Overnight Health Care: ObamaCare enrollment drops 3.7 percent for 2018, health group says | Senate Dems push to expand ObamaCare subsidies | Budget deal includes opioid funds

Overnight Health Care: ObamaCare enrollment drops 3.7 percent for 2018, health group says | Senate Dems push to expand ObamaCare subsidies | Budget deal includes opioid funds

ObamaCare saw a 3.7 percent drop in enrollment in 2018 compared to the year before, according to new numbers released Wednesday from a health-care group that says the relatively minor decline demonstrates "remarkable stability."

The national total of consumers who selected ObamaCare plans during this year's open enrollment period was 11.8 million, compared to 12.2 million who signed up for plans in 2017.

Experts and advocates of ObamaCare had expected a bigger drop in enrollment, mainly due to attacks on the system from the Trump White House.


The administration slashed the advertising budget for open enrollment by 90 percent and also cut funds for local groups that help people sign up for coverage.

The final numbers released Wednesday, however, show the ObamaCare remains stable in the face of "national uncertainty," says the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), the group that released the numbers.

Read more here.


Senate Dems push for expansion of ObamaCare subsidies

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — FDA restricts sales of flavored e-cigs | Proposes ban on menthol in tobacco | Left wants vote on single-payer bill in new Congress | More than 12k lost Medicaid in Arkansas Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle MORE (D-Wash.) is pushing for major changes to an agreement on an ObamaCare fix, including an expansion of subsidies under the health-care law.

Murray, who is leading negotiations for Senate Democrats on the issue, wants to increase the ObamaCare tax credits that help people afford coverage, according to a Senate Democratic aide. That would be a significant expansion of ObamaCare that could help make premiums more affordable for many people.

The changes are a major step beyond the original deal between her and Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing plan | Pfizer to raise prices on 41 drugs next year | Grassley opts for Finance gavel GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing proposal Congress needs to wake up to nuclear security threat MORE (R-Tenn.), which would have mainly restored separate payments to insurers that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Trump discussing visit overseas to troops following criticism: report Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation MORE canceled last year.

Murray wants to both make the subsidies more generous for people who currently qualify for them, and expand eligibility so that people who currently make too much income to qualify would now be eligible for subsidies, the aide said.

Read more here.


Budget deal includes $6 billion to fight opioid abuse

A bipartisan Senate budget deal includes $6 billion for opioid addiction and mental health, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFacebook reeling after damning NYT report Schumer warns Trump to stay out of government funding negotiations Schumer predicts Nelson will 'continue being senator' if 'every vote counted' MORE (D-N.Y.) said.

Advocates have been calling for more funding to combat the increasing deaths from opioid overdoses, which are now killing more Americans than car accidents.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Senate banking panel showcases 2020 Dems | Koch groups urge Congress not to renew tax breaks | Dow down nearly 400 | Cuomo defends Amazon HQ2 deal GOP senator accuses fellow Republican of spreading ‘fake news’ about criminal justice reform bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - New White House threat to Acosta's press pass | Trump defends criticism of McRaven | Hamilton biographer to headline WHCA dinner MORE (R-Ky.) and Schumer announced the deal on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon.

"This agreement will also bolster our ongoing national struggle against opioid addiction and substance abuse," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "It will fund new grants, prevention programs and law enforcement efforts in vulnerable communities all across our country."

Read more here.


Budget deal will fully fund Puerto Rico Medicaid for two years

Puerto Rico's representative in Congress said Wednesday that island's public health-care costs will be covered for two years as part of a proposed two-year budget deal announced in the Senate.

Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón (R-P.R.) said in a statement on Facebook that the proposal would inject $4.9 billion into Puerto Rico's health-care system, covering 100 percent of Medicaid costs during that period.

"That eliminates the concern of a Medicaid cliff," she said in Spanish.

Read more here.


Senate deal would fund children's health insurance, community health centers

The Senate budget deal would also fund the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for an additional four years and community health centers for two years.

A stopgap funding measure passed by Congress earlier this month only funded CHIP for six years, but the spending deal announced Wednesday would tack on another four years of funding.

Funding for both programs expired in September, but Congress still hasn't addressed funding for community health centers, which serve 26 million low-income Americans.  

Read more here.


Planned Parenthood begins search to replace Cecile Richards

Planned Parenthood is kicking off its search to replace departing President Cecile Richards, the organization's board of directors announced Wednesday.

Former Planned Parenthood board member Anna Quindlen was elected to lead the group's search committee for a new president. The committee also includes members of Planned Parenthood's board and CEOs from affiliates in Ohio, Florida and Minnesota.

"We are confident that our leadership at the national office and at Planned Parenthood affiliates will maintain the organization's momentum as we search for a new president to replace the outstanding and dynamic leadership of Cecile Richards," Board Chairwoman Naomi Aberly said in a statement.

Read more here.


Abortion fights loom in states

Both sides of the abortion rights debate are preparing for a busy year of fights over when and how abortions may be performed in states across the country -- and both sides are developing a long-term strategy that could involve a new challenge to Roe v. Wade.

While it is still early in the year, several measures seeking to limit abortion rights have already advanced in Republican-dominated states.

Mississippi's state House passed a bill on Friday that would ban abortions more than 15 weeks after conception, a bill that would amount to the strictest limit in any state. Twenty other states ban abortions more than 20 weeks after conception, and Missouri's state legislature will consider a similar bill this month.

Other states are likely to take up bills aimed at banning abortions on the basis of fetal anomalies such as Down syndrome. Bills to ban those procedures have been introduced in Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Utah -- all states where Republicans hold control of both legislative chambers.

Read more here.


What we're reading

Why a simple, lifesaving rabies shot can cost $10,000 in America (Vox)

Humana boosts fourth-quarter revenue with higher Medicare Advantage premiums (Modern Healthcare)

Andy Slavitt launches push for affordable health care (Minneapolis Star Tribune)


State by state

Georgia Senate backs opioid and health care proposals (Associated Press)

Medicaid bill would require 'able-bodied' Iowa adults to work or study (Des Moines Register)

Nebraska state workers could get new health care option (The North Platte Telegraph)