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Administration

Trump Regime Launches Cover Up Of Its Health Care Sabotage


Washington DC — As reported by the Associated Press, the Trump White House is claiming it has done nothing to “sabotage” the Affordable Care Act. In a report expected to be released today, the Council of Economic Advisers is trying to claim that the administration’s relentless war on Americans’ health care does not constitute “sabotage.” This is blatantly false. Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement:

“We’re just over a month into 2019 but this whopper is already in the running for the lie of the year. The Trump administration’s relentless sabotage of our health care system is well-documented. In November, voters took to the polls and rejected the Republican war on health care, and the fact that this administration is launching a massive cover-up of their sabotage means that they’re already bracing themselves against the wrath of voters in 2020.”

Don’t believe us? Take a look at our sabotage tracker:

February 2019

  • Trump predicts the Affordable Care Act will be “terminated” through the Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the law.
  • In an effort to restrict access to information about women’s reproductive health, the Trump administration removes web pages associated with the ACA and its contraceptive coverage from HHS’s Office of Population Affairs website.

January 2019

  • Thanks to GOP sabotage, the uninsured rate surges to the its highest level since 2014. Roughly seven million fewer people are estimated to have health care now than did two years ago.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes changes to the ACA’s benefit and payment parameters, reducing subsidies available to those who purchase health care through the exchange, increasing premiums, and raising the out-of-pocket maximum for people with employer-sponsored health care.
  • In a win for big Pharma, the Trump administration proposes changes to the rebate system that would raise premiums, benefit pharmaceutical companies, and contain no mandate to lower list prices of drugs.

December 2018

  • Hand-picked Federal Judge Reed O’Connor rules in favor of twenty conservative states to overturn the Affordable Care Act, jeopardizing coverage for 17 million people and ripping away the ACA’s vital consumer protections such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Under the Trump administration’s relentless sabotage, the uninsured rate increases for the first time since 2010. As the Kaiser Family Foundation finds, “In 2017, the uninsured rate reversed course and, for the first time since the passage of the ACA, rose significantly to 10.2% [from 10%].”

November 2018

  • Trump administration issues new guidance urging states to “tear down basic pillars of the Affordable Care Act, demolishing a basic rule” that federal subsidies can only be used to purchase ACA-compliant plans. Experts warn against this move, saying it will push affordable, comprehensive care further out of reach for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
  • Under the Trump administration, the number of uninsured children grows for the first time in nearly a decade. After a decade of steady decreases in the number of uninsured children, in 2017 the number of uninsured children increased from 3.6 million to 3.9 million.

October 2018

  • Republicans appoint Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh is known to be hostile to the Affordable Care Act.
  • The Trump administration issues guidance that allows federal subsidies to be used to purchase junk plans that can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

September 2018

  • The Trump administration’s Department of Justice joins twenty conservative states in court in opening arguments to argue that the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be overturned.
  • Nearly 4,600 Arkansans are unable to meet Arkansas’ reporting requirements for the state’s Medicaid work requirements and lose Medicaid coverage.

August 2018

  • Trump administration finalizes rule for bare-bones short-term plans that are exempt from key consumer protections, such as the requirement that insurance covers prescription drugs, maternity care, and hospitalization.

July 2018

  • CMS halts risk adjustment payments, that enable insurance companies to cover everyone, regardless of whether they are healthy or sick.
  • Trump Administration slashes funding for non-profit health navigator groups, that help people shop for coverage, from $36 million to $10 million. CMS encourages groups to use the remaining funds to push people to sign up for junk plans that skirt important consumer protections.
  • President Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh has previously forced a young woman to continue a pregnancy against her will and has criticized Justice Roberts for upholding the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality.

June 2018

  • Department of Justice takes to the courts to argue that insurance companies should be able to discriminate against as many as 130 million Americans with a pre-existing condition.
  • Republican coalition, the Health Policy Consensus Group, released their latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions, let insurance companies charge older people an age tax, and deny key coverage for basic services like maternity care.
  • Trump Administration finalizes proposal to expand access to association health plans that skirt key consumer protections.

May 2018

  • President Trump boasts about health care sabotage: “We will have gotten rid of a majority of Obamacare.”
  • Trump Administration enlists help of former drug lobbyist in writing its drug plan.
  • Congressional Republicans try to use annual farm bill to authorize $65 million in taxpayer funding to set up association health plans, which can  exclude prescription drug coverage, mental health care, and maternity care.

April 2018

  • House Republicans vote on a balanced budget amendment that would cut Medicaid by $700 billion over ten years, $114 billion in a single year alone.
  • Trump Administration limits access to assistance for consumers who want to enroll in marketplace coverage. This change removes the requirement that every area has at least two “navigator” groups to provide consumer assistance and that one be local. Now, just one group could cover entire states or groups of states.

March 2018

  • Republicans sabotage efforts to pass a bipartisan bill that would have stabilized Affordable Care Act marketplaces by insisting the bill restrict access to abortion.

February 2018

  • The Trump Administration announces that it will expand access to short-term health plans that do not have to comply with key consumer protection provisions required by the Affordable Care Act.
  • Urban Institute calculates that repeal of the individual mandate and expansion of short term plans will increase individual market premiums by an average 18.2 percent in 2019.
  • Trump Administration releases budget that calls for the Affordable Care Act to be replaced by Graham-Cassidy, in a move that experts predict would reduce health coverage for 32 million Americans.

January 2018

  • The Trump Administration announces that it will support states that impose onerous work requirements on Americans covered by Medicaid, and approves Kentucky’s worst-in-the-nation waiver the next day.
  • The Trump Administration announces a move to allow providers to discriminate by allowing them to deny patient care for almost any reason.
  • The Trump Administration makes plans to announce even more exemptions from the requirement people have health coverage before this provision is repealed altogether.

December 2017

  • The Trump Administration proposes a rule to expand association health plans, which would gut consumer protections, raise costs for people with pre-existing conditions and further destabilize the insurance markets.
  • Congressional Republicans pass their tax scam, which doubles as a sneaky repeal of the Affordable Care Act  by kicking 13 million people off of their insurance and raising premiums by double digits for millions more.

November 2017

  • Republicans refuse to move forward on the bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill to address the CSR crisis even though it had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

October 2017

  • The Trump Administration takes direct aim at birth control by rolling back a rule that guaranteed women access to contraception. (A court has since questioned the legality of the action.)
  • President Trump signs an Executive Order to roll back key consumer protections that will result in garbage insurance, raise premiums, reduce coverage and again expose millions of Americans to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
  • The Trump Administration dramatically cuts in-person assistance to help people sign up for 2018 health coverage.
  • After threatening for months to stop funding cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) that help lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, the Trump Administration stops the payments altogether. The CBO finds that failing to make these payments will increase premiums by 20% and add nearly $200 billion to the debt.

September 2017

  • The Administration orders the Department of Health and Human Services’ regional directors to stop participating in Open Enrollment events. Mississippi Health Advocacy Program Executive Director Roy Mitchell says, “I didn’t call it sabotage…But that’s what it is.”

August 2017

  • The Administration cuts the outreach advertising budget for Open Enrollment by 90 percent, from $100 million to just $10 million – which resulted in as many as 1.1 million fewer people getting covered.

July 2017

  • The Trump Administration uses funding intended to support health insurance enrollment to launch a multimedia propaganda campaign against the Affordable Care Act.
  • President Trump, again, threatens to end cost-sharing reduction payments.

June 2017

  • Senate Republicans embark on a monthslong failed attempt to pass BCRA, Skinny Repeal and Graham-Cassidy, all repeal bills that would have caused millions of Americans to lose their health coverage and raised premiums by double digits for millions more. They would have ended Medicaid as we know it, putting the care of children, seniors and people with disabilities at risk.

May 2017

  • House Republicans vote for and pass a health care repeal bill that would cause 23 million people to lose coverage and gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It would have imposed an age tax and allowed insurers to charge people over 50 five times more for coverage and ended Medicaid as we know it, putting the care of seniors, children and people with disabilities in jeopardy.

April 2017

  • The Trump Administration cuts the number of days people could sign up for coverage during open enrollment by half, from 90 days to 45 days.
  • In an effort to convince Democrats to negotiate a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, President Trump threatens to cut off cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) that help low-income marketplace customers pay for out-of-pocket costs.

March 2017

  • The Trump Administration sends a letter to governors encouraging them to submit proposals which include provisions such as work requirements that make it harder for Medicaid beneficiaries to get affordable care and increase the number of people who are uninsured.

February 2017

  • The Trump Administration proposes a rule to weaken Marketplace coverage and raise premiums for millions of middle-class families.

January 2017

  • On his first day in office, President Trump signs an Executive Order directing the administration to identify every way it can unravel the Affordable Care Act.
  • Also on January 20th, the Department of Health and Human Services begins to remove information on how to sign up for the Affordable Care Act.
  • The Trump Administration pulls funding for outreach and advertising for the final days of 2017 enrollment. This move is estimated to have reduced enrollment by nearly 500,000.

Back At It Again: Trump Administration Hostile to Medicaid Ignored Rules That Protect Patients


Washington DC — Today, the Los Angeles Times reports that the Trump administration is scrambling to overhaul Medicaid by requiring burdensome work requirements, but are failing to enforce federal rules directing states to analyze the devastating impact such requirements will have on millions of Americans who rely on this life-saving program. Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement in response:   

“The actions by this administration are egregious, but unfortunately par for the course considering President Trump has put people in charge of Medicaid who are simply out to destroy it. Failing to enforce rules requiring states to access the impact of Medicaid work requirements shows that the Trump administration doesn’t care who their policies hurt. This is part and parcel to Trump-led Republican sabotage agenda: they oppose Medicaid expansion — which would provide health care coverage to millions more Americans, support so-call ‘block grants” — a euphemism for slashing coverage, and are pushing ‘work requirements’ – which are little more than gotcha paperwork meant to kick eligible people off the rolls. Medicaid is the nation’s largest health insurance program and is more popular today than ever before. These senseless work requirements are already jeopardizing health care for thousands of low-income families — nearly all of whom are already working — and the Trump administration is breaking every rule in the book in their rush to implement it as just another deliberate attack on American health care.”

Background:

IN STATES WHERE SIMILAR RULES HAVE TAKEN EFFECT, THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAVE LOST CARE

  • Results from Arkansas confirm that Medicaid work requirements are fundamentally bureaucratic hurdles, threatening access to health coverage for thousands across the state. “A review of monthly data related to the new requirements released by the Arkansas Department of Human Services shows that from September through December 2018, over 18,000 people were disenrolled for failure to comply with the new requirements for three months.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 1/17/19]
  • This summer, a federal district court blocked Kentucky from imposing similar rules for the negative effects it would have on Kentuckians. Said the court in its ruling, “[Secretary Azar] never adequately considered whether Kentucky HEALTH would in fact help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid. This signal omission renders his determination arbitrary and capricious. The Court, consequently, will vacate the approval of Kentucky’s project and remand the matter to HHS for further review.”
  • In Indiana, 25,000 people with health insurance through Medicaid were dropped from coverage because they were unable to pay their premiums. The Washington Post reported, “About 25,000 adults were disenrolled from the program between its start in 2015 and October 2017 for failure to pay their premiums, according to state reports. Yet, state officials estimate that based on surveys of recipients, about half of those who were disenrolled found another source of coverage, most often through a job…In addition to those who were disenrolled, another 46,000 adults who signed up for Medicaid during 2016 and 2017 were not accepted because they did not pay their initial premium, the state reported.”

WORK REQUIREMENTS ADD ADMINISTRATIVE HURDLES, MAKING IT HARDER FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE ELIGIBLE FOR CARE TO GET IT

  • Requiring People On Medicaid To Prove They Are Working Adds An Administrative Burden That Is Hardest On Low-Income Americans. “[Administrative hurdles] may be especially daunting for the poor, who tend to have less stable work schedules and less access to resources that can simplify compliance: reliable transportation, a bank account, internet access.  There is also a lot of research about the Medicaid program, specifically, that shows that sign-ups fall when states make their program more complicated.” [New York Times, 1/18/18]
  • Documentation Requirements Increase The Chances That People Will Lose Care, Simply Because They Have Trouble Navigating The Process. “There is a real risk of eligible people losing coverage due to their inability to navigate these processes, miscommunication, or other breakdowns in the administrative process. People with disabilities may have challenges navigating the system to obtain an exemption for which they qualify and end up losing coverage.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 1/16/18]

THE VAST MAJORITY OF  PEOPLE WITH MEDICAID COVERAGE WHO WHO CAN WORK ARE WORKING

  • 60 percent of nondisabled people with health coverage through Medicaid have a job and are working, including 42 percent working full-time.
  • 51 percent of working adult Medicaid enrollees have full-time jobs year-round, but their salaries are still low enough to qualify for Medicaid coverage, or have Medicaid because their employers do not offer insurance.  
  • Nearly 80 percent of nondisabled people with Medicaid coverage live in a family where at least one person is working, including 64 percent working full-time. The other adult family member may not be working because they have caregiving or other responsibilities at home.
  • A state by state breakdown can be found HERE

SOTU Excerpts On Drug Prices: Same Exact Promise As Last Year, Expect the Same Inaction

Trump’s pledge on lowering prescription drug prices looks familiar…

“It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, unfair, and together we can stop it.”

…where have we heard this before? Ah yes, last year’s State of the Union.

“One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States. That is why I have directed my Administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down.”

Donald Trump: Cheap Talk. Sky High Drug Prices.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS ALL TALK ON DRUG PRICES, BUT NO ACTION:

Drug Prices Continue to Soar Under Trump. A report by Senate Democrats finds that the prices of the 20 most-prescribed drugs under Medicare Part D have increased substantially over the past five years, rising 10 times faster than inflation. Another report from the Pharmacy Benefits Consultants finds that drug prices soared over the first 14 months of Trump’s presidency, during which 20 prescription drugs saw list-price increases of more than 200 percent. In 2018, there were about 1,800 prescription drug price increases according to data compiled by 46brooklyn Research. This year already, Pharma giants Pfizer and Novartis have raised prices on dozens of drug.

Trump Installed Big Pharma Executives In Key Administration Posts. President Trump installed a former Eli Lily executive, Alex Azar, as his secretary of Health and Human Services and his appointment of Scott Gottlieb at FDA was described as “music to pharma’s ears.” Other pharma lobbyists writing Trump’s health policy include senior adviser at FDA, Keagan Lenihan, who joined the administration after lobbying for the drug distribution giant McKesson, former Gilead lobbyist, Joe Grogan, who reviews health care regulations at the Office of Management and Budget, and Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Lance Leggitt, who has lobbied for a variety of drug-industry clients.

Trump’s Proposals Always Fall Far Short Of His Promises. President Trump promised that he would allow Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate drug prices directly with suppliers, but after meeting with pharmaceutical executives early in 2017, Trump abandoned that pledge, calling it “price fixing” that would hurt “smaller, younger companies.” The planned announcement to move some drugs from Medicare Part B, in which pharmaceuticals are purchased and administered by medical providers, to Part D, will do little to restrain the cost of prescription drugs for America’s seniors and falls far short of Trump’s promises.

Republican Health Care Sabotage Makes Prescription Drugs More Expensive For Millions. The Trump Administration wants to let states sell junky short-term health plans that skirt Affordable Care Act requirements. Typical short-term policies do not cover prescription drugs or maternity care, mental health care, preventive care, and other essential benefits. Not only that, but short term plans result in higher costs for people enrolled in full coverage plans as well as soaring premiums.

… WHILE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES ARE RAKING IT IN

Pharmaceutical Companies Have Reaped Huge Benefits From The Trump Tax Bill. The Trump tax scam means billions of dollars in tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies. An Axios study found that 21 health care companies collectively expect to gain $10 billion in tax savings during 2018 alone. Most of the tax break windfall for health care companies is going toward share buybacks, dividends, acquisitions and paying down debt. According to Axios, nine pharmaceutical companies are are spending a combined $50 billion on new share buyback programs. All of the buybacks were announced during or after passage of the tax bill. Some drug companies are also increasing dividends for shareholders, with AbbVie increasing its cash dividend by 35 percent while also announcing a new $10 billion share repurchase program.

Massive Profits And Price Increases. Pharmaceutical companies raked in more than $30 billion in profits in the third quarter of 2018, with Pfizer alone bringing in $4.1 billion — the highest of any publicly traded healthcare company. Of the 19 companies that tallied at least $1 billion of third-quarter profit, 14 were drug companies.  Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies continue to increase prices. In January 2019 alone, Pfizer and Novartis announced price increases on dozens of drugs, including increasing the cost of a breast cancer medication to $12,000 for 21 pills.  All in all, nearly 30 drugmakers are expected to raise prices in 2019.  

Soaring CEO Pay. According to an Axios study, the CEOs of 70 of the largest U.S. health care companies cumulatively have earned $9.8 billion since 2010. CEOs took home nearly 11 percent more money on average every year since 2010 — far more than the wage growth of nearly all other workers. In 2017 alone, 30 health care executives made a combined $976 million.

Shot/Chaser: Big Pharma Spends More On Lobbying Than Any Other Industry, Gets Rewarded With “Win” In Drug Rebate Proposal

Shot/Chaser: Big Pharma Spends More On Lobbying Than Any Other Industry, Gets Rewarded With “Win” In Drug Rebate Proposal

Big Pharma’s big spending in the last year is paying off with a new Trump administration proposal:

SHOT: Pharmaceutical Industry Spent More On Lobbying In 2018 Than Any Other Industry. Open Secrets issued a report showing that the pharmaceutical industry spent almost $280 million on lobbying in 2018, “with no other industry coming close” in terms of spending.

CHASER: “One Thing That Is Pretty Certain: Pharma Wins.” The Trump administration rolled out a new drug rebate proposal last Thursday, with Axios’ analysis concluding that it would just be another win for Big Pharma, with “no mandate to lower” drug prices for Americans.

New Trump Rule on Drug Rebates is Just a Gift to Big Pharma

Washington, DC– Yesterday, the Trump administration proposed a rule to the drug rebate system that they falsely claimed would help consumers and lower drug prices. Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement:

“This administration’s plan  – another multi-billion dollar giveaway to the big drug companies – will raise Medicare premiums with zero guarantees that it will lower costs for patients. Meanwhile, the administration opposes what really needs to happen — end drug company price gouging on everyday drugs like insulin that millions of Americans rely on, and let Medicare directly negotiate with drug companies to truly lower prices. With a former pharmaceutical executive running HHS, it’s no surprise the administration continues to side with big drug companies and ignore the needs of patients and older Americans.”

Breaking: State-based Exchanges Break Enrollment Record

Washington DC — As reported by health care analyst Charles Gaba, the state-based exchanges have broken an all-time enrollment record despite the Trump administration’s relentless attempts to sabotage access to coverage. Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement in response:

“Millions of Americans rely on the Affordable Care Act for quality coverage and today’s announcement is evidence that the American people want and need coverage through the exchanges despite constant sabotage from the Trump administration. The fact that states who manage their own marketplaces saw record-breaking numbers this year while federal marketplaces saw a substantial decline is all the evidence one needs to prove that President Trump’s repeal-and-sabotage agenda is hurting millions of Americans.”

 

BREAKING: State-based exchanges collectively break all-time enrollment record!

ACA Signups // Charles Gaba // January 30, 2019

 

 

With Covered California releasing their final, official 2019 Open Enrollment Period data, and the latest updates from New York (which still has 2 days to go) and Massachusetts (which wrapped up last week), I now nearly all 2019 OEP data on hand.

I say nearly all because there are still three numbers missing:

  • Vermont has yet to release any 2019 enrollment data. This is the 3rd year in a row that they’ve been radio silent. Assuming they’re close to last year (28,763 QHP selections), they should add around 28,000 to the national total.
  • New York still has 2 days left for people to #GetCovered. I’m going to assume they’ll tack on perhaps 5,000 more people today and tomorrow.
  • The District of Columbia hasn’t posted any updates since December 11th, which means not only do they still have 2 days for people to sign up, they’re actually missing a whopping 51 days worth of enrollment data. Again, assuming they wrap up close to last year, that should mean another 1,400 or so from DC.

Between the three, I’d expect another ~34,000 QHP selections to be tacked onto the totals below.

However, even without that, the 12 state-based exchanges have collectively broken their all-time record for ACA Open Enrollment, racking up more than 3,018,000 QHP selections this season.

Here’s what that looks like visually…and the contrast between the Federal Exchange and the State-Based Exchanges is dramatic:

  • After a dramatic enrollment increase in 2015 and a lesser increase in 2016, the 39 states hosted by HC.gov have seen a gradual, steady decline each year since. They closed out the 2019 Open Enrollment Period with 1.3 million fewer people having signed up than at their peak in 2016. Perhaps 200,000 or so of this was due to Louisiana and Virginia expanding Medicaid in recent years, but that does nothing to explain the other 1.1 million drop-off, which is almost certainly due to having the HC.gov marketing & outreach budgets being slashed to the bone, the Open Enrollment Period being cut in half and so forth.
  • Meanwhile, the 12 states which operate their own full ACA exchanges (and which have their own marketing/outreach budgets) saw less-dramatic increases in 2015 & 2016…but they’ve collectively stayed virtual dead even for every year since then. In fact, when the dust settles on the 2019 Period, I expect the 12 state-based exchanges to reach around 3.05 million QHP selections, which would be 1.5% higher than last year and 1.3% higher than their collective all-time high in 2017.

Protect Our Care Statement on Today’s Ways & Means Committee Hearing On Pre-existing Conditions Protections

Washington DC — Today, the Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on Protecting Americans with Pre-existing Conditions. Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement in reaction to today’s committee hearing:

“We congratulate Chairman Neal and House Democrats for kicking off the Health Care Congress with the issue that brought them into the majority – affordable access to health care and, specifically, protecting people with pre-existing conditions from discrimination by insurance companies. It is heartening to hear so many members committed to maintaining and strengthening protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Today’s discussion sends a strong signal that House Democrats are focused on eliminating threats like junk plans and doing more to lower the cost of care for Americans. Voters put Democrats in the majority in the House to protect and improve their care.  Democrats understand they have a responsibility to deliver. If today’s hearing is any indication, they have every intention of doing so.”

Calling BS on CMS: Seema Verma’s Medicaid Spin Is a Bald-Face Lie

Washington, DC — Today, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma gave a speech at the CMS Quality Conference in Baltimore, Maryland where she tried to affirm the administration’s commitment to Medicaid, despite the multiple efforts orchestrated by Verma to sabotage and undermine the program.

In response, Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, released the following statement:

Seema Verma’s comment today is, plain and simple, a bald-faced lie. This administration has worked against Medicaid at every turn. Indeed, not since Medicaid was signed into law more than 50 years ago has there been an administration or an Administrator more hostile to Medicaid than the Trump administration and Seema Verma. The Trump administration supports so-called work requirements like those in Arkansas which has already ripped coverage away from 18,000 people, opposed Medicaid expansion in states across the country, and advocated for the block granting of Medicaid which is a euphemism for slashing its budget and kicking people off the rolls.

Fortunately, the American people have a different view: Medicaid has never been more popular. The attacks on Medicaid by this administration and its Republican allies led in large part to the defeat of the ACA repeal effort. And, during the 2019 election, voters across the country rejected the Republicans’ sabotage agenda and either expanded Medicaid at the polls or elected pro-Medicaid politicians who promised to do so in office. The truth is, Medicaid is flourishing despite this administration’s efforts to undermine it and no type of Orwellian spin from Administrator Verma can change that.”

Six Things Azar Conveniently Left Out Of His Op-ed Defending Trump On Drug Pricing

In his new op-ed defending the Trump administration’s failures on drug pricing published in Stat this morning, Secretary Alex Azar rambled about drug pricing without acknowledging any of the ways the Trump administration has time and again protected the rigged system that makes the drug companies even richer, while making people who work for a living pay higher prices for drugs.

  1. Pharmaceutical Companies Have Reaped Billions Of Dollars From The Trump Tax Bill. The Trump tax scam means billions of dollars in tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies. An Axios study found that 21 health care companies collectively expect to gain $10 billion in tax savings during 2018 alone. Most of the tax break windfall for health care companies is going toward share buybacks, dividends, acquisitions and paying down debt. According to Axios, nine pharmaceutical companies are spending a combined $50 billion on new share buyback programs.
  2. The Administration Has Consistently Advocated For The Repeal Of The Affordable Care Act, Including Its Requirement That Insurance Companies Cover Prescription Drugs. After the Trump administration tried and failed to repeal the ACA legislatively, it took to the courts in hopes of eliminating the health law. In 2018, the Justice Department decided not to defend the Affordable Care Act in court against a lawsuit seeking to overturn it. Since, a federal judge has ruled to overturn the law, including its requirement that insurance companies cover patients’ prescription drugs.
  3. One Trump Administration Proposal Would Let Insurance Companies Stop Covering Brand Name Drugs, Which Some Consumers Rely On. Under the proposal, consumers who rely on brand-name prescription drugs when generics are available would face higher costs. Insurance companies would be able to calculate a consumer’s out-of-pocket spending based solely on generic equivalents of brand-name drugs, meaning if a brand name drug had a $25 co-pay associated with it and the generic version had a $5 co-pay, if a consumer paid a $25 co-pay on a brand-name drug the insurance company would only have to include the $5 co-pay associated with the generic in the consumer’s out-of-pocket spending. This means consumers who rely on brand-name drugs have to pay significantly more in out-of-pocket costs to get the medication they need. Advocates, such as Carl Schmid of the AIDS Institute have warned that this proposal “increases the likelihood that people won’t pick up their drugs, won’t take their drugs.”
  4. Trump Installed Big Pharma Executives In Key Administration Posts. The author of op-ed, Alex Azar himself is a former Eli Lily executive. Trump’s appointment of Scott Gottlieb at FDA was described as “music to pharma’s ears.” Other pharma lobbyists writing Trump’s health policy include senior adviser at FDA, Keagan Lenihan, who joined the administration after lobbying for the drug distribution giant McKesson, former Gilead lobbyist, Joe Grogan, who reviews health care regulations at the Office of Management and Budget and is expected to soon lead the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, and Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Lance Leggitt, who has lobbied for a variety of drug-industry clients.
  5. Trump’s Proposals Always Fall Far Short Of His Promises. President Trump promised that he would allow Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate drug prices directly with suppliers, but after meeting with pharmaceutical executives early in 2017, Trump abandoned that pledge, calling it “price fixing” that would hurt “smaller, younger companies.”
  6. In The Past Year, Drug Companies Have Seen Massive Profits And Price Increases. Pharmaceutical companies raked in more than $30 billion in profits in the third quarter of 2018, with Pfizer alone bringing in $4.1 billion — the highest of any publicly traded health care company. Of the 19 companies that tallied at least $1 billion of third-quarter profit, 14 were drug companies.  Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies continue to increase prices. In January 2019 alone, Pfizer and Novartis announced price increases on dozens of drugs, including increasing the cost of a breast cancer medication to $12,000 for 21 pills. All in all, nearly 30 drugmakers are expected to raise prices in 2019. One drug industry lobbyist has said that drug companies’ limited concessions are “a calculated risk” summarizing big pharma’s strategy to play the Trump administration: “take these nothing-burger steps and give the administration things they can take credit for.”

Don’t Be Fooled: Chad Readler Wants to Repeal American Health Care

The Trump administration recently announced the renomination of 51 nominees to the federal bench, including Chad Readler for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In his role as Acting Assistant Attorney General, Readler overruled career attorneys at the Department of Justice and  filed a brief on behalf of the Trump administration in Texas v. United States arguing in favor of striking down the Affordable Care Act, including its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

 

Let’s be clear, Readler’s anti-health care record speaks for itself:

 

READLER AUTHORED THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S ASSAULT ON THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT IN TEXAS V. UNITED STATES

Readler Filed The Trump Administration’s Brief In Texas V. United States To Strike Down The ACA.  In his role as Acting Assistant Attorney General, Raedler filed the Trump administration’s brief in Texas V. United States arguing that the court should enter “a declaratory judgment that the ACA’s provisions containing the individual mandate as well as the guaranteed issue and community-rating requirements will all be invalid beginning on January 1, 2019.” [Federal Defendants’ Memorandum in Response to Plaintiffs’ Application for Preliminary Injunction, Texas v. United States of America, 6/7/18]

Readler Was Nominated For A Judicial Seat The Same Day He Filed The Brief Calling For The ACA To Be Overturned.  “If confirmed, Chad A. Readler of Ohio will serve as a Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  Chad Readler currently serves as the Principal Deputy and Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, a position that he has held since 2017. In that role, Mr. Readler has lead and supervised the Department’s largest litigating division and has actively briefed and argued several cases on behalf of the United States in federal courts across the country.” [White House Press Release, 6/7/18]

  • Readler Was Renominated For The Bench In January 2019.  “Today President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate the following judicial nominees:  […] Chad A. Readler, of Ohio, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit.” [White House Press Release, 1/22/19]

Republicans And Career DOJ Officials Refused To Have Anything To Do With Readler’s Arguments

Republican Lamar Alexander Called Readler’s Argument “As Far Fetched As Any I’ve Ever Heard.”  “Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, called the Trump administration’s argument against ObamaCare in a court case ‘as far-fetched as any I’ve ever heard.’  The Justice Department (DOJ) wrote in a filing Friday that it would not defend ObamaCare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, siding in large part with a challenge to the law brought by a coalition of Republican-led states. The states, and the DOJ, argue that Congress’s repeal of the tax penalty associated with ObamaCare’s individual mandate makes the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions unconstitutional Alexander said it wasn’t the intent to take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions when the mandate penalty was repealed late last year. ‘There’s no way Congress is going to repeal protections for people with pre-existing conditions who want to buy health insurance. The Justice Department argument in the Texas case is as far-fetched as any I’ve ever heard,’ Alexander said in a statement late Tuesday evening.” [The Hill, 6/12/18]

A 20 Year Veteran Of The DOJ Resigned In The Wake Of Readler’s Brief.  “A senior career Justice Department official has resigned in the wake of the Trump administration’s move to stop defending a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, a departure that highlights internal frustration generated by the decision, according to people familiar with the matter. Joel McElvain, who has worked at the Justice Department for more than 20 years, submitted his resignation letter Friday, the morning after Attorney General Jeff Sessions notified Congress that the agency will not defend the ACA — the 2010 law known as Obamacare — against lawsuits brought by Republican-led states challenging its requirement that most Americans carry health insurance.” [Washington Post, 6/12/18]

Two Career Attorneys At DOJ Asked To Be Withdrawn From Readler’s Brief.  “Just before the brief was filed, McElvain and two other career attorneys, Eric Beckenhauer and Rebecca Kopplin, filed a motion to withdraw from the case. Asked about the withdrawal of the attorneys, a Justice official said: ‘As is customary, the department decided to sub in a new legal team for a new legal position.’ The official said she was not aware of any indication that the other two attorneys were departing.” [Politico, 6/13/18]

An Ideologically Diverse Group Of  Legal Scholars Said Readler’s Arguments “Violate Basic Black-Letter Principles” Of Law.  “Under these circumstances, a court’s substitution of its own judgment for that of Congress would be an unlawful usurpation of congressional power and violate basic black-letter principles of severability. Yet that is what the plaintiff States and the United States invite this Court to do.” [Brief of Amici Curiae Jonathan H. Adler, Nicholas Bagley, Abbe R. Gluck, Ilya Somin, and Kevin C. Walsh in Support of Intervenors-Defendants’ Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Application for Preliminary Injunction, Texas v. United States of America, 6/14/18]

THE TEXAS CASE PUTS THE HEALTH CARE OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS AT RISK

Republican officials — supported by the Trump administration in the brief authored by Chad Readler  — in 20 states went to federal court in the northern district of Texas to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. In a December 2018 ruling, U.S. Northern District Court Judge Reed O’Connor used  the courts to do what Republicans in Congress failed to do legislatively: strike down the Affordable Care Act. If O’Connor’s ruling is not overturned, it will rip coverage from millions of Americans, raise costs, end protections for people with pre-existing conditions, put insurance companies back in charge, and force seniors to pay more for prescription drugs. The result will be to — as the Trump Administration itself admitted in Court — unleash “chaos” in our entire health care system.

If The Texas Ruling Is Not Overturned, 17.1 Million People could Lose Their Coverage

If The Texas Ruling Is Not Overturned, Insurance Companies Could Be Put Back In Charge, Ending Protections For The 130 Million People With A Pre-Existing Condition

  • According to a recent analysis by the Center for American Progress, roughly half of nonelderly Americans, or as many as 130 million people, have a pre-existing condition. This includes:
    • 44 million people who have high blood pressure
    • 45 million people who have behavioral health disorders
    • 44 million people who have high cholesterol
    • 34 million people who have asthma and chronic lung disease
    • 34 million people who have osteoarthritis and other joint disorders
  • 17 million children. One in four children, or roughly 17 million, have a pre-existing condition.
  • 68 million women. More than half of women and girls nationally have a pre-existing condition.
  • 30 million people aged 55-64. 84 percent of older adults, 30.5 million Americans between age 55 and 64, have a pre-existing condition.

If The Texas Ruling Is Not Overturned, Insurance Companies Could Have the Power to Limit the Care You Get, Even If You Have Insurance Through Your Employer

 

  • Insurance Companies Do Not Have to Provide the Coverage You Need. The Affordable Care Act made comprehensive coverage more available by requiring insurance companies to include “essential health benefits” in their plans, such as maternity care, hospitalization, substance abuse care and prescription drug coverage. Before the ACA, people had to pay extra for separate coverage for these benefits. For example, in 2013, 75 percent of non-group plans did not cover maternity care, 45 percent did not cover substance abuse disorder services, and 38 percent did not cover mental health services. Six percent did not even cover generic drugs.

 

 

  • Reinstate Lifetime and Annual Limits. Repealing the Affordable Care Act means insurance companies would be able to impose annual and lifetime limits on coverage.

 

  • Large Employers Could Choose to Follow Any State’s Guidance, Enabling Them Put Annual and Lifetime Limits on Their Employees’ Health Care. Without the ACA’s definition of essential health benefits (EHB) in even some states, states could eliminate them altogether. Large employers could choose to apply any state’s standard, making state regulations essentially meaningless. Because the prohibition on annual and lifetime limits only applies to essential health benefits, this change would allow employers to reinstate annual and lifetime limits on their employees’ coverage.

AT HIS CONFIRMATION HEARING, READLER ATTEMPTED TO DOWNPLAY HIS INVOLVEMENT IN THE BRIEF CALLING FOR THE ACA TO BE STRUCK DOWN  

Readler Denied That He Was The “Primary Author” Of The Brief Calling For The ACA To Be Struck Down.  Mike Lee: Now, as acting assistant attorney general over the Civil Division or as the PDAG were you the primary author of briefs involving some of the cases that have been brought to the public’s attention in connection with your confirmation including the treatment of — in cases involving the treatment of pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act, the separation of unaccompanied alien children from their parents, the so-called Entry Ban DACA litigation or sanctuary cities. Chad Readler: Senator, I wouldn’t call myself the primary author. As the head of the division my name would go on every single brief that the division would file. That could be 20 or 30 briefs a day. Depending on the case I may have had different levels of involvement with the case. I may not have looked at briefs, I may not have, but again it’s tradition at the department that the head of the division goes on every, name, goes on every single brief.” [Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Pending Nominations, 10/16/18]

Readler Defended The Brief:  “We Would Not Make An Argument If I Thought It Was Unethical Or Frivolous.”  “Pat Leahy: You do stand by those arguments today that the Affordable Care Act cannot be reasonably defended? Chad Readler: Senator, the position that the attorney general took is that the mandate was unconstitutional and… Leahy: Will you stand by those arguments today? Readler: Senator, it is my position to advocate for the United States. We would not make an argument if I thought it was unethical or frivolous.” [Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Pending Nominations, 10/16/18]

Readler On Whether Millions Of People With Pre-Existing Conditions Could Lose Health Coverage If His Position Prevailed:  “The Attorney General Was Clear About What The Legal Position For The Department Would Be. And We’ve Advocated That Position.”Maisie Hirono:  You’ve been asked a number of questions about your role in Texas versus United States. So if your argument – let me start with the protections of preexisting conditions under the ACA. If your argument on pre-existing condition prevails, would it mean that one in four people who have pre-existing conditions, millions of people in our country including women who have been pregnant possessing the pre-existing condition? Of course, people with asthma, diabetes, cancer. Doesn’t it mean that if your argument prevails that all of these people with pre-existing conditions will either lose their health insurance altogether or have to pay much, much more for health insurance? […] Chad Readler: So senator, healthcare is a very important policy issue in this country. I agree there are a lot of individuals and families facing very serious healthcare conditions. With respect to the legal issues, I’m not a policymaker, but with respect to legal issues in those cases, or in that case, the attorney general was clear about what the legal position for the department would be. And we’ve advocated that position.” [Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Pending Nominations, 10/16/18]