Health Care — Senators prepare for reconciliation fight

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Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Friday, August 5, 2022 to discuss The Inflation Reduction Act and this weekend’s session.

Only in LA can you find places like this Beverly Hills bistro that’s been turned into the set of “The Golden Girls.” And yes, they serve plenty of cheesecake. 

On the health care front, it’s going to be a long weekend, so get ready for plenty of amendment votes! Senate Democrats will be convening over the weekend to take up a bill that could be the most transformative effort since the Affordable Care Act. 

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan, Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi.

How the battle over Democrats’ bill will play out 

Senate Democrats are girding themselves for a battle royal with Republicans over a 700-plus-page bill that will reform the tax code, tackle climate change, lower drug costs and reduce the deficit in hopes of delivering what would become President Biden’s centerpiece legislative achievement.   

While the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that Democrats enacted last year was a bigger bill in terms of dollars spent, the Inflation Reduction Act will deliver on what Democrats have promised for years.   

What’s on the table: It would require profitable corporations to pay more in taxes, reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change, lower the price of many prescription drugs and preserve the affordability of Affordable Care Act health plans. 

Saturday’s schedule: The Senate will convene at noon on Saturday and hold a vote at 12:30 pm on a motion to discharge a nominee to serve as assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency out of committee. This will serve as an attendance vote to make sure all 50 members of the Democratic caucus are present.

  • At some point later in the day, the Senate will vote on the motion to proceed to the Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to break down strictly along party lines.   
  • That would then trigger up to 20 hours of debate on the bill, which could stretch late into the evening or past midnight Saturday. The 20 hours of debate would be evenly divided between the parties.   
  • And at some point, Schumer will have to finish negotiating some of the provisions of the bill that were still unresolved Friday afternoon.

Read more here. 

AARP, Big Pharma locked in battle over drug pricing 

The nation’s largest seniors group is locked in a battle with the pharmaceutical industry over Democrats’ drug pricing overhaul.   

AARP is blanketing the airwaves with ads backing the measure to counter drugmakers’ efforts to pressure key Democrats to vote “no” on the measure which would lower prescription drug prices.   

Rallying efforts: It’s also mobilizing its nearly 38 million members to lobby their representatives on the drug pricing plan.  

“We’ve been hearing for decades from our members who are struggling to afford their prescription drugs,” said Bill Sweeney, AARP’s senior vice president of government affairs. “We know that pharma has a lot of lobbyists and a lot of money, but we have a lot of people.”  

The group says its members have sent more than 8 million calls and emails to lawmakers urging them to lower prescription drug costs. Through the end of this week, AARP is airing a $1 million D.C.-based ad campaign boosting senators who are “standing up to Big Pharma.” 

  • Democrats’ drug pricing plan — which is included in their climate and tax spending package headed for a potential Senate vote this weekend — would empower Medicare to negotiate and ultimately bring down the price of certain popular drugs, prevent huge price hikes and cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors on Medicare at $2,000 per year.   
  • While the plan is weaker than some of Democrats’ previous proposals, it would dent drugmaker profits, dealing a rare blow to the influential industry. 

Read more here. 

BIDEN TESTS COVID-19 POSITIVE FOR ONE STRAIGHT WEEK

President Biden tested positive for COVID-19 again on Friday, and his cough is “almost completely resolved,” his physician, Kevin O’Connor, said. 

Biden “continues to feel very well” despite his rebound COVID-19 infection, O’Connor wrote. Such rebound infections have been seen in some patients who take the antiviral treatment Paxlovid. 

“His temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation remain entirely normal,” O’Connor wrote. “This morning, his SARS-CoV-2 antigen testing remained positive.” 

“His temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation remain entirely normal,” O’Connor wrote. “This morning, his SARS-CoV-2 antigen testing remained positive.” 

Tentative travel plans: The White House earlier on Friday announced a trip to Kentucky, where the president would survey damage caused by deadly floods. The White House has said Biden needs to test negative in order to get out of isolation. 

Read more here. 

MAN GETS 3-YEAR SENTENCE FOR THREATS AGAINST FAUCI, OTHERS

A West Virginia man on Thursday was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison after making threats to White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci and others. 

Thomas Patrick Connally Jr. will spend three years in prison followed by three more years of supervised release for his threats against Fauci, former National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, a Massachusetts public health official and a religious leader. 

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Connally after he pleaded guilty for using an anonymous email to make gruesome threats against Fauci and others in late 2020 through mid-2021. 

One email to Fauci said that he and his family would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire.” 

Connally also threatened to attack and kill Collins and his family if he continued to promote mandatory vaccinations for COVID-19. 

“Connally admitted that he sent the threats to Drs. Fauci and Collins with the intent to intimidate or interfere with the performance of their official duties and with the intent to retaliate against Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins for performing their official duties, including discussing COVID-19 and its testing and prevention,” wrote to the Justice Department. 

Read more here. 

House looks to take up Democrats’ bill next Friday 

The House is planning to reconvene next Friday and take up the Democrats’ sprawling climate, tax and health care bill, pending Senate passage of the multibillion-dollar package in the coming days. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) office sent out a floor update on Friday announcing that votes are expected on Friday, Aug. 12. The House is currently out of session for August recess. 

“Members are advised that pending Senate action on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the House is expected to meet on Friday, August 12th, to consider the legislation,” the floor update reads. 

“Members are further advised the House is expected to meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business, and multiple vote series are expected,” the memo adds. 

The Senate is expected to pass the bill, titled the Inflation Reduction Act, in the coming days.  

Once the bill hits the House, it is expected to pass and head to President Biden’s desk for final signature.  

“The Democratic Congress will soon pass our historic Inflation Reduction Act, taking bold action to bring down the kitchen table costs – from health care premiums to prescription drug costs to energy prices – while closing tax loopholes and paying down the deficit,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Friday that applauded the July jobs report. 

Read more here. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Cognitive rehab may help older adults clear covid-related brain fog (Kaiser Health News) 
  • Why monkeypox vaccine shortage may threaten the immunocompromised (The New York Times) 
  • Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout off to sluggish start with just 7,000 doses in arms (ABC News) 

STATE BY STATE

  • Polio found in sewage samples outside New York City suggests it’s spreading in the community, health officials says (CNBC) 
  • Confusion roiled Michigan for days as abortion rights changed hour to hour (NPR) 
  • Abortions are widely available in California, but not for these women (LA Times) 
  • 5th abortion clinic opened in Kansas in lead up to vote (Associated Press) 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week.

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