Daily on Healthcare: Focus on ‘Medicare for all’ carries risk for Republicans…Obamacare enrollment still lagging with days to go…

By | December 12, 2018

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Focus on ‘Medicare for all’ carries risk for Republicans. Republicans from President Trump on down have sought to define Democrats around proposals to extend Medicare to everybody and conservative writers and activists have joined the pile on. But there is a risk that those on the Right will get distracted by attacking the easy target of “Medicare for all,” which despite its fans is still likely a political fantasy in the near-term, and thus allow more practical Democrats to push through policies that are presented as a moderate compromises, even though they still represent another radical expansion of the government’s role in healthcare. Something similar played out during the Obamacare debate as the fight over the “public option” moved the debate to the Left. Even as the idea itself failed, it acted as a lightning rod that absorbed much of the fire against Democrats’ healthcare push and ultimately helped keep the rest of Obamacare intact. A column.

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Obamacare enrollment still lagging with days to go. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday announced that 4,132,432 people had signed up for coverage on the on the federal healthcare.gov platform through Dec. 8, which is down from the 4,678,361 who had signed up through Dec. 9 a year ago. Open enrollment has been consistently lagging last year, with the Dec. 15 deadline to purchase insurance for 2019 quickly approaching.

School lunch menus to change under Trump. Refined grains, found in pasta and tortillas, as well as 1 percent chocolate or strawberry milk, will see a comeback under school lunch rules that may be formally published today by the Department of Agriculture. The rules also will allow seven more years for schools to meet sodium-reduction requirements. The latest standards are a roll-back from those created under former President Barack Obama, which stipulated that at least half of grains must be whole grains and that milk must be fat free. The effort had been backed by former first lady Michelle Obama, who worked to reduce childhood obesity while her husband was in office. The school lunch program gives roughly 30 million children low or no-cost meals in public schools, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said schools are struggling to meet the standards because students don’t want to eat the food that’s offered. “If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” he said in statement last week. The secretary announced in May that the department planned to “make school meals great again.”

Senate passes farm bill without House-passed food stamp work requirements. The Senate passed a $ 867 billion measure Tuesday authorizing agriculture policies and spending as well as the nation’s food stamp program. Senate lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the 2018 farm bill, voting 87-13, sending the measure to the House for final approval, where it is expected to easily pass. The five-year authorization measure is a bipartisan compromise between the House and Senate. The bill excludes significant reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, that had been included in the House version. The reforms would have broadened work requirements for food stamp recipients and directed $ 1 billion toward job training programs. Democrats were opposed to the reforms and argued the work requirements would force needy people off of food stamps and waste money on duplicative job training programs. The measure legalizes industrial hemp production, a provision favored by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose state is a producer.

Poll finds support for paid family leave tumbles when Americans are presented with costs. The idea of a new a government program for paid leave is overwhelmingly popular among Americans, right up until they are informed about the possible costs. That’s the conclusion of a new YouGov survey conducted with the libertarian Cato Institute. According to the poll of 1,700 Americans, a whopping 74 percent support “a new federal program to provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.” But that support starts to erode as the costs and potential tradeoffs mount. Support drops to 54 percent if respondents were told that the program would cost them $ 200 per year. If it were to cost them $ 1,200 per year, just 43 percent would favor the idea, compared with 56 who would oppose it.

Obama’s promotional video gives Obamacare website a huge traffic spike. Obamacare’s website received its highest traffic this year on Monday, the same day that former President Barack Obama put out a video on Twitter urging people to get covered. “Yesterday we experienced the highest traffic of this open enrollment,” a spokesperson from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a statement. The agency did not say what had driven the traffic, but noted that the website, called healthcare.gov, always see spikes as the deadline gets closer. This year the deadline ends Saturday, closing six weeks of open enrollment. Some users reported Monday that they were placed into a “waiting room,” which holds website users until the site adjusts to traffic. CMS said that some people who call to enroll in coverage will be asked to leave their information so that they can receive a call back. Some will be contacted after the Dec. 15 deadline but will still be enrolled so their coverage can begin Jan. 1. Others will be able to enroll with an agent when they call.

Christian groups win Obamacare birth control battle. Christian organizations do not need to comply with Obamacare’s birth control mandate, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. Judge Philip Brimmer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado ordered that the federal government cannot enforce the provision, which obligates employers to pay for health insurance for their workers that covers all forms of contraception without a copay. Brimmer, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, determined that the rule violated rights established by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The mandate was challenged by six Christian organizations, including the Association of Christian Schools International, Samaritan Ministries International, Taylor University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Asbury Theological Seminary, and the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Suicides drive record US gun deaths in 2017. An increase in suicides drove the total number of U.S. gun-related fatalities to the highest level ever recorded in 2017. According to the Center for Disease Control’s Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research database, 39,773 people died from gun-related violence in 2017. That’s up from the prior record of 39,595 deaths set in 1993. Suicide was the primary reason for the increase. There were 23,854 gun-related suicides in 2017, up from 22,938 the prior year. Suicides have accounted for about 60 percent of all gun deaths in the last few years. But gun-related homicides also rose slightly, from 14,415 in 2016 to 14,542 in 2017, which is the highest yearly total seen since the 1990s. 2017 was the third year in a row that saw rising gun-related fatalities, and the third straight year in which gun-related deaths outpaced car accidents.

House passes bill to prevent maternal deaths. The House on Tuesday passed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which would set up committees that look at pregnancy-related deaths and then develop recommendations for prevention. As many as 900 women are dying from pregnancy or childbirth complications each year, and another 65,000 women face difficult medical conditions afterward. Researchers aren’t sure what is driving the trend and have noticed that numbers are higher among black women. The bill has a Senate companion and its House co-sponsors, Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said they hoped it would be sent to Trump’s desk before the end of the year.

The House also passed a reauthorization on concussions. The House passed the Traumatic Brain Injury Program Reauthorization Act, extending existing programs through 2023. It will also add more funding to the CDC’s National Concussion Surveillance System to fill data gaps.

Azar announces funding on HIV. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will be making additional funding available for research on HIV and public health, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Tuesday. The NIH later put out a release saying that communities could receive as much as $ 300,000 in grants. Speaking at the National Ryan White Conference on HIV Care and Treatment, Azar noted that new cases were clustered in 45 U.S. counties, including Washington, D.C. Many of the counties are in the South, where he said “cultural barriers to treatment and prevention” were high. Azar lamented the stigma still associated with HIV. “Much of the stigma comes from outdated, inaccurate ideas about the disease, dating back to its early days,” he said. “Stigma can be a debilitating barrier, preventing someone living with HIV or at risk for HIV from receiving the healthcare, services, and respect they need and deserve. Worse, it can sometimes lead to internalized stigma, which can also prevent people from seeking out the tools we have to treat and prevent HIV today.”

4.2 million people could pay nothing for Obamacare premiums. That’s according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. It found that the government’s tax credits would help people pay $ 0 a month in premiums for a bronze plan. That math would work for just under a third of the 15.9 million who are uninsured and shop in the Obamacare exchanges.  KFF notes, however, that certain customers who need medical care often might be better off paying a little more for a silver plan because the deductibles would be lower. Under bronze plans, deductibles average $ 6,258 a year.

Opioid crisis is having an impact on grandparents’ retirement. About a quarter of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are delaying retirement to support their families, according to a study out this morning by Altarum. Grandparents take on the role of primary caregiver of children when parents die, are incarcerated, or have an addiction to opioids. Another 7 percent said that they ended their retirement and returned to work. Just under a third, 28 percent, said they were on SNAP. The survey used responses from 1,000 grandparents, and the Census shows that 2.7 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren.

McDonald’s will restrict antibiotics in beef. The giant fast food chain made the announcement Tuesday, amid a growing effort in the industry to curb antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The company will monitor antibiotic use in beef from its top 10 sources and set goals to reduce antibiotics for medically important use by the end of 2020. This includes limiting routine use, something producers do to prevent diseases but that health officials say results in drug resistance. It’s usually done to make up for crowded and unsanitary conditions, rather than to treat animals who are sick.

RUNDOWN

The Wall Street Journal The loneliest generation: Americans, more than ever, are aging alone

CNN Some Americans ditch Obamacare for cheaper alternatives

The Hill House passes bill to keep drug companies from overcharging Medicaid

Medpage Today Lack of progress on interoperability frustrates House members

USA Today Some Americans are being denied ‘life-saving’ health care. It’s because they are transgender

Stat Kaleo, maker of $ 4,100 overdose antidote, authorizes a generic version for just $ 178

WEDNESDAY | Dec. 12

House and Senate in session.

Dec. 10-12. Washington Hilton. Community Integrated Health Conference. Details.

THURSDAY | Dec. 13

Dec. 13-14. 31 Center Drive, Bethesda, Md. National Institutes of Health advisory committee meeting. Details.

Dec. 13-14. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission meeting. Details.

Dec. 13-15. Las Vegas. Annual World Congress. Schedule.

10 a.m. 2154 Rayburn. Subcommittee on Healthcare, Benefits, and Administrative Rules and Subcommittee on Government Operations joint hearing on “Exploring Alternatives to Fetal Tissue Research.” Details.

SATURDAY | Dec. 15

End of healthcare.gov open enrollment.

Healthcare

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