Health Brief: Plurality of Voters Want Senate GOP to Leave Medicaid Expansion Intact

Washington Brief

  • Forty-six percent of voters said any legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act should maintain the 2010 law’s expansion of Medicaid, according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll. (Morning Consult)
  • Momentum is building among Senate moderates for bipartisan talks to repair the Affordable Care Act, threatening to disrupt the strategy of both parties’ leaders to keep members in line. (Politico)
  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to guarantee that the Senate’s Obamacare replacement bill will keep all of the House bill’s tax cuts. (Bloomberg News)

Business Brief

  • More than 6 million people who have pre-existing health conditions would likely face higher premiums under the House GOP’s Obamacare replacement bill because of gaps in insurance coverage, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (The Hill)
  • Amazon is hiring a business lead to help the e-commerce company expand into the multibillion-dollar pharmacy market. Amazon already sells medical supplies and equipment in the U.S. (CNBC)
  • The average proposed rate increase for Obamacare health plans in Oregon next year is 17.2 percent, according to independent analyst Charles Gaba. (The Washington Examiner)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

NIH Director Collins testifies before House Appropriations subcommittee 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on public health 10:15 a.m.
House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on Medicare 2 p.m.
NIHCM webinar on coverage for high-need patients 2:30 p.m.



Bipartisan health care talks pick up steam in Senate
Jennifer Haberkorn and Elana Schor, Politico

Bipartisan talks to repair Obamacare are gaining traction among a group of Senate moderates, threatening to disrupt strategies from both parties’ leaders to keep members in line. At least three moderate Democrats held an initial sit-down with half a dozen Republicans late Monday evening — the most tangible sign yet of centrists’ interest in finding common ground.

N.Y. Single-Payer Health-Care Bill Passes State Assembly
Mike Vilensky, The Wall Street Journal

Democrats in the New York Assembly are relaunching a push for a statewide single-payer health-care program in hopes that the national debate over health care will give their legislation new momentum. The “Medicare-for-all” bill—designed to provide health insurance to all state residents—passed the predominantly Democratic state Assembly on Tuesday afternoon following several hours of partisan back-and-forth on the chamber floor.

HHS releases checklist for state Obamacare waivers
Kimberly Leonard, Washington Examiner

The Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday released a checklist for states that choose to seek waivers from certain Obamacare requirements. Through the waivers, commonly known as “innovation waivers” or 1332 waivers, states can ask the federal government to allow them to set up high-risk pools, reinsurance programs or another proposal that would reduce costs for customers or allow for more people to be covered.

Congressional ethics investigators interview Collins’ investment partners
Robert J. McCarthy and Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News

Congressional ethics investigators are probing Rep. Chris Collins’ role in attracting investors to an Australian biotech company, interviewing several of them in the Buffalo area Tuesday and Wednesday, according to two sources familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified. The Office of Congressional Ethics – an independent, nonpartisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against members, officers and staff – is concentrating on investments in Innate Immunotherapeutics.

Durbin okays Dem meeting with GOP centrists on ObamaCare
Peter Sullivan, The Hill

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said Tuesday it is alright if Democrats talk with two GOP authors of a more centrist Republican plan on healthcare because the pair is looking “beyond repeal.” Democratic leaders said Republicans must drop their efforts to repeal ObamaCare before any bipartisan talks can happen.

Caution Reigns as U.S. Politics Takes Center Stage: Markets Wrap
Robert Brand and Adam Haigh, Bloomberg News

Growing concerns over the turmoil engulfing President Donald Trump’s administration weighed on risk appetite, boosting the yen and gold and sending stocks lower. S&P 500 Index futures declined with European and Asian equities on reports that Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.


Plurality of Voters Want Senate GOP to Leave Medicaid Expansion Intact
Jon Reid, Morning Consult

As Senate Republicans consider what to do with the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, a plurality of voters would like them to leave it alone. Forty-six percent of voters said that any Obamacare replacement legislation should leave intact the expansion of Medicaid, a federal program for low-income Americans, according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO survey.

McConnell Won’t Guarantee All Tax Cuts Stay in Health-Care Bill
Steven T. Dennis and Laura Litvan, Bloomberg News

Passing an Obamacare replacement won’t be any easier in the Senate than in the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday while refusing to guarantee that his chamber’s plan will keep all of the House bill’s tax cuts. “This is a really tough issue,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “You all covered extensively the difficulty of getting a bill out of the House. It won’t be any easier getting it out of the Senate.”

Study: 6M with pre-existing conditions could be charged more under GOP plan
Nathaniel Weixel, The Hill

More than 6 million people with pre-existing conditions could face higher insurance premiums under the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill because of gaps in coverage, according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Under the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which narrowly passed the House last month, states would be allowed to waive the community rating provision of ObamaCare, which prevents insurers from charging more for those with pre-existing conditions.

Oregon insurers post rate requests for Obamacare exchanges
Kimberly Leonard, Washington Examiner

Insurers in Oregon who plan to participate in the Obamacare exchanges have posted rate increases for premiums that range from single to double digits. The average, unsubsidized requests are 17.2 percent, according to independent analyst Charles Gaba, who writes

Startup insurer Oscar is still losing money
Bob Herman, Axios

Oscar Health Insurance lost $25.8 million in the first quarter of this year, based on its financial documents filed in California, New York and Texas on Tuesday. That was an improvement over the $48.5 million loss from the same period last year.

Hoeven pitches Medicaid reinvestment proposal
Kimberly Leonard, Washington Examiner

Sen. John Hoeven is pitching a provision in a repeal and replacement plan for Obamacare that would allow states to move unused Medicaid dollars to future years. The North Dakota Republican’s plan aims to address some of the concerns that have been raised about changing the structure of Medicaid to a per-capita or block-grant program, as was proposed under the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, called the American Health Care Act.

Industry asks Congress for more leeway on Medicare Advantage, telemedicine coverage
Mara Lee, Modern Healthcare

Expanding telemedicine coverage and changing rules that govern Medicare Advantage, ACOs and value-based insurance designs would all help improve health and reduce spending on Medicare patients with multiple chronic conditions, said witnesses at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday. The Senate’s bipartisan Chronic Care Working Group has already gotten six of its policy proposals realized through CMS rulemaking and the 21st Century Cures Act.


Patients fare worse with older doctors, study finds
Leah Samuel, Stat News

Could your doctor’s age affect how you fare during treatment? Perhaps — though the impact is fairly small, according to a new study.

Pharma, Biotech and Devices

Amazon is hiring people to break into the multibillion-dollar pharmacy market
Christina Farr, CNBC

Amazon is hiring a business lead to figure out how the company can break into the multibillion-dollar pharmacy market. For the last few years, Amazon has held at least one annual meeting at its Seattle, WA headquarters to discuss whether it should enter the pharmacy business, says two people familiar with the company’s plans.

FDA warns of foot, leg amputations with J&J diabetes drug
Toni Clarke and Bill Berkrot, Reuters

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) is required to add new warnings to its diabetes drug, Invokana, about the risk of foot and leg amputations, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday. Final results from two clinical trials showed leg and foot amputations occurred about twice as often in patients with type 2 diabetes treated with Invokana, known also as canagliflozin, as those given a placebo, the FDA said in an announcement posted on its website.

Health IT

Why Health Care Is Especially Vulnerable to Ransomware Attacks
Sy Mukherjee, Fortune

The ongoing saga of the WannaCry ransomware attack which devastated the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) over the weekend and has already infected hundreds of thousands of computers across the globe reads like a Black Mirror episode set in our very times. A cadre of amateur hackers took advantage of security flaws in widely-used Microsoft operating systems with a technique gleaned from none other than the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)—and consequently brought a nation’s health system to its knees while throwing patients’ lives into disarray.

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Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Zika Prevention Must Remain a Priority
Kathleen Jaeger, Morning Consult 

While families across the country celebrated Mother’s Day on May 14, many mothers continue to face a much harsher reality brought on by the devastating effects of the Zika virus. According to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 10 pregnant women infected with Zika in the U.S. had a fetus or a baby with serious birth defects.

Health care bill approved by House leaves too many behind
Rob Portman, The Cincinnati Enquirer

Over the past several years, lots of Ohio families are feeling the middle-class squeeze. Wages still haven’t recovered from the recession and yet expenses are going up.

Trump’s new FDA commissioner has a huge decision to make
William B. Schultz, The Washington Post

Last week, the Senate confirmed Scott Gottlieb to lead the Food and Drug Administration. That puts the new commissioner in the hot seat to tackle several high-profile issues that are critically important to patients and consumers.

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Research Reports

Gaps in Coverage Among People With Pre-Existing Conditions
Larry Levitt et al., The Kaiser Family Foundation

The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which has passed the House of Representatives, contains a controversial provision that would allow states to waive community rating in the individual insurance market. In this brief we estimate the number of people with pre-existing conditions who might be affected by such a policy.