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Senators from states that haven’t expanded their Medicaid programs under Obamacare are making a final, determined push to get their colleagues to include in their health, tax and climate legislation some kind of help for those caught in the gap between private and public insurance programs.
Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) all said this week they’re lobbying their fellow Senate Democrats to close what’s known as the Medicaid coverage gap in states like theirs, which have long refused to grow their public health insurance programs using federal funds.
Warnock told reporters Thursday he’s prepared to offer an amendment to the Inflation Reduction Act to close the gap—forcing his colleagues to vote on the issue. The trio admit it’s a challenge, considering that much of the bill was agreed upon by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who opposed a previous version of the spending bill that carried Medicaid gap provisions.
Georgia and Wisconsin are among the 12 states that have declined to extend Medicaid eligibility to adults with incomes of up to 138% of the poverty line, a change allowed under the Affordable Care Act. This expansion helps people who don’t make enough to afford the private insurance options under the ACA obtain coverage, Alex Ruoff reports.
MORE ON THE LEGISLATION
- Weekend Work Planned: Schumer said the Senate will convene on Saturday to begin working toward passage of the bill, meaning a final vote may come as soon as Sunday. Senators will have to work through potentially hundreds of proposed amendments in what’s known as a “vote-a-rama” before a final vote, Erik Wasson reports.
- Sinema Says Yes: Last night, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said she’ll back the bill after fellow Democrats agreed to drop a provision that would have narrowed a tax break for carried interest. The deal with Sinema removes one of the last hurdles for the budget bill. Erik Wasson and Laura Davison have more.
- Drug Pricing Workaround: The Congressional Budget Office confirmed what some industry figures have predicted—that drugmakers may respond to provisions meant to hold down annual drug price increases by launching drugs at high price points, the nonpartisan office said, Alex Ruoff reports. Read the CBO’s report here.
- Biden, CEOs Rally: Meanwhile, Biden at a White House event—which included Kaiser Permanente Chairman Greg Adams—touted the deal’s impact on drug prices for seniors. Josh Wingrove and Justin Sink have more.
Abortion in Post-Roe America
Democrats Aren’t Forgiving Biden’s Slow Roe Response: Like the rest of the world, the Biden administration knew for almost two months that abortion rights were about to be gutted, thanks to a leaked draft opinion. All told, US officials have so far met with over 200 groups or individuals on what could be done to salvage abortion access. Yet when the ruling came, Biden told Americans there was little he could do. That simply wasn’t enough for abortion-rights advocates. Nancy Cook has more.
STATE & INDUSTRY LEVEL
- DeSantis Suspends Prosecutor: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday suspended a prosecutor without pay for saying he doesn’t intend to bring criminal cases for abortion. Jennifer Kay has more.
- Louisiana Abortion Ban: An abortion provider in Louisiana asked the state’s top court Thursday to reinstate a trial court decision blocking enforcement of laws prohibiting almost all abortions in the state. The providers challenged Louisiana’s “trigger” laws. Mary Anne Pazanowski has more.
- Employer Plans’ Coverage: Nearly half of over 200 employers surveyed cover medically required and elective abortions for employees and dependents under their medical plan, according to a survey released Thursday, Sara Hansard reports.
- State ‘Personhood’ Laws: Biomedical scientists using embryonic stem cells or fetal tissue could find their studies at risk in conservative states seeking to redefine personhood after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe. These states would give embryos and fetuses the same rights as people. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.
POLITICS OF ABORTION
- PAC Targets Masters: Abortion rights are the focus of a Democratic-tied super PAC’s first general election TV ad in Arizona, stating Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters supports an abortion ban with zero exceptions. Read more from Kenneth P. Doyle.
- Abortion Campaigns Sharpen: Activists on abortion ballot campaigns say they plan to hone their messages and address confusing ballot language after high turnout helped protect abortions in Kansas, Jennifer Kay and Alex Ebert report.
- Harris Touts Vote; Vice President Kamala Harris said the Kansas vote showed most Americans agreed with Democrats on protecting access to abortion as the administration played up the issue ahead of the November midterms. Read more from Jordan Fabian.
Regulatory & Legal News
US Declares Monkeypox Health Emergency: US health officials declared monkeypox a public health emergency, a step aimed at facilitating access to more funds to fight the virus. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the emergency Thursday in a press conference. The virus has spread to 26,000 people globally in just a few months, and the US leads the world in known cases, the CDC said. Read more from Madison Muller.
- More Poliovirus Found: In another viral outbreak, health officials say they have identified the polio virus in sewage water samples taken from two unique geographical locations in the New York City suburb of Orange county, and they suspect community spread, Brandon Sapienza reports.
FDA Data Revamp Promises Better Enforcement: A data modernization plan underway at the FDA can lead to major improvements in the agency’s ability to propose new product standards and defend its actions in lawsuits, Janet Woodcock, the Food and Drug Administration’s principal deputy commissioner, said in a webinar. Read more from Celine Castronuovo.
Pallone Sends FDA Letter on Menthol: House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) Thursday reiterated his longstanding support for the FDA’s plans to ban menthol cigarettes. Pallone wrote in a comment letter to the Food and Drug Administration it needs to act “urgently” to ban flavored products that attract kids. This week marks the end of the agency comment period on the proposed bans, Celine Castronuovo reports.
Hospitals Demand Fast Medicare Drug Repayments: HHS should promptly repay hospitals for the unlawful cuts it made to Medicare reimbursements for hospitals enrolled in a program supporting low-income Americans, the American Hospital Association told a federal court on Wednesday. The US Supreme Court ruled in June that the government wrongly cut Medicare drug reimbursements by over $1 billion a year. Allie Reed has more.
WHAT ELSE TO KNOW TODAY
- HHS Transgender Policy: A clash between religious rights and health-care access played out in a New Orleans courtroom Thursday, as Christian doctors argued the government can’t—now or ever—force them to provide transition-related care to transgender people. The case may well end up before the US Supreme Court, Mary Anne Pazanowski reports.
- S.F. Sues HHS: San Francisco sued HHS and state health officials alleging the imminent forced closure of the city’s 700-bed residential hospital of last resort imperils patients’ lives, the municipality said Thursday. Joyce E. Cutler has more.
- Eli Lilly to Pay $61 Million in Medicaid Pricing Fraud Suit
- Change Data ‘Could’ Help UnitedHealth Insurer, Ex-CEO Testifies in Antitrust Case
With assistance from Celine Castronuovo