Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Momentum for single payer in California? | House voting on opioid bills next week | Trump eyes HHS reorganization
Welcome to Overnight Health Care, sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.
Everyone today was reviewing the results from Super Tuesday, when voters in eight states cast their ballots. And health care watchers kept a close eye on California, where single-payer was a notable issue…
A win for single payer?
Progressive groups are cheering that fact that Democratic candidates supportive of Medicare for All won big last night in California’s Democratic House primaries.
The Progressive Campaign Change Committee (PCCC) notes that all three candidates it endorsed in the California primaries won Tuesday and supported Medicare for All.
From PCCC: “These primaries were a referendum on the popularity of bold economic-populist ideas like Medicare For All, holding Wall Street and Big Insurance companies accountable, and fighting for working families — and those ideas won despite strong opposition by corporate Democrats from their hand-picked candidates. Medicare for All is not just good policy, it’s proving to be a winning strategy that’s fueling the big blue wave.”
Who won: PCCC backed Katie Porter won the Democratic nomination to face Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.). Mike Levin will represent Democrats in the race for retiring Rep. Darrell Issa’s seat and Ammar Campa-Najjar will challenge Rep. Duncan Hunter in November.
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Drugmakers set and raise the price of prescription drugs unrelated to the rebates they negotiate with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). The most direct way for drugmakers to reduce costs and improve access is to simply cut their own prices.
An organizational shakeup at HHS?
Politico reports that HHS could be getting a new name — and some new responsibilities — as part of a proposal the Trump administration is working on.
The name could possibly include “welfare,” as the plan would seek to shift welfare programs like food stamps, currently in the Department of Agriculture, into HHS.
The hitch: The plan would probably face long odds of ever being approved by Congress, especially given that the Agriculture committees could lose power under it. Currently, those congressional committees have oversight over food stamp programs.
The big picture: The plan could fit with administration priorities around reforming welfare programs, though. The administration has sought to impose work requirements on a variety of programs that are currently housed under different departments.
For example, HHS for the first time under President Trump is allowing states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. Some Republicans characterize Medicaid as “welfare,” a term that Democrats reject for the program.
House to vote on opioid bills next week (OK, and the week after too)
The House’s long push for opioid legislation will reach a climax next week when the House starts voting on dozens of bills over a two-week period.
Many of the bills are relatively minor on their own, but they seek to fight the epidemic of opioid overdoses in a variety of ways.
One to watch: A bill from Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) lifts some limits on Medicaid paying for care at treatment facilities for people with opioid addiction, something known as the IMD exclusion, a long-held goal for many advocates.
Electoral angle: Walters is facing a tough reelection, and many lawmakers could seek to tout these opioid bills in their campaigns.
A final list of bills being considered has not been released. Other legislation that could be considered includes encouraging research on non-addictive painkillers, requiring electronic prescribing as a way to better track prescriptions and giving authorities new tools to intercept imports of illicit opioids.
Schumer wants Senate spotlight on health care this August
Senate Democrats want to take their effort to call attention to rising ObamaCare premiums and blame them on Republicans to a new stage this August.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released Wednesday that the GOP leader should dedicate August to “considering legislation that would lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs.”
Background: The letter came a day after McConnell cancelled the August recess to spend more time moving Trump’s nominees and working on government funding legislation. The decision also keeps Democrats up for reelection in Washington longer.
But back to the health care. Democrats ideas include legislation to:
- Cut prescription drug costs, including allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices
- Increase the generosity of ObamaCare subsidies
- Provide funding known as reinsurance to lower premiums
- Allow people to buy into Medicare at age 55
- Incentivize remaining states to expand Medicaid
Ok, seriously: It’s safe to say Republicans are not going to be taking these ideas up, but the calls provide a messaging opportunity for Democrats.
More on the back and forth between McConnell and Schumer here.
- Some good news in the fight against the new Ebola epidemic. Early signs suggest that an Ebola outbreak in Congo, which has killed 27 people since erupting in a remote rural village two months ago, is being contained before it can spread further.
- San Francisco voters on Tuesday approved a controversial ban on flavored tobacco products, which was passed by the board of supervisors last year. Sixty-eight percent of city voters backed Measure E, which would ban the sale of flavored cigarettes, vaping products, cigars and smokeless tobacco.
- And more single-payer news, this time from Michigan, where a former physician and Detroit health director who is running for governor, released his plan for a statewide universal health-care system on Wednesday. Our story is here and you can find his plan here.
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The Congressional Budget Office’s $43 billion score of point-of-sale rebates in Medicare Part D is the latest in a series of official estimates showing this mandate would increase costs for the government and taxpayers. This score strikes the third blow to the drugmakers’ multi-million dollar campaign to shift blame for their own prices onto the health plans and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that negotiate discounts and rebates to reduce costs.
What we’re reading
Experimental Ebola treatments approved for the Democratic Republic of Congo (Wall Street Journal)
Why it’s hard to keep voters scared about Obamacare repeal (Vox.com)
Price check on drug ads: would revealing costs help patients control spending? (Kaiser Health News)
State by state
Bill forcing Michigan Medicaid recipients to work nears final OK (Detroit Free Press)
Democrats avert disaster in California (U.S. News & World Report)
In red-hot Kentucky race, abortion rights groups are kept at a distance (McClatchy)
The Hill op-eds
Benefits of CVS/Aetna merger far outweigh the costs
Trump signs VA Mission Act — this is a health care win for vets
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