Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids

Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids
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More than 3.6 million people have signed up for ObamaCare plans during the first month of open enrollment, according to new numbers released Wednesday by the Trump administration.

In week five of open enrollment, which spanned from Nov. 26 through Dec. 2, 823,000 people signed up for plans, including 271,200 new customers.

That's up from week four of enrollment, when 504,000 people signed up and week 3 when just under 800,000 people signed up.

People are still enrolling for plans at a faster rate than last year. This time last year, 2.9 million people had signed up for plans. But because open enrollment is only half as long as it was last year, the number of total people who sign up could fall short of previous years.


Open enrollment ends Dec. 15.

The strong numbers so far come despite cuts the Trump administration made to ObamaCare's advertising and outreach budget.

Read more here.


House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal

The conservative House Freedom Caucus and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi calls on Ryan to bring long-term Violence Against Women Act to floor Juan Williams: America warms up to socialism Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Wis.) are inching closer toward a deal to avert a shutdown and fund the government through Dec. 22, though some sticking points still remain.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsGraham to renew call for second special counsel Hillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests Graham: Obama, not Trump, politicized DOJ and FBI MORE (R-N.C.) and the group's former leader, Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan says FBI used 'crushing power of the state' to probe Trump campaign based on dossier GOP lawmakers nearing deal to get Nellie Ohr to testify The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil MORE (R-Ohio), emerged from a meeting in Ryan's office Wednesday morning saying they are making progress on a deal and have had productive discussions with leadership.

"We're still working hard to try to get to an agreement. We're making good progress," he added. "Nothing's decided yet."

While the conservative bloc had pushed for a continuing resolution that funds the government past Christmas, they appear to be open to a spending bill through Dec. 22. Current funding for fiscal 2018 runs out Friday at midnight.

Now, Meadows said, the debate is centered on the game plan after Dec. 22, when Congress will likely need to pass another short-term spending bill to keep the government's lights on into the new year.

Read more here.


Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday said House Republicans will aim to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs next year as a way to trim the federal deficit.

"We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit," Ryan said during an interview on Ross Kaminsky's talk radio show.

Health-care entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid "are the big drivers of debt," Ryan said, "so we spend more time on the health care entitlements, because that's really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking."

Ryan said he's been speaking privately with President Trump, who is beginning to warm to the idea of slowing the spending growth in entitlements.

During his campaign, Trump repeatedly promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.

"I think the president is understanding choice and competition works everywhere, especially in Medicare," Ryan said.

Read more here.


Dems push for more funding in opioid fight

Top Democrats are pushing for additional federal dollars to combat the opioid epidemic, saying more money is needed to curb the crisis killing thousands of Americans each year.

Democrats have indicated that additional opioid funding will be one of several top priorities the party is pushing for in a larger spending deal. But Republicans haven't matched their rhetoric, making it unclear if additional dollars will come in a spending package.  

"We've done a lot, put a lot of resources into combatting opioids already," the Senate's No. 3 Republican, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph Thune Google, Apple, Amazon execs to testify at Senate privacy hearing this month Trump gets good news on wages Flake rebuts Trump: Anonymous op-ed author did not commit 'treason' MORE (S.D.), said. "If they've got a proposal, I'm sure we would take a look at it, but I don't know that that's at least on the agenda at the moment."

In late October, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. The move didn't come with millions of dollars nor did it include a funding request to Congress, though talks with lawmakers are continuing.

Read more here.


National health care spending hit $3.3 trillion in 2016

Overall national health spending grew by 4.3 percent in 2016 to $3.3 trillion, according to a new report from the federal government.

The report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services shows that health care spending growth slowed in 2016 compared to 5.1 percent and 5.8 percent growth in 2014 and 2015.

"Basically, we saw two major things happening in 2014 and 2015. We had the enrollment expansion that impacted Medicaid and private health insurance with 10.2 million and 8.7 million people gaining coverage," a CMS official told reporters Wednesday.

"In addition, in 2014 and 2015 we saw strong and rapid spending growth in retail prescription drugs."

Read more here.


Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums

Two bipartisan ObamaCare fixes being pushed by GOP Sen. Susan Collins(Maine) would reduce premiums by 18 percent in 2019, according to a new study.

The study from Avalere, a consulting firm, finds that the two bills would more than cancel out the projected premium increase from repealing ObamaCare's mandate that most individuals purchase health insurance.

Collins secured a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify McConnell rips Democrats for handling of Kavanaugh nomination Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (R-Ky.) to support passage of the two bills before the end of the year in exchange for her vote for tax reform, which includes repeal of the ObamaCare mandate.

The two bills provide funding for payments to insurers, known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), and for "reinsurance," which is money to pay for the costs of sick enrollees and bring down premiums.

Read more here.


What we're reading

CVS's Aetna takeover comes with a $2.1 billion termination fee (Bloomberg)

Biotech hedge fund titan Sam Isaly harassed, demeaned women for years, former employees say (Stat News)

Providers see CMS continuing value-based care push despite project rollbacks (Morning Consult)


State by state

Louisiana Medicaid program running under budget (AP)

Hickenlooper says he's frustrated, baffled that Congress hasn't renewed Children's Health Insurance Program (The Denver Post)

Disabled Iowans' Medicaid lawsuit against state suffers legal setbacks (Des Moines Register)


From The Hill's opinion pages

The tax bill endangers millions of lives

Despite new branding, abstinence only programs don't work