Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday called for provisions to stabilize ObamaCare to be combined with a bill reauthorizing the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The move seeks to provide a vehicle for bipartisan ObamaCare provisions to pass the Senate, but it also could complicate negotiations on extending CHIP, which Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) wanted to keep as a clean bill.

"Now that the Senate Finance committee has reauthorized the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Leader McConnell should immediately put this bill to the Senate floor for a vote and include much-needed bipartisan provisions to stabilize the markets, lower premiums in 2018, and renew funding for community health centers and numerous other important health provisions that expired over the weekend," Schumer said in a statement.

Schumer is referring to negotiations in the Senate Health Committee between Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on provisions to stabilize ObamaCare markets and lower premiums.

The pair is close to a deal, but the politics of the measure are fraught, given that many other Republicans are resistant to what they view as propping up a failing health law.

Asked if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is open to combining an ObamaCare stabilization bill and CHIP, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart noted that there is no stabilization bill yet, so it is hard to answer a "hypothetical" question.

The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday advanced the CHIP measure on a bipartisan vote, but lawmakers are still negotiating ways to pay for it.

Read more here.

Senate Dems allege budget cuts over $470B from Medicare

Senate Democrats say Republicans plan to slash Medicare spending by more than $470 billion in the proposed budget resolution, breaking a campaign promise by President Trump to not cut Medicare.

According to a new report prepared for Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, the budget would cut Medicaid by more than $1 trillion and Medicare by more than $470 billion.

The cuts would be used to pay "for trillions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations," committee Democrats said.

While spending cuts would be part of the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution, they are not detailed in any of the public documents, and there are no policy proposals that show how the cuts would be enacted.

But Democrats point to tables in the budget's supporting documentation that would reduce spending by $473 billion for Medicare and twice that amount for Medicaid.

Read more here.

Cummings demands documents about Conway's flights with Price

The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee wants details from the White House about any private jet trips counselor Kellyanne Conway took with former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price.

In a letter to Conway, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked for documentation related to all of the private, noncommercial, or military flights she's taken since joining the Trump administration.

According to a Politico investigation, Conway took multiple trips with Price related to the administration's response to the opioid epidemic.

Cummings said he wants to know if Conway has any plans to reimburse taxpayers for her trips.

"You have not made any similar public statements indicating whether your own actions were appropriate, whether you will continue to take such flights at taxpayer expense in the future, or whether you plan to personally repay the taxpayers for the costs of your seats on these flights," Cummings wrote.

Read more here.

Hurricane Maria worsens Puerto Rico's water woes

Amid the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico, most people can't drink the water.

But even before a Category 4 hurricane slammed the U.S. territory, the island's water supply was in serious trouble.

Some 55 percent of Puerto Ricans still don't have access to drinking water as of Saturday, and concerns are rising over the potential for waterborne illnesses. Prior to the storm, though, the island had the worst rate of drinking water violations of any state or territory, a result of outdated infrastructure, pollution and underinvestment, experts said.

"With the hurricane taking out so much of the island's drinking water infrastructure, we're again seeing the very harsh reality of what years of underinvestment and a failure to address this problem can result in," Adrianna Quintero, the director of partner engagement for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said.

In 2015, nearly 70 percent of the population got their water from sources that violated federal health standards in 2015. These include having high levels of bacteria and other contaminants, according to a May report from the group.

Read more here.

Dems plead for right of nursing home residents to sue

In the wake of nursing home deaths cause by Hurricane Irma, House Democrats are asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to let nursing home residents take facilities to court over allegations such as abuse.

Over the summer, CMS announced it intended to change the rule under President Obama that banned nursing homes accepting Medicare or Medicaid funds from requiring a third party to settle disputes.

In a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, 46 House Democrats wrote that "these clauses are buried in the fine print of voluminous nursing home admission contracts and typically only accepted because they are unnoticed."

The lawmakers pointed to the nursing home in Florida, where 12 residents died after the hurricane knocked out the facility's air conditioning.

"The horrific reports of abuse at facilities in Florida and Texas in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey underscore the need for your agency to reconsider upending the legal protections of those who have worked and saved for their entire lives to retire with dignity," the lawmakers wrote.

"This is a time when we should be protecting our nation's seniors, not rolling back their fundamental right to hold wrongdoers accountable for neglect and abuse."

Read more here.

Ex-Obama officials launch group to sign up people for ObamaCare

Former Obama administration officials are launching an effort to sign people up for ObamaCare, saying they need to fill the gap left by the Trump administration's cutbacks.

Lori Lodes and Joshua Peck, who oversaw enrollment efforts in the Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama, are launching the group called Get America Covered.

Organizers say the effort is needed because the Trump administration is trying to "sabotage" ObamaCare and is not stepping up to the plate on outreach efforts to help people enroll in coverage. The Trump HHS Department has announced that it is cutting funding for advertising by 90 percent and has also slashed funding to outside "navigator" groups that help people sign up for insurance.

Read more here.

What we're reading

Scott Gottlieb rocketed to the top of FDA. He may keep rising (statnews.com)

Las Vegas tragedy prompts examination of hospital's capacity to treat victims (khn.org)

With Affordable Care Act's future cloudy, costs for many seem sure to soar (New York Times)

State by state

New York City and state battle over health care funding (Wall Street Journal)

Wisconsin to fund Children Health Insurance Program (Associated Press)

In states that didn't expand Medicaid, residents carry higher medical debt (KCUR)

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