Overnight Health Care: Dems sound alarm over CVS-Aetna deal | Senators look to block Trump cuts to drug discount program | Clinton hits GOP over children's health funding

Overnight Health Care: Dems sound alarm over CVS-Aetna deal | Senators look to block Trump cuts to drug discount program | Clinton hits GOP over children's health funding
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Congressional Democrats are expressing alarm over the proposed merger between CVS Health and a health insurer, fearing it will lead to higher costs and less choice for consumers.

CVS Health, a drug store chain, announced over the weekend that it has agreed to buy Aetna for about $69 billion in what could be, if approved, the largest health insurance deal in U.S. history.

But lawmakers are already raising questions about how the merger could impact consumers if it is approved by the Department of Justice.

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"I'm very concerned to see another merger in the U.S. that creates another behemoth industry and that has vertical integration," said Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers 'Fearless Girl' statue to be moved away from Wall Street bull Sanders, Warren, O’Rourke inspire patriotic small donor waves MORE (D-Mass.), referring to an integration of two companies that aren't direct competitors.

"We already have had great concentration in the pharmaceutical industry, in drug stores around the country and in health insurance. And now to see those two start to join really produces a kind of concentration that cuts down on competition and in the long run tends to drive up prices for consumers," she said.

The companies argue that they'll be able to improve health-care outcomes and reduce costs immediately upon integrating.

"We have the ability to begin to bend that cost curve and at the same time help people achieve their best health," CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo said this week on CNBC.

Read more here

 

Bipartisan group of senators seek to block Trump cuts to drug discount program

Six senators, including three Republicans, are asking GOP leadership to block a Trump administration rule that slashes funding for a federal drug discount program.

The program, called 340B, requires drug companies to give discounts to health-care organizations that serve high volumes of low-income patients.

But a new rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which takes effect Jan. 1, cuts Medicare payments to hospitals enrolled in the program by $1.6 billion.

The senators are urging the cuts to be reversed in the year-end spending deal.

Read more here.

Clinton hits GOP over lack of children's health funding

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGeorge HW Bush wears 'book socks' to Barbara Bush's funeral to honor her passion for literacy Obamas, Clintons to attend funeral of Barbara Bush Hillary Clinton to fundraise in DC for public charter high school MORE is pushing Congress to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), denouncing Republicans for passing tax cuts while the program's authorization has expired.

"I'm going to keep tweeting about this, and speaking out every chance I get, until it is fixed," the former Democratic presidential nominee tweeted on Thursday.

The authorization for CHIP, which covers 9 million children, expired on Sept. 30, but no states have yet run out of money. Several states are in danger of running out soon, though, some by the end of the year.

While funding for the program has been bogged down in partisan fighting over how to pay for it, CHIP money is expected to be added to a year-end spending package later this month.

Congressional Democrats, in particular, are making CHIP funding a key demand.

Read more here.

 

AARP: Congress must prevent 'sudden cut' to Medicare in 2018

The AARP is urging House and Senate leaders to waive congressional rules so the Republican tax bill doesn't trigger deep cuts to Medicare.

If Republicans pass their tax bill, which would add an estimated $1 trillion to the federal deficit, congressional "pay-as-you-go" rules would require an immediate $150 billion in mandatory spending cuts to offset the impact.

"The sudden cut to Medicare provider funding in 2018 would have an immediate and lasting impact, including fewer providers participating in Medicare and reduced access to care for Medicare beneficiaries," AARP said in a letter sent to congressional leaders Thursday.

Under the bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare would be faced with a $25 billion cut in fiscal 2018.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Trump has not invited Democrats, media to state dinner: report MORE (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanScalise released from hospital after planned surgery GOP sold Americans a bill of goods with tax reform law Impeaching Rosenstein? Some Republicans are talking about it MORE (R-Wis.) have promised the cuts won't happen.

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

The surgeon general and his brother: A family's painful reckoning with addiction (Stat news)

Churning, confusion and disruption -- The dark side of marketplace coverage (Kaiser Health News)

A Medicaid challenge: Poor health, but a drive to improve (Associated Press)

 

State by state

Maryland medical marijuana dispensaries are already running out of pot (The Washington Post)

Funding approved to cover inmate medical expenses (The Tennessean

Ben Jealous calls for single-payer health care in Maryland (The Washington Post)

 

From The Hill's opinion pages

GOP abandons state sovereignty fight on health care

CVS, Aetna boast of 'synergies,' but that's just corporate speak

Forgotten victims of 9/11 are developing cancer at alarming rates

Other countries control drug prices the US could, too