Health Care

‘Cures’ Package Not Unanimously Backed by Democrats, Pelosi Says
NIH funding aimed at bringing some lawmakers on board

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., signaled disagreements exist among Democrats over the 21st Century Cures biomedical research package. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters Wednesday that she stands ready to help pass the 21st Century Cures bill in the lame-duck session but “that’s not a universal view” among House Democrats.

“Some people don’t have the same support for it, so we’re just going to have to build consensus,” the California Democrat said.

Small Social Security Increase Lags Health Costs, Groups Say

The Social Security Administration on Tuesday announced that there will be relatively little change next year in the monthly checks sent to more than 65 million Americans. That prompted protests from seniors’ groups about how this key source of income for many retirees lags rising medical costs.

Social Security officials said there will be a 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment next year in its benefit payments. That translates into an increase of $5 to $1,360 for the estimated average monthly payment for all retired workers, the agency said. That’s barely enough to cover the list price for a single pill of the widely used cholesterol drug Lipitor, according to Max Richtman, president and chief executive officer of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Biden Presents 'Moonshot' Task Force Report
Program has yet to receive appropriated money

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. released on Monday a federal report on the cancer moonshot initiative that highlights goals to accelerate the development of cures, including more widespread sharing of data and faster research and approval timelines for new treatments.

Biden presented to President Barack Obama on Monday afternoon the report from the Cancer Moonshot Task Force, a federal panel with representatives from the Health and Human Services Department, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration and others.

Trump Economic Adviser Parts Ways With Candidate on NAFTA
'I don't fully agree with him on trade,' says Heritage scholar

Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to Donald Trump's campaign, says he disagrees with the Republican presidential nominee on trade. (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of Donald Trump’s top advisers split with the Republican presidential nominee on the North American Free Trade Agreement during a debate Thursday in Washington on economic policy.

Trump's adviser Stephen Moore and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s economic adviser Gene Sperling also presented drastically different visions of how to stimulate economic growth and tackle the deficit and debt, though the discussion was light on specifics. The debate between the advisers was sponsored by the nonpartisan National Association for Business Economics.

Congress Likely to Take Only Small Steps on Drug Prices
Deadlines on significant health legislation set to come up next year


Federal lawmakers will continue to rail against the high cost of prescription drugs in the next few years, but their most likely actions will be limited to relatively small steps such as the enactment of measures intended to approve more generics.

“There is not going to be a magic bullet," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who now leads the conservative American Action Forum. “There are a bunch of little levers they can pull.”

Time to Rethink Our Approach on Hospital Readmissions
Recent research raises doubts on some of our current assumptions

Supporters of the 2010 health care overhaul wave signs outside the Supreme Court after the court upheld the law on June 25, 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Affordable Care Act has propelled health care reform forward, paving a path for more than 20 million Americans to gain access to medical care while catalyzing a decrease in Medicare spending growth, which is projected to save $1 trillion between 2010 and 2020. Part of these savings are expected to come from preventing costly hospitalizations and rehospitalizations through better coordination of care and shifting care to less costly settings.

In the ACA, Congress carefully detailed how “excess” rehospitalization rates should be calculated for individual hospitals, and clearly outlined how these rates should be translated into hospital-specific payment penalties. Following federal statute, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, created the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program and decreed that acute care hospitals should be penalized based on their unplanned 30-day rehospitalization rate among patients with several common conditions, starting with heart attack, pneumonia and heart failure.

Clinton, Trump Health Plans Differ in Impact on Uninsured, Cost
But both would add to the federal deficit

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's health care plans could cost anywhere from $0.7 billion to $90 billion, a new analysis found. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The health care policy proposals of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would have dramatically different impacts on the uninsured rate in the United States and on out-of-pocket health care costs. But they share one trait: Both would add to the federal deficit, according to a study released Friday.

Trump's plan, which centers on repealing and replacing the 2010 health law, would increase the number of uninsured Americans by somewhere between 16 million and 25.1 million people, depending on which parts were enacted, and would drive up out-of-pocket costs for enrollees currently benefiting from the health law.

Opioid Epidemic Enters Funding Debate
Some Democrats said the GOP proposal was "smoke and mirrors"

From left, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, have been fighting for money to combat the opioid epidemic. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposal to keep the government funded included one below-the-radar addition: funding to combat the opioid epidemic. While senators in both parties support addressing the issue, the move had some Democrats crying foul.

The Kentucky Republican unveiled last week a draft continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 9, after spending talks stalled between Senate leaders. His proposal included $37 million in annual funds for implementing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, which became law in July.

Democrats Protest Fetal Tissue Report
Walk out of investigative panel formed in the aftermath of Planned Parenthood video controversy

House Democrats on Wednesday walked out of a meeting of a congressional investigative panel launched in the aftermath of the controversy over Planned Parenthood's abortion practices, charging the proceedings amounted to a "witch hunt."

The meeting of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives was to consider a report recommending that the biotech company StemExpress LLC and its founder Catherine Spears Dyer be held in contempt for refusing to comply to subpoenas seeking accounting records relating to research of fetal tissue.

Lawmakers See Synthetics as Growing Drug Abuse Challenge
But actions raise concerns among drugmakers over legislative overreach

The musician Prince — seen here performing in Toronto in 2015 — died in April from what Minnesota officials said was an accidental overdose of self-administered fentanyl. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NPG Records 2015 File Photo)

Lawmakers are trying to draw attention to a rapidly emerging overdose crisis caused by synthetic drugs, less than two months after a bill to combat prescription opioid and heroin abuse was signed into law.

The opioid measure included provisions that make it easier for the government to prosecute drug traffickers, but synthetic drugs pose a different kind of challenge that wasn’t addressed in the legislation. While most drugs are on a list of controlled substances, synthetics can escape law enforcement scrutiny if the chemists who make them tweak their formulas slightly.

A Worthwhile Hillary Initiative to End Washington Gridlock
In new book, Democratic ticket veers center, refrains from utopian promises

Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine's compendium of policy proposals is designed to show the seriousness of the Democratic presidential ticket, writes Walter Shapiro. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In the kingdom of clicks, there are few sets of words more self-defeating than the combination of "Hillary Clinton" and "policy."

If you must write about the Democratic nominee, then the smartest strategy is either to decry the Clinton scandals as the worst since Teapot Dome or to attack the news media for equating Hillary's missteps with the outrages and lies of Donald Trump. But to actually discuss Clinton's policy agenda is to invite comparisons with what columnist Michael Kinsley once dubbed as the most boring headline in history: "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative."

Congress Turning a New Leaf on Marijuana
Burgeoning business in states with legal sales sparks momentum for reform

Stephanie Kahn, right, owner of the Takoma Wellness Center in Washington, D.C., hugs customer Meredith Bower at the medical marijuana dispensary. Bower suffers from phantom limb pain due to the amputation of a leg below the knee after a car accident. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Just two years ago, pot lobbyist Michael Collins was a pariah on Capitol Hill.

Marijuana reform was too much of a risk. 

Obamacare Agency Escapes Congressional Oversight
New Medicare payment models have real world consequences


Our constitutional system was carefully designed to prevent any one branch from seizing too much control over the entire government. Only Congress can write legislation; only the President can execute the laws; only the courts can judge whether the laws are constitutional.

This balance of powers, however, does not maintain itself. It is a dynamic equilibrium requiring each branch of government to protect and fully exercise its rightful authorities. When one branch encroaches on another, that balance is endangered — and so are the freedoms the separation of powers were intended to protect.

Zika Funding Blocked for Third Time in Senate by Democrats
Critics assail "poison pill" policy riders

A mosquito control inspector sprays pesticide to kill mosquitos in Miami Beach, Florida, last month. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Senate on Tuesday evening voted 52-46 to not advance the conference report for a spending package containing $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus and $82.5 billion in fiscal 2017 Military Construction-VA funding. Sixty votes were needed to limit debate.

Obama Takes Troubled Trade Portfolio to Asia
Has current political climate made big accords toxic?

From left, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, hold a 2015 event outside the Capitol urging congress not to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama goes to Asia this week promoting a trade agenda that appears imperiled by anti-globalization sentiment at home and abroad that could undo years of negotiations.

Tough comments recently from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and from two European leaders on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership all but signaled the delay and even possible death of both accords.