Overnight Healthcare: Senate panel to hold bipartisan hearings on healthcare

The Senate Health Committee will begin holding bipartisan hearings the first week of September on how to stabilize and strengthen the individual insurance market, the panel’s top Democrat and Republican announced Tuesday.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGOP lawmakers, Trump at odds over insurance payments McCain urges ‘a fresh start’ on healthcare reform Schumer expresses hope for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes MORE (R-Tenn.) — the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — said the goal is for the panel to craft a bipartisan, short-term proposal by mid-September, as insurers must finalize how much their premiums will cost by the end of that month.

“We need to put out the fire in these collapsing markets wherever these markets are,” Alexander said at the beginning of a HELP Committee hearing on nominations.

The committee plans to discuss the issue with insurance commissioners, patients, insurance companies, governors and healthcare experts. The committee’s staff will beginning preparing for the hearings this week, Alexander said.

The panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayMcCain urges ‘a fresh start’ on healthcare reform Schumer expresses hope for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes ObamaCare repeal: Now what? MORE (D-Wash.), said she welcomed the bipartisan hearings and appreciated Alexander’s willingness to work with her on the issue. Alexander and Murray have previously crafted bipartisan deals, such as a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act last congressional session.

The move comes as some Senate GOP leaders are openly admitting they don’t see a path forward on their seven-year-long campaign pledge to repeal ObamaCare, at least for now, after a scaled-down repeal bill failed to pass the upper chamber early Friday morning.

Read more here.


But… McConnell leaves door open for second try on healthcare 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellDem ad maker cuts new ad in Kentucky for Amy McGrath Dems express interest in working with GOP on bipartisan tax reform McConnell faces questions, but no test to his leadership MORE (R-Ky.) is leaving the door open for Republicans to take a second run at repealing ObamaCare after a GOP proposal failed last week.

“We’re continuing to score some of the options on healthcare,” McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference on Tuesday. “There’s still an opportunity to do that.”

McConnell said Republicans, not Democrats, were behind the failed ObamaCare repeal vote.

“It’s pretty obvious our problem on healthcare was not the Democrats. We didn’t have 50 Republicans,” he said.

Senate Republicans failed to pass their “skinny” repeal bill in a 49-51 vote early Friday morning.

McConnell has largely stayed silent this week on the vote, which threw a key pillar of the GOP agenda into limbo. GOP senators, including McConnell, have campaigned for years on repealing ObamaCare.

President Trump and the White House have publicly urged Republicans to quickly take another vote, and hold up other Senate work until they get an agreement.

Read more here.


Senate Republicans brush off Trump’s healthcare demands 

Senate Republicans appear poised to ignore President Trump’s demands that they immediately resurrect ObamaCare repeal and abolish the legislative filibuster.

Trump has waged a public pressure campaign against GOP senators since they failed to pass even a “skinny” bill repealing ObamaCare last week. 

Unless Republicans are “total quitters,” Trump tweeted, they will revive their years long effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare. While they’re at it, Trump wrote, Republicans should get rid of the 60-vote procedural hurdle for legislation, saying they “look like fools and are just wasting time.”  

Read more here.


Cornyn: Time for Democrats to put up healthcare ideas

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell faces questions, but no test to his leadership Senate Republicans brush off Trump’s healthcare demands GOP lawmakers, Trump at odds over insurance payments MORE (R-Texas) is urging Democrats to offer ideas on fixing the healthcare system, saying “fragile majorities” in the Senate are forcing both parties to work together.

“Democrats need to be more constructive rather than just continuing to bury their head in the sand about the fundamental problems with the Affordable Care Act,” Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican, said from the Senate floor on Tuesday.

He added that while Democrats “fought us every step up the way” on the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, lawmakers have to keep looking for a path forward on a healthcare bill.

Read more here.


California warns rates could jump if key ObamaCare payments end

California health insurers that sell ObamaCare plans say they could have double-digit premium increases for some plans next year if the Trump administration cuts off key payments to insurers.

Insurers in the state requested a 12.5 percent rate increase on average amid “a time of unprecedented uncertainty,” the state’s Covered California exchange announced Tuesday.

But Trump — who has called for lawmakers to let ObamaCare “implode” — is threatening to cancel key disbursements under ObamaCare, known as Cost-Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments. If that happens, the state said insurers will tack on an additional 12.4 percent on rates for mid-level plans.

Trump could make a decision on whether to continue making the payments as soon as this week.

Read more here.


Advocates fear FDA blowing smoke on nicotine limits

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is raising eyebrows with talk of cracking down on nicotine levels in cigarettes and flavored tobacco products, including menthol.

The agency on Friday said it’s planning to look at reducing nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels, a policy change that would likely have huge repercussions for the tobacco industry.

The FDA said it would issue a regulatory notice “to seek input on the potential public health benefits and any possible adverse effects of lowering nicotine in cigarettes.”

Health advocates who want tougher action against cigarettes aren’t celebrating the announcement; they say the process mapped out by the FDA could take years and express doubts the agency will ultimately follow through.

Read more here.


What we’re reading

With Tom Price in charge, doctors are winning again in Washington (statnews.com)

The last GOP health plan left standing, explained (Vox)

Drug puts a $750,000 price tag on life (NPR)


State by state 

Health policy splits Georgia gubernatorial candidates after repeal failure (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Poll: Massachusetts voters favor government funding for abortions (Worcester Telegram)

Judge strikes down Alabama law requiring girls to get court permission for abortion (al.com)

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Overnight Healthcare: Senate panel to hold bipartisan hearings on healthcare

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