Updated Dec 16, 2019

Government funding bill deal will repeal key ACA taxes

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Congress is expected to soon announce a deal to repeal the Affordable Care Act's health insurance, medical device and "Cadillac" employer health plan taxes — and to raise the smoking age to 21, according to a senior House Democratic aide familiar with talks.

Why it matters: The decision is a colossal win for the health care industry.

  • If this wasn't good enough news for the industry, the deal won't address surprise medical bills — and it avoids prescription drug prices except for the CREATES Act, which helps generics get to market faster.
  • The taxes have been repeatedly delayed. And while the industry has pushed for their repeal for years, it hasn't yet been successful.

Between the lines: Voters are decidedly not asking Washington to lift industry taxes while avoiding dealing with two of the most popular health care issues, but if that's how this plays out, it's a great indicator that the industry's lobbying strength is as good as ever.

  • It's also a good sign that cost control — the intention of the Cadillac tax, a 40% excise tax on the most generous employer plans — is still not very popular with lawmakers, even as health care costs continue to rise.
  • The tax was expected to raise $200 billion over 10 years.

The other side: The industry says that the ACA taxes end up getting passed along to patients.

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The health care debate we ought to be having

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Scott Eisen/Getty Images and Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Americans worry a lot about how to get and pay for good health care, but the 2020 presidential candidates are barely talking about what's at the root of these problems: Almost every incentive in the U.S. health care system is broken.

Why it matters: President Trump and most of the Democratic field are minimizing the hard conversations with voters about why health care eats up so much of each paycheck and what it would really take to change things.

The health care industry's happy holidays

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The year-end spending bill in Congress epitomizes the power of health care interests.

The big picture: There are lots of goodies for the industry, while patients will get the worst kind of holiday surprise — more medical bills.

Go deeperArrowDec 20, 2019

Health care profits dip, but stocks soar

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Health care industry earnings fell 18% in the third quarter of this year, compared with the same period in 2018, due in part to the costs associated with opioids litigation, according to the Axios tracker of almost 170 health care companies.

Yes, but: The industry still churned out a 6.1% profit margin, and health care stocks are at the highest they've been all year because Wall Street foresees a very profitable election year.

Go deeperArrowDec 17, 2019