Daily on Healthcare: A Democratic nominee favoring ‘Medicare for all’ will lose union votes in must-win states

By | July 13, 2019

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A DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FAVORING ‘MEDICARE FOR ALL’ WILL LOSE UNION VOTES IN MUST-WIN STATES: A Democratic nominee who supports replacing private health insurance with a government-run system would lose union voters in battleground states Democrats must win to reverse President Trump‘s 2016 victory, union officials tell senior political correspondent David Drucker.

Democrats risk ceding the industrial Midwest to Trump, labor operatives warned in interviews. Trump victories in Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin demolished what Democrats figured to be a “blue wall” cemented by hard hats who would support the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Labor leaders in heartland battlegrounds said rank-and-file members support Obamacare, which includes private plans, and are jealously protective of expansive health benefits won in tough negotiations with corporate employers. A nominee who proposes replacing Obamacare with a government-only system risks pushing this core Democratic constituency into the arms of Trump.

“We don’t support the ‘Medicare for all’ structure. We certainly aren’t in support of a government-control, government-run system at the expense of those that currently have employer-provided, or union-negotiated, plans,” said Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Firefighters. The union is backing Joe Biden, in part because of his commitment to Obamacare and private coverage. “For members of our union, it would be a significant disincentive.”

Ditto, said Gary Steinbeck, an official with the AFL-CIO labor council in Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Ohio. The union-heavy region was for generations a hotbed of votes for Democratic presidential candidates until 2016. Trump made significant inroads there, and the Democrats’ ability to recover lost ground and reclaim this swing state could hinge on the position their nominee takes on healthcare.

“The members have a comfort level with private insurance, and to eliminate that would be a problem,” said Steinbeck, who spent a quarter century with United Steelworkers. “It would definitely create a problem trying to get votes from labor folks.”

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Good morning and welcome to the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Healthcare! This newsletter is written by senior healthcare reporter Kimberly Leonard (@LeonardKL) and healthcare reporter Cassidy Morrison (@CassMorrison94). You can reach us with tips, calendar items, or suggestions at dailyonhealthcare@washingtonexaminer.com. If someone forwarded you this email and you’d like to receive it regularly, you can subscribe here.

SURPRISE MEDICAL BILL LEGISLATION MOVES OUT OF HEALTH PANEL: The No Surprises Act, a bill aimed at ending surprise medical bills patients get after seeing an out-of-network doctor in the emergency room, cleared the Energy and Commerce’s Health Subcommittee on Thursday and is headed to the full committee for consideration. During the markup, several committee members expressed concern about setting rates on what medical providers could charge, and organizations including the American Medical Association and the Federation of American Hospitals said the bills needed more work.

The committee also advanced Medicaid funding for U.S. territories and delayed cuts in disproportionate share payments, which compensate hospitals when they provide care to the uninsured. Here are some of the other measures that passed.

DOCTORS TREATING MIGRANTS ON THE BORDER HAVE WALKED OUT: Two contracted doctors who had been serving inside overcrowded Border Patrol facilities in the El Paso, Texas, region have walked off the job in separate incidents since late May, two Border Patrol union officials have confirmed to the Washington Examiner. A senior Border Patrol official in El Paso said the walk-offs were medical personnel supplied through a contractor, not Coast Guard medical staff who were deployed to the border and would have been deemed AWOL for having left their jobs.

DEMOCRATS INTRODUCE PLAN FOR TREATMENT OF MIGRANT CHILDREN: Forty Senate Democrats are getting behind a bill introduced Thursday that would set standards for migrant children that are in the government’s care, which has implications for the Department of Health and Human Services. The Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act would set health and safety standards for children and families at Border Patrol Stations, including providing access to toothbrushes, diapers, soap, nutritious meals, and medical assessments. It would also end for-profit contractors from operating new shelters for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is under the purview of HHS.

DEMOCRATS DEMAND ANSWERS FROM HHS ABOUT REPORTED ABUSE OF MIGRANT CHILDREN: Following reports of mistreatment of migrant children in Border Patrol custody, Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone and Diana DeGette of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar asking for answers about the reported abuse, which included sexual misconduct and retaliation, against children held in detention facilities at the border.

FEDERAL COURT LETS TRUMP’S TITLE X RULE TAKE EFFECT, AT LEAST FOR NOW: A federal appeals court allowed the Trump administration Title X rule to take effect while a full panel of judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether the rule can be fully implemented. The rule has been in litigation since its introduction in March. In June, three Republican judges allowed the rule to go into effect, but 13 days later, the decision was reversed. Now, the rule that would withhold federal family planning funding from clinics that also provide abortions or refer for abortions, can take full effect, at least until the court makes its final decision.

REPS ASK FDA TO MAKE MORE DRUGS IN TESTING AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC: North Carolina representative Mark Walker, a Republican, led a letter sent to the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to send to market the potentially life-saving drugs that the FDA says are safe, but are still in the testing process. Walker and 10 other congress members wrote: “Despite FDA’s efforts, it still takes on average 10 to 12 years and as much as $ 2.9 billion to bring a new treatment from lab to patients. This is much too long for many patients with critical illnesses who do not have time to waste.”

CMS PROPOSES PLAN TO IMPLEMENT HOME-BASED CARE FOR SOME BENEFICIARIES: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a proposal Thursday to allow a home medication infusion benefit, which would allow certain patients to undergo infusion treatments, including chemotherapy, in their homes.

KLOBUCHAR REVEALS PLAN TO TACKLE ALZHEIMER’S: Amy Klobuchar, senator and Democratic presidential candidate, revealed plans Friday to address Alzheimer’s and other chronic illnesses. The plan includes supporting caregivers of those patients, expanding Medicare to cover all expenses to treat Alzheimer’s, and bolstering research at the National Institutes of Health into causes and treatments of Alzheimer’s.

GILLIBRAND ROLLS OUT DRUG PRICING PLAN: Senator and presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand unveiled a plan to combat high drug prices, which includes appointing a “pharmaceutical czar” who would oversee pharma companies and penalize them for increasing drug prices without showing Congress why the prices have risen, which could be due to factors such as costs of research and development. Gillibrand’s plan would allow importation of some drugs that are deemed safe, and allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies.

OHIO HOSPITAL TO FIRE 23 EMPLOYEES FOR ALLEGEDLY CAUSING 25 OVERDOSES: An investigation into Ohio’s Mount Carmel Health System found Dr. William Husel, and dozens of hospital staff, were deliberately prescribing fatal doses of opioids, resulting in 25 patients’ deaths. Husel, who pleaded not guilty to overprescribing opioids to 35 patients, was fired in December. County prosecutor Ron O’Brien said he won’t charge nurses and pharmacists who were involved in the investigations, saying they were only following Dr. Husel’s orders and couldn’t be held responsible.

The Rundown

Stat As Trump claims credit for decline in opioid deaths, others see signs of danger ahead

The New York Times Move over therapy dogs. Hello, therapy cows.

The Washington Post Kamala Harris proposes federal spending to end backlog in processing of rape evidence

The Hill Sanders to join diabetes patients on trip to Canada to buy cheaper insulin


MONDAY | July 15

Noon. Dirksen G-50. Alliance for Health Policy congressional briefing on “Balancing the Bills: Policy Solutions to Address Surprise Billing.” Details.

TUESDAY | July 16

10 a.m. 2123 Rayburn. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee to hold hearing on “Oversight of Federal Efforts to Combat the Spread of Illicit Fentanyl.” Details.

2:30 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE. Heritage Foundation event on “Examining Medicare for All.” Details.

THURSDAY | July 18

8 a.m. AJAX. Axios event on “The Future of Pain Management.” Details.

2 p.m. 2253 Rayburn. AIDS Institute congressional briefing on “Viral Hepatitis Elimination in the U.S.” RSVP.

3:30 p.m. 1225 I St NW. Bipartisan Policy Center event on “The Sandwich Generation’s Financial Strain: How Caregivers Balance Family and Finances.” Details.