Health Care

Obamacare: A big issue voters might be missing
Supreme Court delay in deciding on health care law challenge could hide the issue from voters

The Supreme Court deferred a decision on a case challenging the constitutionality of the 2010 health care law. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Correction 2:20 p.m. | ANALYSIS — Democrats who say they are determined to keep voters focused on health care this year were hoping that the Supreme Court would hand them a ready-made campaign ad and a potential courtroom win.

Instead, the court recently punted on a major decision over whether to kill the 2010 health care law that expanded coverage to more than 20 million Americans. Now, Democrats hope that by shifting their attention to high prescription drug prices they might still mobilize voters and help the party maintain its edge on health care, the public’s top domestic concern, although Republicans also are focused on drug prices.

Trump’s speech rolled out Republicans’ blueprint for general election
Democrats must present contrast to Trump without looking out of touch on humming economy

President Donald Trump greets lawmakers as he walks into the House chamber on Tuesday to deliver his State of the Union address. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

For an hour and a half, President Donald Trump used his third State of the Union speech to remind Republicans why they supported him in the past and why they will stand with him in November.  

“From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy — slashing a record number of job killing-regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements,” he boasted. “Our agenda is relentlessly pro-worker, pro-family, pro-growth, and, most of all, pro-American.”

States weigh expansion of their Medicaid programs
Several push for more individuals to be covered while others balk because of cost

Participants hold signs during the Senate Democrats’ rally against Medicaid cuts in front of the U.S. Capitol on June 6, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

State officials are seeking to change health care coverage for the nation’s poorest individuals, with Democrats trying to expand Medicaid to cover more people while Republicans aim to save costs over time.

Democratic governors in at least three states with Republican-controlled legislatures are ramping up efforts to pass legislation to expand the program. At the same time, states like Michigan have begun implementing aspects of their requirements that people receiving Medicaid work, which could lead to fewer people being covered if that is upheld in the courts.

US health system could face strain if coronavirus spreads here
Challenges include health care workforce and medical supply shortages

Chinese students wear masks as they wait to take a train in Beijing on Friday. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to almost 9,700 in mainland China. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The coronavirus outbreak spreading in China could expose vulnerabilities in the U.S.  health care system if transmission became widespread here, experts warn.

Among the challenges the U.S. could face in a coronavirus outbreak are health care workforce and medical supply shortages, a lack of hospital beds if the disease symptoms prove severe, and a financial strain on health departments that have seen waning support from the federal government over the years.

HHS cheers overdose drop but urges states to cap Medicaid
Administration proposes capped Medicaid funding in exchange for added flexibility

(Ian Wagreich/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House announced the first decline in overdose deaths since the earliest days of the opioid crisis and attributed it to administration actions, even as officials simultaneously said they would let states cap funding for Medicaid, a common way for patients to get treatment.

A 4 percent dip in the number of overdose deaths from 2017 to 2018 could indicate that the crest of the opioid crisis has passed, said White House senior aide Kellyanne Conway, who called the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data a “turning point.”

Lawmakers fret over China’s virus info as US local case emerges
The newest case is the husband of an Illinois woman who was confirmed as sick last week

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., talks with an aide during a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health markup in July 2019. Lawmakers on the subcommittee were briefed Thursday on the spread of coronavirus. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House lawmakers briefed by the Trump administration Thursday expressed confidence in the United States government’s approach to the spread of coronavirus, although not necessarily China’s response, as officials confirmed the first person infected in the U.S. who had not traveled to China.

The morning briefing for Energy and Commerce Committee members came hours before the World Health Organization declared the outbreak an international public health emergency. Committee members in the briefing expressed concerns that China may not be providing enough information about the outbreak and worried that a severe flu season could strain the U.S. response if coronavirus spreads here. Lawmakers expressed a willingness to provide more resources if needed.

Momentum on marijuana moves to statehouses
With Congress stalled and state ballot initiatives scarce, legislatures will become main arena for debates

A bill in the House to legalize marijuana faces an uncertain future, the Senate has not moved legislation that would allow marijuana businesses to bank and opportunities to legalize marijuana through state ballot initiatives have winnowed. The result is state legislatures will be the main arena for legalization debates. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Marijuana legalization campaigns will increasingly run through state capitols as Congress remains stalled, advocates say.

A bill in the House to legalize marijuana faces an uncertain future, and the Senate has not moved legislation that would allow marijuana businesses to bank. Meanwhile, opportunities to legalize marijuana through state ballot initiatives have winnowed; while nine other states and the District of Columbia approved commercial sales through ballot initiatives, just 23 states and the district allow such initiatives.

Coronavirus transmission: Scientists need basic answers

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar arrives for the start of a Senate Finance Committee hearing on March 14, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

“Our current assessment is that the immediate health risk of this new virus to the general public is low in our nation,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told a group of reporters about the coronavirus at a news conference Tuesday.

Deficit widens, economic growth slows in new CBO outlook
Repeal of health care taxes the largest driver of 10-year deficit increase, according to projections

Under new Congressional Budget Office estimates, the federal deficit is projected to fall slightly to $1 trillion in fiscal 2021 and then commence a steady rise to $1.7 trillion in 2030. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Congressional Budget Office projects higher deficits for this year and the coming decade, with a fiscal 2020 deficit of $1.015 trillion — $8 billion higher than the agency estimated last August.

The fiscal 2019 deficit was $984 billion, by comparison.

US won't rule out travel restrictions as China outbreak worsens
For now, screenings expanded for travelers from China

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday the U.S. government is expanding screenings of travelers from China in order to quickly quarantine anyone who arrives while ill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Travel restrictions from China haven’t been ruled out as the United States monitors the spreading outbreak of coronavirus that infected thousands there, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday.

For now, the U.S. government is expanding screenings of travelers from China in order to quickly quarantine anyone who arrives while ill. There will now be screenings at 20 airports with quarantine facilities, up from five airports where screenings had been occurring for the past 10 days. While previously only passengers arriving from the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, were screened, now nearly all passengers arriving from anywhere in China will be.

Supreme Court allows Trump's ‘public charge’ rule to proceed
The 5-4 ruling would deny green cards to immigrants who use federal aid programs

The "public charge" rule was originally issued last August by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under Ken Cuccinelli, the agency's acting director. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Trump administration can implement its divisive “public charge” rule, which seeks to withhold citizenship from immigrants the government deems likely to rely on public benefits like Medicaid and Section 8 housing. 

In the 5-4 vote, conservative-leaning justices voted to grant the administration its request to stay a lower court injunction on the rule while the merits of the case continue to be debated in the lower courts. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen G. Breyer voted against the stay. 

At March for Life, Trump gets an enthusiastic reception
‘The unborn have never had a stronger defender in the White House,’ president says

Charissa DiCamillo, 18, of Glenmore, Pa., demonstrates on Constitution Avenue in Washington on Friday during the annual March for Life. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump, seeking to court evangelical voters, addressed thousands of activists gathered Friday on the National Mall for the nation's largest annual anti-abortion rally.

Trump, who this week revealed his “Pro-Life Voices for Trump” coalition for his 2020 reelection campaign, has strong ties to the anti-abortion community and is the first president to speak onstage at the event. Activists see him as a key ally in delivering policy priorities aimed at limiting abortion that he promised in 2016.

US ready for potential coronavirus outbreak, CDC assures lawmakers
CDC officials said they currently have the resources needed to address the spread of the virus

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., departs from a news conference on Tuesday. He told reporters Friday that federal health officials had positive things to say about China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Federal health officials told lawmakers Friday that they have the resources they need to address the spread of the virus originating from Wuhan, China, although senators acknowledged the potential need for supplemental funding down the road.

The briefing for roughly two dozen senators came as the case count for the new version of coronavirus in China was rapidly increasing, prompting authorities there to effectively quarantine tens of millions of people in Wuhan and surrounding cities. China’s National Health Commission reported 571 cases and 17 deaths as of Thursday, though news reports on Friday said there were now more than 800 cases and at least 26 deaths.

Report: Speed up drug development with artificial intelligence
But it says new legal, ethical, economic and social questions must be addressed

Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander is among a group of lawmakers who requested the artificial intelligence report by the National Academy of Medicine and the Government Accountability Office. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

More and improved use of artificial intelligence, and an overhaul of medical education to include advances in machine learning, could cut down significantly the time it takes to develop and bring new drugs to market, according to a new joint report by the National Academy of Medicine and the Government Accountability Office.

Before that can happen, however, the United States must address legal and policy impediments that inhibit the collection and sharing of high-quality medical data among researchers, the report said.

Abortion policy activism heats up for Roe v. Wade anniversary
Groups gear up for ‘pivotal year’ with emphasis on states

Both sides of the abortion rights debate are doubling down on grassroots efforts to energize voters who share their beliefs about abortion. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Groups pushing for the advancement of abortion rights and those looking to limit the procedure have an ambitious agenda starting this week, foreshadowing a year that could be critical for advocates on both sides of the debate.

In two months, the Supreme Court will hear its first major abortion case since 2016, and both sides are revving up for a major presidential election. States are also eyeing a number of new reproductive health bills as their legislatures come back into session.