Latest Morning Briefing Stories
Lawmakers in both Utah and Idaho are moving quickly to add restrictions to the voter-approved Medicaid expansion. Medicaid news comes out of Florida, as well.
For years, lawmakers in Utah and Idaho blocked Medicaid expansion — until it went on the ballot last November. Initiatives were approved in both states, but now state legislators are trying to add restrictions that would limit the gains made by Medicaid advocates. Utah lawmakers, worried that a sales tax increase might not fully cover costs, are rushing through a bill that would limit the expansion to people with incomes less than or equal to the poverty level, while in Idaho the legislature is mulling work requirements for the program.
With a divided Congress, there may not be much forward progress on health care issues at a national level, but states led by Democratic lawmakers are already taking steps to fulfill campaign promises for more expanded options.
In the same election that will put Democrat Laura Kelly in the governor’s office, Kansas voters also elected a more conservative state Legislature. While before, the governor stood in the way of expansion, this time it might be lawmakers who block the way. Medicaid news comes out of Maine, Kentucky and Minnesota, as well.
The Justice Department’s decision earlier in the year not to defend the ACA against a suit challenging the law’s constitutionality prompted three Justice Department career attorneys to withdraw from the case. Now Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) says the House Judiciary Committee will investigate the department’s refusal to defend a federal statute.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) says fast-tracking generic drug approvals is also on the agenda. Meanwhile, the Trump administration moves forward with ideas to curb high drug prices — specifically plans that don’t need congressional approval. And, Michigan’s Medicaid program is granted a waiver to pay for drugs based in part on how well they work.
While Medicaid expansion was the big winner in the midterms, states have been taking up the reins on other issues such as prescription drug prices, as well. With a split Congress, that might be where most of the movement is in the next two year. Meanwhile, Gov.-elect Laura Kelly’s decisive five-point win in Kansas has made longtime Medicaid expansion advocates optimistic that they can get it signed into law during the 2019 legislative session after years of opposition from Kelly’s Republican predecessors. News comes out of Louisiana, as well.
The initial ads from Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing will focus on insulin costs, and feature a man with diabetes penning a letter pleading with his congressman to follow through on a pledge to lower drug costs. “In your campaign, you said you would act,” the man reads aloud to an unspecified lawmaker. “You said you would do something about drug prices. Keep your commitment: hold Big Pharma accountable.”
One of the concerns of the next leaders of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee are reports about three members of President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort — Bruce Moskowitz, Ike Perlmutter and Marc Sherman — steering VA policy and personnel decisions. Meanwhile, the likely new chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee is emphasizing the importance of respecting science as she seeks the position.
First-term Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis penned an opinion piece casting blame on late Sen. John McCain’s thumbs-down vote that killed Republicans’ best attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In other election news, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, who ran on vows to protect preexisting conditions coverage, claims victory in the Arizona Senate race.
Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly and Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers, both Democrats who flipped seats from Republicans, vowed in their campaigns to expand Medicaid coverage. They might be aided by the momentum of ballot success in other states, but they do face headwinds in their legislatures. News on Medicaid comes out of North Carolina and Florida, as well.
The Democrats have made it clear that they think “health care was on the ballot and health care won.” Now that they have some power in the House, here’s what some of their top priorities will likely be.
The recent shooting at a bar in California highlights how difficult it is to decide on how emergency responders should handle highly dangerous situations. Meanwhile, The Associated Press looks at California’s gun laws, which are some of the strictest in the country. And a community grieves.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is expected to take up the gavel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which will give him authority to haul drugmakers in front of Congress to question them on high prices. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are already getting nervous about a potentially relationship between House Democrats and President Donald Trump over the issue.
The potential vote would serve as an intervention in the lawsuit working its way through the courts that could effectively kill the health law. It would also force Republicans to go on record almost immediately against the popular provisions of the ACA, such as protections for preexisting conditions.
Health care was the No. 1 issue among many voters this election, according to a recent survey, and the results seem to speak to the health law’s growing popularity in recent years. And with Democrats in control of the House, Republicans will be unable to move forward with any lingering plans for repeal. Meanwhile, ballot measures in several red states and a switch in leadership in Maine could mean that Medicaid could see its biggest boost in enrollment since expansion began. It’s not all rosy for the program though: some results could chip away at gains already made in Alaska and Montana.
When Democrats assume the House majority in January, the committees overseeing health care will see a shake up in leadership. But in the Senate, where Republicans will maintain control, the changes will be more modest.
The issue is one that lawmakers from both parties, as well as President Donald Trump, are eager to address. But other health care priorities from the Democrats might be checked by the cushy majority the Republicans hold in the Senate.
Analysts have called a split Congress the best case scenario for the marketplace. “We expect to see legislative deadlock for the next two years, with an uptick in House hearings and political posturing while President Trump continues to push his agenda through executive action and the judiciary,” Leerink analyst Ana Gupte said.
Media outlets across the country offer a look at 2018 races that affected their states.