HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Trump, Biden Spar on Health Care

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President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden hurled insults and repeatedly interrupted each other in their first debate, sparring over topics ranging from Covid-19 to the Affordable Care Act as moderator Chris Wallace tried mostly in vain to control the conversation.

On the Coronavirus: Biden said Trump “panicked” when the virus, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans, hit the U.S. and that “He still doesn’t have a plan.”

“Wrong,” Trump interjected.

“You could never have done the job that we did. You don’t have it in your blood,” he told Biden, alleging “millions” of Americans would have died with the former vice president leading the country.

Trump and Biden even argued about whether Americans should wear masks to combat spread of the virus. Many people in Trump’s entourage in the audience didn’t wear one, and when an official from the Cleveland Clinic, which is co-hosting the debate, came by to offer them masks, they refused.

Biden’s entourage wore masks. He noted that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that near-universal mask wearing would end the U.S. outbreak. Trump said other officials had claimed the “opposite.”

On the ACA: Biden said that Trump and his Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett want to strike down the Affordable Care Act, costing 20 million people their health insurance.

“The American people have a right to have a say over who the Supreme Court nominee is,” Biden said. “What’s at stake here, as the president’s made it clear, he wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. He’s in the Supreme Court right now trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which will strip 20 million people from having health insurance now, if it goes to the Supreme Court.” Read more from Jennifer Epstein and Jennifer Jacobs.

Analysts Fault Biden-Like Health Plan: A health plan similar to that proposed by Biden would lower costs for most Obamacare enrollees as well as more than 12 million workers. But it would also boost federal spending by $2.2 trillion over 10 years, and could damage the employer-sponsored health insurance market. That’s the conclusion of a conservative analyst in response to a study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Read more from Sara Hansard.

Senate Democrats Press Republicans on Obamacare: Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate took the rare step of forcing a vote on legislation as they work to make health care a focus of the November election up and down the ballot.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) filed for cloture on a motion to proceed to a measure aimed at preventing the Justice Department’s efforts to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. The procedural motions means the legislation (S. 4653) will be the pending business of the Senate after it passes a stopgap government funding measure today, according to a Schumer aide.

The move appears aimed at forcing Republicans to go on the record on the Obamacare lawsuit ahead of Nov. 3. Republicans have the numbers to block or filibuster the bill, but the roll call vote will force all senators to vote whether to advance or block the measure, Megan Howard and Steven T. Dennis report.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Vaccine Safety: The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations plans a hearing on producing a safe, effective Covid vaccine.

Indian Lands Virus Response: The House Appropriations Interior-Environment Subcommittee meets for a hearing on the Covid-19 response and recovery on American Indian lands.

FDA Says Vaccine Makers Know Data Agency Expects: The head of the Food and Drug Administration office that oversees vaccines said drugmakers developing Covid-19 shots are aware of the data that will be required to gain an emergency-use authorization, regardless of whether the agency provides formal guidance.The FDA has been expected to publicly outline its standards for allowing a coronavirus vaccine to be used on an emergency basis. However, the guidelines have become a subject of political controversy, with Trump recently saying he could overrule anything he sees as too onerous.
Read more from Anna Edney and Jeannie Baumann.

Warning Signs Flash Ahead of Second Winter: Public health officials in the U.S. could take heart at the end of the summer. Even as the new coronavirus continued to spread, fewer people were ending up in the hospital because of Covid-19, and fewer were dying. But now, as the seasons turn and the global death toll from Covid-19 tops 1 million, signs show there will be more deaths and serious illness ahead.

Data collected by the Covid Tracking Project shows that the number of people hospitalized has plateaued at about 30,000 over the past week, after a decline from nearly 60,000 that began in late July. Deaths, meanwhile, averaged about 750 over the seven days through Sunday, higher than the roughly 600 deaths a day in the first week of July.

Scientists had hoped that a warm-weather reprieve could soften an expected re-emergence of the new coronavirus in the colder months. Instead, the contagion continued to spread across the country after Memorial Day, with early-summer outbreaks in Sun Belt states followed by the recent surge of infections in Upper Midwestern states and on college campuses across the nation. Read more from Michelle Fay Cortez.

Stimulus Update: The House Rules Committee plans to meet this morning at 9 a.m. to discuss the Democratic legislation, and a schedule last night from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) shows the measure could be considered on the floor as soon as today.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed the legislation yesterday, and they’re set to speak again today, according to the speaker’s office. Erik Wasson and Billy House have more.

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What Else to Know

Trump Agencies Defend Insurance Rule: Nine provisions of an HHS final rule governing federal and states’ health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act should be held valid because they accord with the law and are backed by reasoned policy choices, the agency told a federal court. The administration is entitled to summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by several U.S. cities that alleges the agency rulemaking process is being used to deliberately “sabotage” Obamacare, it said in a brief. Mary Anne Pazanowski has more.

Lost Leverage Complicates Opioid Deal Talks: Cities and counties pushing for a global settlement in a sprawling opioid lawsuit lost a powerful negotiating tool when the Sixth Circuit opened the door to new lawsuits targeting the same drug distributors. Thousands of U.S. cities and counties are suing McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and retail pharmacy chains for their alleged role in the opioid crisis. Read more from Valerie Bauman.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at; Giuseppe Macri at; Michaela Ross at

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