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PAID FAMILY LEAVE GAINS MOMENTUM: A new Senate bipartisan working group will study paid family leave, a priority that has been nudged along by senior White House adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump.
Teaming up to lead the working group are Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., a duo that recently worked together to introduce legislation aimed at ending surprise medical bills that many patients receive after going to the emergency room.
What they’ll study: Plans states have enacted, how to make paid family leave more widely available, what types of benefits or eligibility criteria they could look at, and how to fund a new paid leave policy.
Who’s in the working group: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the committee, announced its formation on Wednesday. It will include Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Bob Casey, D-Pa., Todd Young, R-Ind., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
Other discussions are under way. Ivanka Trump, who encouraged the Finance Committee to set up the working group, met this morning to discuss paid family leave with Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Tina Smith, D-Minn., according to the White House. Cassidy is also still working with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to craft bipartisan legislation, his office confirmed.
Democrats have united behind a bill that would add a payroll tax to fund family and sick leave, while two pairs of Senate Republicans have introduced their own approaches letting new parents take Social Security early in exchange for delaying retirement. All of these have House companions.
The Senate Finance Committee said all of the bills that have been introduced would be considered by the working group, and the parties will work to resolve their differences.
Good morning and welcome to the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Healthcare! This newsletter is written by senior healthcare reporter Kimberly Leonard (@LeonardKL) and healthcare reporter Cassidy Morrison (@CassMorrison94). You can reach us with tips, calendar items, or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. If someone forwarded you this email and you’d like to receive it regularly, you can subscribe here.
STUDY: HEALTHCARE COSTS CONSUMING LARGE CHUNK OF INCOME: An estimated 23.6 million people with employer coverage spent 10% or more of their income on premiums, out-of-pocket costs, or both, from 2016-17, according to a study out Wednesday by the Commonwealth Fund.
‘SINGLE PAYER’ HEARING HIGHLIGHTS DIFFERENCES AMONG DEMOCRATS: A hearing Wednesday intended to focus on legislating a fully government-financed healthcare system exposed the differences Democrats have on healthcare. While Democrats continued to focus their ire on Republicans for working to undo Obamacare, several lawmakers took their allotted time of questioning to highlight alternatives they supported, whether the Medicare for America Act or the public option.
BILL BLOCKING SHORT-TERM PLANS FAILS UNDER GOP OPPOSITION: Republicans blocked a bill Wednesday from Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Doug Jones, D-Ala., that would have overturned the Trump administration’s extension of short-term health insurance plans. Democrats attempted to pass the bill, the No Junk Plans Act, by unanimous consent. It passed the House last week largely along party lines.
CMS OPEN TO ACCEPT REQUESTS FROM STATES FOR PARTIAL MEDICAID EXPANSION: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said Wednesday that the agency is open to receiving more requests from states to enact partial expansions of Medicaid, which would cover people up to 100% of the federal poverty line, rather than covering those up to 138% of the poverty line as contemplated under the Affordable Care Act’s provisions. Arkansas and Massachusetts have submitted waivers to CMS asking to enact this expansion plan, and the agency approved such a measure in Utah.
Verma reiterates opposition to Medicare drug negotiation: In Wednesday’s press event, Verma told reporters she remains opposed to direct price negotiating between the government and drug companies. Verma said that if the government becomes responsible for negotiating prices and thus creating formularies for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, some approved drugs that work for certain individuals may be excluded from the approved formularies. “It’s my job to protect and secure the Medicare program,” Verma said. “When I see policies that could harm the program, it’s my duty to speak out about that.”
DCCC CANCELS LIPINSKI FUNDRAISER: The Democratic Congressional Campaign canceled a planned fundraiser for Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., a staunch opponent of abortion rights. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., head of the DCCC, announced Wednesday that she would pull out of the fundraiser, citing the multiple legislative efforts to curtail access to abortions throughout several states. “I’m proud to have a 100% pro-choice voting record and I’m deeply alarmed by the rapidly escalating attacks on women’s access to reproductive care in several states,” Bustos said in a statement.
SCHUMER: ‘WE ARE PUTTING THE HEAT’ ON GOP OVER ROE: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday that he and his Democratic colleagues will highlight GOP hostility to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, as part of the Democratic strategy to gain the upper hand on the politics of abortion. Republican state legislators have had success in passing stringent bans on abortions in recent weeks. Roe, however, remains relatively popular. Schumer suggested that it would be easier to force Republicans to declare a stance on the Supreme Court ruling than it would be to nail them down on the state abortion laws like the one in Alabama.
FAMILIES USA JOINS EFFORT TO REPEAL THE CADILLAC TAX: More groups are joining the effort to have Congress repeal the “Cadillac tax” on health insurance plans in Obamacare, including one of the law’s main supporters and defenders, Families USA. Also joining are Public Sector HealthCare Roundtable, the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, and the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.
The tax is a 40% tax on high-cost health insurance that was initially created to go after what had once been considered generous health insurance. Now, plans that cover middle-income people would fall into that bracket because the cost of healthcare has continued to climb. That reality has led several advocates to press Congress to do away with the tax.
ACLU SUES VERMONT FOR WITHHOLDING HEPATITIS C MEDICATION FROM PRISONERS: The ACLU of Vermont and the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School filed a class action suit Tuesday against Vermont for refusing to provide medication for hundreds of prisoners who have hepatitis C. The suit was filed in the federal district court on behalf of two Vermont prisoners, Richard West and Joseph Bruyette, who will represent inmates who have been or will be denied treatment for hepatitis C.
PUBLIC HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS DEMAND SOCIAL MEDIA END ALL TOBACCO ADS: The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has joined more than 125 international public health organizations to demand that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat immediately end promotions for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
California Healthline Heat and violence pose twin threats for asylum-seekers waiting at border
The New York Times ‘Fetal heartbeat’ vs. ‘forced pregnancy’: the language wars of the abortion debate
The Washington Post Congressional report: Purdue Pharma influenced World Health Organization’s opioid guidelines
Houston Chronicle Elizabeth Holmes makes court appearance in San Jose
Los Angeles Times Controversial vaccine bill clears California Senate despite opposition from parents
Sun-Sentinel Florida’s seniors are increasingly depressed and drinking more
THURSDAY | May 23
May 20-28. Geneva. World Health Assembly. Agenda.
House and Senate in session.
MONDAY | May 27
Memorial Day holiday.
House and Senate not in session all week.