Health Care

Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA —Biden unveils health care plan | Proposal pitches subsidies, public option | Biden vows if you like your health insurance, ‘you can keep it’ | Sanders protests planned Philadelphia hospital closure

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Welcome to Overnight Health Care.

It’s been a busy Monday. Joe Biden rolled out his health care plan today, Bernie Sanders rallied against a Philadelphia hospital’s impending closure, Rick Scott is demanding answers from PhRMA, and Senate Republicans are suddenly very eager to talk about ObamaCare. 

We’ll start with Biden…


Biden releases his health care plan

Former Vice President Joe Biden is out with this health care plan, and it’s definitely not “Medicare for All.” 

Key takeaway: Biden is breaking with most of the other frontrunners in the Democratic primary and proposing Medicare as an option, while letting people keep private coverage if they want. That’s a contrast from Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who want to mandate that everyone be on a Medicare-like government plan.

Key details:

  • Give everyone the option of a government-run health insurance plan, even if they currently get private coverage from an employer. 
  • Increase the generosity of ObamaCare’s subsidies to help people buy coverage and lift restrictions so that all American citizens are eligible regardless of their income.  
  • Create an independent review board to set the prices for new drugs coming on the market and lower drug prices. 

In his announcement, Biden pushed back hard at Medicare for All, equating it with the GOP’s attempts to repeal ObamaCare.

“I understand the appeal of Medicare for All, but folks supporting it should be clear that it means getting rid of ObamaCare, and I’m not for that,” Biden said in a video announcing his plan. 

“I know how hard it is to get that passed. I watched it. Starting over makes no sense to me at all,” he added. 

Biden’s plan is fairly standard for a moderate Democrat. His idea of beefing up ObamaCare’s subsidies and keeping the existing infrastructure of the health insurance system is very similar to what Hillary Clinton ran on in 2016. 

Biden is portraying Medicare for All as too radical, but the progressive wing of the Democratic party has become much stronger and visible since 2016, as candidates have shifted further left and adopted more of Sanders’s views and policies. 

Read more here.  



Biden clarifies stance on health plans for undocumented immigrants

Another interesting part of Biden’s plan: Only undocumented immigrants who pay into Social Security will be able to buy a plan, but they will not be eligible for the subsidies. This is a change from ObamaCare, which only lets American citizens buy plans.

Biden raised his hand during the second debate when a moderator asked Democrats whose plans would cover people in the country illegally. 

All undocumented immigrants should have access to “public health clinics if they’re sick, Biden said Monday at an AARP event in Iowa, but “that doesn’t mean they have health insurance. That means they get coverage for the crisis they’re facing at the moment.” 

Biden said he didn’t have enough time to fully explain his position during the debate. 

“You get 30 seconds to answer … I’m not doing any more ‘raise your hand if you’ [questions],” Biden joked. 


Biden: If you like your private health insurance, ‘you can keep it’

At the AARP forum, Biden made a very Obama-like promise about his health plan.

“If you like your health care plan, your employer-based plan, you can keep it. If in fact you have private insurance, you can keep it,” Biden said.

His line had echoes of former President Barack Obama’s now-infamous catchphrase as he tried to sell the public on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act: if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Politifact rated that the “Lie of the Year” in 2013.

Biden has been running as a protector of the Affordable Care Act, so the parallels to Obama were likely intentional. The law has provided 20 million people with health insurance, and it’s now more popular than ever. 

Biden is banking the law’s popularity will convince voters that his plan of shoring up the law with more subsidies and a public option is a better approach than Medicare for All.

Read more on Biden’s remarks here.


Biden’s cancer nonprofit suspends operations

The cancer research nonprofit founded by former Vice President Joe Biden is shutting down amid his White House run, its director announced.

The Biden Cancer Initiative was launched in 2017 as an offshoot of the Obama White House’s Cancer Moonshot program. According to a statement on its website, the initiative suspended all operations effective July 11. 

Greg Simon, president of the Biden Cancer Initiative, said the organization is “suspending activities given our unique circumstances.”

Simon added that “we remain personally committed to the cause, but at this time will have to pause efforts.

Biden’s role: Biden headed the Obama administration’s efforts to find ways to speed up the development of new cancer treatment. His son Beau died of brain cancer in May 2015. Biden and his wife stepped down from the organization’s board of directors in April, prior to announcing his candidacy.

More on the move here.


Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders keeps pushing Medicare for All


Sanders protests planned Philadelphia hospital closure as example of corporate greed

Sanders on Monday attacked the pending closure of a Philadelphia hospital as an example of corporate greed taking priority over people’s health.

During a rally to save the 171-year-old Hahnemann University Hospital from bankruptcy, Sanders said Medicare for All would guarantee health care to every American. “At a time when our country faces a major health care crisis … we must be moving forward toward guaranteeing health care to all people as a right,” Sanders said.

He did not attack Biden’s “public option” plan but said Medicare for All is the only way to save Americans from corporations that are just seeking to make a profit. 

Looking ahead: Sanders is giving a health care speech at George Washington University on Wednesday. Maybe he’s holding his fire for then?

More about his rally here.


Rick Scott: PhRMA hasn’t provided ‘a single answer’ on lower drug prices

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is one of the more interesting Republicans to watch on drug pricing. 

Scott is calling out the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), accusing the nation’s top lobby for drugmakers on Monday of failing to provide “a single answer or solution to our questions” on lowering prescription drug prices.

Scott’s comments are the latest in a fight over how best to lower drug prices for consumers.

Scott and seven of his Republican colleagues wrote to PhRMA President Stephen Ubl on June 5 asking the trade group to detail their solutions to the problem. The group has ramped up its lobbying this year to push back on many proposals that target the drug industry over high costs.

Ubl’s response was not enough for Scott. “Unfortunately, their response didn’t provide a single answer or solution to our questions. Not one,” Scott said Monday.

Read more here


Republicans make U-turn on health care

Senate Republicans are reversing course and now taking a hard look at health care legislation to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act in case the courts strike down former President Obama’s signature achievement.

There’s a sense of urgency among GOP lawmakers to come up with a plan to replace the most popular components of ObamaCare, but it marks a major shift. Just the consideration of legislative action is an about-face from a few months ago when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Senate Republicans would not move legislation to replace ObamaCare before the 2020 election, arguing it would have no chance of passing Congress, particularly with a Democratic-controlled House. 

What’s changed? Lawmakers are scrambling for a worst-case scenario in case a federal court sides with Republican states and the Trump administration and declares the entire law unconstitutional. A panel of appellate judges last week aggressively questioned whether the law passes legal muster following Congress’s repeal of the tax penalty for not having insurance.

Republican lawmakers say they need to be more prepared with ideas to replace ObamaCare than they were in 2017. 

But the reality is there’s no plan that would pass the House, and Republicans haven’t given any specifics other than wanting to protect people with pre-existing conditions. There are plenty of internal discussions, but they have yet to say how the 20 million people with health insurance would fare if the court ruled against the law.

More on those conversations here.


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Also in The Hill

Washington has seen a flurry of activity and bipartisan interest in passing drug pricing legislation this year, but with the August recess approaching and the 2020 elections ahead, advocates for reform worry time is running short.

Roughly 20 million children worldwide missed out on a vaccine aimed at eliminating life-threatening diseases such as measles, diphtheria and tetanus last year alone, United Nations agencies announced Monday.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is reportedly planning to unveil his plan to better deliver long-term health care to elderly Americans.


What we’re reading

Biden puts forth an elaborate — and aggressive — plan to lower drug prices (Stat News)

More kids are getting placed in foster care because of parents’ drug use (NPR

ObamaCare alternative gets new shot with labor chief Acosta out (Bloomberg Law)


State by state

When Big Tobacco invoked Eric Garner in New York City to fight a menthol cigarette ban (The New York Times)

Georgians accused of registering for Tennessee Medicaid coverage (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

260,000 Floridians would enroll in expanded Medicaid program, economists say (WUSF)

Oklahoma urges judge to hold Johnson & Johnson responsible for opioid crisis as trial ends (Reuters)  


From The Hill’s opinion page: 

How Congress can expand access to addiction treatment immediately 

It is crucial for Congress to fund life-saving diabetes research

Tags Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Cory Booker Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Mitch McConnell

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