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The pre-Christmas tax bill rush. The House will meet the week before Christmas for the purpose of passing tax legislation, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told lawmakers. “We all know we have important work to do, including passing the historic Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for the American people," the California Republican said on the House floor. "I think that’ll be an excellent Christmas present." The lower chamber was previously scheduled to be out that week. That timeline would give the conference committee just next week to reach an agreement on reconciling the versions of the tax bill passed by the Senate and House. The committee's chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, declined to say Thursday what the meeting schedule will be. "It will not come up next week but if it could, I would bring it up as soon as we come out of conference," McCarthy said of the conference bill. "Because I do believe the American people are waiting for a tax cut and a jobs act to continue what we’ve gone through."
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Congress passes two-week funding bill one day before government shutdown threat. The House and Senate late Thursday approved a short-term funding bill that would keep the federal government operating through Dec. 22, providing more time for both parties to negotiate with President Trump on a full fiscal 2018 spending deal. The bill would keep the federal government open past Friday, when funding expires, and it passed the House shortly after Republican and Democratic leaders met with the president to start discussing a long-term deal. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said the House will have to pass another short-term bill before Dec. 22 that would fund the government “into the new year, to keep the government open and ensure all the important federal services are available to all Americans.” Most Democrats followed the lead of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is withholding party approval of a spending deal in exchange for a deal to legalize “Dreamers” as well as a long-term deal on funding a federal health insurance program for low-income children. “Democrats continue to press for action on the urgent, bipartisan priorities before Congress: to strengthen our national defense with parity for our domestic budget, to fund veterans and the fight against opioids, to address CHIP and Community Health Centers, to save Americans’ endangered pensions, and to pass the DREAM Act," Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.
Paul Ryan: House could support mandate repeal and fix for Obamacare subsidies in tax bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday signaled Republican lawmakers could back a proposal by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to couple tax reform legislation with a bill to replenish Obamacare’s premium-reducing subsidies. “She’s put some very constructive, productive solutions on the table,” said Ryan, R-Wis. “Our members are looking at the same kinds of solutions.” Ryan also signaled support for a provision in the Senate bill that would repeal Obamacare's individual mandate by eliminating the fine for those who do not purchase health insurance. “We think the mandate ... should be repealed,” Ryan said. "In doing that, that is going to invite a new conversation about how we fix healthcare. And that’s all productive.”
Pro-Obamacare group targets Collins in new TV ad. Save My Care is launching a new TV ad against Collins to urge her to vote against the final version of the GOP tax plan. Save My Care accuses Collins in the ad of "ripping away healthcare from 13 million people ... all to give tax breaks for the wealthy." The ad also questioned whether GOP leaders would follow through on voting to pass bipartisan Obamacare measures. "Republican leaders promised her they would fix things, now we know they lied to her, and Mainers will suffer the consequences," the voiceover on the ad says, prompting viewers to call Collins' office.
Medicaid bill would boot lottery winners from the program. A trio of Republican senators on Thursday introduced a bill that would not allow people to receive Medicaid coverage if they have made more than $80,000 from gambling. The Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Over Lottery Winners Act would boot lottery winners from the healthcare program and was introduced by GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, John Cornyn of Texas, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Cornyn said closing the loophole would ensure the funds go toward people "most in need of assistance, not on high-dollar lottery winners," and Toomey said the measure would "improve the integrity of Medicaid." “As a doctor who served Medicaid patients for decades, I understand how important the program is to the elderly, Americans with disabilities, and others in need,” Cassidy said. “The Medicaid program should prioritize the people who need help the most, not lottery winners. That’s only fair to taxpayers and the patients who truly rely on it.” Under current regulations, large lump sum payments such as lottery winnings are counted as income only in the month that they are received, and people can sign up for Medicaid at any time.
Trump to have physical at Walter Reed, will release records. President Trump will undergo a physical early next year and release the results to the public, the White House said Thursday. The review will certify from a physician whether the president is "fit for duty." Past physicals of former presidents have included information about medical history and past tests as well as information about any new testing, such as a colonoscopy. Trump will be evaluated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said during the press briefing. "He does have a physical scheduled for the first part of next year, the full physical that most presidents go through," she said. "That will take place at Walter Reed, and those records will be released by the doctor following that taking place."
Justice Department opens probe into Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue practices. The Trump administration has opened an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue practices. The Justice Department sent a letter, which was obtained by the Washington Examiner, to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday requesting unredacted versions of documents from the panel's 2016 investigation into the group. The letter states that Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, provided the agency with a redacted version of the report from the panel's investigation in April and said that if they wanted to further investigate the issue they needed to formally contact the committee in writing. Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen Boyd pursued the committee's request, formally asking Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Thursday for the documents for investigative purposes and not for a formal legal proceeding, which he notes would need a Senate resolution.
Large hospital systems to pursue merger. Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives have signed agreement to merge, which would create the largest nonprofit hospital system in the country. As a result of the merger, the nonprofit, which would take on a new name, would own 139 hospitals in 28 states and have about $30 billion in revenue. The planned merger must receive approval from federal regulators and from the Catholic church. "We are joining together to create a new Catholic health system, one that is positioned to accelerate the change from sick-care to well-care across the United States,” said Kevin Lofton, CEO of CHI. “Our new organization will have the talent, depth, breadth, and passion to improve the health of every person and community we serve."
Melania Trump makes traditional visit to Children’s National Hospital. First lady Melania Trump visited Children’s National Medical Center in Washington Thursday and read "The Polar Express” to patients, family members and staff who gathered in the hospital's atrium. The tradition of the first lady visiting the hospital began 60 years ago with Bess Truman. “The holidays are a time for hope, love, traditions and family, and it is my wish for everyone to be able to celebrate them in good health with their loved ones," Trump said later in a written statement. "Many of the patients and families I visited with today cannot spend the holidays at home this year, so I ask everyone to keep them in their thoughts and prayers as we hope for a speedy recovery and joyous New Year."
Bloomberg Senator’s shaky Obamacare deal poses challenge for tax plan
Politico Collins’ Obamacare deal faces moment of truth
Modern Healthcare Hospitals rushing to get bonds issues before tax reform takes effect
Kaiser Health News Cities, counties and schools sidestep FDA Canadian drug crackdown, saving millions
The Hill Clinton hits GOP over lack of children’s health funding
Stat News Legendary biotech financier Sam Isaly steps down following sexual harassment allegations
NPR Researchers look for gun violence clues in Google searches and background checks
FRIDAY | Dec. 8
Noon. G-50 Dirksen. Alliance for Health Policy event on “The Role of the Health Care Workforce in Delivery System Reform.” Details.
SATURDAY | Dec. 9
Dec. 9-12. Atlanta. American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting. Details.
TUESDAY | Dec. 12
8:30 a.m. AARP Family Caregiving Summit. Details.
10 a.m. 430 Dirksen. Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on prescription drug costs. Details.
10 a.m. Dirksen 226. Senate Judiciary hearing on “Oversight of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act.” Details.
WEDNESDAY | Dec. 13
10 a.m. 430 Dirksen. Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the 21st Century Cures Act focusing on mental health needs. Details.