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health care

Republicans' complex health care calculations are coming down to simple math.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs 50 of the chamber's 52 Republicans to vote for a bill that aims to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act and drastically reshape the Medicaid system. McConnell's office is planning to bring the bill up for a vote next week.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel thwacked the latest Republican health care proposal Tuesday night after one of the senators sponsoring the bill invoked Kimmel's name.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., touted Tuesday on Capitol Hill that his plan passes the "Jimmy Kimmel test."

There's a chance Republicans wouldn't be so close to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act if former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania hadn't dropped into the Capitol barbershop this spring.

"I was up on the Hill, I happened to just go by the barbershop to see if I could get a haircut, and Lindsey was in the chair," Santorum said. "And Lindsey asked me what I was doing, and I thought to myself, 'Well, let me just bounce it off Lindsey.' "

The Capitol Hill health care fight sure seemed dead. After Republican proposals to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, failed to pass a Republican-controlled Congress, lawmakers looked poised to move on to other topics, like a tax overhaul. But this week, proposals from both the left and the right are grabbing headlines.

Hospice care is for the dying. It helps patients manage pain so they can focus on spending their remaining time with loved ones. But in recent years, nearly 1 in 5 patients has been discharged from hospice before he or she dies, according to government reports.

Senator Patty Murray in the KUOW offices, Jan. 2016.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Bill Radke talks to Sen. Patty Murray about the hearings she has planned with Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. They hope to come up with a bipartisan fix to the Affordable Care Act. 

In a moment of unexpected high drama, Republicans were stymied once again in their effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act — and they have John McCain to thank for it.

In the early morning hours Friday, the senator showed why he earned the nickname "Maverick" over his long tenure.

Betting that thin is in — and might be the only way forward — Senate Republicans are eyeing a "skinny repeal" that would roll back an unpopular portion of the federal health law. But health policy analysts warn that the idea has been tried before, and with little success.

Updated at 1:55 p.m. ET

In an emotional return to the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon, Sen. John McCain admonished the leaders of his party for how they managed the health care bill and called instead for "regular order."

Bill Radke talks to Monica Ewing, a benefits manager at Durney Insurance in Hoquiam, about how she councils her clients under the uncertainty of health care reform and why the insurance options in Grays Harbor County are so limited.  

The Senate voted Tuesday to begin debating a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. It remains uncertain as to what that replacement might look like. No formal legislation has been drafted. But senators moved to take the procedural first step, known as a "motion to proceed." The vote was 51-50, with Vice President Pence casting the tiebreaking vote.

Debate will now begin, most likely on a measure to fully repeal the law, also known as Obamacare.

The Senate Health Care Vote, Simplified

Jul 24, 2017

The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to advance health care legislation to the Senate floor. That would open up debate on an Obamacare repeal and/or replacement plan.

The importance of the vote was highlighted by Sen. John McCain's decision to return to Washington to take part. He announced last week that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Thursday the King County Board of Health approved a new regulation for pregnancy resource centers, otherwise known as limited service pregnancy centers.

Under the rule, they need to post signage saying "This facility is not a health care facility."

Bill Radke speaks with Vox.com senior policy correspondent Sarah Kliff about single payer health care. Kliff explains the political and practical roadblocks to adopting single payer, as well as who the system would likely benefit or hurt. She also discusses the future of the current bills and what President Trump may truly want for health care in the country.

Tymia McCullough fidgets in front of a mirror in her hotel room as her mom, Susie Pitts, puts the final touches on her hair and nervously drills her on what she is going to say when she gets to Capitol Hill.

"And this is where you let them know that Medicaid is what?" Pitts asks.

"Health assurance," Tymia responds.

"Health insurance that does what?"

"It pays for the need to see your doctor," Tymia says.

Tymia is just 11 years old. She came to Washington last week to lobby Congress over health care. Her family saw it as a life-or-death fight.

Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET

The defeat of the GOP Senate health care bill is a major blow to all Republicans involved.

President Trump, whose approval rating is lower than any recent president this early in his term, is now staring at an agenda imperiled. Despite his boasts, he has achieved little of significance through Congress. That failure is compounded by the fact that his party controls both chambers.

Bill Radke talks to Lauren Berliner, assistant professor of media and communication and culture studies at the University of Washington Bothell, and Nora Kenworthy, assistant professor in the school of nursing and health studies at the University of Washington Bothell, about their study on the rise of the use of crowdfunding sites as a way to pay for medical bills

There's a lot of talk on Capitol Hill about the tax cuts included in the Republican health plans, but unless you are a frequent user of tanning beds or have personal wealth that puts you in the top 1 percent, you might not feel much effect.

The House and Senate bills both change or eliminate more than a dozen taxes that were levied to help pay for the Affordable Care Act's insurance subsidies and to bolster Medicare and expand Medicaid. Republicans and other ACA critics have argued that the taxes are onerous for businesses and families.

Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET

Americans broadly disapprove of the Senate GOP's health care bill, and they're unhappy with how Republicans are handling the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Bill Radke talks with Aaron Katz, who teaches health policy the University of Washington School of Public Health, and retired physician Roger Stark, a healthcare analyst for the Washington Policy Center.

They discuss the current healthcare bill being debated in the Senate and the Congressional Budget Office score that predicts 22 million fewer Americans will have insurance by 2026.

Nelly Kinsella of the Washington State Health Exchange Benefit Exchange shows a reporter how to navigate the new online market system, September 30, 2013.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

Residents in every Washington county will have at least one insurance option through the state health exchange next year. Just a couple of weeks ago, that wasn't the case.

Medicaid is the government health care program for the poor.

That's the shorthand explanation. But Medicaid is so much more than that — which is why it has become the focal point of the battle in Washington to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Updated at 8:10 pm ET

Congressional forecasters say a Senate bill that aims to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026.

That's only slightly fewer uninsured than a version passed by the House in May.

Courtesy of The Hachette Book Group

It’s still a little hard to believe, but 17 years ago a comedian famous for his contributions to Saturday Night Live ran to become a U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and won, barely. At first it appeared he had lost, but after a recount and a protracted legal dispute, Senator Al Franken went to Washington. And not because he’s such a funny guy.

Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell (center) voices opposition to the bill at Virginia Mason on Friday.
KUOW Photo/Angela Nhi Nguyen

The Senate could vote as early as this week on the health care bill. And Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell spoke in Seattle recently about how she’s trying to oppose it.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell smiles as he leaves the chamber after announcing the release of the Republicans' health care bill Thursday, June 22, 2017.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Problematic.

That's how Washington's Insurance Commissioner describes the federal health care bill proposed by Republican Senators.

Updated at 2:32 p.m. ET

Senate Republicans unveiled their long-awaited health care overhaul proposal on Thursday. The Senate bill, called the "Better Care Reconciliation Act," would repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The broad outlines of it look a lot like the House bill, the American Health Care Act, which was passed in May.

For the hundreds of rural U.S. hospitals struggling to stay in business, health policy decisions made in Washington, D.C., this summer could make survival a lot tougher.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans will release a discussion draft of their version of the health care bill on Thursday, with a vote likely next week.

Private health care talks have been underway in the Senate for weeks. McConnell tapped a 13-member working group last month to hash out senators' differences over the House-passed American Health Care Act. McConnell's office has since taken the lead drafting the Senate version of the party's long-promised legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Broken teeth are all too often a punchline in conversations about poor people in rural places. But for Heather Wallace, dental problems are anything but funny.

"Basically it's just like a nerve pain. Your whole body locks up; you have to stop for a second to try to breathe," she said. "And sometimes if it hurts bad enough, you might cry."

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