Health Care

Republicans Give Up on Medicare Overhaul

Politico: “Republicans on Capitol Hill are giving up on what might be their last best chance to overhaul Medicare, just as they’re losing their leading champion on the issue, House Speaker Paul Ryan. The quiet surrender on a subject that’s energized GOP fiscal hawks for the better part of a decade comes as new projections show Medicare’s trust fund in its worst shape since the recession, partly because of Republicans’ other chief obsession: their sweeping tax cuts.”

“That’s left conservatives unsure how to agitate for a politically unpopular Medicare overhaul — one that President Trump detests — and raises new questions about who will take up the entitlement reform mantle as Ryan heads for the exits.”

An ‘October Surprise’ That Won’t Be a Surprise

NBC News: “An array of state and national progressive groups are already laying the groundwork to attack Republicans for the expected premium increases. Democratic candidates are running ads on health care more than any other issue. And Senate Democrats recently announced plans to devote the month of August to a messaging campaign on health care costs.”

“In focus groups and polls, Democrats are honing a message that they say will link health care problems to voter skepticism of private insurers, the Republican tax bill and donor influence on policies.”

Trump Latest Health Care Move Squeezes GOP

“Republicans who have tried to repeal Obamacare for nearly a decade believe the Trump administration is reviving a politically risky battle with a court filing that could eliminate one of the most popular parts of the law: protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Politico reports.

“The administration wants a federal court to strike the protections, providing fresh fodder to Democrats who argue that the GOP cannot be trusted to protect Americans’ health insurance months ahead of a midterm election in which health care was already a top issue. It also threatens to shift attention away from the GOP’s message on tax cuts, refocusing it on an Obamacare fight most Republicans wanted to put behind them.”

Justice Department Says Obamacare Is Unconstitutional

“The Justice Department will not defend the Affordable Care Act in court, and says it believes the law’s individual mandate — the provision the Supreme Court upheld in 2012 — has become unconstitutional,” Axios reports.

“The Justice Department almost always defends federal laws when they’re challenged in court. Its departure from that norm in this case is a major development — career DOJ lawyers removed themselves from the case as the department announced this shift in its position.”

“The ACA’s individual mandate requires most people to buy insurance or pay a tax penalty. The Supreme Court upheld that in 2012 as a valid use of Congress’ taxing power.”

Health Care Emerges as Top Midterm Issue

Sam Baker: “Last night’s primaries set up a major role for health care in November’s midterms, both in individual races and as a part of Democrats’ search for a nationwide wave.”

The results firmed up the emerging national dynamic. Health care motivates Democrats more than Republicans, and Democrats are moving left on the issue. Advocates for single-payer or ‘Medicare for All’ (whatever that ends up meaning) aren’t running the table, but they continue to win important primaries.”

Democrats Will Turn August Into Health Care Month

Playbook: “Senate Democrats, forced by Republicans to stay in Washington during the August recess, are planning to try to turn the session into a referendum on Republicans’ handling of health-care policy.”

Said a senior Senate Democratic aide: “August will be health care month. Every time they say ‘nominations,’ we’ll say ‘lower premiums.’ When they say ‘appropriations process,’ we’ll say ‘bring down drug prices.’ Health care has been President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ biggest failure, and it’s the issue that’s top of mind for voters. We’re going to be relentless in pushing to prevent the Republican rate hikes that are set to land just before Election Day.”

Virginia Set to Expand Medicaid

“Six years after the U.S. Supreme Court left the decision to states on whether to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, Virginia is about to extend health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Virginians without it,” the Richmond Times Dispatch reports.

“Gov. Ralph Northam has left no doubt he will sign a pair of budget bills that will begin a two-phased process of receiving federal approval to expand Medicaid in Virginia on Jan. 1, relying on billions of dollars in long-available federal funds and a pair of taxes on hospital revenues to pay for it.”

Washington Post: “Years of obstruction in the commonwealth gave way because key Republicans from rural areas couldn’t bear to deny coverage for their constituents any longer, moderates wanted to cut a deal and, most of all, Democrats made massive gains in November’s off-year elections.”

Texas Democrats Look to Single-Payer In House Races

“Democrats hoping to wrest congressional seats away from diehard repeal-and-replace Republicans are campaigning on an unlikely issue for Texas — single-payer health care,” Politico reports.

“Across the country, many Democrats are trying to minimize internal battles on health care. But Democrats in this deep red state have also watched closely races where single-payer advocates have upset centrist primary opponents. And some believe that moving left on health care will mobilize new voters in primaries —and offer a shot at winning come November.”

Novartis Paid Cohen $1.2 Million for a Single Meeting

Drug giant Novartis paid President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen $1.2 million for health-care policy consulting work that he actually ended up being “unable” to do, CNBC reports.

Novartis said it believed Cohen “could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain U.S. health-care policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act.”

But just a month after signing the deal, Novartis executives had their first meeting with Cohen, and afterward “determined that Michael Cohen and Essentials Consultants would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated.”

Health Care Tops Economy as Biggest Issue

A new CBS News poll finds that “health care tops the list of most important issue for voters, ahead of the economy — and by two to one voters say they’ve been hurt, not helped, by the GOP’s changes to the health care laws.

“Few Americans — only 15% — feel that the recent changes to health care laws made by Republicans have helped them and their family.”

Price Says Tax Law Will Hike Health Care Costs

Tom Price, President Trump’s first secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said “the Republican tax law would raise the cost of health insurance for some Americans because it repealed a core provision of the Affordable Care Act,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Price: “There are many, and I’m one of them, who believes that that actually will harm the pool in the exchange market, because you’ll likely have individuals who are younger and healthier not participating in that market, and consequently, that drives up the cost for other folks within that market.”

Republicans Lose Their Favorite Campaign Issue

Washington Post: “For the first time in nearly a decade, Republican candidates across the country find themselves bereft of what was once their favorite talking point: repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — and all the havoc they alleged it has wreaked.”

“That’s because the GOP failed dramatically in its efforts last year to roll back the ACA as its first big legislative delivery on the promise of single-party control of Washington from Congress to the White House. That defeat has quickly turned attacks on Obamacare from centerpiece into pariah on the campaign trail, a sudden disappearing act that Democrats are looking to exploit as they seek to regain power in the midterms.”

Obamacare Enrollment Barely Budges

Washington Post: “A total of 11.8 million Americans signed up for Affordable Care Act health insurance for 2018, a drop of just 400,000 from the previous year despite widespread predictions that enrollment would plummet amid political and insurance industry turbulence surrounding the law.”

“The final figures, released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, show that the proportion of first-time customers for this year dipped slightly, from 31 percent to 27 percent, while the high proportion qualifying for government subsidies that help consumers afford their insurance premiums stayed level at 83 percent.”