health-care

Congress poised to pass paid parental leave for federal workers
Could the measure spur wider action in the private sector?

A provision in the defense authorization bill expected to be passed by Congress would give all federal employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

About 2 million federal employees are about to be guaranteed 12 weeks of paid parental leave under a bill soon to be signed into law by President Donald Trump, but several experts say the cost of such a benefit may discourage Democrats’ hopes of it spurring broader adoption in private industry.

The provision, folded into a defense bill months in the working, would give all federal civilian employees three months of paid leave for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. Democrats originally pushed for a broader set of benefits to cover family relations and illnesses but praised the measure’s inclusion. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, who chairs the Oversight and Reform Committee, touted the provision as “long overdue.”  

Overlooked plans to add Medicare benefits get more attention
Savings from drug pricing bill would cover additional dental, vision, hearing coverage under Democratic plan

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a dentist who was elected to Congress in 2018, supports adding dental coverage to Medicare but says ensuring a fair reimbursement rate will be crucial. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A long-shot bid to expand health care benefits for seniors is beginning to gain attention as part of Democrats’ signature health care bill, which the House is expected to vote on Thursday. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and committee leaders are aiming to use savings from the drug bill to add dental, hearing and vision benefits to Medicare. Democrats say the legislation could result in $500 billion in savings over a decade, based on guidance they received from the Congressional Budget Office. 

Stakes high as long-awaited drug pricing vote nears in House
Parties, president could seek broad compromise before 2020 election as signal to voters

Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett is pushing for amendments to the Democratic drug pricing bill that would extend Medicare prices to uninsured individuals and give Medicare the ability to negotiate for all drugs, not just the most expensive products. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When House Democrats vote Thursday on their signature drug pricing negotiation measure, they will be seeking to show that they are addressing an issue that prompted voters to give them the majority and demonstrate that impeachment isn’t stopping them from legislating. 

The political power of the drug price issue isn’t lost on either party. House Republicans unveiled their own drug pricing bill Monday, soon after Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa announced changes to his own version on Friday. The Democratic National Committee and five state parties are launching new web videos and hosting several events aimed at drawing a contrast on health care with Republicans, according to plans shared first with CQ Roll Call.

Democrats plan campaign health care push ahead of House vote
DNC, state parties view health care as a winning issue in 2020

Democrats in battleground states plan to go on offense on health care this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats in battleground states are using an expected vote this week on a prescription drug bill to shift the focus on the campaign trail to health care, an issue they believe helped them win the House in 2018 and will help them defeat President Donald Trump in 2020. 

The effort comes as GOP super PACs and Trump have been working to portray Democrats as focused on a politically driven impeachment vendetta rather than legislation and policies that would help voters who gave them control of the House last November.

Deal banning surprise medical bills also ups tobacco purchase age to 21
The agreement raises the odds of Congress passing legislation meant to lower some health care costs this year

Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., left, and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., talk during a House Energy and Commerce Committee markup in 2017. Walden, Pallone and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced a tentative deal to ban surprise medical bills Sunday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Key House and Senate committee leaders announced a bipartisan agreement Sunday on draft legislation to prohibit surprise medical bills and raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21.

The agreement raises the odds of Congress clearing measures intended to lower some health care costs before the end of the year.

Senators renew drug price push ahead of House Democrats' vote
Congress “needs to show courage and finally act,” Grassley says

The renewed push on drug pricing legislation by Senate HELP leaders Charles E. Grassley, right, and Ron Wyden comes ahead of a planned House vote on Democrats’ signature drug price negotiation bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Leaders of the Senate Finance Committee on Friday unveiled an updated version of their bipartisan drug pricing bill, though it’s unclear if the changes will appease skeptical Republican senators.

The renewed push for Republican support by Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon, comes ahead of a planned House vote next week on Democrats’ signature drug price negotiation bill.

Appropriators seek to wrap up talks this weekend
But panel members acknowledge ‘hurdles’ as Dec. 20 deadline for bill passage looms

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, on Thursday said he was “more enthusiastic than I was a couple of days ago” that final negotiations on spending bills could be done this weekend. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Spending bill negotiators set their sights on wrapping up a year-end deal by this weekend, but they differed on how realistic that deadline might be.

With only two weeks left before current funding runs dry, appropriators are hoping to finalize work on all 12 spending bills and pass them by Dec. 20 to avoid another stopgap measure or possible government shutdown. But unless a deal comes together in the next several days, lawmakers have warned, there likely won’t be enough time to write the bills and move them through both chambers before the holiday recess.

Health groups reveal ads pushing Democrats to back drug bill
The groups will build on an ad push supporting the House bill earlier this year by the group Protect Our Care

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., left, and Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., attend a rally in the Capitol Building to call on the Senate to vote on House Democrats’ prescription drugs and health care package on in May 2019. Several left-leaning health care groups are launching a seven-figure advertising campaign that builds on a previous effort by the group Protect our Care pushing for the passage of the pricing bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A left-leaning health care group is doubling its seven-figure advertising push for the passage of House Democrats’ drug pricing bill in an effort to counter industry and conservative opposition to the proposal, according to information shared exclusively with CQ Roll Call.

The effort, which will be paired with additional spending from other left-leaning health groups, comes as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced the House will vote next week on legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for up to 250 prescription drugs a year.

Marijuana criminalization could be clouding info on vaping deaths
Restrictions on THC-related research collide with a public health emergency

Demonstrators vape during a pro-vaping rally outside the White House on Nov. 9 to protest Washington’s proposed vaping flavor ban. (Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images file photo)

In late October, as the number of people sickened with a mysterious vaping-related illness grew, federal officials turned to the nation’s leading academic researchers for help.

“They wondered what, in our opinion, they should be taking a look at,” said Robert Tarran, director of the University of North Carolina Center for Tobacco Regulatory Science and Lung Health.

House pushes ‘dozen bills or none’ approach to spending talks
GOP senators express doubts as House leaders insist on finalizing appropriations by Dec. 20

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby says he doubts that all 12 overdue spending bills for the current fiscal year could be finalized before the Dec. 20 deadline. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders are insisting that all 12 overdue spending bills for the current fiscal year must be finalized before any of them can reach the floor, according to sources familiar with strategy talks.

The demand for some kind of grand bargain could complicate hopes for completion of at least a portion of fiscal 2020 appropriations before stopgap funding runs dry on Dec. 20 and Congress adjourns for the winter holidays.