Latest Morning Briefing Stories

Increasingly Bitter Personal Rivalry Between Azar And Verma Threatens To Derail Administration’s Health Goals

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Politico reports on the escalating feud between HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma and the disruptions people close to the situation say it has caused. Privately, Azar’s and Verma’s camps are pointing the finger at one another, and disclosures about Verma’s use of highly paid consultants to raise her personal profile exacerbated the tensions.

Lawmakers Optimistic About Breaking Stalemate On Stalled Surprise Billing Negotiations

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While many in Congress are agreed that something must be done to address surprise medical bills, the lawmakers have been split over which of a handful of strategies to choose in moving forward. In other health industry and insurance news: record-high debt, gender pay gaps, state health exchanges, and more.

Dems Who See Health Care As Winning Issue Increasingly Sounding Alarm Over Political Pitfalls Of ‘Medicare For All’

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Warnings are being issued at all levels of the party–from union members to candidates running in swing states. “We won in Kentucky and Louisiana, barely, in part, because we won on health care. I don’t think we can afford to lose on health care,” Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-R.I.) said. Meanwhile, industry opponents for “Medicare for All” are starting to go after the moderates’ health plans as well. In other election news, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has a plan to expand mental health treatment.

A ‘Public Option’ Used To Be So Controversial It Was Dropped From ACA. In Era Of ‘Medicare For All’ It’s Regained Appeal.

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A so-called “public option” would allow people to buy a government-run health plan that competes with the private marketplace. In previous years, the policy was considered extreme, while now it’s starting to sound like the moderate option in the current political landscape. Meanwhile, Politico takes a look at the army being built to fight “Medicare for All.”

Developmentally Disabled Medicaid Beneficiaries In Missouri Stranded On Wait-Lists After Funds Were Slashed

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Even those who have been prioritized with the most need are facing a daunting wait-list for care. “We need to help legislators understand in the long run it’s better to support these individuals now,” said Erin Suelmann, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. “It’s a moral issue, too. These are our most vulnerable population and we need to be caring for them.” Medicaid news comes out of Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, as well.

Revamped Tool To Help Medicare Patients Pick Prescription Plans Steering Them Toward More Expensive Coverage

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The Medicare plan finder’s issue stems from a significant change the agency made for 2020. The plan with the lowest premium now gets automatically placed on top, with the monthly premium displayed in large font. Medicare’s previous plan finder automatically sorted plans by total cost, not just premiums, because they are only one piece of information. Meanwhile, a new study shows that Medicare prescription plans are slower to cover new generics than private plans.

U.S. Territories On Path Toward ‘Medicaid Cliff’ As Congress Drags Its Feet Over Funding

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If Congress doesn’t increase the amount of designated money by the end of the year, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam say they would need to cut their Medicaid rolls in half, while Puerto Rico says it would need to cut back dental and prescription drug services. Medicaid news comes out of Kansas and North Carolina, as well.

Verma Defended Communication Contracts As Way Of Promoting Policies, But Emails Reveal Talk Of Glamour Magazine Profile

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Politico has obtained emails that show federal officials and contractors discussing the possibility of boosting CMS Administrator Seema Verma’s public persona with high-profile articles in magazines like Glamour. Federal officials are prohibited from spending taxpayer dollars for publicity purposes, or using their public office for private gain. In other news, Verma criticized hospitals and insurers for fighting against price transparency efforts.