Health Care

Analysis: Omnibus Bill Signals Policy Areas Congress Will Punt On
Immigration, health insurance and shielding the special counsel among items left out

Members of the House exit the Capitol down the House steps after passing the omnibus spending package. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congress appears ready to delay action indefinitely on a number of pressing policy issues.

The 2018 omnibus spending bill could be the last major legislative package to advance this year, a reality that spurred members in both chambers to lobby leadership to attach their pet project legislation to it.

Bipartisan Health Care Compromise Falls Apart, Obamacare Battle Continues

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, and Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., conduct a news conference in the Capitol on legislation to lower health insurance premiums for citizens who pay out of pocket on March 21, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The politics of health care reared its ugly head yet again.

A grand, bipartisan bargain to stabilize the U.S. individual insurance market fell apart this week. And members on both sides of the aisle turned to what they know best: blaming the other party.

Podcast: Lessons for the Opioid Epidemic from the Ebola Fight
Political Theater, Episode 11

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., attend an event in the Hart Building on Feb. 26, 2015 when Sirleaf offered thanks to Congress for authorizing funds to help fight ebola in her country. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Trump Formally Endorses Death Penalty for Drug Pushers
'Americans will keep dying' under president's plan, one critic says

President Donald Trump answers questions from the media on March 13 before heading to California to view prototypes of his proposed Southern border wall. He said Monday the barrier would “keep the damn drugs out.” (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A Southern border wall. Steel and aluminum tariffs for some of the United States’ closest allies. And now, the death penalty for drug traffickers.

President Donald Trump added the latter Monday to his growing list of hardline policy proposals. He delivered a message of getting “tough” in Manchester, New Hampshire, but he acknowledged the American people might not be ready to make some major drug offenses capital crimes.

'Phase Two' of Tax Cuts? What Is Trump Talking About?
GOP source: Lighthearted or not, president's idea is going nowhere

President Donald Trump greets mostly Republican members after addressing a joint session of Congress in February 2017 as House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (clapping) looks on. Democrats were quick to exit the floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A second Republican-crafted tax overhaul bill? In a highly competitive midterm election year? President Donald Trump keeps suggesting Republican lawmakers should do just that.

Trump and Republicans late last year relished his lone legislative feat, a tax bill that slashed rates while also opening new Arctic oil drilling and nixing Barack Obama’s individual health insurance requirement. He threw a celebration party with all congressional Republicans on the White House’s South Portico and insisted on signing the bill into law several days early in a hastily arranged Oval Office session.

Rep. Elijah Cummings Resting at Home After Knee Operation, Rehab
Maryland Dem has been away from Congress for 10 weeks for recovery

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., is at home resting after a 10-week stint at the hospital and a rehabilitation clinic. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings is back home in Baltimore after a 10-week stay at the hospital and an in-patient rehabilitation center for treatment and rehab on his knee.

The Maryland Democrat has not worked on Capitol Hill since last year after doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital discovered an infection in his knee on Dec. 29. After his surgery, the congressman moved to Hopkins’ in-patient rehabilitation center.

House Outcome on 'Right to Try' Bill Uncertain
Even if it passes, Senate chances are not clear either

House members filed back into the Capitol on Tuesday as the chamber prepared to consider a so-called Right-to-Try measure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House on Tuesday evening was poised to vote on a bill intended to give dying patients greater access to experimental treatments, but it was unclear whether Republican leaders had enough votes to pass it under a fast-track process. Even if it does pass, the sponsor of the Senate version said it was uncertain how the Senate might respond.

House Democratic leaders were opposing the bill, mostly over the process Republicans used. Republicans released the so-called “Right to Try” bill at about 12:30 a.m. early Saturday morning, and on Sunday, leaders said it would get a vote on Tuesday under suspension of the rules, which does not allow amendments and requires approval from two-thirds of those present to pass. About 50 House Democrats would have to join Republicans in order for it to pass, or more if some GOP lawmakers break with their party.

One Gun Control Bill Has 60 Votes in the Senate — Now What?
Current floor schedule may prevent timely consideration of legislation

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Gun-related legislation backed by President Donald Trump now has enough support to clear the Senate, increasing pressure on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to schedule a vote on the measure.

The bill from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., that would enforce existing law related to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System has 60 additional cosponsors as of Friday, an aide confirmed.

Governors Press for More Funds to Fight Opioid Addiction
Larry Hogan and Kate Brown testify before Senate HELP Committee

From left, New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown talk before a HELP hearing Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Governors emphasized the need for additional federal funding and flexibility in the fight against the opioid crisis during the sixth hearing held by the Senate health committee this Congress.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, each noted in their testimony Thursday the importance of funding to their states.

Federal Officials Push for New Types of Flu Vaccines
The FDA has not approved a new class of antivirals in the last 20 years

Kentucky Rep. Brett Guthrie and Julie Philip of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores get flu vaccinations during a health fair in the Rayburn Building in 2014. Federal officials told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee this week that vaccines remain “stuck in the old technologies.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The heads of multiple health agencies told a House subcommittee Thursday that both the government and industry need to invest more resources in researching new forms of flu vaccines in light of this year’s epidemic.

Vaccines are often developed using egg-based technology, but newer cell-based and recombinant DNA technologies offer more speed and flexibility for fighting viruses — like the flu — that mutate frequently. While the technology offers promise, it remains uncommon, with lingering gaps in technology.

Trump-GOP Marriage Sours Again Amid Tariff Tussle
Republican congressional leaders not ruling out counter action

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul D. Ryan, second lady Karen Pence, Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump at last Wednesday’s ceremony for the late Billy Graham at the Capitol. (Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein)

In this corner are two wealthy businessmen, Donald Trump and Wilbur Ross. In the opposing corner are Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch and just about the entire Republican conference.

Not long ago, Trump boasted of leading the most unified Republican Party in American history. A few weeks later, his talk of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and declaration that “trade wars are good” have caused this marriage of convenience to sour.

Hatch Apologizes for Calling Obamacare Supporters ‘Dumbass’ People
Senator says his legislative record reflects ‘commitment to bipartisanship’

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, apologized for calling supporters of Obamacare “the stupidest, dumbass people.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch walked back his comments from last week that supporters of the 2010 health care law commonly known as “Obamacare” were “the stupidest, dumbass people” he had ever met.

The comment was “a poorly worded joke” that was “not reflective of my actual feelings towards my friends on the other side,” Hatch said in a statement Friday, NPR reported.

The Never-Ending Crisis at the Indian Health Service
As the chronically under-funded agency struggles, American Indians are getting sicker and dying sooner

Patients wait at an Indian Health Service clinic on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. (Will Kincaid/AP)

The health disparities between American Indians and the rest of the United States population are stark. American Indians are 50 percent more likely than others to have a substance use disorder, 60 percent more likely to commit suicide, twice as likely to smoke, twice as likely to die during childbirth, three times more likely to die from diabetes and five times more likely to die from tuberculosis. They die on average five years sooner than other Americans.

The Trump administration has pledged to make tribal health care systems more effective. During one of his confirmation hearings, new Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told senators the administration would welcome opportunities to improve the $5 billion Indian Health Service, which provides care for 2.2 million American Indians. “It’s unacceptable for us to not be providing high-quality service,” Azar said.

Opinion: Doctors Are Drowning in Data Entry as Health IT Policy Lags
With the renaissance in health technology has come growing pains

The 21st Century Cures Act — championed by Reps. Fred Upton and Diana DeGette — was a step toward updating our nation’s health IT policy. Now HHS needs to follow through, write Marchibroda and White. (Al Drago/Roll Call file photo)

There is no doubt that information technology has revolutionized the way we treat patients in the United States.

Electronic health records are widespread, and people can schedule a doctor’s appointment on a smartphone app. But with this renaissance in technology has come growing pains, as our regulatory framework has struggled to keep pace with private sector advances.

States Weigh Response to Proposed Short-Term Health Plan Rule
Trump administration wants to expand temporary plans, but some states worry it could undermine their marketplaces

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and the Trump administration are proposing new regulations for short-term health insurance plans. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Trump administration’s proposal to increase how long consumers can maintain a short-term health insurance policy offers states an opportunity to either rebel or endorse the change.

While officials in some states are looking to reject the proposed rule — which would allow people to be covered by a short-term, limited duration health plan for 364 days — others have sought to codify the proposal in state law.