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House to vote today whether to intervene in Obamacare lawsuit. The House will formally vote today on a resolution that will authorize the House counsel to intervene on a lawsuit seeking to throw out Obamacare. Democrats hope to put the spotlight on Republicans who ran campaigns telling voters they were devoted to keeping in place Obamacare’s protections on pre-existing illnesses. They plan to argue that votes rejecting the resolution demonstrate Republicans aren’t really committed to the protections. The lawsuit, known as Texas v. U.S., is being appealed by Democratic attorneys general after a federal judge ruled the law was unconstitutional. Republican state officials want the law to be thrown out as a result of the tax law that zeroed out the fine for the uninsured. They argue that without the provision the rest of the law must fall, and the federal judge, Reed O’Connor, agreed. The case is being appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans.
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Democratic chairman begins prep work for legislation to enact ‘single payer’ healthcare. House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., has asked the Congressional Budget Office to analyze the effects of shifting all healthcare costs onto the federal government, a first step toward the “Medicare for all” legislation sought by progressives. “Members of Congress developing proposals seeking to establish a single-payer system will face many important decisions that could have major implications for federal spending, national healthcare spending, and access to care,” Yarmuth said in a letter to Keith Hall, the director of the CBO. Yarmuth didn’t ask for an analysis of a specific bill, but asked the nonpartisan scorekeeping agency various questions lawmakers should consider as they seek to overhaul the healthcare system. he said in a statement that his request for the score is aimed to inform House hearings on “single payer,” proposals. In the letter, he asked CBO to evaluate how the healthcare system would be financed, whether private insurance companies would play a role, whether patients would face any costs, what methods would be put in place to contain costs, what rules would be placed on hospitals and doctors, how to set reimbursement rates, whether to do away with other government healthcare programs in favor of a single one. Yarmuth is a co-sponsor of the Medicare for All Act.
House Democrats tempt Trump with legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. House Democrats and one Republican have introduced a bill that would let Medicare negotiate lower drug prices, legislation that comes amid pharmaceutical hikes in the new year.
The bill would give more power to the Health and Human Services secretary to regulate Medicare Part D, the part of the program that covers drugs seniors get at the pharmacy, an arrangement advocated by progressives and at times by President Trump, but opposed by the pharmaceutical industry and many Republicans. Currently the government is prohibited from directly setting prices, though the system operates by letting private insurers and middlemen known as pharmacy benefits managers negotiate. The legislation was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and nine other House Democrats, along with Republican Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida. “We are the defenders of competition and free enterprise, so why not with pharma?” Rooney said in a statement. “Allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for over 43 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D is one of the best solutions to lower medication costs and ensure access to the prescriptions they need. These negotiations will make prescription prices lower for our seniors.” The system would operate similarly to one run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which arranges lower prices for beneficiaries. Conservatives have slammed the idea because they say it would get in the way of drug innovation.
House Democrats demand answers on short-term plans. Congressional Democrats have sent a letter to the Trump administration reiterating their demands for answers to questions they had about the administration’s policy regarding short-term health insurance. They argue the administration’s actions letting people keep the plans for up to 36 months are illegal, and have asked for documents justifying the move. “We have written to you on multiple occasions regarding the administration’s actions to promote these junk plans, and we have not received a substantive response,” they wrote. “Families and patients across the country deserve transparency around decisions, such as the finalization of this rule, that jeopardize their ability to get quality, affordable health care.” Democrats accuse the administration of underestimating the number of people who would sign up for such plans, which are less expensive for unsubsidized customers who would otherwise purchase Obamacare, but do not cover pre-existing conditions such as treatment for cancer or diabetes. The latest Obamacare figures show that enrollment has been roughly in line with last year, before the short-term plans were made available.
Washington governor unveils public option plan. Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to announce a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination for president, announced on Tuesday that he would be pushing for Washington State to add a public option that would compete against private health insurance in the Obamacare exchanges. Inslee billed the proposal as a move “on the road to universal healthcare” in the state. The plan would need to pass through the Democratic-controlled legislature and would cost $ 500,000 to set up the initial operation.
House passes Medicaid, pandemics bills. The House passed the Medicaid Extenders Act, a program that funds home and community-based services, by voice vote. The program would be extended for three months as the partial shutdown continues to be worked out. The House also passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act 401-17, which organizes programs to react to terrorism, disease outbreaks, and natural disasters. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and top-ranking Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon said in a statement that the bill would “strengthen our nation’s emergency preparedness and response efforts and modernize the nation’s regulatory framework for over-the-counter drugs. Thanks to this legislation our communities will be safer and better prepared for emergencies, and FDA’s regulatory standards for OTC drugs will be modernized to better ensure consumer safety.”
New York City to invest $ 100 million a year to provide healthcare to undocumented, low-wage workers. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new healthcare plan for “all New Yorkers” to include illegal immigrants and low-wage workers that would cost the city $ 100 million a year. De Blasio made his announcement on Tuesday hours before President Trump was scheduled to air a national address regarding the government shutdown and what he calls a “crisis” at the southern border. The healthcare initiative, called NYC Care, would work in tandem with the current MetroPlus healthcare system, but it was not immediately clear how and where the funds would come from, although de Blasio said that they would not have to raise taxes in order to fund the initiative. According to the New York Times, aides said that the city could independently implement the system without the approval of the state legislature. The goal, according to the Democratic mayor, is to “ensure the first stop for people isn’t the emergency room,” including a hotline that could connect patients to doctors who would become their primary care doctor. NYC Care would allow individuals to seek treatment and even preventive care to help avoid costly trips to the ER.
Kamala Harris: Ending the ‘failed war on drugs’ starts with legalizing marijuana. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said in her new book that she believes the use of marijuana should be legal. “Something else it’s past time we get done is dismantling the failed war on drugs — starting with legalizing marijuana,” Harris writes in The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, Forbes reported Tuesday. “We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it,” Harris writes. “And we need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives.” Taking such a position on pot is increasingly popular. According a poll released in October, a record 62 percent of the public said they think marijuana use should be legalized. Harris’ book, released Tuesday, is being interpreted by many political pundits as a soft 2020 presidential campaign launch.
Survey suggests support for Association Health Plans. AssociationHealthPlans.com commissioned a survey, finding that 77 percent of respondents approve of association health plans. The survey asked 1,100 adults, “Should small businesses and sole-proprietors be allowed to band together to offer the same kind of lower-cost health insurance plans that large companies already offer?” Survey respondents were given the option of answering “yes” or “no” and answer order was randomized across respondents. Association Health Plans have been allowed under the Trump administration, and critics worry they will siphon out healthier people from the Obamacare exchanges. Some states have created them through a Farm Bureau.
Politico Trump summons advisers to White House over drug price hikes
The Hill Drugmaker Eli Lilly to start publishing list prices of drugs
Denver Post Colorado Democrats introduce public option health care as they take control of General Assembly
The Hill GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses
WEDNESDAY | Jan. 9
Jan. 7-10. J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference. Details.
Senate and House in session.
House Democrats expected to have formal vote on whether to intervene in Texas v. United States.
MONDAY | Jan. 14
Noon. National Press Club. 529 14th St. NW. CVS CEO Larry Merlo to address Aetna acquisition, healthcare challenges. Details.
TUESDAY | Jan. 15
7:30 a.m. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and members of Congress to speak at “The Price of Good Health” event. Details.
Midnight. Open enrollment ends for California exchange, Covered California.
WEDNESDAY | Jan 15
8:15 a.m. 1099 14th St NW. Politico event on “Healthcare Innovators: New Players Meet Long-Established Regulations.” Details.