health-care

How John Kennedy Sees Things
‘This is why the aliens won’t talk to us.’

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 17: Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., speaks with reporters in the Senate subway in the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Since arriving in the Senate last year, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy has become a gift to Capitol Hill reporters for his colorful use of language.

Most recently, he has said that the dispute about whether President Donald Trump called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” is “why the aliens won’t talk to us.”

Anti-Abortion Groups Look for Wins in 2018
Senate vote on a 20-week abortion ban is a top priority

Attendees gather near the Washington Monument on Jan. 27, 2017, during the speaking portion of the annual March for Life. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Anti-abortion groups, pursuing a list of priorities, hope to further capitalize on the Republican control of both chambers and the presidency in 2018.

Groups that oppose abortion scored a series of wins last year, including the appointment of several conservatives to top Department of Health and Human Services positions, the House passage of a late-term abortion ban bill and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Soto Takes Heat for Telling Puerto Rican Evacuees to Say They’re Staying
Evacuees should say they’re staying in Florida to access Medicare or Medicaid, South Florida Democrat says

Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., made waves over the weekend for comments to Puerto Rico hurricane evacuees. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A Florida Democrat caught heat over the weekend for telling a group of newly arrived hurricane evacuees from Puerto Rico to say they intend to stay in the state so that they can access health care benefits.

If the evacuees do not check that box on a federal form for Medicare and Medicaid, they will be ineligible to be recipients of those programs.

Analysis: Tough Road Ahead for Ryan in 2018
Will he want to stay in Congress after navigating immigration, budget and midterm challenges?

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., pictured arriving at the Capitol for a meeting to kick off 2018 spending negotiations, has a tough road ahead this year that could make him question his future in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan insists he’s not going anywhere anytime soon, but he has a tough road ahead in 2018 that could test his patience with his conference, their Senate counterparts, the president and Washington. 

The Wisconsin Republican is known for keeping his cool under pressure. Thus far in his still young speakership, he’s managed to diffuse disagreements within the House Republican Conference before they’ve reached a boiling point. He also claimed a significant victory last year with passage of the landmark tax overhaul bill, a long-held priority for the former Budget and tax-writing chairman.   

States Alarmed by Delay in HHS Family Planning Money
Title X grant recipients play the waiting game, fearing revival of abortion gag rule

The Department of Health and Human Services has yet to announce a new round of Title X funding for family planning, leaving advocacy groups fearing for the future. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

State officials are dismayed that the Trump administration has stalled the process for applying for new family planning money the states are counting on. Abortion advocacy groups worry that the delay may mean the administration is planning to target abortion providers or rewrite family planning policies. 

The funding announcement was expected by November, with states’ applications for 2018-19 due Jan. 3. But the announcement still isn’t out. The funding is provided by the Title X program, through the only federal grants focused on family planning.

Health Care Overhaul Appears Unlikely Before Midterm Elections
Republicans could face voters without strategy on rising premiums, other issues

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Whip John Cornyn arrive for a news conference following the Republicans’ policy lunch on Tuesday. McConnell has been pessimistic about the chances for a health care overhaul this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans are at risk of facing voters this year with no cohesive strategy to fulfill their seven-year campaign promise to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law or address the rising cost of health care.

Following a meeting at Camp David over the weekend between President Donald Trump and top congressional leaders, members said a major overhaul of the law is unlikely this year.

Experts, Industry Push Back on Health Insurance Proposal
Trump administation wants to loosen ERISA regulations

Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said a proposed rule change would help Americans who don’t have access employee-sponsored health insurance. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Industry groups and policy experts are questioning a Trump administration proposal on health insurance even as it garners accolades from congressional Republicans. 

The proposed rule, announced on Thursday, would loosen regulations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, that govern association health plans. Such plans allow businesses to band together in purchasing health insurance. Supporters say the rule is intended to help consumers hit the hardest by rising premiums under the 2010 health care law.

CBO: Cost of CHIP Renewal Smaller Than Projected
News should ease Congress’ task to pass legislation

The Congressional Budget Office now estimates the Senate CHIP bill would cost $0.8 billion over 10 years. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawmakers will have to come up with only less than $1 billion to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to a new Congressional Budget Office analysis released Friday. That estimate, far lower than previous projections, should ease lawmakers’ task of passing legislation this month.

In a four-page letter to Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, CBO Director Keith Hall said the Senate CHIP bill would cost $800 million over 10 years. Prior to this, the CHIP bill needed to be offset by about $8 billion over 10 years. The total cost of CHIP over 10 years would be $48.4 billion, but decreases in Medicaid and health care marketplace spending would offset much of that amount.

Podcast: Congress' Spending Quagmire
CQ Budget, Episode 43

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., speaks with reporters in the Senate subway after the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Budget Tracker Extra Podcast is now CQ Budget. New look but same great show. CQ's budget and appropriations reporter Ryan McCrimmon explains the obstacles faced by lawmakers to lifting the spending caps and agreeing to a long-term budget deal.

Show Notes:

HHS Political Appointees’ Résumés Show Ties to Price, Pence
Many also have links to conservative groups close to vice president

At least 16 staffers at the Heath and Human Services Department have ties to former Secretary Tom Price, a review of résumés shows. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services include at least 16 staffers with ties to former Secretary Tom Price and at least 12 with connections to Vice President Mike Pence or Indiana, a review of 129 résumés of appointed staffers in the department shows.

Pence’s influence over the agency can be seen in the appointment of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, who worked closely with the former Indiana governor to expand Medicaid in that state, and the appointment of Verma’s deputy Brian Neale, who currently oversees Medicaid and served as Pence’s health care policy director in Indiana. A number of staffers also have ties to conservative groups close to Pence, such as the Heritage Foundation and anti-abortion organizations.