Overnight Health Care: Funding bill could provide help for children's health program | Questions for CVS-Aetna deal | Collins doubles funding ask for ObamaCare bill

Overnight Health Care: Funding bill could provide help for children's health program | Questions for CVS-Aetna deal | Collins doubles funding ask for ObamaCare bill
© Greg Nash

The legislation to fund the government for two weeks could also provide some short-term relief to help states keep their Children's Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) afloat.

The bill, which would fund the government through Dec. 22, would temporarily lift certain spending constraints to allow states to get more money for CHIP from the federal government.

Without action from Congress, the government will run out of money Friday.

The policy was first mentioned by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul Walden'Right to try' is an ill-considered bill Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — House passes 'right to try' drug bill | Trump moves to restrict abortion referrals House approves 'right to try,' sends bill to Trump's desk MORE (R-Ore.) last week.

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Congress let federal funding for CHIP expire on Sept. 30. As a result, a number of states are running low on money for the program and have asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for help.

CMS has been awarding millions in unused money to states in need for the past two months. CHIP is jointly funded by states and the federal government.

A provision in the funding bill would make it easier for states to receive leftover money from CMS. There are restrictions on the amount of unused funds a state can get, but the bill would lift those through Dec. 31.

The House has already passed legislation for a five-year extension of CHIP, along with funding for community health centers, but Democrats objected to how the bill was paid for.

The Senate Finance Committee passed a CHIP extension bill but did not say how it would be paid for.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators introduce bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling Exclusive: Bannon says Rosenstein could be fired 'very shortly' MORE (R-Ky.) on Sunday said a CHIP provision will be included in the second year-end spending bill later this month.

Read more here.

 

Questions for the CVS-Aetna deal

CVS on Sunday night said that it will acquire health insurer Aetna.

If approved, the merger of the nation's largest pharmacy and third-largest health insurer could have major implications for the industry.

One question: Will it be approved?

It's not clear that antitrust regulators will look favorably on the $69 billion merger.

Earlier this year, Aetna ended its attempt to acquire Humana, another insurance company. The deal would have created the largest private Medicare insurer in the country.

Aetna had faced significant obstacles. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch sued Aetna to prevent the deal, and it was eventually blocked by a federal court.

The CVS deal could be different. For one, CVS and Aetna don't have as much business in common as Aetna and Humana. CVS is primarily a retail pharmacy, Aetna is an insurer.

But the companies do have significant overlap in the Medicare prescription drug market.

Read more here.

 

Collins doubles funding ask for ObamaCare bill

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senate panel to consider ban on prescription drug 'gag clauses' Pressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn MORE (R-Maine) has doubled the amount of money she's requesting in her ObamaCare stabilization bill in exchange for her vote on the GOP's tax-reform plan.

Collins, a key vote on tax reform, is pushing for the passage of two ObamaCare bills in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the tax bill's repeal of the individual insurance mandate.

One of those bills, sponsored by her and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonPoll: 8 in 10 people in key states concerned about driverless cars Ted Cruz and Bill Nelson give NASA a reality check on privatizing International Space Station Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade MORE (D-Fla.), would provide states with $10 billion over two years to establish high-risk pools or reinsurance programs to lower premiums.

That's more than double the $4.5 billion originally requested in her bill when introduced in September.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would support passage of both bills, which could be added to the end-of-year spending deal.

Collins had concerns that the tax bill's repeal of the individual mandate would increase insurance premiums. She voted for the GOP tax bill on Saturday morning.

Read more here.

 

Warren questions Conway's role in curbing opioid epidemic

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenRising star Abrams advances in Georgia governor race Progressive rise is good news for Sanders, Warren Juan Williams: Trump gives life to the left MORE (D-Mass.) is asking for clarification on White House counselor Kellyanne Conway's role in combating the opioid epidemic.

In a series of questions, Warren quizzed Kelly on the White House counselor's duties and her experience, asking the administration if Conway has previously worked on drug or addiction policy or managed public health issues.

Conway has been active on the opioid epidemic within the administration and previously traveled with former Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceRepublicans succeeded at raising insurance premiums for too many Dems expand 2018 message to ‘draining the swamp’ Dems to target GOP corruption in midterms: report MORE to areas of the country ravaged by the crisis.

At a press conference last week, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWyden presses FBI for information on inflated encryption figures ‘Whatever’ isn’t an option for immigrant children Comey blasts Trump's FBI claims: 'How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?' MORE praised her efforts to address the opioid epidemic -- a crisis that has lead to a skyrocketing increase in overdoses around the country.

Sessions said Trump has "asked [Conway] to coordinate and lead the effort from the White House," which sparked confusion as to whether or not Conway's role on opioids was expanding and if she was being appointed "opioid czar."

Warren also asked when the Trump administration plans to make nominations for two positions critical to curbing the crisis.

Read more here.

  

Tax bill could fuel push for Medicare, Social Security cuts

The tax bill that Republicans are muscling through Congress could result in cuts to entitlement spending if it significantly increases the national debt, budget experts say.

Republicans say the tax-cut package will lead to economic growth and greater tax revenues, but there are doubts even within their party about whether that growth will come to pass.

The Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress's official budget scorekeeper, estimated the bill would cost $1 trillion over a decade even with economic growth taken into account. Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerAdministration works to assuage critics over ZTE deal Overnight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk MORE (R-Tenn.) opposed the bill for that reason.

As the population ages and health-care costs continue to rise, the fiscal demands on entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are projected to grow. The projected increase in the debt from the tax package could make the situation worse, budget experts say.

Read more here.

 

From The Hill's opinion pages

Let's scrap the Cadillac tax before Americans start paying in money and lives

Let's not 'restructure' Social Security and Medicare to pay for tax cuts

Congress should stop lining the pockets of drug corporations and their CEOs

 

What we're reading

A radical move: Giving up income to get health insurance (The New York Times)

For the first time, a study finds double-booked surgeries put patients at risk (The Boston Globe)

Hospitals find asthma hot spots more profitable to neglect than fix (The Washington Post)

 

State by state

States -- and 9 million kids -- 'in a bind' as Congress dawdles on CHIP funding (NPR)

Health care is top issue in Minnesota governor's race (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Advocate looks across state line for proposed mega-merger (Crain's Chicago Business)