Medicare

Repeal of Obamacare taxes stirs questions on durability of offsets
Democrats once touted law’s fiscal soundness. That’s getting harder to do

The repeal of three taxes levied under the 2010 health care law underscores how much easier it is for lawmakers to give the public a new benefit than it is to impose ways to pay for it. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The repeal last month of three taxes levied under the 2010 health care law represents one of several ways Congress has chipped away over the years at provisions paying for it, but a left-leaning budget think tank calculates the law will still save money overall.

Democratic leaders have often highlighted the law’s offsets as an example of fiscal responsibility, noting that it expanded coverage to more than 20 million people while Congressional Budget Office estimates showed it still saved the federal government money. They contrasted that with a 2003 law to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare, which was not paid for.

Hoyer: House priorities for 2020 include health care, infrastructure, climate, redistricting
Legislative action also planned on appropriations, defense, education, housing, modernizing Congress

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer is outlining a busy legislative agenda for 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats in 2020 plan to pass legislation on top party priorities like health care, infrastructure and climate as well as more under-the-radar subjects like modernizing Congress and redistricting — all while trying to fully fund the government on time for the first time in 24 years, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said.

The No. 2 Democrat, who is in charge of the floor schedule, outlined his legislative priorities for the year in an interview with CQ Roll Call. The aforementioned issues were among a long list that Hoyer said Democrats plan to pursue in the second session of the 116th Congress. Others the Maryland Democrat mentioned include education, taxes, the annual defense and intelligence authorizations, and reauthorizations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and National Flood Insurance Program.

Appeals court hears arguments over health care cost-sharing subsidies

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the cost-sharing subsidies cases in December, and the high court’s decision could impact the cases over the health insurance industry’s claims that the government maintained an implied contract with the plans even in the absence of appropriations. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard arguments Thursday over whether the government owes health insurance plans money through subsidies mandated under the 2010 health care law, which created so-called cost-sharing subsidies for insurers to reduce low-income consumers’ out-of-pocket costs.

President Donald Trump halted the subsidies in 2017, prompting health care plans on the insurance exchanges across the country to increase their premium rates the following year. But Congress never appropriated specific funds for the subsidies, which the federal government argued ended the obligation of the Department of Health and Human Services to pay the plans. 

Big business lobby to push trade, data, immigration in 2020
Despite impeachment, the chamber believes Congress and the Trump administration still may seek compromise on major matters

US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue speaks at US Chamber of Commerce in Washington. The top spender on federal lobbying plans to push for a full agenda this year that includes free trade, data privacy and immigration overhaul. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Noting the “extraordinary time” of political turmoil and impeachment running alongside the 2020 campaigns, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue nevertheless said his group, the top spender on federal lobbying, would push for a full agenda this year that includes free trade, data privacy and immigration overhaul.

Even with the expected legislative stalemate of a presidential election year, he said the chamber believed Congress and the Trump administration still may seek compromise on major matters, including funding for infrastructure projects.

Outside group attacks Maine’s Susan Collins on prescription drug pricing
Majority Forward is launching its second TV ad in Maine on Tuesday

Maine Sen. Susan Collins is facing what’s likely to be her toughest reelection in 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

While national Democrats are keeping up the pressure on Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins over her 2018 vote for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and her impending role in the Senate impeachment trial, one national issue advocacy group is keeping its anti-Collins message more local. 

Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of the Senate Majority PAC, which is aligned with Senate Democratic leadership, is hitting Collins over prescription drug costs with a statewide six-figure TV and digital ad campaign beginning Tuesday. 

Californians without health insurance will pay a penalty — or not
The Golden State will join four states and Washington, D.C., in requiring their residents to have health coverage and penalizing those without it.

(DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images)

By Bernard J. Wolfson, Kaiser Health News

Californians, be warned: A new state law could make you liable for a hefty tax penalty if you do not have health insurance next year and beyond.

Their voters backed Trump. They voted to impeach him. Now what?
Trump-district Democrats eager to pivot forward. Republicans say not so fast

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., talks to reporters after a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

CLARKSTON, Mich. — Jeff Noftz, a bicycle shop owner in this quaint suburb, can’t wait to see Donald Trump go. Just a few blocks north on Main Street, Christina Calka, who owns a women’s boutique, defended Trump and thought the entire impeachment process has been a “waste of time.”

At Union Kitchen and Bar, a converted church known for its mac and cheese, Marcie Wagner compared Trump’s presidency to being married to an alcoholic. She’s more concerned about the direction of the country than ever before. “I’ve found myself actually weeping,” the 56-year-old psychotherapist said.

Facing pro-Trump chants, Elissa Slotkin explains support for impeachment
Democrat had been willing to let 2020 election settle Mueller questions, then Trump appeared to seek foreign influence

Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin discusses her decision to vote in favor of the impeachment of President Donald Trump at a Town Hall meeting in Rochester, Michigan, on Monday. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

ROCHESTER, Mich. — After announcing in an op-ed in her local paper that she will vote to impeach President Donald Trump, Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin was met with a mix of cheers and boos at a town hall meeting at Oakland University on Monday morning.

She started talking about “the basic facts” — that Trump asked the president of a foreign country to investigate a political rival — and chants broke out: “Hey ho, hey ho, Elissa Slotkin’s got to go.”

Overlooked plans to add Medicare benefits get more attention
Savings from drug pricing bill would cover additional dental, vision, hearing coverage under Democratic plan

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a dentist who was elected to Congress in 2018, supports adding dental coverage to Medicare but says ensuring a fair reimbursement rate will be crucial. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A long-shot bid to expand health care benefits for seniors is beginning to gain attention as part of Democrats’ signature health care bill, which the House is expected to vote on Thursday. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and committee leaders are aiming to use savings from the drug bill to add dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare. Democrats say the legislation could result in $500 billion in savings over a decade, based on guidance they received from the Congressional Budget Office. 

Stakes high as long-awaited drug pricing vote nears in House
Parties, president could seek broad compromise before 2020 election as signal to voters

Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett is pushing for amendments to the Democratic drug pricing bill that would extend Medicare prices to uninsured individuals and give Medicare the ability to negotiate for all drugs, not just the most expensive products. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When House Democrats vote Thursday on their signature drug pricing negotiation measure, they will be seeking to show that they are addressing an issue that prompted voters to give them the majority and demonstrate that impeachment isn’t stopping them from legislating. 

The political power of the drug price issue isn’t lost on either party. House Republicans unveiled their own drug pricing bill Monday, soon after Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa announced changes to his own version on Friday. The Democratic National Committee and five state parties are launching new web videos and hosting several events aimed at drawing a contrast on health care with Republicans, according to plans shared first with CQ Roll Call.