Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council for Mental Wellbeing — Progressives: Medicare benefit expansions 'not negotiable'

Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council for Mental Wellbeing — Progressives: Medicare benefit expansions 'not negotiable'
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

The New Jersey Democratic State Committee is out with a new ad attacking GOP gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli over his past support for a local ban on swearing — featuring some very New Jersey-like F bombs. 

The language is more polite in Congress, but Democrats are drawing lines on the health priorities they say must be included into the Build Back Better legislation.

ADVERTISEMENT

For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan (psullivan@thehill.com), Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@thehill.com) and Justine Coleman (jcoleman@thehill.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.

Let’s get started.

Sanders and Jayapal say expanding Medicare benefits 'not negotiable'

Democrats are facing difficult decisions on what to include in the reconciliation infrastructure package, and powerful interests are drawing lines in the sand. 

On Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that adding dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare in Democrats' social spending package — an issue championed by progressives — is "not negotiable."

"This to me is not negotiable," Sanders said on a call with reporters. "This is what the American people want."

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProposals to reform supports for parents face chopping block Democrats see light at end of tunnel on Biden agenda Democrats jostle over health care priorities for scaled-back package MORE (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, added that Sanders's view is also "the position of the House Progressive Caucus," adding further heft to the position.

ADVERTISEMENT

Progressives have long been pushing for expanding the Medicare benefits in President BidenJoe BidenBiden: Democrats' spending plan is 'a bigger darn deal' than Obamacare Biden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Biden: Comment that DOJ should prosecute those who defy subpoenas 'not appropriate' MORE's Build Back Better package, but the new comments illustrate how key the issue is for them.

But life is complicated: Democrats are fighting amongst themselves about fitting key priorities into an ever-shrinking spending target, and many other health care priorities have powerful backers.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters MORE (D-Calif.), for example, is a major proponent of extending enhanced financial assistance to help people afford premiums under the Affordable Care Act. And House Majority Whip Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnLobbying world Lawmakers pay tribute to Colin Powell Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council for Mental Wellbeing — Progressives: Medicare benefit expansions 'not negotiable' MORE (D-S.C.) is pushing hard for a provision to expand Medicaid in the 12 GOP-led states that have so far rejected the expansion.

Read more here.

A MESSAGE FROM THE NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR MENTAL WELLBEING

This is our chance to expand access to care. Join us on October 19 for Hill Day at Home – the largest mental health and substance use advocacy event of the year. Learn more.


POLL: 83 PERCENT SUPPORT GOVERNMENT NEGOTIATING DRUG PRICES

Policy is complicated, but Americans seem to have a firm grasp of the concept of allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. It's another one of the pieces Democrats are haggling over in the "social infrastructure" legislation, and it is extremely popular. 

A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 83 percent of the public favors allowing the government to negotiate lower drug prices, for people both on Medicare and those in private insurance plans. 

After being presented with arguments both in favor of the idea (that many people cannot afford their prescriptions) and against (that the policy could lead to fewer new drugs being developed), the overall results were unchanged. There was a small increase in the percentage saying they “somewhat” favored the policy after hearing the arguments, rather than “strongly” favoring it.  

Read more here.

Biden administration OKs Colorado expansion of transgender health coverage

Many private health insurance plans in Colorado will soon be required to cover "gender affirming care" for transgender patients under a landmark approval granted by the Biden administration.

ADVERTISEMENT

For the first time, plans purchased on the state's individual and small group markets — meaning employers with less than 100 workers —  will be required to cover transition-related care. The change would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

According to state figures, the small group and individual health insurance markets cover about 20 percent of Coloradans.

Biden administration officials said they hope Colorado can provide a model for other states to ensure access to potentially lifesaving care.

The treatments will include hormone therapy, genital reconstruction, face tightening, facial bone remodeling and other services.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in a statement said it recognizes that expanded, gender-affirming coverage "vastly improves health care outcomes for the LGBTQ+ community, reduces high rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts as well as decreases substance use, improves HIV medication adherence, and reduces rates of harmful self-prescribed hormone use."

Past practice: The Biden administration earlier this year said it would reverse Trump-era limits on protections against health care discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Trump's HHS kept protections against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability, but it narrowed the definition of sex to only mean "biological sex," specifically cutting out transgender people.

ADVERTISEMENT

Read more here.

Texas governor opens new front on vaccine mandates

Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters GOP senators call on Biden to back down from vaccine mandates DeSantis to call special session of legislature to fight vaccine mandates MORE (R) is opening a new front in the war over vaccine mandates, setting up a showdown with the Biden administration.

Abbott on Monday issued an executive order banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any “entity in Texas,” including private businesses. That order conflicts with a forthcoming federal regulation announced by President Biden to require that businesses with 100 or more employees ensure their workers are vaccinated or get tested weekly.

“In yet another instance of federal overreach, the Biden Administration is now bullying many private entities into imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates,” Abbott wrote in the order. 

GOP rebellion: Abbott’s move is an escalation in the Republican battle against vaccine mandates, something that many public health experts view as a key tool in the fight against the pandemic, given that voluntary efforts like incentives have hit their limits. 

On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters GOP senators call on Biden to back down from vaccine mandates DeSantis to call special session of legislature to fight vaccine mandates MORE (R), who like Abbott has also pushed back on local mask mandates and vaccine passports, floated the idea of a similar move against vaccine mandates in his state, though he said it would likely require the state legislature to act.

ADVERTISEMENT

Public health perspective: Public health experts have largely praised the role of vaccine mandates as the virus continues to kill almost 2,000 Americans, mostly unvaccinated people, every day.

“We’re still at a high level of transmission in the nation and in Texas only one half of the population is vaccinated,” tweeted Peter Hotez, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. “We need all tools possible, including vaccine mandates, to close the gap and halt COVID-19 transmission here.”

Read more here.

 

A MESSAGE FROM THE NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR MENTAL WELLBEING

 This is our chance to expand access to care. Join us on October 19 for Hill Day at Home – the largest mental health and substance use advocacy event of the year. Learn more.


WHITE HOUSE SAYS GOP GOVERNORS ‘PUTTING POLITICS AHEAD OF PUBLIC HEALTH’

The White House on Tuesday took aim at Republican governors for opposing coronavirus vaccine mandates for businesses, accusing them of “putting politics ahead of public health.”

The sharp remarks from White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden says he would tap National Guard to help with supply chain issues GOP memo urges lawmakers to blame White House 'grinches' for Christmas delays Regional powers rally behind Taliban's request for humanitarian aid MORE came in response to Abbott’s executive order banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates, a direct challenge to President Biden’s forthcoming vaccine requirement for large private sector organizations.   

Psaki said Abbott’s order “fit a familiar pattern that we’ve seen of putting politics ahead of public health,” Psaki told reporters during a briefing Tuesday afternoon.

“Over 700,000 American lives have been lost due to COVID-19, including more than 56,000 in Florida and over 68,000 in Texas, and every leader should be focused on efforts to save lives and end the pandemic,” Psaki continued. “Why would you be taking steps that prevent the saving of lives that make it more difficult to save lives across the country or in any state?”

A number of Republicans vowed to fight Biden’s vaccine rule in court when he announced it in September, accusing the president of overstepping his authority. Legal experts believe Biden will be on strong footing with the rule.

Read more here

WHAT WE'RE READING

  • Hundreds of police officers have died from Covid. Vaccines remain a hard sell. (The New York Times)
  • Biden’s billion-dollar testing plan could struggle with a winter reality (Politico)
  • Texas order reflects growing GOP vaccine mandates hostility (The Associated Press)
  • The Covid vaccine doesn’t cause infertility, but the disease might (NBC News)

STATE BY STATE

  • Colorado’s COVID hospitalizations rise as deaths reach late-January levels (The Denver Post)
  • A judge says New York must allow religious exemptions, for now, to its health care worker vaccine mandate. (The New York Times)
  • Central Maine Medical Center temporarily stops pediatric and trauma admissions (Lewiston Sun Journal)

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s healthcare page for the latest news and coverage. See you Wednesday.