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Rand Paul to push for individual mandate repeal in tax bill. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., called for repealing Obamacare's individual mandate penalties in the Senate's tax reform package. Paul, back in Washington as he recovers from injuries after being assaulted by a neighbor, tweeted on Tuesday that he will seek an amendment to the tax reform bill to repeal the requirement that everyone buy insurance, which President Trump also has pushed for. He also called for "bigger tax cuts" for middle-class earners. Paul's request ramps up pressure on the Senate to include mandate repeal in the bill, which some have been reticent to do as it may imperil the tax bill. "The mandate repeal is a promise we all made and we should keep. It also allows an additional $300 billion+ in tax cuts," he tweeted. The House bill, which will be considered this week, is not expected to include the repeal. However, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, told the Washington Examiner Monday that repeal could be added later.

Key Republican senators ready to quickly move Trump's health secretary nominee. Republican senators who lead key committees said they are ready to quickly confirm Alex Azar as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, praised Azar and said he expected the nominee to tackle Obamacare and ensure long-term sustainability for Medicare and Medicaid. "Mr. Azar has the experience, knowledge and fortitude to take on these daunting challenges ... I hope my colleagues on the Finance Committee will work with me in the advancement of a fair and transparent vetting process for this nominee," he said. As part of the confirmation process, Azar will need to answer questions from senators in hearings held by the Senate Finance Committee as well as from the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee. He will be provided some questions ahead of time and will be required to submit his tax returns to the Senate Finance Committee, which will review them and then schedule a hearing. “As a former deputy secretary of Health and Human Services and private-sector executive, Alex Azar has the qualifications and experience to get results," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the HELP Committee. Azar was the president of U.S. operations for drugmaker Eli Lilly until January. Democrats were indicating Monday they were not inclined to support Azar. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top-ranking Democrat on the HELP committee, did not criticize Azar personally but blasted the Trump administration for its policies. Sen. Ron Wyden, R-Ore., top-ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, echoed similar sentiments.

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Democrats plan to use HHS pick to push Trump on high drug prices. Democrats plan to use the pick of Azar to press the president to follow through on his campaign promise to fight for lower drug prices. During his campaign, Trump had said that pharmaceutical companies were "getting away with murder" as he criticized high drug prices. “#POTUS picking former drug exec to lead HHS is like a fox guarding the hen house,” tweeted Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. Cummings and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., met with Trump in March to discuss whether the president would embrace their bill to give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices. But the two lawmakers have been dismayed that Trump and HHS have ignored their requests to work on the bill, which was released a few weeks ago. Cummings also tweeted that he and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wrote to federal agencies to clamp down on Eli Lilly for raising insulin prices, which several state attorneys general are investigating. Cummings told the Washington Examiner Monday that he would like to meet with Azar and he hasn’t given up on working with Trump on combating high drug prices. Other Democrats were skeptical about Azar’s commitment to fight high drug prices. “Traditionally those guys have opposed negotiated pricing for pharmaceuticals under Medicare Part D where President Trump said he supports it,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Republicans and Democrats alike want to know how Trump's HHS pick would handle Obamacare. Azar faces questions from both Democrats and Republicans about how he would handle Obamacare and what he would do to reduce spending on prescription drugs, issues he has discussed openly in media interviews in recent months. Azar has called Obamacare "fundamentally broken" and "failing," while lamenting that Republicans were not adequately working to sell their healthcare replacement to the public. "The president, the HHS secretary, leadership, they've got to be out there talking, educating people ... It's got to be 24/7. That's how Obama got Obamacare through," Azar said in April. If confirmed, the Trump administration would inherit a health secretary who understands federal regulatory actions and has put thought into how he would make changes to Obamacare. The law gives a wide range of discretion to an administration for implementing its details. "I would do a top-to-bottom comprehensive rewrite of the regulations of Obamacare imposing as much free-market, localized flexibility as humanly possible," Azar said in one interview. Some of those changes began under Price, who shortened Obamacare's open enrollment and cut funding for advertising and navigators. Democrats have charged the changes were intended to "sabotage" Obamacare, but sign-ups, since open enrollment started Nov. 1, are outpacing those under the Obama years.

FDA approves first-of-its-kind antipsychotic treatment. The Food and Drug Administration has approved an antipsychotic drug that carries a digital sensor to track whether patients are taking it, according to an agency announcement published Monday. The new drug, Abilify MyCite, is used to treat schizophrenia and manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder. After a patient has swallowed it and once the medication reaches the stomach, a sensor sends a message to a wearable patch, which then transfers information onto a mobile app. Patients then use the app to track whether they have taken their medication and they can give caregivers or doctors access to that information through an online site.

FDA cracks down on alternative opioid withdrawal treatment. The FDA is cracking down on a botanical substance called kratom used increasingly as a way to treat opioid withdrawal but has not been approved by the agency. The FDA sent an advisory on Tuesday that there is no reliable evidence to support using kratom, a plant that grows in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The agency said that it knows people are using kratom to also treat pain, anxiety and depression but evidence shows “kratom has similar effects to narcotics like opioids, and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and in some cases, death.”

Biden, Lady Gaga to open centers to support sexual assault survivors. Former Vice President Joe Biden announced Monday he is planning to open help centers for sexual assault survivors with pop star Lady Gaga. “Women who are abused end up having long-term physical and physiological problems,” Biden said during an appearance at Glamour's Women of the Year Summit in New York City, according to Entertainment Weekly. “I’m working with Lady Gaga now … We [want to] set up trauma centers where women can go to get the long-term help they need to deal with these crises." Biden said initiatives that provided long-term assistance to male and female abuse survivors were "the next great frontier." Biden previously partnered with Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, on their "It's On Us" campaign. That Obama administration program morphed into a nonprofit organization that works to educate young people about sexual assault on college campuses, while teaching them how to intervene and prevent an incident from happening.

Study: 6.9 million more would be eligible for Medicaid if states embraced partial expansion. Letting states partially expand Medicaid could make 6.9 million more people eligible for Medicaid and boost coverage on Obamacare’s exchanges, according to an analysis from the health research firm Avalere. Nineteen states have not expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. Many have expressed an interest in partially expanding Medicaid to up to the federal poverty level and allowing people above the poverty level to get subsidized coverage on Obamacare’s exchanges. Obamacare requires states that expanded Medicaid to increase eligibility to people who earn 138 percent above the federal poverty level. However, people who earn between 100 and 138 percent can get subsidized coverage on the law’s exchanges. In July, Arkansas submitted a waiver to change Medicaid income eligibility to 100 percent of the federal poverty line, and the Trump administration is considering the request. Partially expanding Medicaid in the holdout states would make 6.9 million more people eligible for Medicaid, but not all would enroll in the program, Avalere said. In addition, nearly 4 million people could shift from Medicaid to Obamacare’s exchanges if the 31 states that expanded Medicaid shift eligibility to 100 percent FPL, Avalere added. The analysis did not include Maine, where voters chose to expand Medicaid last week.
 

RUNDOWN

 

Politico Pence’s healthcare power play

Axios Here is what Trump is doing on mental health after Texas shooting

New York Times Under new guideline, many more would have high blood pressure

NPR HHS grappling with how doctors should be paid.

Kaiser Health News Some states roll back ‘retroactive Medicaid,’ a buffer for the poor and hospitals

STAT News With cures in hand, a major city tries to eliminate Hepatitis C and build a model for others

Associated Press Thousands protest proposed total abortion ban in Brazil

 



Calendar

TUESDAY | Nov. 14

 

Nov. 11-14. Sydney. Society for Neuroscience international conference on Frontotemporal Dementia. Details.


Nov. 13-15. Crystal Gateway Marriott. National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalition. Details.

 

5 p.m. Ajax. 1011 4th St. NW. Politico event on “Emerging Healthcare Leaders.” Details.

 

WEDNESDAY | Nov. 15

 

8:30 a.m. Ritz-Carlton. 1150 22nd St NW. Friends of Cancer Research annual meeting. Details.

 

10 a.m. 430 Dirksen. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on “Encouraging Healthy Communities: Perspective from the Surgeon General.” Details.

 

2 p.m. 1225 I St. NW.. Bipartisan Policy Center announces “My Healthy Weight” initiative. Details.

 

3:30 p.m. House Capitol Room 8. Capitol Hill briefing on maternal mortality held by ACOG, the Preeclampsia Foundation, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and the March of Dimes in cooperation with Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Lucille Roybal-Allard, co-chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care.

 

THURSDAY | Nov. 16

 

Nov. 16-17. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine colloquium on the Science of Science Communication. Details.

 

8 a.m. Boston. Opioid Insights for Action Day at the OptumLabs. Details.

 

8 a.m. 1777 F St. NW. The Hill event on “Preparing for a Treatment: Managing and Delivering an Alzheimer’s Breakthrough.” Details.

 

Noon. President Trump to visit GOP Senate lunch to discuss tax bill.

 

MONDAY | Nov. 20

 

9 a.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW. American Enterprise Institute event on “The future of delivery system reform.” Details.