Overnight Healthcare: Obama pushes for Zika funding

The Obama administration is shifting into overdrive in the fight against the Zika virus as public health researchers scramble to understand the still-mysterious disease.

The White House announced Monday it is seeking $1.8 billion in emergency funding to halt the spread of the virus, which has been linked to thousands of birth defects in other countries.

Several lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidVirginia was a wave election, but without real change, the tide will turn again Top Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor MORE (D-Nev.), were quick to support the White House's emergency funding request. But leaders of key health and national security committees were noncommittal about the funding package, saying they will wait to hear directly from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a Tuesday briefing.

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HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will brief leaders in both the House and Senate on the ongoing threat and the administration's response so far, while making a pitch for the new funding.

Also on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised its emergency control center to Level 1 for Zika – its highest level of activation – for the first time since Ebola. It is the fourth-ever time that the CDC's team has been on Level 1 alert.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC deputy director Anne Schuchat made a surprise appearance at the White House's daily press briefing to inform the public about the disease and urge Congress to approve the funds.

The CDC has vowed to pour more resources into new research, better testing and stronger tracking of people carrying the virus. The agency is focused on heading off the disease in the southern United States and Puerto Rico, where people are most vulnerable to the mosquito that spreads the virus. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1LccObZ

REMAINING UNINSURED PROBLEM FOR OBAMACARE ObamaCare faces a tougher path ahead in enrolling the roughly 30 million people who remain uninsured, despite the record gains already made.

The administration signed up 12.7 million people for coverage in 2016, a significant number, but only a small bump from the 11.7 million enrolled last year.

Officials warned from the start that this year would be the hardest yet, because the people most eager to sign up already had.

The health law has already made major gains, expanding coverage to 16.3 million people and lowering the uninsured rate to a record low of 9 percent, according to a survey last year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the 30 million people uninsured are a stark problem for a law that was intended to fulfill the decades-old Democratic dream of providing universal coverage. Read more here. http://bit.ly/1QRmMUC

SENATE TRYING FOR BIPARTISANSHIP ON MEDICARE The Senate Finance Committee is trying to do something a bit rare in an election year: legislate in a bipartisan way on a wonky but important issue.

The project is to improve the way Medicare covers people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and Alzheimer's, so as to improve the coordination of care and bring about healthier outcomes at lower cost.

"If I had a nickel for every time I heard somebody on cable news say you can't do anything big in an election year, you could take care of your kids' education," said Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress faces growing health care crisis in Puerto Rico Photos of the Week: Nov. 13-17 Senate panel approves GOP tax plan MORE (D-Ore.). "I don't buy that." Read more here. http://bit.ly/1RjvnRX

EXTRA SIGN-UP PERIOD FOR TAX ISSUES The Obama administration is setting up a new ObamaCare sign-up period for people who failed to file 2014 tax returns.

Jan. 31 was the deadline for most people to sign up, but this new period will provide another chance until March 31, for certain people who might have missed out on coverage because of confusion about new ObamaCare requirements regarding taxes and health insurance.

People who received tax credits under ObamaCare to help them afford insurance in 2014 were required to file a 2014 tax return in order to make sure they received the right amount of credit. If people failed to file a tax return, they became ineligible for further tax credits starting in 2016.

Without the tax credits, many people would find coverage unaffordable, and would be likely to forgo coverage altogether.

This new period gives them a chance to sign up, with tax credits, if they go back and file their return for 2014. It is unclear exactly how many people are eligible. Read more here. http://bit.ly/1T9cRNs

WHAT WE'RE READING:

A comprehensive list of everyone Martin Shkreli has ticked off (Vocativ)

Top Clinton advisers lobbied against ObamaCare (The Intercept)

Zika virus discourages many Americans from Latin America travel (Reuters)

Pope's Mexico trip threatens to hasten Zika spread (STAT)

IN THE STATES:

Branstad blasts Dem effort to block Medicaid privatization (KCCI 8)

Medicaid expansion missing from Alabama State of the State (Montgomery Advertiser)

ICYMI FROM THE HILL:

Rubio backs bill to curb drug abuse http://bit.ly/1TOPdFe

Reid: Congress should back Obama on Zika funding http://bit.ly/1T1d3x5

Obama: Zika is not Ebola http://bit.ly/1XeolP3

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