“House Democrats made a jubilant return to Washington this week, poised to take the majority next year and advance their own health agenda for the first time since 2010. Of course, the caucus quickly got bogged down in a fight over next year’s leadership that left little room for policy planning. But Dems offered a few clues about what 2019 will look like. Here’s what we’ve learned:
Health committee leadership largely set. Rep. Frank Pallone will chair Energy and Commerce, while Rep. Richard Neal will head Ways and Means. Anna Eshoo this week effectively locked up chairmanship of E&C’s health subcommittee, multiple members said. And on Ways and Means, chair of that health subcommittee will likely come down to Mike Thompson or outspoken drug price advocate Lloyd Doggett. Both are interested, but either one could also opt instead to chair the tax subcommittee.
Dems’ pre-ex bill will reinforce the ACA’s protections. It’s unclear what it’ll do beyond that. Lawmakers said the goal is to reiterate support for Obamacare’s pre-existing condition protections — forcing Republicans to take a tough vote on an issue that loomed large in the midterm election — while also adding some provisions that will insulate the protections from legal or regulatory moves that could roll them back.
An e-cig bill is on the way. Pallone’s upcoming bill cracking down on flavored e-cig products will go even further than the FDA’s proposals, setting tougher restrictions and layering on new marketing requirements.
Medicare for All isn’t going away. But it’s not tearing the party apart— at least not yet. Democrats almost universally listed trying to shore up the ACA as their first job, followed by action on drug pricing — two big agenda items that could consume months of work. They’ll eventually turn to what comes next, though, which will invariably include weighing some kind of Medicare expansion. ‘I think you’re going to see some movements toward buying into Medicare,’ Rep. Bill Pascrell said.”
In contrast, in a speech on Friday November 16th, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar reminded attendees of the Federalist Society’s annual conference that the Administration’s priorities are: “Reforming the individual market for insurance that Obamacare undermined, bringing down the high price of prescription drugs, fighting the opioid crisis, and moving to a healthcare system that pays for health and outcomes rather than procedures and sickness.”
For a big picture view, ANCOR members might be interested in this bipartisan webcast on “what comes next for health reforms ahead of 2020.”
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