Health Care — Biden points to Kansas vote, signs abortion order

·6 min read

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Today in health care, the focus was on abortion rights after Tuesday’s vote in Kansas, and President Biden signed an executive order on the issue.

Biden signs executive order on abortion travel

President Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider working with states to use Medicaid waivers to pay for expenses for women who cross state lines to receive abortions.

The executive order was the second that Biden has signed over the past month in response to the Supreme Court’s June ruling striking down the landmark 1973 abortion decision in Roe v. Wade.

“I believe Roe got it right, and it’s been the law for close to 50 years,” Biden, who is isolating with COVID-19, said in virtual remarks at a meeting of an interagency task force on reproductive health care.

Biden administration officials did not provide many specifics about what the Medicaid waivers could look like, leaving the details up to HHS.

Officials said Biden’s new order paves the way for Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to invite states to apply for Section 1115 Medicaid waivers to cover certain costs related to traveling for abortion.

Hyde problems: The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions, with exceptions given for cases of rape, incest and when the life of the pregnant person is endangered. The Medicaid waivers are likely to face Republican-led legal challenges.

  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted that the executive order did not run afoul of the Hyde Amendment. She later seemed to clarify that the waivers could be used to support transportation, contraception and abortion procedures in some cases.

Read more here.

Biden: Kansas vote a ‘powerful signal’ for elections

President Biden on Wednesday called Kansas’s vote in favor of abortion rights a “powerful signal” about elections ahead of November’s midterms, as Democrats look to harness energy sparked by the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

“The voters of Kansas sent a powerful signal that this fall the American people will vote to preserve and protect the rights, and refuse to let them be ripped away by politicians,” Biden said in remarks at the opening of his administration’s task force meeting on reproductive health care.

The president called on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade.

“If Congress fails to act, the people of this country need to elect senators and representatives who will restore Roe and protect the right to privacy, freedom and equality,” he said, seeking to highlight the stakes of the midterm elections.

The decisive victory for abortion rights supporters against an amendment to remove abortion protections from the Kansas Constitution on Tuesday has given Democrats new hope about the electoral power of the issue heading into the fall.

  • Unlike in the single-issue Kansas vote, midterm voters this November will be deciding on lawmakers based on a range of factors, including inflation, that could drag down Democrats.

Read more here.

POLL: DRUG PRICE CAP MOST POPULAR PART OF RECONCILIATION BILL

A provision that limits the price of prescription drugs included in Democrats’ climate, health care and tax deal is the most popular piece of the legislation, according to a new Morning Consult-Politico poll.

The poll asked respondents to voice their opinion on 12 different aspects of the reconciliation bill.

Fifty-one percent indicated they strongly supported caps on prescription drug prices, and 77 percent of voters said they at least somewhat supported the provision, which clocked in as the element with the highest level of support.

The legislation would require pharmaceutical companies to pay rebates if they hike the prices of existing drugs faster than inflation in either the Medicare or private markets.

Seventy-two percent of respondents indicated support for a provision that would cap Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs at $2,000 by 2025. Forty-four percent said they strongly supported the element.

Read more here.

PROGRESSIVES URGE INCLUSION OF UNINSURED IN INSULIN PROPOSAL

House progressives are calling on leadership to include people without health insurance in any legislation that limits out-of-pocket costs for insulin.

Senate Democrats are pushing to include a $35 cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs as part of a larger reconciliation bill, though it’s still unclear if such a provision would be allowed under the arcane Senate rules for passing the legislation.

In a letter to bipartisan House and Senate leaders, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Tri-Caucus (comprised of the Black, Hispanic and Asian and Pacific American caucuses) said any cost savings should also apply to the uninsured.

“Failure to do so will deepen health disparities and increase long-term healthcare costs,” the lawmakers wrote.

How would it work? The lawmakers said a universal cap on insulin costs could be accomplished either by using existing Medicaid payment structures to reimburse pharmacies or by establishing a fund in the Department of Health and Human Services that reimburses insurance providers and pharmacies.

Read more here.

Biden positive for fifth straight day after ‘rebound’ infection

President Biden tested positive for COVID-19 again on Wednesday but continues to feel “well,” his physician, Kevin O’Connor, said in a new update that noted Biden is coughing less frequently.

O’Connor said that he examined Biden on Wednesday morning after the president enjoyed a “light workout” and that Biden has no fever and his vital signs remain normal.

“The President continues to feel well,” O’Connor wrote in a memorandum released by the White House. “He is still experiencing an occasional cough, but less frequently than yesterday. He remains fever-free and in good spirits. His temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation remain entirely normal. His lungs remain clear.”

Wednesday was the fifth day in a row that Biden tested positive for the coronavirus in what his doctor described as a “rebound” infection that has been seen in some patients who take the antiviral treatment Paxlovid.

Biden is expected to continue to isolate in the White House residence until testing negative.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Music festivals embrace overdose reversal drugs, but fentanyl testing kits remain taboo (Nashville Public Radio)

  • CDC expected to ease Covid-19 recommendations, including for schools, as soon as this week (CNN)

  • Red Cross beginning to screen blood donors for monkeypox (Stat)

STATE BY STATE

  • R.I. to expand monkeypox vaccination clinics, open eligibility to at-risk populations (Boston Globe)

  • Sen. Johnson suggests ending Medicare, Social Security as mandatory spending programs (Washington Post)

  • Minnesota Department of Health: Adverse health events up 33% in 2021 (KSTP)

THE HILL OP-EDS

Post Roe: Women still have the right to emergency medical treatment

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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