OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Obama presses Congress on $6B Ebola request

President Obama called on Congress to approve roughly $6 billion in emergency funding for the Ebola response before lawmakers depart for the Christmas holiday.

"It's a good Christmas present to the American people and to the world,” Obama said Tuesday during a 25-minute speech at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “We need to protect the American people and we need to show the world how America leads."

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Obama made his case for the $6.18 billion funding package after a tour of the NIH, where a much-needed Ebola vaccine has shown signs of progress.

The funding would bolster the country’s response to Ebola in West Africa, where more than 17,000 cases have been reported, as well as prepare the U.S. health system for isolated cases that might arrive here.

While most of the package appears to have bipartisan support, it is possible that $1.5 billion in contingency funding could draw opposition from fiscal conservatives.

The NIH visit was orchestrated to put Ebola policy back in the headlines and to pressure lawmakers to approve the package before the Dec. 11 deadline to fund the federal government.

"This disease is not just a test of our health system. It is a test of our character as a nation. It asks us who we are as Americans," Obama said. Read more here.

Pressure building for surgeon general: Healthcare activists are holding meetings on Capitol Hill to push for the confirmation of Vivek MurthyVivek Hallegere MurthyWe must act to address gun violence The Hill's Morning Report — Dem ire at Barr intensifies Bill and Chelsea Clinton announce podcast launch for summer MORE as surgeon general, a process that has been stalled since gun rights advocates opposed his nomination.

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are urging Senate Democrats to hold a vote before the end of the legislative session this month, and they are receiving a groundswell of support from the caucus rank and file. Read more here.

As bad as taxes? As the Obama administration seeks to build momentum for ObamaCare's second enrollment period, a new survey found that Americans think choosing a health plan is as bad as getting a cavity filled (64 percent).

Even more people believe shopping for coverage is like doing your own taxes (75 percent) or getting the middle seat on an airplane (73 percent), according to a national poll commissioned by Bankrate.com. Read more here.

ObamaCare “do-over”: Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' MORE said Tuesday that the Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare next summer could be the GOP’s best chance for a “do-over” of the healthcare law.

The court’s challenge offered a better opportunity to start from scratch on ObamaCare “as opposed to actually getting the president to sign a full repeal, which is not likely to happen,” McConnell said during a panel hosted by the Wall Street Journal.

If the court rules against ObamaCare, health experts have warned that it could cut off subsidies for 13 million people and ultimately unravel the law. Read more here.

“Very low” insurance literacy: Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusJerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Mark Halperin inks book deal 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE on Tuesday came close to defending the recent comments by ObamaCare consultant Jonathan Gruber, who blamed the law’s passage on the “stupidity of the American voter.”

Sebelius said Gruber was “dead wrong” on the idea that the law was intentionally not transparent, though, she acknowledged that “a lot of Americans have no idea what insurance is about.”

“It’s not because anybody hid it from folks, it’s because this is a complicated product,” she said. Read more here.

 

Wednesday’s schedule:

A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a panel on the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) will keynote a policy forum held by the Bipartisan Policy Center focusing on health IT and patient safety.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will deliver remarks at the White House Tribal Nations Conference.

An advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration will issue a recommendation on whether to ease the ban on blood donations from gay men.

 

State by state:

Poll: Nearly 4 in 10 say California Obamacare exchange not working well

Wyoming governor: Time to act on Medicaid expansion is now

Connecticut insurer adds some health plans without abortion coverage

Texas panel backs Medicaid waiver but not expansion

 

Reading list:

ObamaCare ‘glitch’ puts subsidies out of reach for many families

Pregnant-worker rights at heart of Supreme Court case

OPM outlines policies for new federal health insurance option

 

What you might have missed from The Hill:

HHS: Hospital errors, readmissions drop under ObamaCare

CDC names 35 official Ebola treatment centers

Doctors Without Borders: Global response to Ebola is still ‘dangerously’ inadequate

Jeb Bush calls for an end to votes to repeal ObamaCare

Analysis: Costs rising for specialty drugs on exchanges

 

Please send tips and comments to Sarah Ferris, sferris@thehill.com, and Elise Viebeck, eviebeck@thehill.com.

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