Mary Ellen McIntire

House vote combining drug, health law bills irks Republicans
Combining the two bills sets up a political minefield for Republicans who are torn between the two issues

The House is set to vote Thursday on legislation meant to lower prescription drug prices and strengthen the individual health insurance exchanges, setting up a political minefield for Republicans who are torn between the two issues.

Democratic leaders’ decision to combine legislation that would make it easier to bring generic drugs to market with bills that would bolster the 2010 health care law does not damage the prospects of passage for the package of bills. But that does make it certain that most Republicans will vote against the bipartisan drug pricing legislation.

Trump calls for end to surprise out-of-network medical bills

President Donald Trump on Thursday called on Congress to pass legislation intended to curb surprise medical bills, an issue with bipartisan interest on Capitol Hill but one that has stalled under intense industry lobbying.

Trump laid out core principles the White House wants in legislation, which officials hope Congress will send to the president later this year. Trump’s remarks came after lawmakers focused on the issue asked the White House to get involved to secure more support, a senior White House official said.

House Democrats kick off wonky ‘Medicare for All’ debate
Initial hearing exemplifies party’s balancing act on divisive issue

House Democrats’ first formal foray into debating a national “Medicare for All” system, with a rare initial hearing in the Rules Committee on Tuesday, demonstrates how carefully the party is trying to present a united image on a divisive election-year issue.

Like the broader party, the committee’s Democrats are split over a bill that would shift most Americans into a government-paid health care system. Five of the nine Democrats on the panel, commonly referred to as the “Speaker’s committee,” have endorsed the bill, while four have not.

First quarter drug lobbying outpaces other health care sectors
Big spending comes amid bipartisan support for legislation to lower drug prices

Several health care trade groups and businesses upped their lobbying expenditures in the opening stretch of 2019, with the pharmaceutical industry reporting the highest expenditures as lawmakers focus on rising drug prices.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents the pharmacy benefit managers that have emerged as a bogeyman in the drug pricing debate, more than doubled its lobbying expenditures in the first quarter of the year compared to the equivalent period in 2018. So far this year, the group has spent $1.49 million on lobbying, compared to last year’s first quarter sum of $741,557.

‘Medicare for All’ keeps defining 2020 political landscape
Progressive health care plan could become point of contention as campaign heats up

The “Medicare for All” bill that presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders released Wednesday is more likely to be litigated on the campaign trail than in the halls of Congress. And it highlights a rare political divide among Democrats on one of their marquee issues even as the party seeks to appear unified.

Supporters of the Vermont independent are vying with Democrats who prefer to expand and protect the 2010 health care law. Those differences have recently been overshadowed by larger fights between the two parties after the Trump administration broadened its position in a high-profile lawsuit by calling to strike down the entire 2010 law.

Bernie Sanders’ new Medicare for All bill would cover some long-term care

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday released an updated bill to implement a single-payer health insurance system, a politically divisive hallmark of his White House bid.

The unnumbered Senate bill would transition the U.S. health care system to a single-payer system over a four-year transition and eliminate nearly all premiums, co-pays and deductibles. The legislation largely mirrors Sanders’ 2017 proposal, but the new plan also would cover home and community-based long-term care services through an expanded Medicare program, according to a summary. The earlier version would have maintained those services through existing Medicaid benefits.

Democrats probe Trump decision to not defend Obamacare

House Democrats opened a probe Tuesday into the Trump administration’s decision not to defend the 2010 health care law in a high-profile legal challenge, as Attorney General William Barr urged lawmakers to allow the case to move through the courts.

The chairmen of five House panels sent letters to the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Justice Department seeking documents and communications about how the decision was made earlier this year to only partially defend the health care law in a legal challenge brought by Texas’ attorney general and other conservative state attorneys general.

Obamacare fight continues on House floor — again
The largely symbolic resolution condemns the administration for calling on courts to overturn the ACA

The House on Wednesday plans to vote on a largely symbolic resolution condemning the Trump administration for calling on the courts to overturn the 2010 health care law, escalating a messaging war that seems poised to continue through the 2020 elections.

The vote is the Democrats’ latest rebuke of the Trump administration’s stance on the lawsuit brought by Texas and other conservative state attorneys general to overturn the health care law. The House became a party to the law’s defense earlier this year.

Why progressives are ready to ditch Obamacare
CQ on Congress podcast, Episode 146

The 2010 health care law has left tens of millions uninsured, leading to a groundswell of support from the left for a single-payer system, or “Medicare for All.” Health care reporter Mary Ellen McIntire explains why progressives are ready to move on, what it would take politically to get there, and how they would transform American health care.

Judge blocks Trump’s rule to expand insurance plans that don’t meet ACA requirements
The rule, finalized last year, allows small businesses and the self-employed to band together to buy association health plans

The Trump administration suffered another blow to its health care agenda in federal court on Thursday when a district court judge said a rule to expand insurance plans that do not have to meet all of the requirements under the 2010 health care law is invalid.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates blocked a rule that was finalized last year that allows small businesses and self-employed people to band together to purchase insurance known as association health plans.

With Obamacare under siege, Democrats fire back
Republicans defend Trump’s bid in Texas case: ‘The health care, it’s going to tank. It’s just a matter of when’

Democrats are seeking to move beyond special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report to a different action taken this week by the Justice Department: its statement supporting Texas’ legal challenge to the 2010 health care law, which said the entire act should fall.

House Democrats, highlighting the differences between their positions and the administration’s, unveiled draft legislation Tuesday that seeks to lower health care costs for people who get insurance coverage through the federal and state marketplaces.

What if we switch to a single-payer health care system? 
 

Leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are pushing for universal health care, but switching our current system would be a difficult feat. What would have to transpire if the government were to make the switch? Watch as Roll Call explains this seemingly herculean task.

How ‘Medicare for All’ went from pipe dream to mainstream
Universal health care debates could shape the 2020 election — and the future of the Democratic Party

Political candidates and activists in Maine, especially in rural areas, often got a sharp reaction five years ago when they knocked on doors to promote universal health care.

“The reaction was, ‘Oh, you’re a commie,’” said Phil Bailey, who back then advocated for various Democratic causes.

‘Medicare-for-all’ is no longer purely theoretical. Democrats are coming to terms with that
Support wobbles as Pramila Jayapal introduces new bill in the House

The single-payer “Medicare-for-all” bill that House Democrats are releasing Wednesday seems like it should stand a good chance of attracting more support than last year. After all, the House Democratic caucus ballooned this year and health care concerns were a key factor in the party’s electoral success.

But Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who will introduce the bill, said 107 House Democrats are initially supporting the measure. That number is fewer than the 124 Democrats who had formally backed an earlier version of the measure by the end of the last Congress.

House progressives work on ‘Medicare-for-all’ as debate heats up
The House bill from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., will have at least 100 initial co-sponsors

House progressives are set to introduce a revised single-payer “Medicare-for-all” bill during the last week of this month, as Republicans sharpen their criticism of the policy and Democratic presidential hopefuls face questions about whether they support it.

The House bill from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., will have at least 100 initial co-sponsors. It comes as Democrats are offering a range of bills to expand health insurance coverage, such as a proposal to allow adults between 50 and 64 to buy into Medicare that was unveiled Wednesday, and presidential candidates refine their positions on what “Medicare-for-all” should mean and the role private insurers would play.

Democrats kick off push for Medicare drug price negotiations
The measure includes tactics to urge drugmakers to reach an agreement with Medicare on a price

The leader of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee on Thursday offered a proposal to require the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices for drugs covered by the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, is set to formally introduce the bill later Thursday with more than 100 House co-sponsors. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate backed by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

Primary care changes could be part of Senate effort to lower health care costs
A committee discussed ideas including provider incentives to buy drugs directly from wholesalers, and encouraging employers to offer on-site clinics

A Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Tuesday highlighted changes to primary care coverage that could be part of a Senate effort to lower health care costs this year.

Those ideas include incentives for providers to buy drugs directly from wholesalers, expanding which services qualify for health savings account purchases, encouraging employers to offer on-site clinics to workers, and clarifying how direct primary care programs can help physicians reduce time spent on administrative tasks.

Democrats and Republicans clash over health care goals in Ways and Means
In between partisan comments, lawmakers mentioned health policies the panel could consider this year

House Ways and Means Committee members hinted at health policy areas that could earn their attention this year during a Tuesday hearing on pre-existing conditions protections, but past disagreements will be difficult to move beyond if the meeting was any indication.

Essentially every committee Republican expressed support for guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and called on Congress to lower health care costs.

House files to intervene in Texas health law case
Chamber will vote for similar action next week as well

Lawyers for the House announced on Friday they had filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit brought by conservative state attorneys general targeting the 2010 health care law.

The motion comes after the House voted Thursday night on a part of its rules package, which included authorization for the House to join the lawsuit, Texas v. U.S.

Ruling on Health Care Law Leaves Consumers Confused
Law remains in place for now

The most immediate impact of a ruling striking down the 2010 health care law could be confusion and depressed sign-ups in the law’s insurance marketplaces on the final day of open enrollment.

The law remains in place for now — but some consumers may not understand that.