KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Congressional Clock Is Ticking On Efforts To Shore Up Obamacare Insurance Markets

Though some senators say they are cautiously optimistic, it is not yet clear if lawmakers will be able to reach agreement before a self-imposed mid-September deadline. Meanwhile, the outcome of the trial of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) could have a serious impact on the Senate's balance of power and the outcome of major legislative battles, such as efforts to either repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or to fix it. News outlets also report on specific health policy positions of various senators and KHN's weekly "What The Health?" podcast reports on all the Capitol Hill health-policy goings on.

Morning Consult: Time Crunch Among Hurdles For Bipartisan Senate Push To Bolster ACA
The leaders of a key Senate committee say they are cautiously optimistic about reaching a deal to shore up the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplaces, but even with a bipartisan effort, it is far from certain whether they can push out an agreement in time. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee leaders of both parties have set a self-imposed mid-September deadline for a bipartisan agreement. To keep lingering animosity from the Obamacare repeal fight from seeping into negotiations, Chairman Lamar Alexander has made clear that what he’s seeking is far from comprehensive. (Reid, 8/18)

The New York Times: At Senator Menendez’s Trial, Stakes Are High For Democrats
If Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, is convicted and then expelled from the United States Senate by early January, his replacement would be picked by Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey and an ally of President Trump. That scenario — where Mr. Menendez’s interim replacement would more than likely be a Republican — would have immediate and far-reaching implications: The Republicans would be gifted a crucial extra vote just as the party remains a single vote shy in the Senate of advancing its bill to dismantle President Obama’s signature health care law. (Goldmacher, 8/17)

Iowa Public Radio: Sen. Ernst Supports Obamacare Payments As Insurance Premiums Increase
Sen. Joni Ernst says she wants the federal government to continue making payments for Obamacare subsidies to health insurance companies. President Trump has repeatedly threatened to stop making "cost-sharing reduction" payments. That uncertainty has led the only health insurance company left on Iowa’s exchange to propose a nearly 57 percent rate hike for 2018. (Sostaric, 8/17)

The Hill: Johnson Wants Details On Congressional ObamaCare 'Exemption' 
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wants information about why members of Congress and their staff receive an employer contribution toward their health coverage, which critics have dubbed an ObamaCare "congressional exemption." Johnson's request asks the Office of Personnel Management to preserve records related to the "exemption." (Roubein, 8/17)

Kaiser Health News: Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ Why Is It So Difficult To Control Drug Prices?
Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News, Sarah Karlin-Smith of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News discuss the recent extension of cost-sharing subsidies for millions of low-income beneficiaries on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces — as well as the state of play on Capitol Hill and in the states concerning efforts to lower prescription drug costs. (8/17)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.