Health Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Senate tackles Obamacare repeal bill

  • Senate Republican leaders formed a group to craft legislation that would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The 13-man working group, which includes some of the most conservative members of the Senate at the exclusion of more moderate members, has faced criticism for not including women. The were also separate discussions among Senate Republicans regarding efforts to repeal Obamacare.
  • While policies still have to be ironed out, Republicans are flirting with some ideas concerning tax credits, tax cuts and Medicaid. Under the Senate’s budget rules, the Senate bill will have cut federal deficits at least as much as the House bill.

Insurers grapple amid uncertainty

  • BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee said it will sell Obamacare health plans next year in the Knoxville region, an area that had been at risk of having no insurer offering exchange plans in 2018.
  • Aetna plans to withdraw from Obamacare plans entirely next year. The Connecticut-based insurer said that in 2018 it would exit the exchanges in Delaware and Nevada — the last two states in which it participated.

Senate confirms FDA commissioner 

  • The Senate voted 57-42 to confirm Scott Gottlieb to head the Food and Drug Administration. The physician’s confirmation was welcomed by industry groups and mainstream Republicans. He has since been sworn in.

PhRMA ousts almost two-dozen members

  • Twenty-two companies are no longer members of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America after the trade group adopted new rules requiring members to spend at least $200 million a year on research and development, and to ensure their R&D spending comprises at least 10 percent of global sales.

What’s Ahead

  • Senate Republicans will continue to discuss ideas for their Obamacare replacement legislation. Early discussions have focused on how to handle the Medicaid expansion. The 20 GOP senators who represent states that expanded their programs are likely to seek a “softer landing” than the 2020 cutoff date in the House-passed measure.
  • Senators won’t know how the House bill affects spending and revenues until the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office releases its estimate, which is expected early in the the week of May 22.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

No events scheduled
Avik Roy briefing on new report about distortion in U.S. prescription drug market 9:30 a.m.
Senate Finance Committee hearing on improving Medicare for patients with chronic conditions 10 a.m.
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.
No events scheduled


Morning Consult Health Top Reads

1) Senate GOP making tax credits look more like … Obamacare
Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico

2) Obamacare Has More Support Than GOP Alternative, Poll Finds
Mary Ellen McIntire, Morning Consult

3) Obama urges ‘political courage’ to save Affordable Care Act
Edward-Isaac Dovere, Politico

4) Health-Care Bill’s Tax Cuts Aren’t a Done Deal
Richard Rubin, The Wall Street Journal

5) Senate hard-liners outline health-care demands with Medicaid in the crosshairs
David Weigel and Elise Viebeck, The Washington Post

6) Pharma Lobby Ousts 22 Drugmakers Amid U.S. Pricing Debate
Jared S Hopkins and Cristin Flanagan, Bloomberg News

7) Express Scripts, GoodRx roll out cost savings program
Jacob Bell, BioPharma Dive

8) Clover Health Tops $1 Billion Value With Alphabet Backing
Lizette Chapman, Bloomberg News

9) FDA approves first ALS treatment in more than two decades
Natalie Grover, Reuters

10) 13 Men, and No Women, Are Writing New G.O.P. Health Bill in Senate
Robert Pear, The New York Times