Tuesday February 19, 2019
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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

Donald Trump to Declare ‘Emergency’, Use Military Funds for Mexico Border Wall

He will sign a border security bill to avert a government shutdown, but also act to bypass Congress and use military funds for the wall, a statement said.

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Donald Trump
R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills blasted Carpe Donktum and Trump on Saturday. Pixabay

US President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency to fund his planned border wall with Mexico, the White House has said.

He will sign a border security bill to avert a government shutdown, but also act to bypass Congress and use military funds for the wall, a statement said.

Senior Democrats have responded by accusing him of committing a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”, the BBC reported on Friday.

The Congress passed the bill on Thursday which does not meet Trump’s demands for wall funding. It now has to be signed by the President to become law.

 

Donald Trump, Mexico
Senior Democrats have responded by accusing him of committing a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”. VOA

The compromise legislation passed by Congress includes $1.3 billion in funding for border security, including physical barriers, but it does not allot money towards the border wall for which Trump had wanted $5.7 billion.

“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday.

She added he would “take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border”.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, however, Republican leader Mitch McConnell indicated his support for the move, saying the President was taking action with “whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his efforts to secure the border”.

In a 83-16 vote, the Senate on Thursday passed the border security bill. The House of Representatives later also backed the measure, by 300 to 128.

 

US, Donald Trump
“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. VOA

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already suggested a legal challenge from Democrats should the President make an emergency declaration.

She and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also issued a joint statement condemning the move.

 

ALSO READ: Mexico Announced to Relocate Central American Migrants, 4 People Injured

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” they said.

Republicans fear this will set a precedent for presidential power that Democrats can someday use to circumvent the will of Congress. (IANS)