How viable is the new plan to stop Medicare cuts? – POLITICO

Delivered daily by 10 a.m., Pulse examines the latest news in health care politics and policy.
Delivered daily by 10 a.m., Pulse examines the latest news in health care politics and policy.
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With Alice Miranda Ollstein, David Lim and Megan R. Wilson

Sen. John Kennedy has introduced a bill that would stop Medicare cuts for health care providers. | Francis Chung/E&E News / Francis Chung/E&E News
ANOTHER STAB AT MEDICARE CUTS — Amid the year-end efforts to avert Medicare cuts for providers, a new fix is being proposed — but not everyone’s on board.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced a bill earlier this week, called the Protecting Medicare Patients and Physicians Act, that would effectively stop some cuts — including the pay-as-you-go cuts.
Ending PAYGO cuts would cost about $38 billion, according to an estimate from the American Hospital Association. That cost has been a sticking point for some representatives.
And Kennedy hopes to address those concerns by offering pay-fors in the legislation.
Covid-19 provider relief funds not committed in contracts by the time they’re passed would be moved to the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund to help pay for the changes.
But some involved in talks to stop Medicare cuts aren’t convinced by the proposal — even seeing the bill as getting in the way of ongoing negotiations.
“There is an active bipartisan effort to resolve this issue — this approach complicates the effort to help providers get the relief they want,” a Senate aide familiar with year-end health discussions told Pulse.
Kennedy’s staff defended the approach, with one aide telling Pulse they’re working closely with the Congressional Budget Office to ensure the policy works in practice, adding that other offices haven’t come to them with concerns.
No matter the vehicle, providers are anxious to cut a deal. More than 100 groups have intensified their lobbying efforts this week, and some say Medicare cuts are far and away their top priority.
“I think you’re going to continue to see from us efforts to make sure it is understood by members of Congress how important it is to provide this relief,” Aimee Kuhlman, the American Hospital Association’s vice president of federal relations, told Pulse. “And that will be through ongoing advocacy, advertising, etc. … We’ll be doing it all.”
WELCOME TO THURSDAY PULSE, where we recently learned that (like just about everything, it seems) you can get Paxlovid delivered. In a new Walgreens program, Uber and DoorDash will offer free same-day delivery for those with prescriptions — an effort to make access more equitable.
One of my favorite deliveries? Your tips to my inbox. Drop us a line at [email protected] and [email protected].
TODAY ON OUR PULSE CHECK PODCAST, Grace Scullion talks about respiratory syncytial disease with Dr. Ofer Levy, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital and a member of the FDA’s Covid vaccine advisory panel. Plus, Sen. Tim Kaine on why he’s optimistic there will be funding for long Covid in an end-of-year omnibus.

A message from Humana:
More than 28 million people choose Medicare Advantage. With Medicare Advantage, members can see better health outcomes at lower costs. That’s one of the reasons why nearly half of the total Medicare population chooses Medicare Advantage. Learn more.
A new bill introduced in the Senate seeks to fund travel expenses for patients who seek a legal abortion. | Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images
FIRST IN PULSE: BILL WOULD FUND TRAVEL FOR ABORTIONS — A new bill introduced today would authorize $350 million a year in grants for organizations to cover their patients’ travel expenses to obtain a legal abortion.
The bill, introduced by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash), would provide the funding through 2027, allowing entities to pay for travel, lodging, meals, childcare and patient education, among other expenses.
Nonprofits and community-based organizations that help people get abortions would be eligible for the funds as long as their services are “unbiased and medically and factually accurate,” according to an announcement.
The Treasury secretary would award the grants, which would prioritize groups that serve areas with abortion restrictions and bans.
“Every woman deserves to have control over her own body and be able to get the care she needs — no matter what state she lives in — and that’s what this proposal will help deliver,” Murray said in a statement.

POLITICO AT CES 2023: We are bringing a special edition of our Digital Future Daily newsletter to Las Vegas to cover CES 2023. The newsletter will take you inside the largest and most influential technology event on the planet, featuring every major and emerging industry in the technology ecosystem gathered in one place. The newsletter runs from Jan. 5-7 and will focus on the public policy related aspects of the event. Sign up today to receive exclusive coverage of CES 2023.
BURR STILL WANTS FUTURE CDC DIRECTORS TO BE VOTED ON — Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr is still pressing to make future CDC directors subject to Senate confirmation, telling reporters Wednesday he’s not sympathetic to those concerned about the idea, David reports.
“Tough shit,” Burr said about the potential difficulty of advancing CDC directors through the upper chamber. “We desperately need to reform CDC; this is minor.”
THE COST OF TELEHEALTH — Efforts to expand telehealth access for people on high-deductible health plans have hit a snag, POLITICO’s Ben Leonard reports.
Without congressional action, high-deductible plans wouldn’t cover telehealth visits before patients hit their deductibles in 2023.
Leaders in the House Ways and Means Committee aren’t in agreement on the path forward, though a spokesperson for Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in an email that it “would be premature to make any additional characterization about the conversations.”

NEW OVERDOSE DATA — More than 180,000 nonfatal opioid overdoses were reported to emergency services in the U.S. during the past 12 months, according to new data from the Biden administration.
Krista reports that the new data comes from a national dashboard launched today, tracking nonfatal overdoses for the first time in near real time.
It offers a new window into the opioid crisis since nonfatal overdoses are a good predictor of fatal overdoses, Biden officials said Wednesday. The data could help public health leaders get ahead of fatal surges, they said, by allocating additional resources where nonfatal overdoses are on the rise.
VACCINES COULD COST MORE WITHOUT BULK PURCHASING — If the federal government stops purchasing Covid-19 vaccines, the price per dose will likely increase significantly, according to a new analysis from KFF.
The shots could cost billions of dollars more a year should the government run out of money to buy them.
The analysis found that the anticipated commercial price per dose would be between $96–115 — while the government’s price is closer to $29 a dose.

A message from Humana:
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CDC AND PALANTIR CUT A DEAL The CDC has awarded a five-year, $443 million contract with software company Palantir Technologies to streamline several public health programs “into a singular efficient vehicle,” according to a Wednesday announcement from the company.
Palantir said the contract’s length would allow long-term planning and interagency public health through the program. The new contract will help support the CDC’s new Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics as well as wastewater genomics via the National Wastewater Surveillance System.

CHINA REVERSES PANDEMIC PLAN — China’s government said Wednesday it would roll back a number of its strict Covid-19 policies.
The new policies will limit the number of people affected by a lockdown. Instead of targeting entire neighborhoods, the lockdowns will be scaled down to apartment floors or buildings. Those isolating after a positive test can stay home instead of going to a field hospital, and schools without cases can resume in-person classes.
The country was among the last to hold onto restrictions that most of the world adopted in the pandemic’s early months.

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Hau Liu has been named as chief medical officer at Vivante Health, a digital health care company focused on treating digestive disease. Liu is a practicing physician and formerly served as senior vice president of clinical strategy at telehealth company Teladoc.
Latisha Latiker, Elena Marks and Toby Douglas are joining Families USA’s board of directors. Latiker is the director of grants programming for the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi, Marks is a health policy fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and Douglas is senior vice president, national Medicaid, at Kaiser Permanente.
Richard Sorian, senior vice president of communications for 340B Health, is retiring at the end of this year after more than 40 years in the Washington, D.C., health care policy world.
Michael Levin is now comms director for health care at HHS. He was previously strategic comms project manager at the FDA and is an NIH alum.

The Washington Post’s Jenn Abelson, Nate Jones and Ladka Bauerova write about the many health impacts competitive bodybuilders face.
Kaiser Health News’ Hannah Recht reports on the coming sticker shock for Paxlovid in the new year.
The New York Times Magazine’s Lizzie Presser writes about the “parental involvement” laws that have become new barriers to abortion in some states.

A message from Humana:
In 2022, members had nearly 4,000 plans to choose from. With Medicare Advantage, members have access to better savings, better health outcomes, and more flexibility to choose the care that’s right for them. Learn more.


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