Overnight Health Care: House Dems plan early vote on pre-existing conditions | ObamaCare repeal off the table for now | Dem overtures to Trump on drug pricing worry pharma

Overnight Health Care: House Dems plan early vote on pre-existing conditions | ObamaCare repeal off the table for now | Dem overtures to Trump on drug pricing worry pharma
© Stefani Reynolds

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Overnight Health Care.

With the House in Democratic control starting in January, the biggest threat to ObamaCare will come from the courts and the Trump administration. With control of one chamber, Democrats can defend the law from Republican attacks. And they are going to start as soon as they take power in January.


House Dems plan key early vote on pre-existing conditions

House Democrats think pre-existing conditions powered them to victory on Tuesday, and they're setting up a quick vote on the issue for next year.

A House Democratic aide said the vote would be on a measure to have the House of Representatives formally intervene in an anti-ObamaCare lawsuit to defend the health law.

The politics: The vote could be a tough one for some House Republicans, who pledged repeatedly during the campaign that they supported protections for people with pre-existing conditions.


The measure also doesn't require approval from the Republican Senate, or President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone MORE, since it would only require the House to intervene in the lawsuit.

"Voters across the country have delivered a resounding verdict against Republicans' war on health care," said Henry Connelly, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrump pushes back on impeachment talk: 'Tables are finally turning on the Witch Hunt!' Moulton enters 2020 White House race Trump takes aim at Dem talk of impeachment MORE (Calif.). "The new Democratic House Majority will move swiftly to defend the vital protections for people with people with pre-existing conditions still under legal assault by the GOP."

Read more here.


ObamaCare repeal off the table for now after Dems take House

A new Democratic House majority will shield ObamaCare from congressional Republicans who have been trying to eradicate former President Obama's signature law since 2010.

Tuesday's election results are good news for supporters of the resilient law -- at least for the next couple of years.

Democrats are likely to try passing legislation aimed at shoring up ObamaCare's insurance markets after bipartisan legislation was stymied in the Senate last year.

The biggest threat to the law is now a pending lawsuit filed by 20 Republican attorneys general, and backed by the Trump administration, that seeks to overturn the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions. A federal judge in Texas could rule any day on the case, and while even strident ObamaCare critics say the arguments are weak, supporters don't know what to expect. Yet a ruling against the law's pre-existing condition protections may be what's needed to push the two parties together.

"You can see a case like that lead to a bipartisan push to maintain pre-existing condition protections," said Chris Sloan, a director at the consulting firm Avalere.

Read more here.


Federal panel warns of people losing health coverage in Arkansas from work requirement

The nonpartisan federal Medicaid commission, MACPAC, is jumping into the work requirements debate with a warning to the Trump administration.

A letter from the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) states that the commission is "highly concerned" that 8,462 people have lost their health coverage through Medicaid this year for failing to meet the state's new work requirement.  

The commission, which advises Congress on Medicaid policy, calls for a "pause" in kicking people off Medicaid coverage, saying that more effort is needed to help make people aware of the new rules and help them comply.

The significance: The letter from MACPAC amounts to a warning signal about possible damaging effects of these moves from a nonpartisan government body tasked with analyzing Medicaid and making recommendations.

Read more here.


Dem overtures to Trump on drug pricing worry pharma

The new Democratic House majority combined with President Trump could pose a headache for pharma. But hopes of a bipartisan deal with the president and Democrats have fallen through before.

"Whether this legislation becomes law is very much in the president's hands," said Rep. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettLobbying World Treasury to miss Dem deadline for Trump tax returns Overnight Health Care: Oversight Republicans accuse Dems of partisan drug pricing probe | Democrats struggle to unite behind drug price plan | CDC investigating E. coli outbreak MORE (D-Texas), sponsor of a Medicare negotiation bill in the House along with Welch.

He said presidential leadership would be needed to get through drug company lobbying and resistance in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Mueller report is a deterrent to government service Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age MORE (R-Ky.) has expressed some openness to addressing drug pricing next year, though he did not offer specifics.

"I can't imagine that that won't be on the agenda," McConnell said at a press conference Wednesday.

Read more here.


CDC: Cigarette smoking in adults hits lowest level ever

Cigarette smoking has fallen to its lowest point ever, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the decline is good news for public health, 47 million American adults used a tobacco product in 2017, CDC said.

"This new all-time low in cigarette smoking among U.S. adults is a tremendous public health accomplishment – and it demonstrates the importance of continued proven strategies to reduce smoking," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. "Despite this progress, work remains to reduce the harmful health effects of tobacco use."

The numbers: An estimated 14 percent of U.S. adults (34 million) were current ("every day" or "some day") cigarette smokers in 2017, a decrease from 15.5 in 2016, and a 67 percent decline since 1965. Young adults experienced a noted decline: about 10 percent of young adults aged 18 to 24 years smoked cigarettes in 2017, down from 13 percent in 2016.

Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States, and is responsible for the overwhelming burden of death and disease from tobacco use, CDC said. Cigarette smoking kills an estimated 480,000 Americans each year, and about 16 million Americans suffer from a smoking-related illness.


What we're reading:

The costs of heroin and naloxone: a tragic snapshot of the opioid crisis (STAT)

NRA opens social media war with doctors over firearms (NBC News)

CMS will tweak, not overhaul, Medicaid managed care (Modern Healthcare)


State by state:

When Medicaid expands, more people vote (The New York Times)

Medicaid expansion? School funding? Kelly's plans face skeptical GOP legislature (The Wichita Eagle)

Measure to cap dialysis profits pummeled after record spending by industry (California Healthline)