• HHS on Friday released a report touting its 2017 accomplishments, including regulatory rollbacks and cost savings.
  • The 37-page report highlighted some actions that are priorities for the Trump administration, but which have sharply divided the healthcare industry. It said 70 regulatory actions were withdrawn last year and more than $3 billion was recovered through efforts to stop waste, fraud and abuse.
  • It also pointed to a final rule that cuts hospital payments from the 340B Drug Pricing Program, saying it will save $3.2 billion. Hospitals fiercely oppose the cut and are challenging the rule in court.

. . .

Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration failed to fulfill their commitment to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2017, but they did succeed in repealing the tax penalties enforcing the law’s individual mandate, starting in 2019.

The GOP still might try again to fully repeal and replace the ACA in 2018, perhaps with a modified version of the Graham-Cassidy legislation. However, with Republicans now down to a 51-seat majority in the Senate and some House and Senate members facing difficult mid-term elections this November, it will be even more challenging to get a sweeping rollback of the ACA through Congress in 2018 than it was in 2017.

. . .

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Wednesday said Republicans needed to “finish the job” on repealing and replacing Obamacare in 2018, and he is pushing his colleagues to use one last reconciliation bill before the midterms to deliver on their long-running promise.

In a meeting with the Washington Examiner in his Senate offices, Cruz said he has had long conversations with the Republican senators who blocked legislation last time around, and still thinks they can get something across the finish line. He also said there has been talk of asking the Congressional Budget Office to rescore repeal legislation now that the individual mandate is off the books, which is expected to drive down the CBO’s estimate of the number of individuals who would be uninsured under Republican legislation.

. . .

Several House Republicans said two bipartisan Obamacare stabilization bills need to include more reforms in order to get support in the House.

The comments came the same day that some senators said a deal to end a three-day government shutdown provides a new opportunity to approve the two bills. The comments highlight the same struggle that has plagued the two bills: While the Senate GOP leadership and President Trump are on board with passage, the House is not.

. . .

Congress is apparently not done cutting taxes, even after passing a $1.5 trillion tax overhaul last year.

The deal struck by Democrats and Republicans on Monday to end a brief government shutdown contains $31 billion in tax cuts, including a temporary delay in implementing three health-care-related taxes.

Those delays, which enjoy varying degrees of bipartisan support, are not offset by any spending cuts or tax increases, and thus will add to a federal budget deficit that is already projected to increase rapidly as last year’s mammoth new tax law takes effect.

. . .

When Brian Day opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996, he had a simple goal. Dr. Day, an orthopedic surgeon from Vancouver, British Columbia, wanted to provide timely, state-of-the-art medical care to Canadians who were unwilling to wait months—even years—for surgery they needed. Canada’s single-payer health-care system, known as Medicare, is notoriously sluggish. But private clinics like Cambie are prohibited from charging most patients for operations that public hospitals provide free. Dr. Day is challenging that prohibition before the provincial Supreme Court. If it rules in his favor, it could alter the future of Canadian health care.

. . .

Because this exemption applies to employer-sponsored insurance but not individual coverage or out-of-pocket spending, it encourages group plans over consumer control. It should not be seen as sacred. However, the cap imposed by the Cadillac tax will become increasingly tight over time, which risks pushing Americans into public entitlements rather than empowering them as consumers. Policymakers should keep the Cadillac tax from biting too deeply — but a better way to end the tax bias toward employer-based plans would be to extend the tax exemption to health care that individuals purchase by themselves.
. . .

Conservative policy experts and strategists continue to quietly meet and craft a legislative replacement for Obamacare, and with good reason.

People are hurting under the current broken system that denies individuals control over their own health decisions while hugely driving up their costs. Premiums have been rising by ungodly amounts (an average of 37 percent in 2018), while nearly one-third of all counties feature just a single insurer offering coverage in an Obamacare exchange.

. . .

House Republicans are considering adding a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as well as delays of certain ObamaCare taxes, to a short-term government funding bill this week, sources say.

The six-year extension of CHIP would help put to rest a months-long delay in renewing the funding for that program, which has been caught up in a partisan dispute over how to pay for it. There was a breakthrough last week when the Congressional Budget Office revised down the cost so that a six-year extension would essentially cost nothing.
. . .

Congress has no choice but to revisit the issue of health reform, and leaders have the greatest opportunity by tackling Medicaid. In 2016 the federal government spent $42 billion on ObamaCare’s exchanges. It spent $358 billion on Medicaid. States and localities pitched in another $208 billion, for a total national Medicaid expenditure of $566 billion in 2016. The growth in spending on health-care entitlements like Medicaid and Medicare threatens to overwhelm the Treasury, starving the federal government of the funds it needs to pay for everything else, including education, welfare and national defense.

. . .