Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care.
Lots of health care items found their way into the year-end spending bill — raising the tobacco purchasing age, repealing some ObamaCare taxes, and funding gun violence research. The Trump administration extended ObamaCare’s open enrollment period, and Kentucky’s new Democratic governor is getting rid of Medicaid work requirements.
We’ll start with the spending bill…
It’s a health care Christmas tree in the spending bill!
Some of the major health care items:
- Repealing three major ObamaCare taxes: the Cadillac Tax, medical device tax, and Health Insurance Tax.
- Prohibiting anyone under 21 from purchasing tobacco products
- $25 million in funding for gun violence research
- Blocking President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats secure fast-track to the floor for Canada-Mexico trade deal Mexican official says he’s ‘very satisfied’ with USMCA after recent concern More than 700 historians sign letter calling for House to impeach Trump MORE from certain “sabotage” moves on ObamaCare, namely ending silver-loading and auto-reenrollment.
- The inclusion of the Creates Act to lower drug prices by cracking down on drug companies delaying cheaper generic competition
What’s not in there: Major drug pricing measures or legislation protecting patients from surprise medical bills.
The takeaway: The health care industry got its taxes cut, but major efforts aimed at lowering costs for consumers did not make it.
There’s still some hope for backers of those efforts: The deal sets up a May 22 deadline for expiring health programs like community health center funding, which Democrats hope to use to carry surprise billing and drug pricing legislation.
Read a roundup here.
Congress reaches deal to fund gun violence research for first time in decades
One notable provision that was included in the funding legislation: $25 million to study gun violence research. While short of the $50 million Democrats put in their own HHS appropriations bill, it represents a major victory on a key Democratic priority.
The deal includes $12.5 million each for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health to study gun violence and ways to prevent it.
It’s the first time in more than 20 years that Congress has appropriated money for gun violence research.
Congress stopped funding gun violence research in 1996 after an amendment passed blocking agencies from using federal funds to advocate for gun control.
While the so-called Dickey Amendment — named for its author, former Sen. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) — does not technically prevent federal agencies from studying gun violence, it still had a chilling effect on federal research.
Shifting strategy: How did Democrats succeed this year after failing to get funding for so long? It could be a change in strategy. They pushed for $50 million in funding while leaving the amendment in place in an attempt to allay concerns that the money could be used inappropriately.
Reaction: Public health and gun violence prevention advocates are jubilant, despite getting only half of what they asked for. But it’s a big first step for Congress, which has been unable to agree on much when it comes to gun policy.
“The significance of this moment, hard-fought and tirelessly led by pediatricians across specialties and backgrounds, cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Kyle Yasuda, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, one of the groups that led the push for research funding.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who became an advocate for preventing gun violence after being shot in the head at an event in 2011, said the funding will help “solve one of our nation’s most deadly and embarrassing problems.”
Read more on the provision here.
Kentucky governor rescinds Medicaid work requirements
File this under “elections have consequences.”
Newly elected Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Monday formally rescinded the state’s controversial Medicaid work requirements enacted by his Republican predecessor, Matt Bevin.
During a news conference, Beshear signed an executive order rescinding the state’s Medicaid waiver that would have imposed work requirements and premiums on many beneficiaries.
Rescinding the requirements fulfills a promise Beshear made during his campaign and during his victory speech. The work requirements were projected to end coverage for 95,000 people.
“Removing access doesn’t make people healthier,” Beshear said.
Medicaid became a key issue during the race between Beshear and Bevin. Beshear won the election Nov. 5, and took office Dec. 10.
Kentucky was the first state to win approval from the Trump administration to impose work requirements and premiums on beneficiaries, but a protracted legal challenge has prevented them from taking effect. A federal judge in D.C. has twice blocked those measures from taking effect, but the Trump administration appealed. An appeals court panel heard oral arguments in October and is currently deliberating.
Read more here.
Trump administration extends ObamaCare enrollment deadline
The Trump administration is giving consumers a little more time to sign up for ObamaCare coverage after technical glitches plagued the healthcare.gov website in the final hours before the original deadline.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Monday announced it was extending the open enrollment deadline to Wednesday at 3 a.m. Eastern time.
The extended sign-up period began at 3 p.m. Monday.
While the Obama administration routinely granted extensions, this was the first one given by the Trump administration. Democrats and advocacy groups had been pushing for an extension, arguing that the glitches suffered on Sunday potentially prevented thousands of people from signing up for coverage.
The administration said at least 500,000 people signed up for coverage throughout the day Sunday prior to the original deadline.
Read more here.
In other ObamaCare news…
ObamaCare shows resilience despite Trump attacks
ObamaCare is showing signs of stability despite actions taken by the Trump administration to undermine the health care law.
While signups for ObamaCare plans are down slightly from last year, experts say enrollment appears to be relatively stable, partly due to lower premiums and more insurer participation.
“People need and want health insurance, and by and large, the marketplaces are working,” said Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform for the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
Enrollment on healthcare.gov has been steadily declining since 2016.
As of Dec. 7, more than 3.9 million people had signed up for plans, a 6 percent drop compared to a similar time period last year.
But the last few days of open enrollment typically bring a surge of signups, meaning that gap could shrink.
Still, experts don’t expect overall enrollment to top last year’s, when 8.4 million people signed up.
ObamaCare enrollment has dropped by 1.2 million since President Trump took office, and Democrats point to deliberate efforts by the administration to undermine the law– including backing a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general that seeks to overturn the entire thing.
Read more here.
What we’re reading
In a rhetorical shift, Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump tops Democratic rivals in national poll Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field in early primary states Saagar Enjeti rips Sanders’s decision to revoke Young Turks founder’s endorsement MORE emphasizes ‘choice’ on health care (CNN.com)
In Iowa, Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump tops Democratic rivals in national poll Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field in early primary states Saagar Enjeti rips Sanders’s decision to revoke Young Turks founder’s endorsement MORE calls Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegTrump tops Democratic rivals in national poll Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field in early primary states Krystal Ball questions Biden’s durability in 2020 field MORE‘s health care plan ‘a failed idea’ (Des Moines Register)
Research fuels debate over e-cigarettes as smoking-cessation device (The Wall Street Journal)
Congress just revealed how hard it will be to pass health reform (The Washington Post opinion)
State by state
Iowa Democrats worry ‘Medicare for All’ hurts key industry (Associated Press)
How Medicaid expansion is transforming politics as we know it (The Nation)
New audit says top medical system officials never read Pugh’s ‘Healthy Holly’ books before paying her $500,000 (Baltimore Sun)
From The Hill’s opinion page
Call the midwife — but not if you live in Georgia