been complaining to state administrators that the controversial project is “drastically underfunded” and that the situation has been a “catastrophic experience,” newly released documents show. One managed-care executive wrote that Iowa’s recent offer to give the companies an extra $127.7 million in state and federal money this budget year “is not acceptable.”

Son’s broken arm: Bill Huizenga says people must be responsible for own health care costs
Shandra Martinez, Michigan Live

While the Affordable Care Act put in place under President Obama is credited with giving 20 million Americans health insurance, it has been criticized for driving up insurance rates and adding regulations that interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. President-elect Donald Trump and Republican leaders are eager to begin “repealing and replacing” the sweeping healthcare law. After blasting the ACA throughout his campaign, Trump now says he wants to keep provisions that prevent insurance companies from denying policies based on pre-existing conditions, and allow children up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents’ policies.


Deep divisions threaten the clout of the nation’s largest doctors group
Judith Graham, Stat

Even before the recent election, physicians felt perched on a precipice. Changes sweeping health care have threatened their independence, income, and influence.

Md. attorney general says nursing homes kicked out patients to boost Medicare payments
Dan Morse, The Washington Post

A nursing home operator in Maryland aggressively and illegally booted residents from its facilities to maximize payments it collected from public health plans and in many cases dropped the residents off at homeless shelters or inadequate living facilities, the state’s attorney general alleged in a sweeping lawsuit filed Wednesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court. The lawsuit asserts that the firm, Neiswanger Management Services (NMS), was acutely aware of the reimbursement differences between federal Medicare and the lesser rates paid by Medicaid, which uses state and federal money to provide health coverage for low-income patients.

Pharma, Biotech & Device

Investors see Biogen CEO choice as friendly to potential takeover
Bill Berkrot and Carl O’Donnell, Reuters

The surprise selection of Michel Vounatsos to run Biogen Inc signals a shift toward a more commercial management focus after years of targeting ambitious scientific gains, and likely keeps the U.S. biotech in play as a takeover target. Vounatsos joined Biogen as chief commercial officer in April after 20 years leading various commercial operations at Merck & Co.

Actelion, J&J Are Back in Talks a Week After Breakup
Jared S. Hopkins and James Paton, Bloomberg News

In a surprise twist to one of 2016’s biggest potential health deals, Actelion Ltd. and U.S. drug giant Johnson & Johnson are back at the negotiating table just a week after ending earlier talks. This time, the companies entered into exclusive discussions about a possible transaction that Switzerland-based Actelion, in a statement, called “strategic.”

Health IT

Demand surges for mobile 3-D imaging equipment
Adam Rubenfire, Modern Healthcare

The prices paid for X-ray systems that can be wheeled up to a surgical table or patient bed to gather images during a procedure surged this fall as providers upgraded to 3-D-compatible equipment. The mobile C-arm X-ray systems are used in surgery, orthopedics, critical care and emergency departments, among other settings.

ONC finalizes 2017 Interoperability Standards Advisory 
Evan Sweeney, Fierce Healthcare

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) is pushing its Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA) into the digital age with a finalized web-based version that will offer continuous updates throughout the year. In its draft version, published in August, the ONC initiated the agency’s transition to an interactive website that included links to ongoing interoperability projects.

Opinions, Editorials & Perspectives

Don’t settle for partial Obamacare repeal
Michael F. Cannon, The Detroit News

If president-elect Donald Trump and the Republican Congress have a mandate to do anything, it is to repeal Obamacare. The law isn’t working, they campaigned on abolishing it, and repeal would be a huge step toward providing more secure access to care for the sick.

What doctors need to do to treat America’s ‘heart attack’
Maggie Salinger, Stat

My clinical colleagues, as part of today’s medical rounds, let me present our next case: America is a 240-year-old patient with an extensive history, including great depression and growth, emancipation and immigration, suffering and suffrage.

Research Reports, Issue Briefs & Case Studies

Medicare Advantage Plans in 2017: Short-term Outlook is Stable
Gretchen Jacobson et. al., Kaiser Family Foundation

With nearly one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans in 2016, there is ongoing interest in the evolution of this marketplace and how well it is working for people on Medicare. For the past several years, the Medicare Advantage market has appeared to be relatively stable, based on the metrics available, with few changes in average premiums, plan offerings, and insurer participation.