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Overnight Health Care: Senate tax bill to include ObamaCare mandate repeal | Dems seize on new ObamaCare fight | CBO warns tax bill could spur $25B in Medicare cuts

Overnight Health Care: Senate tax bill to include ObamaCare mandate repeal | Dems seize on new ObamaCare fight | CBO warns tax bill could spur $25B in Medicare cuts
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellEx-lawmaker urges Americans to publicly confront officials Manchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia Democrats slide in battle for Senate MORE (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that the Senate tax bill will include language to repeal ObamaCare's individual mandate, which could make it tougher for moderate Republicans to support.

Conservatives led by GOP Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP warns economy will tank if Dems win Ex-lawmaker urges Americans to publicly confront officials O'Rourke on calling Cruz 'Lyin' Ted': 'That wasn't the best phrase for me to use' MORE (Texas), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulErdoğan: Turkey to announce findings of Khashoggi investigation on Tuesday Lawmakers point fingers at Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi's death Rand Paul: Saudi explanation of Khashoggi's death 'insulting' MORE (Ky.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonFlake: Congress should not continue Kavanaugh investigations GOP senator suspects Schumer of being behind release of Ford letter Susan Collins becomes top 2020 target for Dems MORE (Ark.) pushed hard to include the provision, which would eliminate the federal penalty on people who do not buy health insurance. President Trump has also pushed for the provision to be part of the tax bill.

McConnell told reporters that adding the individual mandate repeal will make it easier to muster 50 votes to pass the bill.

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"We're optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful and that's obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans as well," McConnell said.

It will raise an estimated $300 billion to $400 billion over the next year that could be used to pay for lowering individual and business tax rates even further.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Through a national commitment to youth sports, we can break the obesity cycle Florida politics play into disaster relief debate MORE (S.D.), the Senate's No. 3 Republican, told reporters there has been a whip count and he is confident Republicans can pass a tax bill that includes a measure to repeal the mandate.

Thune said a compromise bill negotiated by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers MORE (D-Wash.), aimed at stabilizing ObamaCare markets, would be brought up separately. That bill funds key payments to insurers for two years in exchange for more flexibility for states to change ObamaCare rules.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerManchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' MORE (D-N.Y.) blasted the move to include repeal, saying in a statement, "Republicans just can't help themselves. They're so determined to provide tax giveaways to the rich that they're willing to raise premiums on millions of middle-class Americans and kick 13 million people off their health care."

Read more here.

 

Health groups urge Congress not to repeal ObamaCare mandate 

A coalition of health-care groups is calling on House and Senate leaders not to repeal ObamaCare's individual mandate as part of the GOP tax-reform bill.

Hospitals, doctors and insurers urged Congress in a letter sent Tuesday to keep the individual mandate "unless and until Congress can enact a package of reforms to adequately assure a balanced risk pool and prevent extraordinary premium increases."

The letter was sent by some of the top health groups in the country: America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the Federation of American Hospitals.

Read more here.

 

Dems seize on renewed ObamaCare fight

Senate Democrats are quickly taking aim at Republicans' decision to add a repeal of ObamaCare's individual mandate into their tax-reform bill as they look for leverage in the looming fight.

The GOP move to link health care to their proposal immediately added new life to the tax battle, with Democrats seizing on the development as a key part of their messaging war.

"GOP is tying themselves in a knot. They're cutting taxes on the wealthy [and] taking health care away from millions [and] raising the premiums of millions [of] others all to help reduce taxes on the rich. Does that sound familiar?" Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

He added that Republicans are throwing the "health care system into chaos."

Schumer was quickly echoed by several other Democratic senators, who panned Republicans' decision.

"As the saying goes, the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoKavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight Chris Cuomo: Presumption of innocence didn't apply to Kavanaugh because it wasn't a court case Lindsey Graham hits Dem senator: 'The Hirono standard is horrific' MORE (D-Hawaii) said.

Read more here.

 

GOP tax bill could spur $25 billion in Medicare cuts: CBO

The GOP tax bill could trigger automatic cuts worth $136 billion from mandatory spending in 2018, including $25 billion in Medicare cuts, if Congress doesn't find another way to offset its deficit increases, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

The tax bill would add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the deficit over a decade. Congressional "pay-as-you-go" rules, called pay-go, require that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) automatically cut mandatory spending if legislation increases the deficit beyond a certain point.

"Without enacting subsequent legislation to either offset that deficit increase, waive the recordation of the bill's impact on the scorecard, or otherwise mitigate or eliminate the requirements of the [pay-go] law, OMB would be required to issue a sequestration order within 15 days of the end of the session of Congress to reduce spending in fiscal year 2018 by the resultant total of $136 billion," CBO wrote on Tuesday.

Medicare can only be cut by a maximum of 4 percent through the pay-go rules, however, which amounts to $25 billion in cuts.

Read more here.

 

House Dems seek answers on NIH funding and gun violence

House Democrats want to know if the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has cut off funding for a program dedicated to studying gun violence.

In a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins, Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneDems eye ambitious agenda if House flips Hillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence House Democrat questions big tech on possible foreign influence in Kavanaugh debate MORE (D-N.J.) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) asked if the NIH has discontinued the gun violence research program, and if so, why.

"This funding was critical because the difficulty in obtaining federal research funding has limited the number of current researchers and the development of the next generation of researchers focused on gun violence prevention," the lawmakers wrote.

Following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, President Obama directed health agencies to begin funding research into firearms. The NIH awarded a total of $18 million for nearly two dozen research projects.

But the funding expired in January and the agency has yet to renew it.

The Dickey Amendment, which was inserted into a congressional spending bill in 1996, has effectively stopped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence.

Read more here.

 

Op-eds in The Hill 

Leave drug safety to the FDA, not the assistant secretary of defense

Trump's HHS pick shows that big pharma is taking over our health system 

 

What we're reading

Hospital groups sue HHS over planned 340B drug payment cuts (modernhealthcare.com)

Trump's health pick isn't likely to shy away from topic of sky-high medication prices (Bloomberg)

Lawmakers try to catch up with genetic engineering (Stat)

 

State by state 

Some states roll back 'retroactive Medicaid,' a buffer for the poor -- and hospitals (Kaiser Health News)

Trump administration promotes new Medicaid flexibility in Utah (Salt Lake Tribune)

Health authority director: More Oregon Medicaid problems ahead (Associated Press)