Sep 26, 2018

Congress releases its final opioids bill

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Republican and Democratic lawmakers from the House and Senate released their final opioids package last night, bridging the differences between bills the two chambers passed previously.

The big picture: This is a big bill and there are provisions in here that public health experts believe will make a difference.

  • But those same experts say Washington still needs to make substantial investments — of money as well as policymaking energy — in the treatment system for mental health and substance abuse, in order to bring this crisis under control.

What's next: Both chambers are expected to pass the agreement quickly, sending it to President Trump for his signature in a matter of days.

The details: The bill is about the same as what we reported previously, and would...

  • Temporarily lift a cap on Medicaid payments for large treatment facilities. States can allow those facilities to receive Medicaid funding, on a limited basis, for all substance abuse treatment.
  • Allow more health care providers to prescribe medication-assisted therapies.

The pharmaceutical industry didn't get the Medicare "fix" it had been lobbying for.

Go deeper: Read the bill.

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U.S. and Taliban announce first step in Afghanistan peace process

Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

The State Department confirmed Friday morning the U.S. and Taliban have "reached an understanding" that starts a 7-day "reduction of violence" to be followed by a signed U.S.-Taliban agreement.

Why it matters: The Afghanistan war is the longest war in U.S. history. President Trump has previously pulled out of talks at the last minute, only to restart them.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 mins ago - World

Bloomberg's debate backfire could boost Bernie

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg got into the 2020 race to stop Bernie Sanders and socialism. If he doesn't bounce back from this week's debate, he may seal the deal for both.

Why it matters: Bloomberg’s own campaign has warned that Sanders could lock up the nomination in mere weeks, thanks to rivals spitting the opposition vote. But Bloomberg’s own spending makes it harder for other rivals to cut through — and virtually assures he sucks up significant delegates.

Surprise billing may be about to get worse

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The problem of surprise medical billing — which Congress failed to solve last year — is about to get worse, thanks to a feud between an insurance giant and a company that employs thousands of doctors.

The big picture Parents who have babies in intensive care, women with high-risk pregnancies and people who need anesthesia could receive unexpected bills in the mail as a result of the fight between Mednax, the physician-staffing firm, and UnitedHealth Group.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Health