Overnight Health Care: Senate tax bill to include ObamaCare mandate repeal | Dems seize on new ObamaCare fight | CBO warns tax bill could spur $25B in Medicare cuts

Overnight Health Care: Senate tax bill to include ObamaCare mandate repeal | Dems seize on new ObamaCare fight | CBO warns tax bill could spur $25B in Medicare cuts
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit MORE (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that the Senate tax bill will include language to repeal ObamaCare's individual mandate, which could make it tougher for moderate Republicans to support.

Conservatives led by GOP Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (Texas), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year Despite amnesty, DACA bill favors American wage-earners MORE (Ky.) and Tom CottonTom CottonMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ DHS chief takes heat over Trump furor Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising MORE (Ark.) pushed hard to include the provision, which would eliminate the federal penalty on people who do not buy health insurance. President Trump has also pushed for the provision to be part of the tax bill.

McConnell told reporters that adding the individual mandate repeal will make it easier to muster 50 votes to pass the bill.

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"We're optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful and that's obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans as well," McConnell said.

It will raise an estimated $300 billion to $400 billion over the next year that could be used to pay for lowering individual and business tax rates even further.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWeek ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content Overnight Tech: GOP senator presses Apple over phone slowdowns | YouTube cancels projects with Logan Paul after suicide video | CEOs push for DACA fix | Bill would punish credit agencies for breaches GOP senator presses Apple on phone slowdowns MORE (S.D.), the Senate's No. 3 Republican, told reporters there has been a whip count and he is confident Republicans can pass a tax bill that includes a measure to repeal the mandate.

Thune said a compromise bill negotiated by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWeek ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding Ryan suggests room for bipartisanship on ObamaCare Time to end fiscal year foolishness MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCDC director to miss fourth hearing because of potential ethics issues Week ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding Ryan suggests room for bipartisanship on ObamaCare MORE (D-Wash.), aimed at stabilizing ObamaCare markets, would be brought up separately. That bill funds key payments to insurers for two years in exchange for more flexibility for states to change ObamaCare rules.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration White House: Trump remarks didn't derail shutdown talks Schumer defends Durbin after GOP senator questions account of Trump meeting MORE (D-N.Y.) blasted the move to include repeal, saying in a statement, "Republicans just can't help themselves. They're so determined to provide tax giveaways to the rich that they're willing to raise premiums on millions of middle-class Americans and kick 13 million people off their health care."

Read more here.

 

Health groups urge Congress not to repeal ObamaCare mandate 

A coalition of health-care groups is calling on House and Senate leaders not to repeal ObamaCare's individual mandate as part of the GOP tax-reform bill.

Hospitals, doctors and insurers urged Congress in a letter sent Tuesday to keep the individual mandate "unless and until Congress can enact a package of reforms to adequately assure a balanced risk pool and prevent extraordinary premium increases."

The letter was sent by some of the top health groups in the country: America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the Federation of American Hospitals.

Read more here.

 

Dems seize on renewed ObamaCare fight

Senate Democrats are quickly taking aim at Republicans' decision to add a repeal of ObamaCare's individual mandate into their tax-reform bill as they look for leverage in the looming fight.

The GOP move to link health care to their proposal immediately added new life to the tax battle, with Democrats seizing on the development as a key part of their messaging war.

"GOP is tying themselves in a knot. They're cutting taxes on the wealthy [and] taking health care away from millions [and] raising the premiums of millions [of] others all to help reduce taxes on the rich. Does that sound familiar?" Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

He added that Republicans are throwing the "health care system into chaos."

Schumer was quickly echoed by several other Democratic senators, who panned Republicans' decision.

"As the saying goes, the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDem senator: Trump 'made clear' that he wants 'white people to come to our country' Hawaii false alarm sparks panic, confusion Dem senator working to ensure Hawaii false alarm ‘never happens again’ MORE (D-Hawaii) said.

Read more here.

 

GOP tax bill could spur $25 billion in Medicare cuts: CBO

The GOP tax bill could trigger automatic cuts worth $136 billion from mandatory spending in 2018, including $25 billion in Medicare cuts, if Congress doesn't find another way to offset its deficit increases, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

The tax bill would add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the deficit over a decade. Congressional "pay-as-you-go" rules, called pay-go, require that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) automatically cut mandatory spending if legislation increases the deficit beyond a certain point.

"Without enacting subsequent legislation to either offset that deficit increase, waive the recordation of the bill's impact on the scorecard, or otherwise mitigate or eliminate the requirements of the [pay-go] law, OMB would be required to issue a sequestration order within 15 days of the end of the session of Congress to reduce spending in fiscal year 2018 by the resultant total of $136 billion," CBO wrote on Tuesday.

Medicare can only be cut by a maximum of 4 percent through the pay-go rules, however, which amounts to $25 billion in cuts.

Read more here.

 

House Dems seek answers on NIH funding and gun violence

House Democrats want to know if the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has cut off funding for a program dedicated to studying gun violence.

In a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins, Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneLawmakers say they're close to deal on CHIP funding Five key decisions for the GOP on health care 8.8 million sign up for ObamaCare, nearly matching last year MORE (D-N.J.) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) asked if the NIH has discontinued the gun violence research program, and if so, why.

"This funding was critical because the difficulty in obtaining federal research funding has limited the number of current researchers and the development of the next generation of researchers focused on gun violence prevention," the lawmakers wrote.

Following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, President Obama directed health agencies to begin funding research into firearms. The NIH awarded a total of $18 million for nearly two dozen research projects.

But the funding expired in January and the agency has yet to renew it.

The Dickey Amendment, which was inserted into a congressional spending bill in 1996, has effectively stopped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence.

Read more here.

 

Op-eds in The Hill 

Leave drug safety to the FDA, not the assistant secretary of defense

Trump's HHS pick shows that big pharma is taking over our health system 

 

What we're reading

Hospital groups sue HHS over planned 340B drug payment cuts (modernhealthcare.com)

Trump's health pick isn't likely to shy away from topic of sky-high medication prices (Bloomberg)

Lawmakers try to catch up with genetic engineering (Stat)

 

State by state 

Some states roll back 'retroactive Medicaid,' a buffer for the poor -- and hospitals (Kaiser Health News)

Trump administration promotes new Medicaid flexibility in Utah (Salt Lake Tribune)

Health authority director: More Oregon Medicaid problems ahead (Associated Press)