Overnight Health Care: Senators urge vote on delaying health insurance tax | Joe Kennedy III 'hopeful' he can back 'Medicare for all' bill | Latest Ebola outbreak becomes world's 2nd-worst

Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care.

Democrats don't take control of the House until January, but talks are going on behind the scenes about Medicare-for-all, and Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyDemocrats see fundraising spike following Ginsburg death Massachusetts town clerk resigns after delays to primary vote count Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration MORE III has some words of caution. Meanwhile, the Ebola crisis is worsening, and GOP lawmakers are pushing back against a recent administration drug-pricing move.  

 

Joe Kennedy III 'hopeful' he can support revised 'Medicare for all' bill next year 

Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) says he "would hope" to be able to support a revised "Medicare for all" bill next year, but said he has concerns with the current version of the bill.

Adding Kennedy as a co-sponsor of the Medicare for all bill would be a major boost in momentum for the effort, bringing on board a rising Democratic star whose legendary family has long been a leader in the push for universal health care.

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Kennedy is under pressure from progressives to support the bill, but he has concerns that he wants addressed before signing on. Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Progressive Caucus co-chair: Whistleblower complaint raises questions about 'entire detention system' Buttigieg, former officials added to Biden's transition team MORE (D-Wash.) is working on a revised version of the bill to introduce in the new session of Congress in January.

What does he want to see? In an interview with The Hill, Kennedy cited concerns about unintentional restrictions on abortion funding, and provisions that could negatively affect investor-owned hospitals, which include Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts.

More broadly, he says the bill needs more vetting and detail, including spelling out how it would be paid for, and how its system of payment to doctors and hospitals would work.

Bottom line: The comments are a note of caution to progressives, who are energized at the prospect of voting on a Medicare for all bill now that Democrats have won back the House.

Kennedy said he "absolutely" supports the idea of single-payer health insurance, which has the government provide health insurance for everyone. But he pointed to Republicans' failure to repeal ObamaCare last year as a warning. Details matter, he said, and a well thought-out plan is needed.

Read more of Kennedy's thoughts here.

 

Ebola outbreak in Congo grows to become world's 2nd-worst

The Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is worsening, and is now the second-largest epidemic of the deadly disease in modern history.

Public health officials are struggling to contain its spread. Congo's health ministry have identified at least 426 cases of the Ebola virus, and of those infected, 245 are dead.

That number surpasses a 2000-2001 outbreak in neighboring Uganda, in which 425 people were infected and 224 died. The worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history began in 2013 in the West African nation of Guinea, where it spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone and infected more than 28,000 people.

Public health experts say the outbreak in Congo's North Kivu and Ituri provinces has been difficult to contain because of a combination of insecurity in a region where dozens of armed rebel groups operate freely and community distrust of the government.

North Kivu is home to more than 8 million people. More than a million of those residents are internally displaced by decades-long ethnic violence.

Read more here.

 

GOP senator wants to overhaul work requirements for benefit program

Montana Republican Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Will Republicans' rank hypocrisy hinder their rush to replace Ginsburg? Toobin: McConnell engaging in 'greatest act of hypocrisy in American political history' with Ginsburg replacement vote MORE has introduced legislation that would put in place stronger work requirements for low-income people who receive benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Under the current law, states must require a recipient to engage in work activities and must either reduce or end benefits if the individual does not meet the requirements. However, Daines said that many states have "exploited loopholes to circumvent work requirements while diverting TANF funds for other purposes."

The law requires states to engage 50 percent of all families and 90 percent of two-parent families with "work-eligible individuals" in work activities, though these standards can be reduced by "credits." As a result, the standards are usually less than what's written into the law and vary by state.

Daines' bill requires everyone to be working or seeking work. The legislation is modeled after a similar bill that passed the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this year, and was praised by conservative groups.

However, the House bill passed the committee on a party line vote and has yet to advance to the floor.

TANF funding expires with the continuing resolution on Dec. 7, so it's likely to be extended with the next government funding bill. But work requirements are controversial, and when Democrats take over the House next year, their TANF reform bill could look very different. A compromise will likely be needed before anything can advance to the White House.

 

GOP lawmakers air concerns with Trump drug pricing move in meeting with health chief

Republican lawmakers who worked as doctors expressed their concerns about President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll Trump dismisses climate change role in fires, says Newsom needs to manage forest better Jimmy Kimmel hits Trump for rallies while hosting Emmy Awards MORE's controversial proposal to lower drug prices with the president's health chief Thursday.

The lawmakers in the GOP Doctors Caucus questioned Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the meeting about a proposal Trump put forward in October to lower certain Medicare drug prices by tying them to lower prices paid in other countries.

The proposal was a dramatic departure from the usual Republican position on drug prices, and drew some mild praise from Democrats. But now GOP lawmakers are airing concerns, with some saying the move is too close to price controls.

Read more here.

 

Senators urge vote on health insurance tax delay during lame-duck

A small bipartisan group of senators are urging leadership to extend a delay of ObamaCare's health insurance tax before the end of the lame-duck session.

The health insurance tax has been criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for driving up premiums.

Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoMurkowski: Supreme Court nominee should not be taken up before election Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight Sunday shows - Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death dominates MORE (R-Wyo.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Will Republicans' rank hypocrisy hinder their rush to replace Ginsburg? Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 MORE (R-Colo.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSenate Democrats introduce bill to sanction Russians over Taliban bounties Trump-backed candidate wins NH GOP Senate primary to take on Shaheen Democratic senator urges Trump to respond to Russian aggression MORE (D-N.H.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) wrote in a letter to Senate leadership that they want that moratorium extended. The health insurance tax was already suspended for 2019.

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

Even connected parents struggle with polio-like acute flaccid paralysis (NBC)

FDA picks eight medical device firms to help battle opioid crisis (Reuters)

NIH director says there's work to do on regulating genome editing globally (Stat)

Amid spike in measles cases, health officials warn of 'losing decades of progress' (NPR)

Democrats winning key leadership jobs have taken millions from pharma (Kaiser Health News)

 

State by state

A report says Utah's rate of uninsured children went up last year, but advocates say Medicaid expansion will bring it back down (Salt Lake Tribune)

Desperate to change: a mother battles addiction to keep her baby (Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting)

Maura Healey approves hospital merger (Boston Herald