Overnight Health Care: Nearly 1.5M sign up for ObamaCare so far | Schumer says Dems won't back ObamaCare deal if it's tied to tax bill | House passes fix to measure letting Pentagon approve medical treatments

Overnight Health Care: Nearly 1.5M sign up for ObamaCare so far | Schumer says Dems won't back ObamaCare deal if it's tied to tax bill | House passes fix to measure letting Pentagon approve medical treatments
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Strong ObamaCare sign-ups

Nearly 1.5 million people signed up for ObamaCare in the first 11 days of open enrollment, nearly 500,000 more than at the same time last year.

According to numbers released Wednesday by the Trump administration, 876,788 people signed up for plans in week two of open enrollment, which spanned from Nov. 5-11. 


In week one, which spanned from Nov. 1-4, 601,462 people signed up for plans. In the first two weeks of last year's open enrollment, 1 million people had signed up for plans. 

There are also more new consumers signing up for plans this year, the data show.

In the first two weeks of open enrollment, 345,719 new consumers have signed up for plans, compared to 246,433 during the same time period last year.

Democrats have worried that ObamaCare enrollment would drop this year because of actions by the Trump administration, which includes cutting funds for advertising and outreach.

Read more here.


Schumer warns GOP over ObamaCare mandate repeal

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Judge Kavanaugh confounds the left This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (D-N.Y.) warned on Wednesday that Democrats won't help pass a bipartisan deal on key ObamaCare payments if Republicans use their tax plan to repeal the individual mandate. 

"The Republicans cannot expect to pass their own separate ideological health-care provision and then turn around and ask Democrats to vote to pass Alexander-Murray," Schumer said from the Senate floor, referring to a bill by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderBipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure Sens introduce bipartisan bill matching Zinke proposed maintenance backlog fix Supreme Court vacancy throws Senate battle into chaos MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families MORE (D-Wash.).

He added that any Republican senators who are willing to support repealing the mandate because they think the Senate will also pass the Alexander-Murray bill are "wrong on the substance and wrong on the politics, because it won't pass." 

Senate Republicans unveiled their updated tax plan late Tuesday night. The plan includes repealing ObamaCare's individual mandate, which requires that most Americans buy health insurance or face a tax penalty.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Helsinki summit becomes new flashpoint for GOP anger Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash MORE (R-S.D.) said on Tuesday that the Alexander-Murray bill, which funds key payments to insurers for two years, would be brought up separately.

Republicans don't need Democratic votes to pass their tax plan because of reconciliation rules that allow them to pass the legislation by a simple majority and avoid a filibuster.

But they would need Democrats to help to pass Alexander-Murray, which would likely need 60 votes to get through the Senate.

Read more here.


Cornyn: ObamaCare payments likely to be included in funding bill 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDeal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate must approve Justice Served Act to achieve full potential of DNA evidence The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (R-Texas) said Wednesday that the Senate will likely include key ObamaCare payments in an end-of-year spending bill.

"I think that's likely to happen," Cornyn, the second-ranking Senate Republican, told reporters when asked if the cost-sharing reduction payments would be included in the December funding bill.

Cornyn added that the legislation from Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), which would include two years of the ObamaCare payments to insurers in exchange for more flexibility to the states, could help lower premiums and "has merit."

"I wouldn't do it as a stand-alone [bill] but I think with the repeal of the individual mandate it probably makes more sense," he said.

Read more here.


House passes fix to defense bill's medical approval provision

The House on Wednesday passed by voice vote a bill to speed up Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of medical devices and drugs to be used on the battlefield.

The bill is meant to address a controversial provision of the annual defense policy bill passed by the House on Tuesday that would allow the Pentagon to sign off on unapproved devices and drugs.

"Our men and women in uniform have put their lives on the line for this country, and they deserve to have the earliest possible access to medical products that could save their lives on the battlefield," Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said on the House floor Wednesday.

"We found a good balance with our friends on the Armed Services Committee, and in working with the FDA and the leadership of the Pentagon."

The Pentagon and its advocates in Congress have been frustrated by the FDA's slow approval of certain treatments they say could save lives on the battlefield. In particular, there has been a decade-long impasse between the Pentagon and the FDA over freeze-dried plasma, which the military says will help it save troops from bleeding out since it does not need refrigeration.

Because of that frustration, this year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would allow the Pentagon to approve the use of freeze-dried plasma and other medical products to be used on the battlefield.

But the FDA and its advocates in Congress argued the language in the NDAA could open troops up to more danger because the approval process was not as rigorous as the FDA's.

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has more here.


GOP senator: ObamaCare mandate a 'tax on the poor and working class' 

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs Congress should prioritize diversity so government reflects Americans MORE (R-S.C.) called the ObamaCare individual mandate a "tax on the poor and working class" during an interview on Wednesday, one day after Senate Republicans announced they would include a repeal of the mandate in their tax-reform legislation. 

"The fact of the matter is that the individual mandate is a tax on the poor and working class," Scott said on "The Hugh Hewitt Show."

Read more here.


Op-eds in The Hill 

Trump's short-sighted view on contraception will cost us

Infusing tax bill with ObamaCare reform a bold GOP move

Trump is flooding the swamp with his HHS pick Alex Azar


What we're reading 

Parents of 4-year-old with cancer can't buy ACA plan to cover her hospital care (The Washington Post)

ObamaCare's insurance mandate is so unpopular. So why not just get rid of it? (The New York Times)

FDA clears electronic earpiece to block opioid withdrawal symptoms (Stat)


State by state 

California fines Anthem $5 million for failing to address consumer grievances (californiahealthline.org)

New Hampshire: Commission recommends 5-year extension of Medicaid expansion (Associated Press)

Mississippi seeks OK for job training for some on Medicaid (Associated Press)