Health: GOP Health Law Negotiations Complicated by Opioid Crisis

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Washington Brief

  • The nation’s opioid crisis is complicating the Senate GOP effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act. Senate Republicans can’t agree on a timeline to roll back the 2010 law’s expansion of Medicaid, which has allowed many Americans seeking substance-abuse treatment to gain coverage. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Sen. Ted Cruz has charted a new path in the Senate since the election of President Donald Trump. The formerly obstructionist Texas Republican has taken a lead role in Senate negotiations on health care, and also played a behind-the-scenes role in the May House vote on its Obamacare replacement bill. (Bloomberg News)
  • Democrats’ messaging for the 2018 midterms is focused squarely on health care before the July 4 recess, despite the daily drip about Russia and the Trump administration. (Roll Call)

Business Brief

  • If the House health care bill were to become law, it could make it more difficult for some Americans to switch jobs or careers because individual health plans could become unaffordable. (The New York Times)
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing Zoom on allegations that the Oregon-based health care startup retroactively falsified medical claims to avoid paying into an Affordable Care Act program called risk adjustment. (Axios)
  • Health care experts say is poised to disrupt the medical supplies industry as it builds out its Amazon Business platform. (Modern Healthcare)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Commonwealth Fund briefing on 2018 insurance marketplaces 1:30 p.m.
The Hill, PhRMA event on outcomes-based care with Sen. Cassidy 7:45 a.m.
Politico briefing on Medicaid 8 a.m.
Senate HELP Committee hearing on drug prices 10 a.m.
Brookings Institution event on drug distribution chain 9 a.m.
Manhattan Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum on drug prices 9 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on extending health safety net programs 10:15 a.m.
House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Indian Health Service 1 p.m.
Bloomberg Law event on the ACA 8:30 a.m.
Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on HHS budget request 10 a.m.
No events scheduled



Opioid Crisis Complicates GOP’s Health-Law Push
Sharon Nunn, The Wall Street Journal

The nation’s worsening opioid crisis has become another sticking point in Republican plans to dismantle major portions of the Affordable Care Act, with key GOP senators hesitating to support a bill that could threaten addiction treatment for millions of people. Several provisions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, allowed millions of Americans seeking substance-abuse treatment to gain coverage, including through an expansion of the Medicaid health program for the poor.

Democrats Stick to Health Care Message Amid Russian Intrigue
Simone Pathé, Roll Call

Despite the daily drip about Russia and the Trump administration, national Democrats who hope to exploit Republicans’ vulnerabilities in 2018 are focusing their messaging squarely on health care before the July 4 recess. Just minutes after former FBI Director James B. Comey concluded his testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee — in which he said the president lied to the America people — the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee blasted out a release.

Cruz Goes From ‘Lucifer’ to Dealmaker in Health-Care Overhaul
Steven T. Dennis, Bloomberg News

Ted Cruz is trying a radically new role: dealmaker. The first-term senator from Texas is seeking to unite warring wings of the Republican Party around an effort to kill Obamacare and is showing a new willingness to compromise with colleagues to devise a replacement plan.

Before Repeal and Replace, Kentucky Is Dismantling Health Law
Arian Campo-Flores, The Wall Street Journal

As Congress works to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health law, Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is already at work unwinding some of its provisions in his state. Mr. Bevin has dismantled the state’s health-insurance exchange, moving patients to the federal website last year.

Fate of Planned Parenthood funding tied to Senate moderates
Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico

Two female Senate Republicans could stop the anti-abortion movement from achieving its most significant win against Planned Parenthood in decades. Most Republicans want to eliminate the group’s $555 million in federal funding as part of their bill to repeal Obamacare.

Tech Selloff Spreads; Pound Slides as May Battles: Markets Wrap
Samuel Potter, Bloomberg News

A selloff in U.S. technology stocks spread through Asia and Europe, battering shares from South Korea to the Netherlands. The pound retreated as an embattled Theresa May fought to survive the fallout from the British general election.


Flexibility That A.C.A. Lent to Work Force Is Threatened by G.O.P. Plan
Reed Abelson, The New York Times

In recent years, millions of middle- and working-class Americans have moved from job to job, some staying with one company for shorter stints or shifting careers midstream. The Affordable Care Act has enabled many of those workers to get transitional coverage that provides a bridge to the next phase of their lives — a stopgap to get health insurance if they leave a job, are laid off, start a business or retire early.

Exclusive: FBI is investigating an Oregon health care startup
Bob Herman, Axios 

Zoom, a health care startup based in Oregon, is on the brink of a meltdown. The FBI has issued a subpoena to Zoom, and numerous people have either quit or been laid off, according to interviews with several former Zoom employees.

Medical Responses To Opioid Addiction Vary By State, Analysis Finds
Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News

Location, location, location. That mantra may apply even when it comes to how opioid addiction is treated.

GOP looks to blunt impact of health bill on older people
Jessie Hellmann, The Hill

GOP senators are trying to strike a balance that’s proving difficult: lowering healthcare insurance premiums for young adults while shielding older people from massive price hikes. At issue is an ObamaCare provision that essentially caps how much insurers can charge older people for premiums.


UNC oncologist and researcher named head of the National Cancer Institute
Laurie McGinley, The Washington Post

President Trump has named Norman “Ned” Sharpless, the director of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, to lead the National Cancer Institute. The oncologist and geneticist will succeed Doug Lowy, who has been acting director of NCI since early 2015.

Pharma, Biotech and Devices

New frontier in cancer care: Turning blood into living drugs
Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press

Ken Shefveland’s body was swollen with cancer, treatment after treatment failing until doctors gambled on a radical approach: They removed some of his immune cells, engineered them into cancer assassins and unleashed them into his bloodstream. Immune therapy is the hottest trend in cancer care and this is its next frontier — creating “living drugs” that grow inside the body into an army that seeks and destroys tumors.

Roche CEO still optimistic on new breast cancer drug
Kirsti Knolle, Reuters

Roche is convinced a new breast cancer drug will have a significant role in treating the disease despite recent trial results that disappointed analysts, the Swiss drugmaker’s chief executive said in an interview published on Sunday. Trial results released last week showed mixing Perjeta with Roche’s established Herceptin treatment gave patients only a slight benefit.

Opioid Dealers Embrace the Dark Web to Send Deadly Drugs by Mail
Nathaniel Popper, The New York Times

As the nation’s opioid crisis worsens, the authorities are confronting a resurgent, unruly player in the illicit trade of the deadly drugs, one that threatens to be even more formidable than the cartels. The internet.

Health IT

Amazon poised to deliver disruption in medical supply industry
Alex Kacik, Modern Healthcare

Amazon is on the healthcare industry’s doorstep. The e-commerce giant continues to transform virtually every segment of the economy as it leverages its massive distribution network to deliver logistical harmony.

CRISPR pioneer Doudna envisions a world of woolly mammoths and unicorns
Sharon Begley, Stat News

If there was one misstep that doomed the long and bitter fight by the University of California to wrest key CRISPR patents from the Broad Institute, it was star UC Berkeley scientist Jennifer Doudna’s habit of being scientifically cautious, realistic, and averse to overpromising. A biochemist who co-led a breakthrough 2012 study of CRISPR-Cas9, Doudna repeatedly emphasized in interviews the challenges of repurposing the molecular system, which bacteria use to fend off viruses, to edit human genomes.

A Message from PhRMA:

Key finding from investigation led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh: “Drug importation would increase the threat of illegitimate products entering the United States, fueling criminal organizations’ activities and profits.” Read the full report

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Regenerative Medicine Can Help Make America Great
Robert Hariri and Robert Goldberg, Morning Consult 

When President Donald Trump urged the biopharmaceutical industry to reduce the price of new medicines and to increase its manufacturing in the United States, many took it as a threat. We believe it’s a call to action. America’s ingenuity in biomedical research is unsurpassed.

A Single-Payer Test Drive
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

California’s state Senate recently passed a single-payer health-care bill, and we’re warming to the idea as an instructive experiment in progressive government. If Democrats believe the lesson of ObamaCare is that the government should have even more control over health care, then why not show how it would work in the liberal paradise?

The Senate’s three tools on health care: Sabotage, speed and secrecy
Andy Slavitt, The Washington Post

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had a problem when the American Health Care Act arrived from the House last month. What to do with a bill that is clogging your agenda but only 8 percent of Americans want you to pass and members of your own caucus swore was dead on arrival?

A Message from PhRMA:

Did you know? There have been a number of instances of harm caused to patients because of imported or online-purchased drugs, including death for patients in the United States, the UK and Canada, among others. Get the facts.

Research Reports

HUD Housing Assistance Associated With Lower Uninsurance Rates And Unmet Medical Need
Alan E. Simon et al., Health Affairs 

To investigate whether receiving US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing assistance is associated with improved access to health care, we analyzed data on nondisabled adults ages 18–64 who responded to the 2004–12 National Health Interview Survey that were linked with administrative data from HUD for the period 2002–14. To account for potential selection bias, we compared access to care between respondents who were receiving HUD housing assistance at the time of the survey interview (current recipients) and those who received HUD assistance within twenty-four months of completing the survey interview (future recipients).