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Trump bashes ‘Medicare for All’ in op-ed. Democrat’s plan for government-run healthcare would result in slashed medical spending for senior citizens, President Trump argued in a rare op-ed published in USA Today this morning. “In practice, the Democratic Party’s so-called Medicare for All would really be Medicare for None,” Trump wrote. “The Democrats' plan also would mean the end of choice for seniors over their own healthcare decisions. Instead, Democrats would give total power and control over seniors’ healthcare decisions to the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.” The comments echo public comments from his senior health officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. The president aimed his op-ed at older adults, who are more likely to support him and more likely to vote than younger generations. He warned that Democrats were moving further left on other policies as well, and declared the centrist Democratic party “dead.”
Attack is self-defeating for Republicans. This increasingly popular Republican line of attack, taken up with short-term political calculations in mind, will backfire on conservatives in the long run and actually make socialized healthcare more likely. In terms of annual budget, Medicare is arguably the largest socialized healthcare program in the world. By perpetuating the idea that Medicare is a great program that needs to be protected at all costs (rather than an unsustainable entitlement) it only makes it easier for liberals to make the case for socialized medicine. It also makes it harder to make the case for overhauling entitlement programs to avert the looming debt crisis.
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Trump will sign bill banning pharmacy ‘gag clauses.’ Trump this afternoon will sign two measures into law blocking insurers from enforcing "gag clauses" that forbid pharmacies from telling customers about how they can pay less for drugs. The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act and the Know the Lowest Price Act are intended to help patients find out whether a prescription would cost less if they were to pay for it out of pocket rather than through their health plan. The first measure applies to people who are covered by private health insurance, and will go into effect immediately. The second to patients who are covered by Medicare, and will go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2020. Trump had called for the bills to be passed as part of his administration’s larger commitment to reduce prescription drug costs for patients, and the measures advanced easily out of Congress.
Republican senators face tricky Obamacare vote forced by Democrats. Senate Democrats are forcing centrist and vulnerable Republicans to take a tricky vote today aimed at forcing them to pick a side on the Trump administration's handling of Obamacare. The vote is on a discharge petition by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., to block health insurance companies from selling short-term plans, a type of coverage extended under President Trump as an alternative to Obamacare plans that Democrats and the healthcare law's allies deride as “junk insurance.” The legislative maneuver is part of Democrats’ ongoing strategy to keep healthcare at the center of the conversation ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections. "People say they’re for protecting people with pre-existing conditions, people say they’re for making sure people have basic standards, they have an opportunity to prove it tomorrow,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. The resolution is a long-shot in the Senate, where it has the support of 49 Democratic senators and would need to pick up two Republican votes. But it would force all Senate Republicans, once again, to take a tough Obamacare vote. Centrist Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters Tuesday that she was undecided about how she would vote. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who opposed earlier GOP efforts to replace Obamacare, said she would be voting against it. The office of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents, did not respond to multiple inquiries about how he planned to vote.
Healthcare.gov to be taken offline for regular maintenance. The Trump administration is expecting to take down the Obamacare website healthcare.gov for maintenance for several hours nearly every Sunday during open enrollment. The website will go offline for 12 hours, from midnight until noon, every Sunday except Dec. 9, 2018, and may also be taken down during the early morning on the first day of open enrollment while programmers make final adjustments. The total downtime is expected to be no more than 60 hours, but a spokesman from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it is likely to be far fewer. Last year, the site was down for only 21.5 hours, even though the same 60-hour windows were planned. CMS announced the plans on Tuesday, saying that the website maintenance would follow the same schedule as the previous year. Democrats and outside pro-Obamacare groups last year accused the administration of taking the site down in an attempt at "sabotage," but administration officials countered that website maintenance is standard procedure to keep the website from crashing or slowing down, which can get in the way of people shopping for health plans.
Doctor group shifts to ‘engaged neutrality’ on medically assisted suicide. The American Academy of Family Physicians broke ranks with the American Medical Association on Tuesday and adopted a new position of “engaged neutrality” on the issue of medically assisted suicide. The organization’s 120,000 members are now at odds with the AMA’s code of medical ethics, which opposes “assisted suicide” or what proponents call medical aid in dying. “Changing our position to engaged neutrality shows that our members can respectfully disagree about medical aid in dying, but still agree about our role in supporting our patients no matter what care they choose at the end of life,” said Dr. Julia Sokoloff, who introduced the resolution, said in a statement. The organization Compassion and Choices, which has advocated for laws allowing medical aid in dying in states, implored the AMA to follow suit. The practice is authorized in the District of Columbia as well as at least six states. A seventh state, Montana, doesn't have a specific law on the books, but the state Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that doctors could use a patient's request for fatal medication as a defense against criminal charges.
Bipartisan senators ask Trump administration to reduce maternal mortality. A group of senators sent a letter Tuesday to senior health officials in the Trump administration asking them to reverse trends in maternal mortality. The senators asked for information about whether women covered by Medicaid have worse outcomes, whether states are reporting data on maternal outcomes, how prenatal care is evaluated, and which factors could be contributing to maternal mortality. The letter comes in the face of data suggesting that more women are dying because of childbirth or pregnancy-related causes, though the exact reason isn’t known. Possible contributing factors include the opioid epidemic, inadequate pre- and post-natal care, and chronic illnesses that aren’t properly managed before a women becomes pregnant. The issue is particularly severe among black women, who may face racial bias from doctors.
Public health emergency declared in Florida. Azar declared a public health emergency in Florida on Tuesday as Hurricane Michael prepared to make landfall. The declaration allows healthcare resources to move more quickly, and along with it the Trump administration sent emergency responders. “Hurricane Michael poses a significant threat to the health and safety of those in its path,” Azar said in a statement. “These actions help ensure that our fellow Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid have continuous access to the care they need.”
Amy Klobuchar urges CDC to investigate spread of polio-like illness. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate a rare, polio-like illness spreading in her state. The illness, known as acute flaccid myelitis, affects the nervous system by weakening patients' muscles, making moving difficult and causing a facial droop as well as slurred speech. At least six children in Minnesota have been infected since mid-September, two of whom ended up hooked up to a ventilator in the intensive care unit to help them breathe. Some children recover while others can become paralyzed. Klobuchar asked CDC director Robert Redfield to share how the agency was responding to the infections, saying that it appeared the rate of infections was climbing. She asked whether research was taking place and whether additional resources could be used to make the work go faster. She requested a response by Oct. 16.
Voters thought Obama did more to improve U.S. healthcare system than Trump. A majority of voters believe that former President Obama did more to improve the healthcare system than President Trump, according to a new poll from Morning Consult and Politico released Wednesday. The poll said that 57 percent either strongly agree or somewhat agree to the question of did the Obama administration do the best it could to improve the U.S. healthcare system. Another 38 percent either somewhat or strongly disagreed and six percent didn’t know. But only 36 percent believe that the Trump administration is doing the best it can, the poll said. Another 48 percent disagreed and eight percent had no opinion. The poll had Trump’s approval rating around 41 percent and disapproval rating at 56 percent, with three percent who do not know.
Axios Venture capital loves healthcare
The Hill JUUL boosts lobbying amid FDA scrutiny
Reuters Mental health crisis could cost the world $16 trillion by 2030
NPR After prison, people living with HIV go without treatment
Politico Former Planned Parenthood head leaves door open to elected office
Baltimore Sun As a candidate, Larry Hogan vowed to take on Maryland’s opioid epidemic. Since then, deaths have soared
Kaiser Health News Doctors give Medicare’s proposal to pay for telemedicine poor prognosis
Associated Press Four states to decide on marijuana ballot initiative this fall
WEDNESDAY | Oct. 10
Senate in session. House not in session until after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
FDA White Oak Campus. Food and Drug Administration meeting of the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee. Details.
8:30 a.m. Kaiser Family Foundation. 1330 G St. NW. Alliance for Health Policy Summit on “Aging in America.” Agenda.
2 p.m. President Trump to sign Know the Lowest Price Act and Patients Right to Know Drug Prices Act.
FRIDAY | Oct. 12
8 a.m. FDA White Oak Campus. Food and Drug Administration meeting of the Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee. Details.