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 MurraySen. Murray says Washington behavior reminds her of former preschool students Senate rejects government-wide ban on abortion funding Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal 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 TrumpSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Ann Coulter blasts Trump shutdown compromise: ‘We voted for Trump and got Jeb!’ 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 NealOn The Money: Trump teases 'major announcement' Saturday on shutdown | Fight with Dems intensifies | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking trip to Afghanistan | Mnuchin refuses to testify on shutdown impacts Mnuchin refuses to testify at hearing on shutdown impacts On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (D-Mass.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour Hopes fade for bipartisan bills in age of confrontation House Dems to introduce minimum wage bill MORE (D-Va.), the incoming chairmen of committees overseeing the Affordable Care Act.


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 AlexanderMcConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks GOP senators propose bill to pay 'excepted' workers during shutdown 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 BucshonGOP balks at Trump drug pricing plan Overnight Health Care: Trump officials allow states to loosen ObamaCare coverage requirements | GOP lawmakers air concerns with Trump drug price plan | Dem single-payer fight shifting to battle over Medicare 'buy-in' | US life expectancy falls GOP lawmakers air concerns with Trump drug pricing move in meeting with health chief 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Rove warns Senate GOP: Don't put only focus on base Senate to take up Trump's border-immigration plan next week 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