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Overnight Health Care: Trump eases ObamaCare rules with executive order

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President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order aimed at taking action on ObamaCare on his own after Congress failed to repeal the law.

Trump said Thursday the order is “starting that process” to repeal ObamaCare. It will be the “first steps to providing millions of Americans with ObamaCare relief,” Trump said.

Administration officials said the order is just the beginning of the administration’s actions related to the health-care law.

Experts warned that the order could undermine the stability of ObamaCare markets by opening up skimpier, cheaper plans that would divert healthy people away from ObamaCare plans.

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Democrats warn that the order is part of Trump’s larger plan to “sabotage” the health-care law and accomplish on his own what Congress could not.

The full extent of the effects will not be immediately clear. The executive order largely does not make changes itself; rather it directs agencies to issue new regulations or guidance. Those new rules will go through a notice and comment period that could take months, officials said.

Trump’s order seeks to expand the ability of small businesses and other groups to band together to buy health insurance through what are known as association health plans (AHPs). It also lifts limits on short-term health insurance plans.

Because both of these types of plans do not have to follow the same ObamaCare rules, such as minimum benefits standards, experts warn that healthier people could join these cheaper plans and leave only sicker people in ObamaCare plans. That could lead to a spike in premiums for ObamaCare plans or insurers simply dropping out of the market.

Read more here.

Trump administration hints at enforcing ObamaCare mandate

The Trump administration is hinting that it will continue to enforce the ObamaCare mandate requiring Americans to have health insurance coverage.

An administration document obtained by The Hill that accompanies an executive order signed by President Trump Thursday states that “only Congress can change the law” when it comes to the mandate.

“Will the Administration be enforcing the individual and employer mandates?” the question and answer document asks.

“While HHS has the ability to define a hardship exemption for the purpose of the individual mandate, the tax penalties are contained in the Internal Revenue Code and only Congress can change the law,” the document states in response.

Read more here.

Hospital group warns Trump’s executive order could weaken insurance markets

The largest hospital association warned that an executive order signed by President Trump on Thursday could destabilize insurance markets and make coverage unaffordable for people with pre-existing conditions.

“Today’s Executive Order will allow health insurance plans that cover fewer benefits and offer fewer consumer protections,” said Tom Nickels, executive vice president of the American Hospital Association, in a statement.

“No one can predict future health care needs with complete certainty and such plans could put patients at risk when care is needed most.”

Read more here.

Watchdog recommends subpoena for Price in stock probe

A congressional watchdog is recommending the subpoena of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceZinke under federal investigation for speech to NHL team: report Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children’s health insurance | Puerto Rico’s water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents’ right to sue Senate confirms No. 2 spot at HHS, days after Price resigns MORE after he refused to cooperate in its probe of Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsTrump ally: Timing on Russia investigation tweet ‘could have been better’ Ethics investigators looking into GOP rep’s investment partners: report GOP rep unaware of health bill’s impact on his state despite voting for it MORE (R-N.Y.) related to stock sales of an Australian biotechnology firm.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) on Thursday said Price was one of 10 individuals or entities that refused to cooperate with the investigation into whether Collins improperly shared nonpublic information in the purchase of Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited stocks.

Collins sits on Innate’s board and is the company’s largest shareholder.

Read more here.

Warren, Murkowski push Trump to declare national emergency on opioids

A Democratic and Republican senator are questioning why President Trump hasn’t officially declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency, despite saying his administration was drafting the paperwork to do so two months ago.

“We applaud your stated commitment to addressing opioid addiction and agree with you that the crisis is a ‘serious problem’ deserving of increased federal resources,” Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank’s progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget ‘out of whack’ | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Michelle Obama is exactly who the Democrats need to win big in 2020 Wells Fargo chief defends bank’s progress in tense Senate hearing MORE (D-Mass.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRepublicans jockey for position on immigration GOP senator knocks Trump: ‘Not a fan of governing by tweet’ How the effort to replace ObamaCare failed MORE (R-Alaska) wrote in a letter to Trump, referring to comments he made on Aug. 10.

“However, we are extremely concerned that 63 days after your statement, you have yet to take the necessary steps to declare a national emergency on opioids, nor have you made any proposals to significantly increase funding to combat the epidemic,” the senators continued.

Read more here.

Trump’s HHS defines life as beginning at conception

The Department of Health and Human Services’s new strategic plan defines life as beginning at conception.

“HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception,” reads the draft plan.

It’s a major shift from the Obama administration, which had similar language in its HHS strategic plan but did not include the “beginning at conception” phrase. But the change is in line with the anti-abortion stance of the Trump administration.

Read more here.

NIH, drug companies launch cancer moonshot partnership

A new public-private research collaboration launched Thursday in an effort to increase the number of therapies aimed at attacking cancer.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is partnering with 11 biopharmaceutical companies to form the Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT), a five-year, $215 million initiative. It’s part of the Cancer Moonshot, an effort pushed by former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenReport: Biden to write foreword for memoir by transgender activist Biden to Alabama: No more extremist senators Kasich, Biden to hold discussion on bipartisanship MORE after he lost his son to brain cancer in 2015.

“This new public-private partnership is a significant step forward in the battle against cancer and a real boost to the potential of immunotherapy,” Eric Hargan, who became the acting Health and Human Services secretary earlier this week, said in a statement. “We are excited for this partnership, which will strengthen efforts already underway across HHS.”

Read more here.

The Hill event

Join us Tuesday, October 24, for America’s Opioid Epidemic: Aging & Addiction, featuring Reps. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkDem announces new cyberstalking bill at SXSW Bill would offer protections for domestic violence victims’ pets Boehner swears in Clark MORE (D-Mass.) and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.). Topics include the opioid epidemic’s impact on older Americans, initiatives to curb opioid abuse, and alternative solutions to pain management. RSVP Here.

From The Hill’s opinion pages

Finally, basic conscience rights are restored with birth control mandate rollback, from Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.

Federal government must act now to reverse the opioid addiction epidemic, from Tom Frieden, former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What we’re reading

The little red pill being pushed on the elderly (CNN)

The sound in Havana: What Americans heard in Cuba attacks (AP)

Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety (The New York Times)

State by state

The lowdown on Tennessee’s insurance markets (Vox)

The Bronx’s quiet, brutal war with opioids (The New York Times)

Feds to cut Medicare for Hollywood Hills nursing home whose residents died (Miami Herald)

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