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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)

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US Researchers Redefine Conditions that Makes a Planet Habitable

The researchers also found that planets with thin ozone layers, which have otherwise habitable surface temperatures, receive dangerous levels of UV dosages

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Instruments, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope, have the capability to detect water vapor and ozone on a Planet. Pixabay

A team of US researchers has redefined the conditions that make a Planet habitable by taking the star’s radiation and the planet’s rotation rate into account – a discovery that will help astronomers narrow down the search around life-sustaining planets.

The research team is the first to combine 3D climate modeling with atmospheric chemistry to explore the habitability of planets around M dwarf stars, which comprise about 70 per cent of the total galactic population.

Among its findings, the Northwestern team, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, NASA’s Virtual Planet Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discovered that only planets orbiting active stars — those that emit a lot of ultraviolet (UV) radiation — lose significant water to vaporization.

Planets around inactive, or quiet, stars are more likely to maintain life-sustaining liquid water.

The researchers also found that planets with thin ozone layers, which have otherwise habitable surface temperatures, receive dangerous levels of UV dosages, making them hazardous for complex surface life.

“It’s only in recent years that we have had the modeling tools and observational technology to address this question,” said Northwestern’s Howard Chen, the study’s first author.

“Still, there are a lot of stars and planets out there, which means there are a lot of targets,” added Daniel Horton, senior author of the study. “Our study can help limit the number of places we have to point our telescopes”.

The research was published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Horton and Chen are looking beyond our solar system to pinpoint the habitable zones within M dwarf stellar systems.

M dwarf planets have emerged as frontrunners in the search for habitable planets.

Planet
A team of US researchers has redefined the conditions that make a Planet habitable by taking the star’s radiation and the planet’s rotation rate into account. Pixabay

They get their name from the small, cool, dim stars around which they orbit, called M dwarfs or “red dwarfs”.

By coupling 3D climate modeling with photochemistry and atmospheric chemistry, Horton and Chen constructed a more complete picture of how a star’s UV radiation interacts with gases, including water vapor and ozone, in the planet’s atmosphere.

Instruments, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope, have the capability to detect water vapor and ozone on exoplanets. They just need to know where to look.

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“‘Are we alone?’ is one of the biggest unanswered questions,” Chen said. “If we can predict which planets are most likely to host life, then we might get that much closer to answering it within our lifetimes.” (IANS)