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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Pushes Ahead to Build Healthcare Strategy

Pelosi has tapped two committees, Budget and Rules, to handle "Medicare for all." Health care legislation doesn't usually originate in either of them.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., takes questions from reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 18, 2019. VOA

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is laying out her strategy on health care and first up is improvements to “Obamacare” and legislation to lower prescription drug costs. “Medicare for all” will get hearings.

Pelosi and President Donald Trump have been sounding similar themes about the need to address the high drug costs. But her plans to broaden financial help for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act are unlikely to find takers among Republicans.

Either way, Democrats believe voters gave them a mandate on health care in the midterm elections that returned the House to their control.

Pushing her agenda, Pelosi is working from the ground up through major House committees. Her relationships with powerful chairmen and subcommittee chairs stretch back years. She’s “playing chess on three boards at once,” said Jim McDermott, a former Democratic congressman from Washington state, who predicts Pelosi’s most difficult challenge will be “herding new members” impatient for sweeping changes.

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

Responding to written questions from The Associated Press, Pelosi called the ACA “a pillar of health and financial security,” comparing it to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

“Democrats have the opportunity not only to reverse the years of Republicans’ health care sabotage,” she said, “but to update and improve the Affordable Care Act to further lower families’ premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and expand coverage.”

Legislation from Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Workforce and Education Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., would broaden the number of people who can get financial assistance with their premiums under the Obama health law, and undo the “family glitch” that prevents some from qualifying for subsidies. It would also restore the HealthCare.gov advertising budget slashed by Trump and block some of his administration’s health insurance alternatives.

Those issues are separate from legal questions raised by ongoing Republican litigation to overturn the health law. The Democratic-led House has voted to intervene in the court case to defend the law.

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From left, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. VOA

The 2010 health law belonged as much to Pelosi as to former President Barack Obama, said McDermott. “She’s taking `Obamacare’ and very carefully figuring out where you have to support it,” he said.

The House ACA package has little chance as a stand-alone bill. But parts of it could become bargaining chips when Congress considers major budget legislation.

On prescription drugs, Trump and the Democrats are occupying some of the same rhetorical territory, an unusual circumstance that could bring about unexpected results.

Both say Americans shouldn’t have to keep paying more for medications than consumers in other economically advanced countries where governments regulate prices.

The Trump administration has designed an experiment to apply international pricing to Medicare “Part B” drugs administered in doctors’ offices.

Pelosi wants to expand price relief to retail pharmacy drugs that seniors purchase through Medicare’s “Part D” prescription drug benefit, a much bigger move. A bill introduced by leading Democrats would authorize Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies using international prices as a fallback.

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A person walks by a health care insurance office in Hialeah, Fla. VOA

“President Trump said he’d `negotiate like crazy’ to bring down Medicare prescription drug prices, and since the midterm election he’s spoken about working with Democrats,” Pelosi wrote to AP. “We have an opportunity to enact the tough legislative negotiating authority needed to actually lower prescription drug prices for consumers.”

One of the top Senate Republicans on health care says he’s not inclined to do that. Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa says having private insurers negotiate with drug companies has worked.

“Part D is the only federal program I’ve been involved with that has come in under budget,” said Grassley. “If it’s working, don’t mess with it.”

Nonetheless, former Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, a Republican, said Medicare is “a good example of places where the administration might surprise.”

“Prescription drug pricing is in a category where both the president and the Democrats have made a commitment,” Leavitt added. “There will be a lot of division, but in the end there is a very good chance they will find a way that they can both claim victory.”

Also Read: Obamacare Unconstitutional: U.S. Federal Judge

But the biggest health care idea among Democrats is “Medicare for all,” and on that, Pelosi is cautious. To those on the left, “M4A” means a government-run health care system that would cover every American. That would require major tax increases and a big expansion of government.

Pelosi has tapped two committees, Budget and Rules, to handle “Medicare for all.” Health care legislation doesn’t usually originate in either of them.

Says Pelosi: “We’re going to have hearings.” (VOA)

Next Story

Pentagon Blocks Commerce Department-Backed Ban on Sales By Tech Giant Huawei

Huawei has not been able to divest itself of American suppliers entirely

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The US Department of Commerce had put Huawei on the "entity list" in May 2019, thus, preventing US firms from conducting business with the company unless they obtain a specific license, citing national security concerns with the Chinese telecommunications giant. Wikimedia Commons

In a breather to the Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone giant Huawei, the Pentagon has blocked the Commerce Department-backed ban on sales that make it harder for US-based companies to sell equipment to the handset maker, the media has reported.

The US Department of Commerce had put Huawei on the “entity list” in May 2019, thus, preventing US firms from conducting business with the company unless they obtain a specific license, citing national security concerns with the Chinese telecommunications giant.

The Commerce Department’s efforts to tighten the noose on Huawei Technologies Co. is facing a formidable obstacle: the Pentagon. Commerce officials have withdrawn proposed regulations that would make it harder for US companies to sell to Huawei from their overseas facilities following objections from the Defense Department as well as the Treasury Department, people familiar with the matter said, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The Commerce Department has subsequently issued temporary licenses to delay that designation, but companies have already begun finding ways to continue selling equipment to Huawei without falling afoul of Commerce penalties.

Meanwhile, Huawei’s latest smartphone Mate 30 Pro, unveiled in September, doesn’t contain American components. The flagship smartphone competes with the likes of Apple’s iPhone 11, which was also unveiled in September.

Huawei
In a breather to the Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone giant Huawei, the Pentagon has blocked the Commerce Department-backed ban on sales that make it harder for US-based companies to sell equipment to the handset maker. Wikimedia Commons

In the wake of the US ban, Huawei is sourcing audio amplifiers from the Netherlands’ NXP rather than Texas-based Cirrus Logic, and relying entirely on its own HiSilicon semiconductor division for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips rather than Broadcom. It’s using other firms, like Japan’s Murata and Taiwan’s MediaTek, for other parts previously supplied by US manufacturers, The Verge had reported in December.

However, Huawei has not been able to divest itself of American suppliers entirely.

ALSO READ: Here’s Why Coronavirus May Have Severe Impact on Asia’s Economy

The company said it had been stockpiling components in anticipation of sanctions and separate teardowns revealed that some new devices were still reliant on American parts, the report added. (IANS)