Overnight Health Care: Biden backs Medicare buy-in | New warnings as measles cases surpass record | House Dems propose $50M to study gun violence prevention

Overnight Health Care: Biden backs Medicare buy-in | New warnings as measles cases surpass record | House Dems propose $50M to study gun violence prevention

Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care.

Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Biden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Yang: Standing next to Biden on debate stage would help boost name recognition MORE held his first campaign rally today, where he endorsed a Medicare buy-in.  Also, measles cases have eclipsed the previous record, and the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the Labor Department and HHS released its spending bill for next year. We'll dig into the numbers for you. But first, let's start on the 2020 trail.


Biden calls for everyone having the choice to buy into Medicare

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday called for giving everyone the option to buy into Medicare. A "Medicare buy-in" is one of the many different options being floated among Democratic presidential candidates and members of Congress. It doesn't go as far as progressives like Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersConfused by polls? Watch early primary states — not national numbers Confused by polls? Watch early primary states — not national numbers Biden leads in early voting states, followed by Warren, Sanders: poll MORE (I-Vt.) who want to eliminate private insurance and replace it with a government-run system. But it is still more aggressive than making incremental changes to ObamaCare.


"Whether you're covered through your employer or on your own or not, you all should have a choice to be able to buy into a public option plan for Medicare," Biden said in a speech in Pittsburgh, the first major address of his presidential campaign, which he kicked off last week.

"Your choice," Biden added. "And if the insurance company isn't doing the right thing by you, you should have another choice."

How it's being received: It's not surprising that Biden is stopping short of Sanders's plan; he's expected to run in a much more moderate lane than. The move, though, could still open Biden up to disappointment from some intense "Medicare for All" supporters in the primary. Biden's position is similar to that of fellow candidates like Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Campaign dads fit fatherhood between presidential speeches MORE and Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg wouldn't reverse US embassy move to Jerusalem: 'What's done is done' Buttigieg wouldn't reverse US embassy move to Jerusalem: 'What's done is done' Buttigieg: Iran situation 'disturbingly reminiscent' of lead-up to Iraq War MORE, who has called for "Medicare for All who want it."

Details needed: Biden did not really go into detail about what his buy-in proposal would entail, but legislation in Congress would open up Medicare to younger people than are currently eligible. The House bill would let people as young as 50 buy in; the Senate sets the age at 55. Medicare buy-in is also likely to be more progressive than a simple public option. Biden and Obama both pushed to include a public option in ObamaCare, but it was cut to garner the necessary support from moderate Democrats.

Read more on Biden's stance here.


House Dems propose $50 million to study gun violence prevention

Democrats on the House Appropriations subcommittee for Labor-HHS are trying to change some long-standing appropriations policies.

A draft measure released from House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse panel wraps up final 2020 spending bill as Senate lags House panel wraps up final 2020 spending bill as Senate lags On The Money: Democrats set stage for next shutdown fight | House panel wraps up final 2020 spending bill | GOP senators, White House delay meeting on spending | Trump hits Fed over high interest rates MORE (D-N.Y.) would allocate a total of $50 million to study firearm injury and mortality prevention for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. If passed, it would mark the first time in more than 20 years that the spending bill for the CDC has included funding for this type of research.

The funding will "ensure the CDC can conduct scientific research to reduce injuries and save lives from gun violence," Lowey said in a statement.

The backstory: Congress stopped explicitly funding gun violence research in 1996 when lawmakers passed what's known as the Dickey amendment, which prohibits the CDC from using federal funds to advocate for gun control. The amendment had a chilling effect on government research ever since, and no money has been appropriated. Last year, the omnibus appropriations bill contained language clarifying that the Dickey amendment does not prohibit the CDC from studying gun violence. Still, without any money, there's not much research that can be conducted.

Political realities: The measure will face opposition from Republicans in the House but can still pass. It is not likely to pass the Senate without significant changes. Republicans have said they are wary of providing new money for gun violence research, and claim agencies already have the authority to do so. Democrats for years have been trying to repeal what they say are federal restrictions on gun violence research, but now their strategy has shifted to keeping the Dickey amendment in place while still appropriating funds.

Read more on the proposal here.


The spending bill would also block the Trump administration from implementing its Title X changes

House Democrats are seeking to block the Trump administration from defunding Planned Parenthood and banning abortion referrals at family planning clinics.

House Democrats released a draft spending bill Monday that they say would "protect" the Title X Family Planning Program from changes sought by the Trump administration.

The proposal could tee up a brutal battle between the Republican-controlled Senate and House Democrats over one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE's main policy priorities.

"We're going to keep the administration from trying to shut the doors of Planned Parenthood, which they've been trying to do since day one," said Rep. Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Republicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments Overnight Health Care: Biden backs Medicare buy-in | New warnings as measles cases surpass record | House Dems propose M to study gun violence prevention MORE (D-Fla.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Read more on the brewing fight here.


Measles cases surpass record

The number of measles cases in the U.S. is continuing to climb, and federal health officials are warning that unless the outbreaks are contained, a disease that had previously been eliminated could reestablish itself.

There are now over 700 cases of measles in 24 states across the country, an amount well over the previous record of 667 cases in 2014.

The vast majority of the cases involve children who have not been vaccinated, CDC officials said. Measles was declared eliminated in 2000, but this year's outbreaks have been worsened by anti-vaccine groups that spread misinformation among vulnerable groups.

Trump weighs in: HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Monday praised President Trump's comments from last week, where he urged parents to vaccinate their children.

Azar said he was "delighted" by Trump's leadership on the issue.

"The president last week was very firm that people need to get their shots. Vaccinations are so important," Azar said.

Trump in the past has voiced skepticism over the safety of vaccines, and on multiple occasions has voiced support for the debunked theory that vaccines cause autism.

Azar has been forceful in his recent comments about vaccinations, as he has sought to convince the public vaccines are safe.

"The suffering we are seeing today is completely avoidable," Azar told reporters Monday. "Vaccines are safe because they are among the most studied medical products we have."  

New outbreaks: Public health officials in Washington state declared the outbreak over last Friday with a total of 72 cases, but the two outbreaks in New York City and New York state are ongoing, with at least 625 combined cases in Rockland County, Brooklyn and Queens. There is also now a growing outbreak in California.

Read more about the measles outbreaks here.


What we're reading

In Washington, Juul vows to curb youth vaping. Its lobbying in states runs counter to that pledge (The New York Times)

Critics say 'pharmacy benefit managers' are driving up cost of drugs, forcing independent pharmacies out of business (Hartford Courant)

At a rally outside PhRMA's headquarters, activists accuse drug makers of blocking 'Medicare for All' (Stat)

Trump offers incendiary falsehood on abortion at Wisconsin rally (CNN)


State by state

Wisconsin Republicans seek compromise on Medicaid expansion (Associated Press)

Why Vermont's single-payer effort failed and what Democrats can learn from it (The Washington Post)

Previously ineligible Mainers say expanded Medicaid coverage is 'such a relief' (Maine Public Radio)


From The Hill's opinion page:

Trump now agrees on importance of vaccinations