Health Brief: Trump Threatens to Withhold Insurer Payments to Press Democrats

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump is threatening to withhold cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers in an attempt to force Democrats to the negotiating table to overhaul the Affordable Care Act. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • White House officials and top Republicans in Congress are considering amending their health insurance bill to allow more market competition between health care plans that follow Obamacare’s rules and plans that don’t. (Axios)
  • Forty-four percent of voters, including 37 percent of Trump voters, said they support the United States moving to a single-payer health insurance system. (Morning Consult)

Business Brief

  • The pharmaceutical industry is fighting a push by California state lawmakers to require drug companies to announce large price hikes and give detailed justifications to explain why the prices are going up. (KQED)
  • Powerful health industry groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are calling on the Trump administration and congressional leaders to fund CSR payments for this year and next, calling it “the most critical action” that could be taken to stabilize health insurance exchanges. (Morning Consult)
  • Apple has hired a small team of biomedical engineers to develop sensors that can non-invasively and continuously monitor blood sugar levels to better treat diabetes. (CNBC)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

No events scheduled
Aspen Institute event on improving end-of-life care with former HHS Secretary Sebelius 12 p.m.



Trump Threatens to Withhold Payments to Insurers to Press Democrats on Health Bill
Michael C. Bender et al., The Wall Street Journal

Nearly three weeks after Republican infighting sank an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump dug back into the battle on Wednesday, threatening to withhold payments to insurers to force Democrats to the negotiating table. In an interview in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said he was still considering what to do about the payments approved by his Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama, which some Republicans contend are unconstitutional.

GOP House leader says there are ways Republicans can forge ahead on health care
Paige Winfield Cunningham, The Washington Post 

Rep. Greg Walden, who helped craft the failed House GOP health-care proposal as a key committee chairman, said Tuesday that Republicans may have to wait even longer to act on it. Walden, an Oregon Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the GOP may have to use a future budget measure to pass its version of repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Freedom Caucus leader Brat predicts health care passage within weeks
Susan Page, USA Today

Rep. Dave Brat, one of the conservative Freedom Caucus leaders whose resistance helped undermine the Republican health care proposal last month, says White House and congressional negotiators are close to a compromise that he predicts will pass the House in the next three weeks. “Within a few weeks, I think D.C. is going to be a little bit shocked,” he said in an interview with Capital Download. “We’re going to get to yes.”

Analysis: Moderate Republicans Also to Blame for Health Care Impasse
Lindsey McPherson, Roll Call

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus have shouldered the majority of the blame for the Republicans’ failure to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law, but GOP moderates may be equally — if not more — responsible for the impasse. There are arguably more hard “no” votes (members not likely to be convinced to move to “yes”) for the GOP leadership’s plan among moderate Republicans than there are among Freedom Caucus members.

Coffman pummeled at town hall for backing GOP Obamacare replacement
Rachael Bade, Politico

During a roughly two-hour town hall here on the outskirts of Denver Wednesday night, nearly every other constituent brought up health care. But not a single one did it to thank Rep. Mike Coffman for backing the beleaguered House GOP Obamacare replacement.

Trump Talk Weighs on Stocks as Dollar Extends Drop: Markets Wrap
Garfield Clinton Reynolds and V Ramakrishnan, Bloomberg News

The dollar continued to face headwinds in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s denouncement of the greenback’s strength and championing of lower interest rates. Treasuries edged higher, compounding a retreat in yields which battered banking stocks.


Latest Trumpcare idea: Let different health plans fight it out
David Nather and Jonathan Swan, Axios

White House officials and top Republicans have been trading new ideas over the recess to get Obamacare repeal back on track — and one of the latest ideas is to allow more market competition between health plans that follow Obamacare’s rules and plans that don’t, according to sources familiar with the talks. They’re also trying to narrow the language of the proposal to let states opt out of some of the law’s insurance regulations.

Plurality of Voters Back Single-Payer Health Care System
Jon Reid, Morning Consult 

A plurality of voters support the adoption of a single-payer health insurance system in the United States, according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll. Forty-four percent of voters said they support a system where “all Americans would get their health insurance from one government plan,” while 36 percent said they oppose it.

Health Groups Warn of Higher Costs if ACA Subsidies Not Financed
Mary Ellen McIntire, Morning Consult 

A coalition of eight health groups are making a direct appeal to the Trump administration and congressional leaders to fund the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reductions for this year and next, calling it “the most critical action” that could be taken to stabilize health insurance exchanges. The future of the payments has been a source of uncertainty for insurers, who are preparing their policy proposals for the ACA exchanges in 2018.

In Medicare, states are far from equal
Elizabeth Whitman, Modern Healthcare

In 2015, Hawaii spent $6,608 per traditional Medicare beneficiary, but Mississippi spent $10,700. Nationwide, Medicare per capita costs amounted to $9,582, CMS data released Tuesday show. Why the difference?


In Remote Idaho, A Tiny Facility Lights The Way For Stressed Rural Hospitals
Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

Just before dusk on an evening in early March, Mimi Rosenkrance set to work on her spacious cattle ranch to vaccinate a calf. But the mother cow quickly decided that just wasn’t going to happen.

Pharma, Biotech and Devices

California Presses Forward In Fight To Regulate Pharma
Carrie Feibel, KQED

In November, California voters defeated a ballot proposal that would have given state government more control over drug prices. It was a victory for pharmaceutical companies, which spent more than $100 million campaigning against the measure.

1st drug OK’d for movement disorder caused by certain meds
Linda A. Johnson, The Associated Press

U.S. regulators have approved the first drug for treating a neurological syndrome that causes uncontrollable body movements that can also interfere with speech, swallowing and breathing. The sometimes-disabling disorder, tardive dyskinesia, is caused by some widely used prescription medicines for psychiatric and gastrointestinal disorders.

Hologic faces U.S. patent lawsuit over menstrual bleeding device
Jan Wolfe, Reuters

Medical device maker Hologic Inc has been hit with a lawsuit alleging its product for treating heavy menstrual bleeding infringes patented technology developed by start-up Minerva Surgical Inc, court papers show. Minerva filed a complaint in federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday saying it may seek an injunction blocking U.S. sales of Hologic’s NovaSure Advanced system which began in February.

Health IT

Apple has a secret team working on the holy grail for treating diabetes
Christina Farr, CNBC

Apple has hired a small team of biomedical engineers to work at a nondescript office in Palo Alto, miles from corporate headquarters. They are part of a super secret initiative, initially envisioned by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, to develop sensors that can non-invasively and continuously monitor blood sugar levels to better treat diabetes, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Health Care Policy Must Meet Growing Demand for Arthritis Care
Sharad Lakhanpal, Morning Consult 

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the number of Americans living with arthritis is at an all-time high. According to the report, 1 in 4 Americans now live with arthritis, and approximately 79 million will have arthritis by the year 2040.

Trump path to a health care win is clear: Andy Slavitt
Andy Slavitt, USA Today

The dealmaker-in-chief badly wants a deal on health care. President Trump has even been willing to hold his nose and support terms put forward by the hardcore conservative House Freedom Caucus that are hugely unpopular with his own backers, like allowing insurance companies to turn down people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Give Medicaid Dollars Directly to Patients
Justin Haskins and Michael Hamilton, The Wall Street Journal

As Republicans take another crack at devising a plan to replace ObamaCare, here’s an idea they should consider: Give each Medicaid patient a health savings account—and put $7,000 in it every year. Under ObamaCare, Medicaid has become the only option for millions of Americans.

Research Reports

Integrating Clinical Research into Epidemic Response: The Ebola Experience (2017)
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

The 2014–2015 Ebola epidemic in western Africa was the longest and most deadly Ebola epidemic in history, resulting in 28,616 cases and 11,310 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The Ebola virus has been known since 1976, when two separate outbreaks were identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) and South Sudan (then Sudan).