Medicare

Two Former Lawmakers Aim for Rematch in Nevada’s 4th District
First hurdle will be Tuesday’s primaries

Former GOP Rep. Cresent Hardy is running again in Nevada’s 4th District. (D.A. Banks/CQ Roll Call file photo).

Nevada’s 4th District could host a rematch between two former one-term members of Congress. And both know what it’s like to lose.

Democrat Steven Horsford and Republican Cresent Hardy are considered the front-runners in their respective primary races Tuesday. Should they win, the general election would be a rematch of 2014, when Hardy ousted Horsford in a surprise only to lose the seat two years later.

Fall Elections Key Moment in Medicaid Expansion Debate
Recent developments in Virginia are giving advocates hope

From left, former Reps. Adam H. Putnam and Gwen Graham and Rep. Ron DeSantis are running for Florida governor. Graham, a Democrat, supports expanding Medicaid in the state, while Punam and DeSantis, both Republicans, oppose broadening the program. (Ryan Kelly/Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photos)

The midterm elections are poised to play a pivotal role in whether more states expand Medicaid eligibility, as the number of red-state holdouts dwindles.

Governors’ races in states such as Florida and Kansas, along with ballot initiatives in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, are being watched closely by Medicaid experts this year.

For Some in Congress, the Opioid Crisis Is Personal
Lawmakers share the stories behind their efforts to combat the epidemic

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson lost his grandson to an opioid overdose. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As drug overdoses climb — rising 12 percent between October 2016 and October 2017 — Congress has floated dozens of proposals to combat opioid abuse.

Some lawmakers have deeply personal connections to the epidemic of addiction in America. These are their stories.

Congress’ Focus on Opioids Misses Larger Crisis
‘All the bills are tinkering around the edges,’ one health official says

Targeting prescription opioids puts Congress years behind the crisis, which is largely driven by illicit nonprescription drugs. Above, heroin users at a New York City park in May. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By SANDHYA RAMAN, ANDREW SIDDONS and MARY ELLEN McINTIRE

Congress faced a startling public health and political problem throughout 2016 as the number of people dying from opioid addiction climbed. The number of Americans succumbing to drug overdoses more than tripled between 1999 and 2015, affecting a whiter and more geographically diverse population than previous drug crises. Lawmakers ultimately approved some modest policies aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse and provided $1 billion to support state efforts.

Medicare Finances Worsen but Social Security Projections Stable
Changes by Congress to tax law, entitlements affect projections

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was among the senior administration officials outlining the annual report on the health of the Medicare and Social Security systems. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Social Security system is in almost the same shape as last year for its retirement benefits and in a better position for its disability benefits, the program’s trustees reported Tuesday. But a separate report for Medicare paints a somewhat bleaker outlook for the giant health program for seniors and people with disabilities, estimating that its hospital trust fund will dry up in 2026 — three years earlier than last year’s projections.

Medicare’s board of trustees attributed the change, in part, to lower payroll taxes and higher-than-expected health care spending in 2017.

CMS Launches New System to Measure State Medicaid Performance
Scorecards will initially focus heavily on metrics that states already voluntarily report

CMS Administrator Seema Verma, here at her February 2017 confirmation hearing, says existing data collection and reporting efforts for states “have been inconsistent at best.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Federal health officials on Monday unveiled a new system to measure how effectively states are running their Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid systems.

The scorecards will initially focus heavily on metrics that states already voluntarily report to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, such as well-child visits and chronic health conditions, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said during a press briefing. While many measures already existed, this marks the first time they are all being compiled together, Verma said.

VA Faces Scrutiny as It Gears Up for Health Overhaul
Bipartisan bill expected to be signed by president this week

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Robert Wilkie after nominating him to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary during an event at the White House on May 18. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

The Department of Veterans Affairs will face heavy scrutiny as it implements a major overhaul to its health care programs that President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law this week.

The bill, which moved through both chambers by wide bipartisan margins, would combine the VA’s seven programs for private medical care into one to streamline and simplify costs and access for veterans. The legislation would also extend the so-called Veterans Choice Program for one year, allowing veterans to seek care outside the VA under certain circumstances in the meantime.

Opinion: Home Is Where the Heart Is (and the Lungs and Liver)
We’ve learned that housing shapes our health. Now it’s time for HHS and HUD to work together

Rene Conant packs up his camp in Los Angeles on Jan. 24, 2017. As we discover more about how housing shapes our health, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services need to work in tandem, Ho and Ventimiglia write. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo)

Young or old, if you live in unsafe housing, or live without housing, you’re more likely to get sick or injured. A growing body of evidence has made it perfectly clear — our housing affects our health.

Now we need to act on that knowledge. While efforts over the years have tried to link up Housing and Urban Development programs with Health and Human Services, the two agencies still aren’t in sync. And neither can tackle this alone.

Rep. Steve Knight: The Most Vulnerable Republican in California?
Some operatives say so, but SoCal congressman says he has a plan to win

Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif., walks through the rows of vendors set up at the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival in Simi Valley, Calif., on Saturday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

PALMDALE, Calif. — While walking into Target here recently, Bob and Deidre Murphy noted that Republican Rep. Steve Knight’s 25th District is “a little pocket” of conservatism in Los Angeles County.

“I think that’s going away though,” Bob said. Deidre added, “It is.”

Opinion: Trump’s Drug Pricing Plan Is Practical, but Is It Enough?
Administration’s blueprint aims to force drug companies to be more transparent

Opponents call President Donald Trump’s plan a win for pharmaceutical companies because it doesn’t ask Medicare to negotiate prices for Part B and D drugs, Wilensky writes. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images file photo)

A husband visits a local pharmacy to fill his ailing wife’s monthly asthma prescription, which costs $110. What he doesn’t know — and what his pharmacist can’t tell him — is that her Part D insurance plan isn’t helping to reduce the cost. In fact, it’s only hurting. They could have saved $35 by paying out-of-pocket.

That’s the kind of problem President Donald Trump aims to solve with his new drug price plan. The blueprint he released earlier this month is practical, focused squarely on executive actions that will force drug companies toward greater transparency. But will the White House’s pragmatism be enough?