Health Brief: Two-Thirds of Voters Say ACA Repeal Should Happen With Replacement Ready

Washington Brief

  • Nearly two-thirds of voters say Congress should not repeal Obamacare without having a replacement plan, according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll. Many individual provisions of the law had a plurality of support from voters. (Morning Consult)
  • Five Senate Republicans introduced an amendment to a budget resolution that would give congressional committees until March 3, rather than Jan. 27, to draft Obamacare repeal legislation. Across the Capitol, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus says the group wants more details about a replacement plan before voting on a budget resolution, the first step in repealing the health care law. (Bloomberg News)
  • GOP leaders say they are continuing forward with plans to repeal the law, then pass replacement legislation, despite pushback from some members of their party. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said they are weighing whether some replacement elements could be included in a repeal measure. (The Hill)

Business Brief

  • Industry groups are keeping their heads down as lawmakers move to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While some groups have written to lawmakers about their plans, many have been quiet, especially compared to 2009 when the law was drafted. (The New York Times)
  • Biotech companies at JPMorgan’s Health Investor Conference are waiting for more details about the policy environment they will face under President-elect Donald Trump, including who will lead the Food and Drug Administration. (Washington Examiner)
  • Johnson & Johnson is set to release a report showing the average increases to list prices for its drugs in the U.S., hoping to show the company has made reasonable increases. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

No events scheduled
Brookings Institution event on research and development 10 a.m.
Cato Institute discussion on the 115th Congress’ agenda 10 a.m.
AEI panel discussion on fixing health care 8 a.m.



Trump’s Health Secretary Nominee Sought Special Treatment for Industry Donors
Marisa Taylor and Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News

Rep. Tom Price, the physician and Georgia Republican tapped for the nation’s leading health care job, has long criticized federal spending as excessive. Yet during his years in Congress, he’s worked hard to keep federal dollars flowing to his most generous campaign donors.

Obamacare Tax on Wealthy Sparks Battle Over Fairness
Alan K. Ota, Roll Call

Republicans and Democrats are squaring off in a fight over tax fairness as the GOP develops a timetable for repealing the 3.8 percent surtax on investment income under the health care overhaul. GOP lawmakers have long argued for elimination of the surtax, or the net investment income tax, that applies to income such as interest, dividends and capital gains for individuals making more than $125,000 or couples earning more than $250,000.

Manchin: Trump will help on miners fight
Jordain Carney, The Hill

Sen. Joe Manchin said Monday that President-elect Donald Trump supports a permanent fix on miners’ healthcare benefits, giving a boost to a key issue for the West Virginia Democrat. “Today, I spoke with President-Elect Donald Trump and he assured me that he will help fight to secure a permanent health care solution for our retired miners, as guaranteed in the Miners Protection Act,” Manchin said in a statement.

Introducing the Biden Cancer Initiative
Paige Winfield Cunningham, Washington Examiner

Vice President Joe Biden said Monday he’ll continue his work to organize cancer research once he leaves office this month by heading a new project that could be called the Biden Cancer Initiative. Biden said in a conference here Monday that the program will have a goal similar to the one he’s spearheaded as vice president, called the cancer “moonshot,” which aims to complete a decade’s worth of cancer research in five years.

Dollar Retreats as Trump Euphoria Ebbs, Gold Gains: Markets Wrap
Natasha Doff and Emma O’Brien, Bloomberg News

The dollar fell for a second day as the euphoria over Donald Trump’s policies fades. Gold reached a one-month high and industrial metals advanced on signs of increased demand from China.


Nearly Two-Thirds Say Obamacare Replacement Must Happen With Repeal 
Mary Ellen McIntire, Morning Consult 

Nearly two-thirds of registered voters say Congress should not repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan, a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll finds. That includes 61 percent of independent voters and 48 percent of Republicans who said there should be a “clear alternative announced” before repealing the 2010 health care law.

Muted Response From Health Lobby as Affordable Care Act Faces Repeal
Robert Pear, The New York Times

The speed of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act has stunned health industry lobbyists, leaving representatives of insurance companies, hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical makers in disarray and struggling for a response to a legislative quick strike that would upend much of the American health care system. The Senate is expected to take the first step by Thursday morning, approving parliamentary language in a budget resolution that would fast-track a repeal bill that could not be filibustered in the Senate.

Republicans scramble to ease concerns about Obamacare replacement
Sean Sullivan and Kelsey Snell, The Washington Post

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to ease growing concerns among GOP lawmakers about rushing to repeal the federal health-care law before plans for a replacement take firmer shape, addressing complications to the effort to deliver on one of the party’s signature campaign promises. In the Senate, where Republicans are using a budget package to move swiftly ahead with repeal, leaders are looking at ways to adjust their plans to address the skittishness that GOP senators have voiced in recent days.

Breakaway Senate Republicans Push to Delay Obamacare Repeal
Steven T. Dennis and Sahil Kapur, Bloomberg News

A breakaway group of five moderate Senate Republicans pushed Monday to delay a bill repealing Obamacare until March — potentially enough pressure to force the party’s leadership to comply. The step is the latest sign of some Republicans’ growing uneasiness about their leadership’s plan to repeal the law with no consensus on a replacement as part of an effort to deliver swiftly on one of President-elect Donald Trump’s top campaign promises.

GOP leaders push back at critics of ObamaCare plan
Peter Sullivan, The Hill

Senate Republican leaders are pushing back against the idea proposed by some in their caucus of passing an ObamaCare replacement at the same time that they repeal the law. Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, indicated to reporters Monday that simultaneous repeal and replacement is not practical.

GOP leaders vow to plow ahead with Obamacare repeal
Rachael Bade and Burgess Everett, Politico

House and Senate Republican leaders are forging ahead with plans to repeal Obamacare then replace it later — dismissing mounting pressure from their own party to delay the repeal vote until they have a fully formed alternative. But they’re hoping to ease internal concerns that Republicans will be attacked for acting hastily — worries that accelerated after libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) bucked party leadership on the matter last week and received a blessing from President-elect Donald Trump.

Paul, Trump upend GOP’s Obamacare repeal plans
Burgess Everett, Politico

After Rand Paul spent the last week urging the GOP not to repeal Obamacare without having a replacement plan ready, his phone rang on Friday night with a call from a new supporter: Donald Trump. “He called after seeing an interview that I had done [talking about] that we should vote on Obamacare replacement at the same time,” Paul said in an interview on Monday.

Republicans form Obamacare action team
Paige Winfield Cunningham, Washington Examiner

Republicans have assembled a team led by Rep. Doug Collins to guide the party’s public messaging during the Obamacare repeal-and-replace process. Members of the group, dubbed the 21st Century Health Care Action Team, are having initial meetings this week, an aide confirmed.

Obama’s top health official warns of dangers of health-care law repeal
Amy Goldstein, The Washington Post

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell warned Monday of widespread damage to the nation’s health-care system if the Republican-led Congress and incoming Trump administration repeal the Affordable Care Act before they define a sequel. American health care risks “going over a cliff,” with serious consequences for the industry as well as for state budgets and economies, Burwell said in a speech at the National Press Club.

Senate Democrats Use the Floor and Facebook to Protest Obamacare Repeal
Bridget Bowman and Niels Lesniewski, Roll Call

Senate Democrats launched the first of what will likely be numerous efforts to derail Republican plans to repeal the 2010 health care law, taking to the Senate floor and social media Monday night in a talk-a-thon to portray the move as reckless and chaotic for the health care system. “I think the point is to send a clear message to the country, to the American people that, No. 1, we’re going to do everything we can to prevent Senate Republicans from destroying the Affordable Care Act,” Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen said.


CMS issues final rules for home health agencies
Elizabeth Whitman, Modern Healthcare

The CMS finalized rules Monday that set minimum standards for home health agencies. The rules are aimed at improving the quality of care for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and boosting patients’ rights.

ICD-10 glitch leads CMS to relax physician quality penalties
Joseph Conn, Modern Healthcare

The CMS issued something of a get-out-of-Medicare-penalties-free-card for two years to physicians and group practices due to a glitch with quality reporting measures based on a recent update to the ICD-10 diagnosis and procedure codes. The CMS pointed its finger at updates that went into use Oct. 1, 2016, to the ICD-CM (Clinical Modification) and ICD-PCS (Procedural Coding System) and their impact on the Physician Quality Reporting System

Pharma, Biotech and Devices

Biotech companies meet amid Trump uncertainties
Paige Winfield Cunningham, Washington Examiner

The biotech industry converges this week for its largest annual conference amid an uncertain new federal policy environment under President-elect Trump. JPMorgan’s Health Investor Conference, the industry’s biggest annual networking event, will feature presentations Monday through Thursday from more than 450 companies including the biggest biotech, medical device and drug companies, and some provider groups and insurers.

Johnson & Johnson to Report Average Increases in List Prices for U.S. Drugs
Jonathan D. Rockoff, The Wall Street Journal

Johnson & Johnson is planning to issue a report next month outlining how much it has raised the U.S. prices of its prescription drugs, the latest pharmaceutical company effort to address intense public concern about the cost of medicines. The report will give the average increase in the list prices for all company drugs in the U.S., as well as their average price after the discounts given by the company, J&J officials said.

Specialty Pharmacies Say Benefit Managers Are Squeezing Them Out
Katie Thomas, The New York Times

From its storefront in Union City, N.J., Prime Aid Pharmacy caters to patients with a wide range of ailments, from rheumatoid arthritis to hepatitis C. The business prides itself on getting patients their necessary drugs, employs a staff that speaks 10 languages and delivers medications by car in New York and New Jersey.

St. Jude releases cyber updates for heart devices after U.S. probe
Jim Finkle, Reuters

Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) is releasing cyber security updates for its St. Jude heart devices, it said on Monday, some five months after the U.S. government launched a probe into claims they were vulnerable to potentially life-threatening hacks. The Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) said the fix does not address all known problems affecting the company’s implanted heart devices.

Valeant to Sell $2.1 Billion in Assets to Pay Down Debt
Phil Serafino and Johannes Koch, Bloomberg News

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., the embattled Canadian drugmaker, agreed to sell about $2.1 billion in assets to get cash to streamline its businesses and begin easing its debt burden. L’Oreal SA will pay Valeant $1.3 billion for three skin-care brands, the Paris-based company Tuesday said in a statement.

Study: Drug development is no faster now than 20 years ago
Rebecca Robbins, Stat

New drugs are moving more quickly to market today compared with those launched during the height of the Great Recession, but the pipeline is no faster than it was two decades ago. That’s a key finding of a new report, released jointly by QuintilesIMS Institute and STAT, that illustrates shifting forces that have high stakes for drug innovation and pricing.

Health IT

The Veterans Health Administration thinks the key to interoperability may be in the cloud
Joseph Conn, Modern Healthcare

The giant Veterans Health Administration is poking its head into the cloud to see if therein lies the key to sharing data within and outside of its sprawling healthcare delivery system. The goal of the Digital Health Platform is to pull patient data from the VA, military and commercial electronic health record systems, applications, devices and wearables and send it to a patient’s healthcare team in real-time.

Obama disappointed in medical data-sharing progress
Gienna Shaw, Fierce Healthcare

President Barack Obama says interoperability and data-sharing efforts haven’t gone as well as he had hoped they would under his signature healthcare reform law. In a video interview with Vox, Obama said efforts to cut healthcare costs by reducing readmissions have been a success, fueled by financial incentives, common-sense, low-tech interventions such as follow-up phone calls and bipartisan support for value-based care efforts.

A Message from the College of American Pathologists:

Pathologists are physicians who provide a diagnosis of cancer. Getting that right is absolutely critical. Watch as Dr. Jiang navigates the high stakes of diagnosis.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Fight for Health Care Has Begun
David Leonhardt, The New York Times

ObamaCare failed Americans. Now it’s time for relief
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Fox News

By nearly any measure, ObamaCare has failed: It didn’t lower costs, it didn’t increase choice, middle-class families continue to lose health plans they were promised they could keep, and Americans continue to call for ObamaCare’s repeal. They spoke loudly again this November, and about 8 out of 10 favor changing ObamaCare significantly or replacing it altogether.

GOP Obamacare replacement plan could prove ‘disastrous’
Merrill Goozner, Modern Healthcare

Republicans seem intent on pursuing a disastrous Obamacare replacement plan that couples catastrophic coverage with subsidized health savings accounts. Such high-deductible plans will make achieving good health much harder for patients.

If Trump doesn’t rescue Obamacare, he must admit he’s a liar
Bernie Sanders, The Washington Post

It didn’t take long. During the first week of 2017, the new Republican Congress has begun efforts to dismantle America’s health-care system. Their long-standing goal, consistent with their right-wing ideology, is to take away health insurance from tens of millions of Americans, privatize Medicare, make massive cuts to Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood.

A Message from the College of American Pathologists:

Pathology is an integral part of surgery. Pathologists provide answers to key questions: Is a lesion benign or malignant? Has it spread? Is more testing needed? Watch as Dr. Atkinson supports Kathy and her care team from biopsy to diagnosis.

Research Reports

Consumers Buy Lower-Cost Plans on Covered California, Suggesting Exposure to Premium Increases Is Less Than Commonly Reported
Jon R. Gabel et al., The Commonwealth Fund

This analysis of health plan premium growth in California’s insurance marketplaces, focusing on the policies that consumers actually purchased, finds that the average price paid for plans selected in 2014 was 11.6 percent less than the average price of all plans offered by insurers. Similar differences were observed in 2015 and 2016, suggesting that consumers are choosing to purchase lower-cost plans.