Overnight Health Care: Dems blame 'sabotage' as ObamaCare enrollment slows | Conservative groups oppose Trump drug price measure | CVS, Aetna close $70B merger

Overnight Health Care: Dems blame 'sabotage' as ObamaCare enrollment slows | Conservative groups oppose Trump drug price measure | CVS, Aetna close $70B merger
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

ObamaCare's open enrollment period is more than halfway over and numbers are down. Democrats are blaming Trump.

Meanwhile, Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Political 'solutions' to surprise medical billing will make the problem worse On The Money: Labor secretary under fire over Epstein plea deal | Trump defends Acosta as Dems call for ouster | Biden releases tax returns showing steep rise in income | Tech giants to testify at House antitrust hearing MORE (D-Wash.) wants to revive a bipartisan effort to stabilize the health law, and CVS and Aetna have completed their multi-billion dollar mega merger.

We'll start with new ObamaCare enrollment numbers:

 

Top Dems blame 'sabotage' as ObamaCare enrollment slows

ObamaCare enrollment so far is lagging behind last year by about 11 percent, and Democrats are blaming President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE.

"While there are still two weeks remaining in Open Enrollment, these lagging numbers show that Republicans' sabotage of our nation's health care system is working," said Reps. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealFinish the work of building a renewable fuels industry Tlaib blasts Foreign Affairs Committee's anti-BDS bill as 'unconstitutional' Top Republican offers resolution following Trump tax return lawsuit MORE (D-Mass.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottA minimum wage is exactly what our economy needs This week: House Democrats voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt CBO report should spike minimum wage legislation MORE (D-Va.), the incoming chairmen of committees overseeing the Affordable Care Act.

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The Trump administration announced earlier Wednesday that 500,437 people signed up for ObamaCare coverage in the fourth week of the sign-up period, which ends Dec. 15.

Experts say that actions taken by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans will reduce enrollment, though the extent remains to be seen. For example, 2019 is the first year that the mandate to have coverage will not be in effect after Republicans repealed it in the tax law last year.

Caveat: The sign-up period is not over until Dec. 15, and there is usually a surge in enrollments in the final days.

Read more here.

 

Remember Alexander-Murray? Murray wants to try again

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Wednesday called for reviving bipartisan efforts to reach a deal to fix ObamaCare after an agreement she was part of collapsed last year.

"Mr. Chairman, I'm really hopeful that we can revive discussions in the new Congress and find a way past the ideological standoffs of the past," Murray said to Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Republicans make U-turn on health care Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid MORE (R-Tenn.), her Republican partner in forging last year's deal, at a hearing on health care costs.

The deal last year, which came to be known as Alexander-Murray, sought to lower premiums and stabilize the ObamaCare markets, but was stalled for months amid the bitter partisan divide over the health law and a dispute about including abortion restrictions on the funding in the bill.

Alexander on Wednesday expressed skepticism about the ability to reach a new agreement, but said he is willing to try if Murray wants to.

"We can revisit the so-called Alexander-Murray proposal if you would like," Alexander said, but added that Democrats opposed the previous version, in his view, because they would not support restrictions on abortion funding known as the Hyde Amendment.

Read more here.

 

Conservative groups write letter opposing Trump move to lower drug prices

There's starting to be some more resistance among Republicans to President Trump's drug pricing move in October, which broke from Republican orthodoxy.

The letter from 55 groups warns that the administration's proposal "imports foreign price controls into the U.S."

It was signed by leaders of prominent conservative groups such as Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks and the American Conservative Union.

"The U.S. is a world leader in research & development because the system of healthcare rejects price controls and encourages innovation," the conservatives' letter states.

On Capitol Hill: Most GOP lawmakers have been pretty quiet on the proposal, but GOP Rep. Larry BucshonLarry Dean Bucshon Trump unveils plan to help kidney patients in push to lower health costs House Republican: Disclosing drug prices in TV ads 'doesn't help the consumer very much' GOP lawmaker has 'a lot of concerns' over coverage if ObamaCare is overturned MORE (Ind.) did criticize Trump's move to The Hill earlier this month.  

Read more about the growing opposition here.

 

CVS, Aetna complete $70 billion merger

CVS completed its acquisition of Aetna on Wednesday, officially creating a health-care powerhouse.

The deal between one of the country's largest insurers and one of the largest pharmacy benefit managers was a year in the making. The companies said the merger will usher in a new era of reduced costs to patients.

"By delivering the combined capabilities of our two leading organizations, we will transform the consumer health experience and build healthier communities through a new innovative health care model that is local, easier to use, less expensive and puts consumers at the center of their care," said CVS Health president and CEO Larry J. Merlo.

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

What the ObamaCare fight says about Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting Trump: I don't have a racist bone in my body Ocasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump MORE (Huffington Post)

Stephen Colbert says he'd put on MAGA hat if Trump had 'sensible fix' to ObamaCare (Fox News)

Fewer people are buying ObamaCare plans as Trump pushes other options (Bloomberg)

 

State by state

Top Florida health official resigns from agency overseeing Medicaid, hospitals (Orlando Sentinel)

Kentucky official downplays concern about new Medicaid rules (Associated Press)

State sees fewer health care sign-ups after outreach gutted (Keene Sentinel