Daily on Healthcare: Congress and Trump risk seeing bipartisan victories on healthcare cost bills slip out of reach this fall

By | September 9, 2019

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BIPARTISAN VICTORIES ON HEALTHCARE COSTS RISK SLIPPING OUT OF REACH THIS FALL: Republicans, Democrats, and President Trump have a chance to pass legislation to lower healthcare costs, but risk squandering the opportunity because of the tight timeline this fall and organized opposition.

A bipartisan group of senators returning to Capitol Hill this week will resume work on bills they advanced at the committee level before the summer recess that would address the high cost of prescription drugs for seniors and curb massive unexpected medical bills patients get after they leave the hospital.

If the bills pass, they would provide members of Congress with evidence to present to voters ahead of the 2020 election that they were able to log bipartisan victories. Alternatively, it could be perilous for Democrats to appear to hand Trump a victory on issues he has promised to address — the White House has said that lowering healthcare costs is a priority.

“The time is certainly now for action — this is the window,” a senior GOP congressional aide said in an email.

But Congress is likely to struggle to find time to pass the legislation in the fall, with just three weeks of work in September before another break.

House leaders want to vote on temporary spending bills in September, and Democrats are pressuring Republicans to pass gun-control measures after a string of mass shootings this summer. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did not list high healthcare costs in a letter he sent to senators about the priorities for the chamber. He instead cited gun control and election security, among other issues.

On healthcare specifically, Democrats want to put pressure on Republicans for their efforts to overhaul Obamacare. The Trump administration has sided with state GOP officials in a lawsuit that threatens to invalidate the healthcare law, a stance that a senior House Democratic aide confirmed would be a “major focus” of criticism for the caucus.

Democrats also want to bring attention to actions the Trump administration has taken to allow states to provide plans that wouldn’t cover all of the same rules as Obamacare, including requirements to cover pre-existing conditions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not pledged to bring the committee-passed bills lowering healthcare costs to the floor. And the long recess provided lengthy time for outside industry groups to lobby members of Congress to oppose the legislation. While the bills are intended to help patients, they do so through having medical groups take the financial hit instead.

Read more about where the bills stand.

Good morning and welcome to the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Healthcare! This newsletter is written by senior healthcare reporter Kimberly Leonard (@LeonardKL) and healthcare reporter Cassidy Morrison (@CassMorrison94). You can reach us with tips, calendar items, or suggestions at dailyonhealthcare@washingtonexaminer.com. If someone forwarded you this email and you’d like to receive it regularly, you can subscribe here.

FIVE DEAD FROM LUNG DISEASES ASSOCIATED WITH VAPING: Five deaths due to respiratory disease related to vaping have been reported in Indiana, Minnesota, California, Oregon, and Illinois in the past three weeks. State health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating a possible link to vaping nicotine, THC, or both, as many patients who share similar symptoms have also reported vape use. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said Friday that “vaping is a probable potential cause,” though officials haven’t confirmed a link between vaping and the 450 cases under investigation. Health officials have since warned people to stop using e-cigarettes.

Durbin tells Sharpless he can either ban e-cigarettes or resign: Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin told acting Food and Drug Administration Administrator Ned Sharpless Friday that if he does not “take decisive action within the next 10 days” to ban e-cigarettes nationwide then he should resign from his post at the FDA. “If you continue to refuse to do your job — which is to protect the public health — then it is time to allow someone else to take the helm,” Durbin said.

BUTTIGIEG USES THE BIBLE TO BOLSTER ANTI-ABORTION ARGUMENT: Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg defended his position that life does not begin at conception with the argument that “there’s a lot of parts of the Bible that talk about how life begins with breath.” Buttigieg, speaking on The Breakfast Club morning radio show Friday with host Lenard “Charlamagne tha God” McKelvey, also criticized the conservative stance on abortion, saying that, “Right now, they hold everybody in line with this one piece of doctrine about abortion.”

Buttigieg’s bother-in-law, a pastor, says the mayor is “weaponizing” Christian beliefs: Buttigieg’s evangelical brother-in-law, Pastor Rhyan Glezman, 34, said Buttigieg’s interpretation of scripture is “outrageous,” and said: “If we’re going to say we’re for all people and we love all people, but we don’t value human life in the womb, that’s being a hypocrite. You’re hypocritical if you don’t stand up for all life. So that’s why I’m speaking out.”

GLOBAL SUICIDES ARE UP DESPITE PREVENTION MEASURES: One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization. The suicide rate has increased in the five years since WHO introduced the annual global suicide data report. So far, only 38 countries have suicide prevention measures in place.

The Rundown

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Kaiser Health News ‘Crackhouse’ or ‘safehouse’? U.S. officials try to block Philly’s supervised injection site

Stat Novo Nordisk offers programs to lower insulin costs as pressure over pricing mounts

The Washington Post With or without insurance, people come for free medical and dental care in Baltimore

Calendar

MONDAY | Sept. 9

Congress in session.

TUESDAY | Sept. 10

Sept. 10-11. Hilton Arlington. Medicare Advantage Product Design Innovations. Details.

9 a.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW. American Enterprise Institute event on “After repeal and replace: The Fair Care Act and the 2020 campaign plans.” Details.

10 a.m. 2322 Rayburn. Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee to hold hearing on bills to address rising maternal mortality rates. Details.

1 p.m. HVC-215. House Republicans to hold hearing on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Details.

WEDNESDAY | Sept. 11

9 a.m. National Press Club. 529 14th St. NW. National Pharmaceutical Council event on “Health Spending: Moving From Theory to Action.” Details.

THURSDAY | Sept. 12

8 p.m. Houston. ABC-Univision Democratic debate.

FRIDAY | Sept. 13

8 p.m. Houston. ABC-Univision Democratic debate.

Noon. Dirksen G-50. Alliance for Health Policy briefing on “What’s Next on Social Determinants of Health?” Details.

Healthcare