Daily on Healthcare: Poll shows the weak underbelly in ‘Medicare for all” support

By | January 23, 2019

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Poll shows the weak underbelly in ‘Medicare for all” support. Despite the wide-spread impression that momentum is building for “Medicare for all,” a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown that support for the concept rests on a very shaky foundation, and that its popularity collapses when people are told about tradeoffs. At first blush, a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation would seem to be encouraging news for supporters of national healthcare. The poll finds that 56 percent favor the idea, which the question notes is “sometimes called Medicare for all,” compared to just 42 percent who oppose it. Furthermore, 71 percent support the idea if they heard that it would “guarantee health insurance as a right for all Americans,” and 67 percent like it if told it would eliminate premiums and reduce out-of-pocket costs. However, when asked if they would support “Medicare for all” if told it would “eliminate private health” insurance companies or “require most Americans to pay more in taxes,” support sinks to 37 percent; when told it would threaten existing Medicare, support falls to 32 percent; and when told it would “lead to delays in people getting some medical tests and treatments” just 26 percent favor the idea, and a whopping 70 percent oppose it. All of these counterarguments have backing in reality. The Senate proposal sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders and four other likely or declared 2020 Democratic presidential candidates (Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker), would put everybody on a new government health insurance plan (including current Medicare beneficiaries), and all private insurance that tried to offer the same types of benefits as the government plan would be outlawed. Sanders has in the past backed middle-class tax increases to help pay for the projected $ 32 trillion cost, arguing that if people were given free healthcare they’d be better off. Also, cost containment efforts in such a system are going to mean dramatic cuts in payment rates for doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers, inevitably leading to more delays.

It’s not surprise, then that many Democrats may be are migrating toward less sweeping ideas, such as ‘Medicare for more’ The poll also found, before being exposed to counterarguments, that more people would prefer to have the option to enroll in a government-run plan rather than have a fully government-financed healthcare system.

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More than half of people polled didn’t know that a judge had ruled Obamacare unconstitutional. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s survey showed that 35 percent of those polled didn’t know about the ruling, and another 20 percent incorrectly said the judge ruled the law was constitutional and could remain in place. Forty-four percent correctly said the law had been ruled unconstitutional.

Uninsured rate rises during Trump’s first two years in office. The percentage of U.S. adults without health insurance reached its highest level in four years, a development that will likely give ammunition to Democrats who say the Trump administration has been working to “sabotage” the U.S. healthcare system. A new Gallup poll said 13.7 percent of adults had no insurance at the end of 2018, surpassing the 13.4 percent rate seen in 2014. The uninsured rate fell to a record low of 10.9 percent in 2016, which was former President Barack Obama’s last year in office. Gallup estimated that roughly 7 million more adults become uninsured between 2016 and 2018, meaning that rates began climbing near the end of Obama’s term and continued to climb during President Trump’s first two years in office. It’s not clear from the Gallup poll whether those who are now uninsured used to have an Obamacare plan or had one through an employer or government program. Other data, from the Department of Health and Human Services, which lags Gallup, show that the number of people in Obamacare plans has dropped only slightly since Obama left office. The highest increases in the uninsured rate were among women, people living in households with annual incomes of less than $ 48,000 a year, and adults under the age of 35.

Drug companies set $ 27.5M lobbying record in a year that GOP had control of all branches of government. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, spent $ 27.5 million on lobbying in 2018, more than it ever has in a single year. The spending, revealed in lobbying disclosure reports made public Tuesday, demonstrates the increasing pressure that drug companies face to lower their list prices. The Trump administration has been going after drug companies and threatened to take further measures if prices don’t go down, and Democrats in the House have vowed to bring in drug company executives to undergo questioning in public hearings. PhRMA battled several pieces of legislation last year but was unable to defeat one measure that will cause drug companies to spend more on medicines that are paid for through Medicare. PhRMA came close to this record in 2009, racking up $ 25 million in lobbying as lawmakers were debating Obamacare.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills plans to gut GOP’s Medicaid work requirement. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is rejecting an arrangement her Republican predecessor set up with the Trump administration in Maine that would have required certain people on Medicaid to work as a condition of staying enrolled in the program. Instead, she directed the state’s health agency Tuesday to make vocational and work training programs available as an option for Mainers. This is the second major action Mills has taken related to Medicaid since taking office in early January, underscoring the power of the governor’s office to influence healthcare policy in states. Mills’ GOP predecessor, Paul LePage, refused to expand the Medicaid program under Obamacare even after voters approved the expansion during a ballot measure in 2017. While the debate over the expansion carried on in court, the LePage administration sent a waiver to the Trump administration asking for the work requirements, and the proposal was approved in December.

Senate Finance Committee to begin drug pricing hearings. Democrats and Republicans have vowed to work together to tackle high drug prices, and the Senate appears poised to get started. Next Tues the Finance Cmte which I now chair will hold its 1st of many hrgs on drug prices Need real+bipartisan solutions not a govt takeover or more inaction I hope my Dem+GOP colleagues work w me+RM Wyden+Trump admin to get the job done,” the committee’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, tweeted Tuesday night. The committee has not said who would testify.

House Ways and Means to hold hearing on pre-existing illnesses. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., is planning a hearing Tuesday, Jan. 29, that will examine Obamacare’s rules obligating insurers to cover sick people at the same price as healthy people. The committee has not announced who will be called in to testify.

HHS secretary turns down request to testify about family separations. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday declined a request to testify about the implementation and fall-out from the zero-tolerance policy before the oversight subcommittee under the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “It has been eight months since this cruel policy came to light, and Secretary Azar has yet to appear before Congress at a hearing specifically on this policy,” Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., said in a statement Tuesday. “The stonewalling must end, and Secretary Azar must agree to appear before the committee to answer questions and take accountability for his agency’s actions. His denial to appear before the committee in the coming weeks on the Family Separation Policy is unacceptable, and we are going to get him here at some point one way or another.”

HHS said it has responded to several requests. HHS offered to send Administration for Children and Families Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson, Commander Jonathan White, and acting Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Jonathan Hayes to testify before the subcommittee. “Secretary Azar has spoken directly with Chairman Pallone and is committed to the welfare of the children in HHS care. As the HHS Secretary, he understands and appreciates the important role of Congressional Oversight,” the spokesperson said in an email to the Washington Examiner. In addition, the Cabinet official’s spokesman said his staff have had numerous closed-door conversations with the committee on the issue, as well as more than 100 lawmakers visit HHS facilities where minors were held.

J&J wary of shutdown’s impact on new cancer, depression medicines. Johnson & Johnson is optimistic that the “breakthrough” designation granted to two new medications, one for depression and the other for bladder cancer, will help it avoid delays in regulatory approval during the partial government shutdown. The Food and Drug Administration, one of the agencies affected, previously recognized esketamine and erdafitinib as likely to provide substantial improvement over existing medications under a process designed to speed up the review of such drugs. So far, executives don’t think the process will be delayed but are monitoring it closely. Drugmakers with new treatment applications under review by the FDA have been bracing for potential approval delays or postponements of key premarket meetings since the shutdown began.

As rights groups decry Supreme Court decision, Pentagon says not all trans troops are banned. While transgender rights advocates are denouncing the decision Tuesday by the Supreme Court to allow the Pentagon to temporarily implement a policy barring some transgender individuals from military service, the Pentagon says currently-serving transgender troops will not be kicked out. “As always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity,” said a statement issued shortly after the high court’s decision. “DoD’s proposed policy is NOT a ban on service by transgender persons.” After Trump tweeted in 2017 his intention to ban all service by transgender troops, reversing an Obama administration policy, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis fashioned a compromise policy that allowed current serving troops to remain, along with new recruits who were willing to serve in their biological birth gender. The policy would ban most individuals “with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria,” who require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery. The implementation of that 2018 policy has been delayed by four separate lawsuits by transgender rights groups who argue the policy is discriminatory and not based on sound medical science.

Iowa judge strikes down abortion ‘heartbeat bill.’ A state judge has ruled unconstitutional an Iowa law that bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The law is one of the most restrictive in the nation, banning abortion after roughly six weeks into a pregnancy. The judge cited a different abortion challenge in his decision that concluded women have a fundamental right to abortion under Iowa’s Constitution. The “heartbeat bill” was passed last spring and has been on hold pending a challenge by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.

Dengue immunity may help protect against Zika. People who become immune to the dengue virus may also become immune to Zika, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Both viruses are carried by mosquitoes and are closely related, and experts had previously been concerned that children who had Dengue might have worse Zika symptoms than children who didn’t. A study published in PLOS Medicine on Tuesday found the opposite after studying more than 3,000 children in Nicaragua.

Polio-like illness hit 201 cases in 2018. The tally represents the largest ever recorded in the U.S. The illness, known as acute flaccid myelitis, goes after the nervous system and affected mainly children. Officials still aren’t sure what caused it, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that 90 percent of those who developed the illness had a respiratory disease or fever beforehand that was caused by a virus.

RUNDOWN

Politico White House to name Grogan top policy aide

The Associated Press New Mexico considers legalizing medically assisted suicide

Modern Healthcare WellCare to help Kentucky Medicaid members meet work requirement

Reuters U.S. top court rejects Helsinn over anti-nausea drug patent in win for Teva

WNYT Gov. Cuomo signs Reproductive Health Act into law

WEDNESDAY | Jan. 23

House and Senate in session.

Jan. 22-25. Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. World Economic Forum. Live feed.

Jan. 23-26. American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting. Details.

2 p.m. President Trump to hold roundtable on healthcare pricing.

THURSDAY | Jan. 24

10 a.m. Rayburn 2123. House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold organizational meeting. Details.

TUESDAY | Jan. 29

10 a.m. 1100 Longworth. House Ways and Means Committee hearing on “Protecting Americans with Pre-existing Conditions.” Details.

10:25 a.m. 215 Dirksen. Senate Finance Committee hearing on “Drug Pricing in America: A Prescription for Change, Part I.” Details.

Healthcare