Overnight Health Care: Conservatives brace for ObamaCare payments in funding bill | FDA chief blames 'rigged' system for drug costs | Ellison replaces Conyers on Dem single-payer bill

Overnight Health Care: Conservatives brace for ObamaCare payments in funding bill | FDA chief blames 'rigged' system for drug costs | Ellison replaces Conyers on Dem single-payer bill
© Greg Nash

House conservatives brace for ObamaCare payments in funding bill

House conservatives are bracing for ObamaCare payments to be included in a coming government funding bill, despite their opposition.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday that he expects the controversial ObamaCare payments aimed at stabilizing markets to be included in the omnibus government funding bill, which must pass by March 23 to avoid a shutdown.


While conservatives have long objected to the payments, the omnibus is expected to pass with significant Democratic support, limiting their ability to stop them.

Meadows on Wednesday seemed almost resigned to the payments being included.

Asked if he had concerns, Meadows told reporters, "Well, I don't think that they're counting on our votes to pass the omnibus."

Some members of both parties argue that making the ObamaCare payments would help bring down premiums and stabilize the market.

Many electorally vulnerable House Republicans are supporting the payments, and some observers note that without the money, Republicans could be blamed for premium increases announced in October, a month before the midterm elections.

Read more here.



FDA chief blames 'rigged' system for high drug costs

Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on Wednesday criticized what he called a "rigged" system that keeps some generic drugs off the market and leaves patients paying high costs.

Complex and secret deals between drug distributors, pharmacies, insurers and other key players have kept less expensive drugs off the market, he argued during a speech at a conference Wednesday for major health insurance companies.

"The rigged payment scheme might quite literally scare competition out of the market altogether," Gottlieb said.

"I fear that's already happening."

Read more here.


Ellison replaces Conyers on Dem single-payer bill

Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonProgressives unveil Biden Cabinet wish list Officers involved with George Floyd killing will stand trial together in Minneapolis, judge decides Trump lashes out at state officials over virus restrictions at Minnesota rally MORE (D-Minn.) has replaced former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersBiden's immigration plan has serious problems Tlaib wins Michigan Democratic primary Tlaib holds lead in early vote count against primary challenger MORE Jr. as the main sponsor of the House Democrats' single-payer health-care bill.

Ellison on Wednesday received unanimous consent from the House to assume leadership of H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, which has the support of a majority of the House Democratic Caucus.

Conyers had introduced a version of the single-payer bill every year since 2003, but he resigned in December over sexual misconduct allegations, leaving no obvious candidates to take over stewardship of the bill.

In a floor speech Wednesday, Ellison said he has the support of his former colleague "for picking up the mantle where he left off."

Ellison also received the support of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere MORE (I-Vt.), a pioneer of "Medicare for All" in the Senate. His legislation has 16 Democratic co-sponsors; the House bill has 121.

Read more here.



Opioid crisis spurs push for Medicaid funds

Doctors, governors and health-care advocates are pressing Congress to lift a decades-old rule that greatly restricts Medicaid from being used to fund care for opioid addiction.

Lifting the limits could help thousands of people -- but could cost as much as tens of billions of dollars over a decade, a daunting sum to try to pay for.

Lawmakers are nonetheless talking about including at least a partial lifting of the limits in broader opioid legislation that could come to the House floor by Memorial Day.

While conservatives are not dismissing the idea, saying they recognize the need to fight the opioid epidemic, any discussion of ways to pay for the expensive change would be challenging.

"We're always concerned with additional spending," said Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerNorth Carolina's Mark Walker expected to announce Senate bid Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report House GOP votes to keep leaders in place MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. But he did not slam the door on the idea either.


Read more here.


Oklahoma exploring plan for Medicaid work requirement

Oklahoma will develop a plan within the next six months on how to add work requirements into its Medicaid program.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Tuesday issued an executive order requiring the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which manages the state's Medicaid program, to file the plans to her and the state legislature.

Oklahoma joins a list of more than 10 states that have expressed interest in adding the requirement -- or have already received federal approval -- that people who are getting Medicaid benefits work or participate in other activities, such as job training and volunteering.

The Trump administration has approved work requirements in three states: Indiana, Kentucky and Arkansas. Each state expanded Medicaid to more people under ObamaCare; Oklahoma has not chosen to participate in the law's Medicaid expansion.


Read more here.


Dem AGs rip Trump proposal on association health plans

A coalition of 17 Democratic state attorneys general is blasting a proposed Trump administration rule to allow health plans to circumvent certain ObamaCare rules.

The group, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, said the proposal is a thinly veiled attempt to undermine the health-care law.

The proposal "is nothing more than an unlawful end run around the consumer protections enshrined in the Affordable Care Act, part of President Trump's continued efforts to sabotage the ACA," Schneiderman said in a statement.

In a formal comment letter, the group called on the Labor Department to hold public hearings on the impact of the proposal before finalizing any changes.

Under the proposal released in January, small businesses and self-employed individuals would be allowed to join together in what are known as "association health plans" (AHPs).

Read more here.


What we're reading:

Male doctors are disappearing from gynecology. Not everybody is thrilled about it (Los Angeles Times)

FDA receives new reports of issues with Essure birth control device (Reuters)

How the 'right-to-try' movement muscled its way into Washington (Stat)


State by state:

Florida's governor will sign bill expanding workers' comp benefits for first responders (ProPublica)

Massaschusetts endorses hospital merger (Becker's Hospital Review)

One state forces opioid abusers to get help. Will others follow? (Stateline)


From The Hill's opinion page:

White House opioid summit failed to deliver any real solution