Health Care

Supreme Court denies request for expedited appeal of challenge to 2010 health care law
House and several blue states had requested appeal that could have led to decision ahead of election

An expedited hearing on the 2010 health care law could have led to a ruling before the election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will not hear an expedited appeal of a legal challenge to the 2010 health care law this term, which could have led to a decision this summer on whether to overturn the entire law during the heat of the campaign season.

At least five justices declined a request from several Democratic state officials and the House to fast-track an appeal of the case, Texas v. Azar. Instead, a lower court judge will reconsider how much of the 2010 health care law should fall after Congress eliminated the law's tax penalty on most Americans who did not have health care coverage. The Supreme Court could agree to hear the case as soon as its next term, which begins in October, but a decision is not likely before the November elections.

To rein in Big Pharma over high drug prices, start with patent reform
Bipartisan proposals represent a rare bright spot in a divided Congress

Abuse of the patent system by brand-name drug manufacturers is exacerbating the financial burden faced by American patients for their prescription drugs, Lane writes. (George Frey/Getty Images file photo)

OPINION — With the Senate impeachment trial kicking off and partisan tensions running high on several fronts, Americans might be forgiven for thinking that Congress has lost the ability to find common ground. But lately, and despite the proverbial odds, there is a new bipartisan consensus forming on an issue of incredible importance to millions of Americans: prescription drug pricing. Specifically, reforming the U.S. patent system to end abusive practices that are directly contributing to high drug prices.

Across the country, Americans are struggling under the weight of skyrocketing prescription drug costs. It is no secret that affording medicines and treatments is an incredible burden for too many families. On average, Americans are paying considerably more than citizens of other high-income countries for the same exact prescription drugs.

Appropriators feel the squeeze of budget caps as veterans health funding grows
Nondefense programs could soon see spending cuts unless Congress makes adjustments

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Appropriators and stakeholders have begun coming to grips with the reality of narrow funding increases under next year’s budget caps, as politically sacrosanct veterans health care spending continues to grow and eat into what’s left for all other nondefense programs.

Last summer’s two-year budget deal front-loaded its spending cap increases into the first year, allowing about 4 percent more for discretionary spending in fiscal 2020. In fiscal 2021, increases are capped at less than 0.4 percent, or $5 billion, despite fixed costs for veterans health care that are likely to require substantially more.

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. 

Success of tobacco age change will depend on state efforts
E-cigarette popularity adds complication to drive to address youth tobacco use

Some states that already had “tobacco 21” laws in place saw drops in cigarette smoking rates among young people, but e-cigarette use increased. (Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images file photo)

The legal age for cigarettes, nicotine vaping products and other tobacco is now 21 across the country after Congress changed the age last month — but progress in reducing youth vaping will depend on states to ensure that underage sales are halted. 

While many states and localities adopted laws to raise the tobacco sales age to 21 in recent years, it’s unclear how effective they’ve been so far. Experts caution that raising the age nationally won’t be the only thing needed to address the high youth tobacco use rate ushered in by the popularity of e-cigarettes.

Iranian Quds commander’s assassination to follow Trump back to Washington
Democrats, allies calling for deescalation of tension with Iran while other tensions await at White House

Iranians burn an American flag during a demonstration in Tehran on Friday following the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. strike on his convoy at Baghdad International Airport. (Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — There are two things White House and Trump campaign officials have not wanted to discuss when it comes to President Donald Trump’s reelection chances: An economic recession and a military conflict. Suddenly, the latter is possible.

The president’s top aides have acknowledged an economic slowdown would undermine the president’s top claim that he’s earned a second term. That’s because he leads almost every public event — no matter the topic — by touting the low unemployment and record-high stock market levels.

Lawmakers urge Supreme Court to reexamine abortion decisions
Mostly Republican group targets Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey

More than 200 lawmakers, almost all of whom are Republican, want the Supreme Court to strike down landmark cases upholding abortion rights. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Over 200 lawmakers, mostly Republicans, filed an amicus brief Thursday urging the Supreme Court to upend the precedents set by two landmark abortion rights cases, elevating abortion as a campaign issue ahead of this fall’s elections.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on March 4 in June Medical Services v. Gee, a case over a 2014 Louisiana law that requires physicians who offer abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital within 30 miles. Abortion rights advocates argue that the restrictions are burdensome and would cause most doctors to stop performing abortions.

John Lewis faces hard fight against pancreatic cancer
Georgia Democrat hopeful medical advances in past 15 years will help him defeat disease

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., announced Sunday he will undergo treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. John Lewis was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer over the weekend. Just a decade ago, that most likely meant a death sentence.

But now, with rapid advances in modern medicine and higher degrees of success among patients receiving experimental treatment for the disease, the 79-year-old civil rights icon and longtime Georgia Democrat may have more time than many expect to put a capstone on his political legacy.

Don’t go yet, John Lewis. We need you.
Atlantans take pride in their congressman. How many other Americans can say that?

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., stands near the statue of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Capitol Rotunda before a memorial service for Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., in October. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — When Rep. John Lewis  announced Sunday night that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, you could almost hear the country cry. Democrats and Republicans, Hollywood actors and people who had simply met the congressman in an airport, all went to Twitter to ask the 17-term Georgia Democrat to fight one more time.

“You are loved. You are respected. You are magnificent,” Ava DuVernay wrote. “Praying for you, my friend,” former president Barack Obama tweeted. “The Late Show” host Steven Colbert called Lewis “a leader, a teacher, an example for us all,” while Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lewis’ longtime friend who counts Lewis as a hero as he mounts his own fight against Parkinson’s disease, wrote, “They don’t make them stronger or braver.”

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.

Extending Medicaid after childbirth could reduce maternal deaths

Dr. Jessica Young, left, and Erika Rodriguez, a social worker, at Vanderbilt Women’s Health in Nashville, Tennessee. (Christine Vestal/The Pew Charitable Trusts)

By Christine Vestal, Stateline

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Samantha Powell, 29, says she wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the mental health services she received after her last child was born.

Court strikes down individual mandate for Obamacare
The 2010 health care law’s mandate for most Americans to buy insurance is unconstitutional, said a long-awaited 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling

Responding to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Obamacare’s “individual mandate” for health insurance, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says his state will “move swiftly to challenge this decision because this could mean the difference between life and death.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A federal appeals court on Wednesday struck down the requirement that most Americans have health insurance, nullifying a major part of the 2010 health care law, but punted on the broader question about whether the rest of the law can stand.

A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled, 2-1, in its long-awaited decision that the so-called “individual mandate” to get insurance cannot stand after Republicans zeroed out the tax penalty for not having coverage. The panel sent the case back to a district court in the Northern District of Texas to consider other parts of the law.

FDA proposal on drug importation relies on Canada cooperation
Trump has encouraged regulations to allow state-by-state imports, but lengthy process ahead

The Food and Drug Administration issued a proposed rule outlining how states could develop importation schemes and how they could win administration approval after proving that they are safe and would save money (File photo by Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The Trump administration on Wednesday took steps toward allowing states to import lower-cost drugs from Canada, starting a lengthy rulemaking process for a policy that would depend on cooperation from America's wary northern neighbor.

Several states have approached the Department of Health and Human Services about drug importation plans and President Donald Trump has been eager to approve them. He's publicly prodded HHS Secretary Alex Azar to approve them, particularly a proposal from Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally.