Mary Ellen McIntire

Health groups reveal ads pushing Democrats to back drug bill
The groups will build on an ad push supporting the House bill earlier this year by the group Protect Our Care

A left-leaning health care group is doubling its seven-figure advertising push for the passage of House Democrats’ drug pricing bill in an effort to counter industry and conservative opposition to the proposal, according to information shared exclusively with CQ Roll Call.

The effort, which will be paired with additional spending from other left-leaning health groups, comes as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced the House will vote next week on legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for up to 250 prescription drugs a year.

Surprise billing fight highlights hurdles for bolder health care changes
Disagreements over payments foreshadow difficulty of moving overhaul like ‘Medicare for All’

The challenge of passing legislation to stop surprise medical bills is underscoring just how hard it is in Washington to change the health care system, even in small ways, and raising questions about Democrats’ far more ambitious overhaul plans. 

Stopping surprise medical bills wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. Lawmakers in both parties want to protect patients from certain unanticipated out-of-pocket costs, and industry groups say they agree with the broad goal. But fights over payments to doctors and other medical providers that so far have stalled the legislation foreshadow the hurdles of moving a major overhaul, such as a “Medicare for All” government-run health care plan, after the 2020 elections.

Senate Democrats skeptical of Warren’s ‘Medicare for All’ push
Hesitation from rank-and-file Democrats shows how fraught the issue is within the party

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s colleagues aren’t exactly jumping to voice support for her plan to finance “Medicare for All.”

The hesitation from rank-and-file Democrats across the political spectrum on backing the Massachusetts Democrat’s plan shows how fraught the issue is within the party – and how challenging it would be for a Democratic White House to shepherd a plan through Congress.

Shimkus confirms retirement
Illinois Republican said last week he might want to stick around

Illinois GOP Rep. John Shimkus said Monday that he will stick with his plan to retire, ending a brief flirtation with an opportunity to pursue a top position on the Energy and Commerce Committee. 

“After weighing the pros and cons, I have decided to reaffirm my plan to retire,” Shimkus said in a statement. 

Warren ‘Medicare for All’ plan has $20.5 trillion price tag
The plan would dramatically reshape the health care system and the nation’s tax structure

Presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., unveiled a $20.5 trillion plan Friday to finance a government-run “Medicare for All” system, after facing criticism that she hadn’t explained how to pay for the pricey health care plan.

Warren’s plan would dramatically reshape the health care system and the nation’s tax structure. It would draw trillions of dollars from employers and raise taxes on the financial sector, large corporations and the richest 1 percent of Americans. She says she also would pay for the shift to a single-payer program that would cost less than some projections of the existing system by reducing health costs, cutting defense spending and assuming an immigration overhaul saves $400 billion.

Senate Republicans kill Democratic move on Trump health policy
Democrats decried letting states approve so-called ‘junk plans’

The Senate rejected a Democratic resolution to nullify a Trump administration health care policy that supporters billed as a referendum on support for pre-existing condition protections.

The 43-52 vote on Wednesday blocked a disapproval resolution that would have reversed a 2018 guidance expanding changes states could make to their insurance markets through waivers. Democrats forced the vote via the Congressional Review Act even though no states have sought to make the types of changes the administration is encouraging.

Medicaid at issue in 2019 races for governor
Republicans in Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana vow to scale back or block expansion

Races next month for governor in three states could affect the medical coverage of hundreds of thousands of people and offer test cases of how voters might view health care issues — particularly Medicaid for lower-income people.

In Mississippi, the Democratic candidate vows to expand Medicaid under the national health care law, while the Republican opposes that. Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin wants to scale back coverage that his Democratic opponent’s father, a former governor, expanded. And in Louisiana, incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards touts his expansion of Medicaid while his GOP rival would freeze enrollment.

Shimkus ‘reconsidering’ retirement after top GOP committee post opens up
12-termer from Illinois also seems to soften Trump criticism

Illinois Rep. John Shimkus, a 12-term Republican who had announced in August he would retire rather than run again in 2020, said Tuesday he is “reconsidering” his decision.

The change of heart comes a day after Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, announced his retirement. Shimkus is third in Republican seniority on the committee, after a former chairman, Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who would need a waiver from GOP rules to become the panel’s chairman or ranking member in the next Congress.

Oregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden not running for reelection
Walden is the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee

Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden announced Monday that he will not run for reelection to a 12th term next year.

Walden, 62, said in a statement he was confident he would have won re-election, but “the time has come to pursue new challenges and opportunities.”

Obamacare plan rates to fall in 2020 for second time under Trump
Despite actions to undercut program, marketplaces appear mostly stable

Ohio officials faced a situation in the summer of 2017 they viewed as dire: No health insurers were expected to offer any marketplace plans in as many as 20 counties. 

In Ohio and around the nation, officials scrambled that year to recruit insurers to make sure that every county had at least one plan in the marketplaces created by the 2010 health care law. Insurers, deeply skeptical of the future of the law and the Trump administration’s oversight of it, raised monthly premiums before open enrollment for 2018, further raising worries about the marketplaces’ stability.

House Dems move forward with drug pricing bill
Committee approved a new plan that would limit drug prices — a top priority for the party

A House committee on Thursday approved a Democratic bill designed to limit drug prices, a top priority for the party, as another panel’s debate on the measure was poised to last for hours.

House leaders produced the 141-page bill after months of deliberations among various party factions, as progressives urged their colleagues to be bold despite GOP criticisms that the measure could hamper research into future cures. The bill, numbered HR 3, includes requirements for the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate Medicare prices for the most expensive drugs, with commercial health plans also having the option of adopting those prices.

Freshman Democrat: Party must do better job selling health care during impeachment
But Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild gets no questions on drug prices at town hall

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Democrats have more work to do to show voters the House is trying to lower drug prices and protect coverage for pre-existing conditions even while it pursues possible impeachment, freshman Rep. Susan Wild told constituents at a town hall meeting Wednesday.

Wild and Democrats like her helped flip control of the House by winning Republican-held seats last year with campaigns focused on health care. She wants to do the same in 2020, but found herself having to try to fit answers about health care into questions about impeachment and other issues at the 90-minute event at Muhlenberg College.

Air ambulance services face scrutiny over surprise billing issues
Outrage over surprise medical bills has pushed issue near top of political health care agenda

Patients whisked or transferred to hospitals by air ambulances face time-sensitive emergencies — from strokes to traumatic accidents — so whether the helicopter carrying them is in their insurance network isn’t usually a top-priority question.

Weeks later, many of these patients receive an unpleasant surprise: a bill demanding tens of thousands of dollars.

Political tensions escalate as drug pricing bills move forward
Rift began when Pelosi called for Medicare to negotiate prices for a set of high-cost drugs

The discord between the parties over plans to bring down drug costs deepened this week as Democrats insisted on allowing Medicare to negotiate prices and launched an impeachment inquiry that threatens to consume Congress.

Still, members of key committees said Wednesday they wanted to continue bipartisan work to lower costs, a major concern of voters, and lawmakers in both chambers took steps toward advancing their proposals. The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held the first hearing on legislation unveiled last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Democrats leaving a caucus meeting on drug legislation late Wednesday said markups are expected soon after a two-week recess in October. Meanwhile, Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon unveiled the text of their bill on Wednesday.

Wardrobe rentals may be just what staffers need
Cost, diversity and environmental impact all led to popularity of service

The black bags pile up at the UPS drop-off spots across the Capitol’s campus, whether it’s the weekend after the White House Correspondents Dinner or the Monday that Congress is set to return from a long recess.

Filled with evening gowns, cocktail dresses, or a blouse or blazer that might have been worn to sit behind a boss during a high-profile hearing, the bags are en route back to a Rent the Runway facility. If the number of bags that pop up in Capitol office buildings are any indication, more and more women on the Hill are using the clothing rental service to supplement their work wardrobes.

Health care group backs Democrats with seven-figure ad campaign
Effort boosts freshmen who flipped red districts

A Democrat-aligned group focused on health care is seeking to give 10 vulnerable House members an early political boost through a new $2 million ad campaign.

Protect Our Care plans to launch a digital ad campaign Wednesday to promote the work by 10 Democratic freshmen on health care issues, touting votes to protect preexisting condition protections.

Federal judge blocks Missouri law restricting abortion
The Missouri law would have prohibited abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy

A federal district judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a Missouri law that would prohibit abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy from taking effect on Wednesday as originally planned.

“The various sections specifying prohibitions on abortions at various weeks prior to viability cannot be allowed to go into effect on August 28, as scheduled,” U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs of the Western District of Missouri wrote in a court filing.

Large employers question ‘Medicare for All’ plans, survey shows
Business group poll shows concerns about costs, taxes still loom large

Most large employers say a “Medicare for All” system would lower the number of uninsured people in the United States, but they are concerned it could increase health care costs and taxes while stifling innovation and quality, a new survey shows.

The concerns come as health industry groups seek to block momentum for plans from Democratic presidential candidates and lawmakers to expand Medicare through a single-payer program or to allow people under age 65 to enroll in the program.

Obamacare takes another hit, this time from Democrats
CQ on Congress, Episode 164

Democrats were nearly unanimous in voting to end the so-called "Cadillac tax" on high cost health insurance plans that was the principal mechanism in the Affordable Care Act aimed at reducing health care costs. Josh Gordon, policy director for the Concord Coalition, a group that seeks to restrain budget deficits, says that's regrettable. And CQ Roll Call health care reporter Mary Ellen McIntire explains why Democrats are willing to weaken the financing of the 2010 law.

Harris introduces health care plan building on Medicare with 10-year transition
During the transition, employers could continue to offer private coverage to employees, but could also shift to paying for a Medicare plan

Democratic presidential contender Kamala Harris on Monday unveiled her plan to broaden health care coverage, creating a contrast with former Vice President Joe Biden that could play out during their debate Wednesday night.

The California senator’s plan comes after months of hedging her support for a single-payer, government-run system. Harris is staking out a position on the hot political issue between Biden, who wants to set up a voluntary public insurance option, and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, the leading advocate for a single-payer system known as “Medicare for All.”