Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — CBO officials testify on pros and cons of 'Medicare for All' | Booker vows to form White House office on abortion rights | Measles outbreak spreads with cases now in half the country

Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

2020 Democrats keep rolling out health care policies. Cory Booker detailed his plan to expand access to abortion, while Kamala Harris introduced a bill focused on racial disparities in maternal health. Meanwhile, measles cases have now spread to half the country. Over on Capitol Hill, CBO experts testified on the benefits and drawbacks of single-payer health care.

We'll start there with the latest on the debate over "Medicare for All."

 

CBO officials say Medicare for All gives 'many more' coverage but could be 'potentially disruptive'

Wednesday was a big day for health wonks: Congressional Budget Office experts answering questions on single-payer!

The CBO experts told the House Budget Committee that a single-payer health care system would result in "many more" people with health insurance but would also be "potentially disruptive" and increase government control.

This was the second hearing on a single-payer Medicare for All system that House Democrats have held this year, this time at the House Budget Committee.

Key quote: "Many more people would probably have health insurance as a result but the government would take much more control over the health care system," said CBO deputy director Mark Hadley.

The main drawback Hadley raised: If more people gained coverage while payment rates to doctors and hospitals went down, Hadley said, there could be a lack of supply of health care causing "increased wait times and problems with access to care."

Overall: The CBO officials raised pros and cons about single payer, and the hearing likely won't change people's minds. The pros were more coverage and possible savings from the government having increased leverage to hold down costs. The cons were possible increases in wait times, decreases in quality, and burdens on the government in administering such a system.

Read more here.  

 

 

Booker vows to form White House office on abortion rights

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a 2020 presidential candidate, vowed Wednesday to create a White House office solely focused on expanding access to abortion and addressing barriers to reproductive health care.

The White House Office of Reproductive Freedom would be charged with "coordinating and affirmatively advancing abortion rights and access to reproductive health care" across the Booker administration.

Why it matters: Access to abortion has been in the spotlight after Alabama and several other states passed strict restrictions on the procedure. Candidates are trying to show that they are the best on these issues. A White House Office of Reproductive Freedom would also be the first of its kind under any administration.

Read more on Booker's proposal here.

 

Harris introduces bill to combat racial bias in maternal health care

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is running for president, on Wednesday reintroduced a bill to address racial disparities in maternal health care.

The proposal would invest $25 million in training programs for medical professionals to fight racial bias in maternal health.

Another $150 million grant program would help states identify high-risk pregnancies to provide mothers with "culturally competent care."

"Black mothers across the country are facing a health crisis that is driven in part by implicit bias in our health care system," Harris said in a statement Wednesday.

Why it matters: Candidates are talking about maternal mortality on the campaign trail more than ever. This could be because women are expected to turn out in record droves in 2020. But a historic number of women are also seeking the presidency, helping to shine a light on women's health issues.

More on the issue and Harris' approach here.

 

GOP faces new challenge in 2020 abortion fight

Republicans hoping to paint Democrats as extreme on abortion in the lead-up to the 2020 elections are facing a major obstacle in the wake of Alabama's restrictive new law.

Democratic presidential candidates are seizing on the state's ban, which has no exemptions for rape and incest, arguing that it shows President Trump and Republicans are the ones who are out of step with average Americans, and that they want to make abortion illegal at all costs.

And while Trump and GOP leaders have distanced themselves from the Alabama law, Democrats say the president's policies and judicial nominations have essentially encouraged states to pass such bans.

"He has emboldened state legislatures across the country to do the unthinkable -- an all-out attack on women's reproductive freedom," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a White House hopeful, said at an abortion-rights rally Tuesday on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Trump has relied heavily on a messaging campaign that paints Democrats as extremists who support "infanticide" and "executing babies after birth," believing that will galvanize his voters in 2020.

More on the debate and what it means for 2020 here.

 

Measles outbreak spreads to Maine, cases now in half the country

The measles outbreak has now spread to half the country, as Maine became the 25th state to report a confirmed case of the disease.

According to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the case was confirmed in a school-age child in Somerset County on Monday. It's the first confirmed measles case in the state since 2017.

The child was vaccinated, did not have any serious complications and is fully recovered from the disease, the Maine CDC said.

High-risk state: Maine has one of the lowest vaccination rates for students entering kindergarten. The rate of parents opting out of required vaccinations for non-medical reasons is more than three times the national average, which makes the state more susceptible to outbreaks of infectious disease.

Lawmakers working to change that: The Maine Senate last week narrowly approved a bill that would eliminate all nonmedical exemptions to school-required vaccines. It previously passed the House, but still faces another procedural vote before heading to Gov. Janet Mills (D). Mills has indicated she would sign the measure.

Read more here.

 

States are interested in partial Medicaid expansion, Verma says

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, on Wednesday said numerous states have expressed an interest in partially expanding Medicaid. Speaking to reporters, Verma said that whether it's through ballot measures or legislative action, states are looking to increase coverage, or roll back their current expansion level.

Partial expansion is a tricky subject for the agency. They want to give states flexibility to roll back Obama-era policies, but they need to be careful that the waivers don't violate the Medicaid law. Verma would not say whether the agency is leaning towards approving such waivers.

Utah is the first state that poses a test. The state already received a waiver for partial expansion of Medicaid to adults with incomes up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. But it won't get full federal funding; it will receive the standard federal matching rate of about 70 percent for the partial expansion population, rather than the 94 percent rate for a full ObamaCare expansion to adults up to 138 percent of poverty.

 

Generic insulin is on sale

The drug company Eli Lilly on Wednesday said that its cheaper, generic version of Humalog insulin is now on sale in the U.S. Pharmacists can substitute the generic insulin if it provides a lower out-of-pocket cost for an individual.

Lilly announced the move in March, in response to intense scrutiny of drug prices and particularly insulin, a decades-old drug that people with diabetes need that has seen huge price spikes in recent years.

The cost of the new lower-priced insulin will be $137.35 per vial, or $265.20 for a package of five KwikPens, an easier-to-inject option.

Humalog is a fast-acting insulin, which diabetics inject shortly before each meal, and is used by about 700,000 Americans. Lilly said the people who are most likely to benefit are Medicare Part D beneficiaries, people with high-deductible health plans and the uninsured.

The drug has seen a sharp price increase in recent years. The price for Eli Lilly's insulin increased from $35 to $234 between 2001 and 2015, a 585 percent increase.

 

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What we're reading

Trump officials struggle to fight the fentanyl crisis (The Washington Post)

Poll: Many rural Americans struggle with financial insecurity, access to health care (NPR)

Surprise medical bills are driving people into debt: Will Congress act to stop them? (Kaiser Health News)

The Ebola response effort is struggling. Experts say these steps could help (Stat)

Men are paying sixfold markups to feel cool about buying generic Viagra (Bloomberg)

 

State by state

California considers health care for undocumented immigrants  (NBC News)

A Tennessee county wanted to sterilize inmates for shorter sentences. That's over now (Vice News)

Controversial vaccine bill clears California Senate despite opposition from parents (Los Angeles Times)

 

From The Hill's opinion page:

Anti-vaxxers threaten adults too

Women today are more likely than their mothers to die in childbirth

Outbrain