Daily on Healthcare: Democrats go after Medicaid holdout states

By | February 5, 2019

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Democrats go after Medicaid holdout states. House Democrats are preparing to reshape and reframe Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion to force holdout red-state governments to go along with it, using either the carrot or the stick. A senior Democratic aide described the planned strategy as a “two-pronged approach of increased legislative incentives to adopt the expansion and increased public pressure on states who haven’t.” One idea, the aide said, would be to let states get more funding to expand Medicaid to poor people even if they started the process several years after Obamacare originally intended. That would help “expose the Republican states’ refusal to expand as political and self-harming.” The other part would be “using the spotlight of our committees to turn up the heat on states that are hurting their own populations by refusing to expand or by seeking waivers that will hurt current Medicaid enrollees.” Fourteen states haven’t opted to expand Medicaid as part of Obamacare and thus can expect to feel the heat from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and other Democratic leaders.

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Senators press pharma company execs to testify publicly. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Committee, have invited seven large pharmaceutical companies to testify at their next hearing on drug pricing Feb. 26. The companies invited include AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Pfizer, and Sanofi. “Pharmaceutical companies receive billions of dollars a year from federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid,” Grassley and Wyden said in a joint statement. “This is an opportunity for companies that produce life-saving treatments to explain how they price these treatments and whether the status quo is acceptable. Patients and taxpayers deserve to hear from leaders in the industry about what’s behind this unsustainable trend and what can be done to lower costs.” Both senators called out the drug companies during the last hearing for refusing to appear publicly.

CBO: 5 million will enroll in association health plans. Around 5 million people a year are expected to enroll in association health plans over the next 10 years under the Trump administration’s new rules, according to a report out Monday by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation. The plans allow small businesses and individuals to pool together to buy health insurance, and most will come to the plans from Obamacare. This will cause premiums in the Obamacare market to rise by roughly 3 percent. The report also estimates roughly 1 million people would have otherwise been uninsured if the rules hadn’t gone into effect.

GAO: States aren’t following Medicaid rules on abortion. At least 15 states are running afoul of federal law by refusing to use Medicaid to pay for abortion in certain cases, a study from the Government Accountability Office found. To receive federal funding, Medicaid is required to pay for abortions that happen as a result of rape or incest, or if a woman’s pregnancy threatens her life. At least one state – South Dakota – did not cover abortion in cases of rape or incest, and 14 states did not cover the abortion drug even when the pregnancy fit criteria to qualify for Medicaid funding. Those states did cover surgical abortions that fit the criteria.

Democrats block Senate bill requiring medical care for babies that survive abortion. Senate Democrats on Monday blocked an effort to pass legislation clarifying that babies who survive attempted abortions must receive medical care. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., rejected the motion to pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, authored by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and co-sponsored by other Republicans. Sasse had sought to pass the bill via unanimous consent, meaning that one senator could stop it by objecting. “You’re either for babies or you’re defending infanticide,” Sasse said before the vote. “That’s literally what this bill is about.”  Murray said in objecting to the call for unanimous consent the U.S. already had laws against infanticide, and accused Sasse of misrepresenting the purpose of his legislation. GOP senators were aiming to pressure Democrats to state whether they believe any limits should be placed on abortion after controversial comments appearing to indicate otherwise from Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Susan B. Anthony List called for a formal vote. The anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List condemned the outcome of the bill. The group urged Senate leaders to formally vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to see where each senator stood on the issue. “Senate Democrats had the chance today to prove they are not the party of infanticide, and instead they doubled down on extremism,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of SBA List, said in a statement. “The Democratic Party’s agenda of abortion on demand through birth and even beyond is radically out of step with the standards of decency the overwhelming majority of Americans expect from their leaders.”

Trump SOTU guests: cancer and addiction survivors. Grace Eline, a child who has survived cancer, will be one of Trump’s guests, as will Ashley Evans, a mother who is in recovery from substance abuse disorder.

Democrats troll Trump with State of the Union guests who oppose him on everything from Kavanaugh to transgender troops. House and Senate Democrats will ensure that many of the guests staring down at Trump during Tuesday’s State of the Union address despise his Supreme Court pick, disagree with his views on guns, immigration, and trade policy and want to block his decision to ban transgender individuals from the military. The head of the House Democrats’ task force on gun violence, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., invited Dr. Joseph V. Sakran, a gun control advocate who is director of emergency general surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Sakran suffered a gunshot wound as a teenager. “His presence will send a message that Congress will act to help prevent gun violence and to honor those victims like Dr. Sakran and his patients,” Thompson said. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who is running for president, has invited Lt. Commander Blake Dremann, a transgender service member who is president of a trans military organization and opposes Trump’s ban on trans service members.

Utah Senate passes bill to roll back Medicaid expansion approved by voters. The state’s Senate on Monday approved a bill 22-7 to do a partial Medicaid expansion rather than the full one under Obamacare. The bill passed mostly along party lines with Democrats and one Republican opposed and is now headed to the state House. If it passes the legislature and then is signed into law by the governor, it will still need to be approved by the Trump administration, which hasn’t yet signalled whether it will authorize such a move.

After Trump’s win, a surge in long-acting contraception. More women received long-acting, reversible contraception after Trump’s win, according to a study that looked at data from women who had private health insurance coverage. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that in the month after the presidential election there was a 22 percent bump of the insertion of these devices, whether intrauterine devices or implantations.


The Wall Street Journal Flip the script: Drugmakers blame middlemen for price hikes

Hartford Courant As Democrats shift left and debate ‘Medicare for All,’ what does that mean for the Insurance Capital?

Forbes Obamacare expansion pays off for Centene

Fox News WHO and vaccine group back ‘critical’ cervical cancer shots

The Daily Beast Millennials are getting more obesity-related cancers than Baby Boomers

TUESDAY | Feb. 5

Feb. 4-5. Marriott Marquis. Academy Health National Health Policy Conference. Agenda.

Senate in session.

10 a.m. 430 Dirksen. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on “How Primary Care Affects Health Care Costs and Outcomes.” Details.

10:15 a.m. Dirksen 215. Senate Finance Committee to hold executive session to consider          Elizabeth Darling to be commissioner on Children, Youth, and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services.

9 p.m. President Trump to deliver State of the Union Address.


House in session.

6:30 a.m. Cerner fourth quarter earnings call. Details.

10:15 a.m. Rayburn 2322. House Energy and Commerce Hearing on “Texas v. U.S.: The Republican Lawsuit and Its Impacts on Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions.” Details.