Health Care

Energy, Health departments at risk for cyberattacks, OMB says
EPA, FCC, FTC also ranked as being ‘at risk,’ with email threats most prevalent

EPA has “significant gaps in cybersecurity capabilities” according to an Office of Management and Budget report. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Several large federal agencies continue to be at risk for cyberattacks even as the number of cyber incidents reported during fiscal 2018 fell compared with the previous year, the Office of Management and Budget said in a report sent to Congress on Friday.

The number of cyber incidents reported by federal agencies fell 12 percent to 31,107 during fiscal 2018 but “drawing conclusions based on this data point, particularly as agencies have adjusted to several new sets of reporting guidelines over the last few years, would be concerning,” the report said.

Suicide prevention hotline to get three-digit phone number
FCC chairman says he will move ahead following legislation, staff report

Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, plans to move ahead with establishing a three-digit suicide prevention hotline. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It should soon be easier to call a suicide prevention hotline.

The Federal Communications Commission plans to move forward with establishing a three-digit number for the federally-backed hotline.

New FDA cigarette labels include realistic images of smoking-related health problems
The long-delayed warnings, now subject to public comment, would update textual statements already on cigarette packs

Examples of the new Food and Drug Administration warnings on packs of cigarettes. The warnings would update the textual statements already on cigarette packages, and for the first time include photorealistic images that depict smoking-related health problems. (Courtesy/FDA)

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed long-delayed graphic health warnings for cigarette packages, taking a step toward fulfilling a requirement of a decade-old smoking prevention law.

The new warning label proposal will now be subject to a public comment period, and is under a court-ordered deadline to be finalized by March 15, 2020.

Large employers question ‘Medicare for All’ plans, survey shows
Business group poll shows concerns about costs, taxes still loom large

National Nurses United union members wave “Medicare for All” signs during a rally in Washington on April 29. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Most large employers say a “Medicare for All” system would lower the number of uninsured people in the United States, but they are concerned it could increase health care costs and taxes while stifling innovation and quality, a new survey shows.

The concerns come as health industry groups seek to block momentum for plans from Democratic presidential candidates and lawmakers to expand Medicare through a single-payer program or to allow people under age 65 to enroll in the program.

White House foreign aid cuts to spare Ivanka, Pence favorite programs
Global health, women's economic development and religious protections would not be cut

Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser, spearheaded a women's economic development program that would not be cut. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Funding to support global health programs, promote women’s economic development and protect Christians and other religious minorities abroad from persecution would be exempt from a package of cuts to foreign aid that the White House is developing.

A senior administration official said Monday those programs are a high priority for President Donald Trump.

Tom Harkin makes rare appearance with 2020 contender
Event with Kirsten Gillibrand on disability rights draws former Iowa senator

Former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and New York senator and presidential contender Kirsten Gillibrand hug after speaking to reporters Sunday at a community discussion on disability rights at the Holiday Inn in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call).

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Bob Raker came to the Holiday Inn’s ballroom Sunday to see a Democratic senator, just not the one running for president.

“Anytime you get to see Sen. Tom Harkin, it’s worthwhile,” said Raker, a 65-year-old retired government worker. Harkin, a five-term senator who retired in 2015, has steered clear of the campaign trail as presidential hopefuls have crisscrossed his home state of Iowa.

Sen. Mike Rounds says wife’s chemotherapy has shrunk tumor in half
Jean Rounds had been diagnosed with a “high-grade, aggressive tumor near her sciatic nerve”

South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, left, here with North Carolina Sen. Richard M. Burr in the Capitol in 2018, announced some good news about his wife’s cancer treatment this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Mike Rounds said there’s been a positive development in his wife’s cancer treatment.

“After multiple rounds of chemo treatment, we’re pleased to report that not only has Jean’s tumor shrunk in half, a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan showed no signs of the tumor spreading or metastasizing,” the South Dakota Republican said in a statement. He added that “the chemo is working as intended and Jean continues to handle the treatment well.”

Senate bill aims to protect taxpayers from costly drugs
Seeks to help Medicare control costs so premiums can remain stable

One proposed change to Medicare prescription drug benefit is to help the program control costs it absorbs to keep premiums stable. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congress this year could enact the biggest overhaul of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit since it was first established in 2003. If successful, seniors — and taxpayers — would be more insulated against the cost of the most expensive drugs. 

One proposed change is meant to help Medicare control the costs it absorbs so that the program’s premiums can remain stable despite increasing drug prices. Supporters of the drug program tout its low premiums, with the Trump administration and the private insurers who run Part D recently highlighting that average consumer premiums will fall in 2020.

Senate GOP plans to divert health, education funds to border wall
$5 billion move would set up clash with Democratic House over fiscal 2020 spending

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby  plans for his committee to begin marking up spending bills when Congress returns in September. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Republicans are looking to pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall in part by putting about $5 billion less in the largest domestic spending bill, several people with knowledge of the process said.

That move signals a likely fight over wall funding, as well as over Trump’s ability to reprogram or transfer funds to the border, when the fiscal 2020 appropriations process resumes after Congress returns in September.

Senate bill’s drug pricing provision raises industry alarms
Provision could force drugmakers to cut patient assistance for chemotherapy drugs

A mountain of pills, tablets, gelcaps and caplets, for pain medication. (File photo by Ian Wagreich, CQ Roll Call)

A little-noticed provision of the Senate Finance Committee drug price bill is alarming some doctors, with at least one group warning it could harm patients with fragile medical conditions.

The Community Oncology Alliance, an advocacy group for cancer doctors, is raising red flags about a provision it says could prompt drugmakers to cut patient assistance for pricey chemotherapy drugs, or shortchange doctors who buy them.

Obamacare takes another hit, this time from Democrats
CQ on Congress, Episode 164

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., sponsored the repeal of the so-called "Cadillac Tax," which has been a priority for both the insurance industry and labor unions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats were nearly unanimous in voting to end the so-called "Cadillac tax" on high cost health insurance plans that was the principal mechanism in the Affordable Care Act aimed at reducing health care costs. Josh Gordon, policy director for the Concord Coalition, a group that seeks to restrain budget deficits, says that's regrettable. And CQ Roll Call health care reporter Mary Ellen McIntire explains why Democrats are willing to weaken the financing of the 2010 law.

HHS outlines drug import plans as Canada ratchets up concern
Canadians are worried that drugmakers could try to raise prices on the drugs sold there

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who was previously skeptical of importation, now says it is more feasible than ever before. (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Trump administration on Wednesday announced plans to help states and others import lower-cost drugs from Canada, a popular but controversial idea that President Trump has embraced but that the Canadian government has pushed back on.

The plans outlined Wednesday will offer guidelines for setting up drug importation programs, but they also highlighted the challenges of this approach to lowering drug prices for consumers in the United States.

Senate Democrats to force vote on Trump health care rule
Resolution looks to block rulemaking on short-term health insurance

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said "These plans let the insurance companies get away with everything, even murder, figuratively speaking.” (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democrats unveiled plans Wednesday to force a vote on Trump administration health insurance guidance that could make it easier for states to get waivers from the 2010 health care law's requirements.

“What we're talking about today is granting waivers to states to offer junk insurance plans,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a press conference. “These plans let the insurance companies get away with everything, even murder, figuratively speaking.” 

Grassroots groups prepare for a post-Roe v. Wade America
January D.C. conference will train abortion opponents on policies and activism strategies

Anti-abortion groups are looking at training advocates on policies and activism strategies under the assumption that the Supreme Court will eventually expand states’ authority over abortion. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Advocates, state lawmakers and legal organizations are setting up the infrastructure to prepare for potential changes to the landmark 1973 abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.

Four major conservative advocacy groups will host an event next January that will train abortion opponents on policies and activism strategies to implement under the assumption that the Supreme Court eventually may change its precedent and expand states’ authority over abortion.

New Medicare initiative aims to fill holes in patient health records
The demo connects health data from multiple providers directly to a patient’s doctor

President Donald Trump (L) acknowledges the audience as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma (2nd L) looks on at the South Court Auditorium of Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 18, 2018. Verma told reporters Monday that a new initiative will begin to fill the holes that exist in doctors’ views of their patients’ health. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday unveiled a new initiative that aims to connect the dots between a patient’s health records held by different providers.

The Data at the Point of Care, or DPC, demonstration seeks to bridge the data gap by connecting Medicare’s Blue Button — a tool that allows Medicare patients to download their health records and save them in computer files or apps — directly to a patient’s doctor. A doctor could then see claims data from a patient’s other providers that might not be accessible otherwise.