Overnight Health Care: Initial Senate tax bill doesn't repeal ObamaCare mandate | 600K sign up for ObamaCare in first four days | Feds crack down on opioid trafficking

Overnight Health Care: Initial Senate tax bill doesn't repeal ObamaCare mandate | 600K sign up for ObamaCare in first four days | Feds crack down on opioid trafficking

The tax-reform bill that Senate Republicans are releasing Thursday does not repeal ObamaCare's individual insurance mandate, though the provision could be added down the line, GOP senators said. 

Senators leaving a briefing about the legislation said repealing the mandate is not in the initial text of the legislation, but cautioned that the issue is still under discussion. 

"There's been a lot of discussion on that and we're looking at it very seriously," Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenGOP senators visited Moscow on July 4, warned Russia against meddling in 2018 election: report GOP lawmakers plan official visit to Russia later this week GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border MORE (R-N.D.) said, adding that the issue was discussed at Thursday's meeting.

Hoeven said he personally supports repeal of the mandate.

ADVERTISEMENT

An updated House tax-reform bill unveiled Thursday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump angers GOP, businesses with new tariffs | Liberals see Kavanaugh as mortal threat to consumer bureau | Lawmakers pitch family leave plans Trump tariffs prompt rising fear, anger from GOP, business Top House Republican calls for Trump to meet with Chinese president over trade war MORE (R-Texas) also does not repeal the mandate.

Senate Republican leaders have been doing a whip count on repealing the ObamaCare penalty to see where support stands. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynRussians' indictment casts shadow ahead of Trump-Putin summit Top GOP senator: Trump should be 'clear-eyed' going into meeting with Putin Doug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said lawmakers are taking a "hard look" at the issue.

Proponents of nixing the mandate say it is a way to save money that could help pay for tax cuts. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says mandate repeal would save $338 billion over 10 years.

But moderates like Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 Overnight Energy: House to vote on anti-carbon tax measure | Dem says EPA obstructed 'politically charged' FOIA requests | GOP looks to overhaul endangered species law MORE (R-Alaska) have expressed reluctance to repeal the mandate. Introducing the volatile issue of health care into the tax debate could made it harder to pass the bill.

Read more here.

 

Senate keeps medical expenses deduction in break with House

The Senate GOP tax bill will retain a key deduction for qualified medical expenses that was excluded from the House version, according to a Republican senator on the Senate Finance Committee.

Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Lawmakers pitch dueling plans for paid family leave New push to break deadlock on paid family leave MORE (R-La.) told reporters that the deduction will remain in the initial version of legislation the Senate is set to unveil today.

"I think there's always a sense that it's a good thing to continue," Cassidy said.

Under current law, the IRS allows individuals to deduct qualified medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of a person's adjusted gross income for the year.

The House bill would have repealed that deduction effective in 2018.

Read more here.

 

About 600,000 sign up for ObamaCare in first four days 

About 600,000 people signed up for ObamaCare plans in the first four days of enrollment, the Trump administration announced Thursday.

Sign-ups are running at a faster pace than at this time last year. In fact, about twice as many people signed up on the first day, Nov. 1, this year compared to last year. 

There were about 150,000 sign-ups per day on average for the first four days this year, compared to 84,000 sign-ups per day for the first 12 days last year. There is no data for just the first four days of last year.

Still, the results have energized Democrats, who have been worried about low enrollment due to Trump administration cutbacks in outreach.

Read more here.

 

Feds move to crack down on opioid trafficking 

The Trump administration is taking steps to make it easier to prosecute traffickers of potent synthetic opioids that have lead to an uptick in overdose deaths.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intends to temporarily schedule all fentanyl-related substances on an emergency basis, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

That classification will let prosecutors charge people trafficking substances similar to fentanyl with the same charges as fentanyl, which is up to 50 times more potent than heroin.

"Fentanyl -- and its analogues -- are a growing part of a growing problem in the United States," a DEA official said in a call with reporters, adding that the department is seeing "new fentanyl-related substances crop up at alarming rates."

At issue are overseas chemical manufacturers who try to alter the chemical structure of fentanyl sent to the United States to evade the Controlled Substances Act. This also makes it harder for prosecutors to convict drug traffickers.

Read more here.

 

Join The Hill on Thursday, November 16, for Preparing for a Treatment: Managing and Delivering an Alzheimer's Breakthrough featuring LEAD Coalition Executive Director Ian Kremer and Daisy Duarte, caregiver and clinical trial participant with UsAgainstAlzheimer's. Our conversation will explore the latest developments in Alzheimer's research and how ready the American health industry might be for a major medical breakthrough. RSVP Here

 

Op-eds from The Hill 

Mandatory minimums: The wrong strategy for the opioid epidemic 

DOJ's stance on illegal immigrant abortion case is clear jab at ACLU 

 

What we're reading

Trump punted to Congress on opioids funding. Congress has no plan. (Stat)

Democrats, GOP spar over who is to blame for rising health-insurance premiums (The Wall Street Journal)

Gene therapy creates new skin to save a dying child (The New York Times)

 

State by state 

Planned Parenthood advocates take aim at NC ultrasound law (Citizen Times)

Trial wraps up on Texas abortion procedures (chron.com)

Health care for 200,000 Ohio children waits for funding, caught in political web (cleveland.com)