Health Care

Podcast: Some Red States Coming Around to Obamacare
CQ on Congress, Episode 107

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., speaks during the Senate Democrats' rally against Medicaid cuts in front of the U.S. Capitol on  June 6, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Voters in some GOP-leaning states will get a chance to adopt the 2010 health care law's Medicaid expansion by ballot initiative this November while others may elect governors who support it, says CQ health care reporter Misty Williams. It's an indication that even some conservative states are coming to accept the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land.

Show Notes:

Hatch Seeks Quick House Action to Improve Suicide Prevention Hotline
Legislation passed Senate last November

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch has renewed his push to improve a hotline designed to help prevent suicides. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After recent high-profile suicides, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch is pushing for the House to expedite work on a bipartisan bill to improve the national suicide prevention hotline.

“Our bill requires the FCC to recommend an easy-to-remember, three-digit number for the national suicide prevention hotline. I believe that by making the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline system more user-friendly and accessible, we can save thousands of lives by helping people find the help they need when they need it most,” the Utah Republican said in a floor speech. “The Senate passed our bill with overwhelming bipartisan support in November. Now it’s time for the House to do its part.”

Democrats Expect Pre-Existing Conditions Defense Will Resonate in 2018
Schumer highlighting DOJ decision not to defend pillars of 2010 health care law

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., says his conference will keep focusing on health care. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats have seized on the Justice Department’s announcement that it will not defend the 2010 health care law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, sensing an opening for the midterms.

House Democratic leaders have scheduled a Wednesday afternoon press conference to push against the determination announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and that opposition looks to be a key pillar of the strategy of Senate Democrats and their supporters going into the fall.

House Prepares for Week of Action on Opioid Bills
‘Collectively these bills do not go far enough’

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., participates in the House Democrats’ news conference on health care reform in the Capitol on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House will begin a voting marathon Tuesday on 34 bills designed to address the opioid epidemic. While most are not likely to be contentious, two have previously stirred controversy.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reserved about a week and a half of floor time to discuss opioid legislation. Additional bills are likely to be considered next week, such as four bill packages the House Ways and Means Committee approved with bipartisan support.

Fall Elections Key Moment in Medicaid Expansion Debate
Recent developments in Virginia are giving advocates hope

From left, former Reps. Adam H. Putnam and Gwen Graham and Rep. Ron DeSantis are running for Florida governor. Graham, a Democrat, supports expanding Medicaid in the state, while Punam and DeSantis, both Republicans, oppose broadening the program. (Ryan Kelly/Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photos)

The midterm elections are poised to play a pivotal role in whether more states expand Medicaid eligibility, as the number of red-state holdouts dwindles.

Governors’ races in states such as Florida and Kansas, along with ballot initiatives in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, are being watched closely by Medicaid experts this year.

For Some in Congress, the Opioid Crisis Is Personal
Lawmakers share the stories behind their efforts to combat the epidemic

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson lost his grandson to an opioid overdose. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As drug overdoses climb — rising 12 percent between October 2016 and October 2017 — Congress has floated dozens of proposals to combat opioid abuse.

Some lawmakers have deeply personal connections to the epidemic of addiction in America. These are their stories.

Warren, Gardner Unveil Marijuana Bill Easing Federal Enforcement
Bipartisan legislation would bar interference in states with legal marijuana

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., hold a press conference in the Senate Radio and TV Gallery to discuss bipartisan action they are taking to put marijuana legislation into the hands of state lawmakers on Thursday. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., are rarely on the same side of a hot-button issue. But the two senators shared a podium Thursday to launch new legislation on an issue they can agree on: keeping federal hands off state-legalized marijuana.

The two senators on Thursday unveiled bipartisan legislation that would protect marijuana users and businesses from federal interference in states that have legalized the drug. The legislation would allow states to pursue liberalized marijuana policies as they see fit, they said.

U.S. May Fall Behind on Space Research, Lawmakers Warn
Experts warn of potential problems with privatizing International Space Station

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, left, speaks as Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., listens during the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee hearing on “Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Stakeholder Perspectives” on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Already in the midst of a trade war with China, some lawmakers worry that the United States may lose to the country in another realm — space innovation.

A Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee hearing this week  focused on the possible implications of turning the United States’ stake in the International Space Station over to private industry.

Senators Fight Over How to Use Canceled Recess Weeks
Republicans point to judicial nominations and appropriations, Democrats say health care

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked from left by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S. Dak., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks to reporters in the Ohio Clock Corridor after the Senate Republicans’ policy lunch on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democrats and Republicans are facing off for the best way to use their three extra weeks in the “swamp.”

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the chamber would remain in session for three weeks in August, both parties put in their two cents on how to best use the extra time. Democrats say focus on health care, while Republicans want to approve more of President Donald Trump’s nominees.

Ryan: Congress Won’t Pass Tariff Legislation Trump Wouldn’t Sign
Speaker won’t definitively say deadline to complete NAFTA review has passed

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., agreed with Rep. Trey Gowdy that the FBI acted properly using an informant on President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign to track possible Russian interference in the election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Wednesday signaled there’s no chance Congress will pass legislation to limit President Donald Trump’s authority to impose tariffs, despite Republican lawmakers disagreeing with recent actions the president has taken against U.S. allies.

“You’d have to pass a [bill] that he would want to sign into law and that would be what it would take,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters. “And you can do the math on that.”

Congress’ Focus on Opioids Misses Larger Crisis
‘All the bills are tinkering around the edges,’ one health official says

Targeting prescription opioids puts Congress years behind the crisis, which is largely driven by illicit nonprescription drugs. Above, heroin users at a New York City park in May. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By SANDHYA RAMAN, ANDREW SIDDONS and MARY ELLEN McINTIRE

Congress faced a startling public health and political problem throughout 2016 as the number of people dying from opioid addiction climbed. The number of Americans succumbing to drug overdoses more than tripled between 1999 and 2015, affecting a whiter and more geographically diverse population than previous drug crises. Lawmakers ultimately approved some modest policies aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse and provided $1 billion to support state efforts.

Medicare Finances Worsen but Social Security Projections Stable
Changes by Congress to tax law, entitlements affect projections

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was among the senior administration officials outlining the annual report on the health of the Medicare and Social Security systems. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Social Security system is in almost the same shape as last year for its retirement benefits and in a better position for its disability benefits, the program’s trustees reported Tuesday. But a separate report for Medicare paints a somewhat bleaker outlook for the giant health program for seniors and people with disabilities, estimating that its hospital trust fund will dry up in 2026 — three years earlier than last year’s projections.

Medicare’s board of trustees attributed the change, in part, to lower payroll taxes and higher-than-expected health care spending in 2017.

Childhood Cancer Measure Nears Bipartisan Win
Advocates had concerns over congressional, White House prioritizing Right to Try

Childhood cancer groups are pleased with the progress of the measure President Donald Trump is on the verge of signing. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Groups who push for progress against childhood cancer see President Donald Trump’s imminent signing of a bill to enhance research in the field as a significant win after they grew frustrated with Congress and the administration’s pursuit of higher-profile legislation to expand access to experimental treatments.

The cancer legislation would let the Health and Human Services Department set up demonstration projects for childhood cancer survivors. Even after successful treatment, these patients can experience effects from their cancer, such as cardiovascular issues, intellectual handicaps and emotional trauma.

Dozens Arrested as Poor People’s Campaign Rallies at Capitol
Protesters hoisted a casket to represent poor Americans killed by ecological disasters and lack of health care

Protesters carry a coffin to the East Front of the Capitol as environmental activist groups joined forces Monday with the Poor People’’s Campaign to demand the right to health care and a healthy environment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

BY MORGAN PHILLIPS AND JEFF CIRILLO

Capitol Police arrested 28 protesters in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday following a march and rally organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, a grass-roots group calling for a national “moral revival” to address social inequality.

CMS Launches New System to Measure State Medicaid Performance
Scorecards will initially focus heavily on metrics that states already voluntarily report

CMS Administrator Seema Verma, here at her February 2017 confirmation hearing, says existing data collection and reporting efforts for states “have been inconsistent at best.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Federal health officials on Monday unveiled a new system to measure how effectively states are running their Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid systems.

The scorecards will initially focus heavily on metrics that states already voluntarily report to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, such as well-child visits and chronic health conditions, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said during a press briefing. While many measures already existed, this marks the first time they are all being compiled together, Verma said.