Good morning … and happy birthday to us! Vitals launched one year ago today. Thanks so much for coming along on this ride with us, and here’s to year two!
Senators will question Alex Azar today. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Can a former pharma CEO really be trusted to bring down drug prices? That’s the theme Democrats will hammer home as Alex Azar, President Trump’s nominee for HHS secretary, heads before the Senate Finance Committee today for his confirmation hearing.
What to watch: Azar will likely face broader questioning today than he did at a courtesy hearing last year before the HELP Committee, because Finance has broader jurisdiction.
But the primary focus, a Senate Democratic aide told me, will probably be on drug prices.
The bottom line: Azar will almost certainly be confirmed.
Watch live: The hearings gets under way at 10 a.m. and will be livestreamed here.
Axios' Bob Herman is out in San Francisco for the big J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. Here's the lowdown from Day 1:
Tax cuts led the day.
Contradictory messaging from not-for-profit hospital systems.
Keep an eye on Florida Blue.
Bob ran into Bob Hugin outside of an elevator.
Go deeper: No, seriously — they're really happy about the tax law.
Hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid were about six times less likely to close than hospitals in states that didn't expand the program, according to a new study in Health Affairs. This trend was stronger in rural areas.
Why it matters, per Axios' Caitlin Owens: Republicans in Congress almost repealed Medicaid expansion last year. But hospitals' financial security — and patients' ability to access them, particularly in rural areas — is tied to the expansion.
Hospitals have lobbied states aggressively to adopt the expansion, and their prospects could brighten in some of the 18 remaining non-expansion states after this year's midterms.
Bloomberg has a deep and depressing dive into a major failing of the U.S. health care system: Children with complex health conditions often remain hospitalized long after they’ve been cleared to go home, because there’s no system in place to provide ongoing care for them at home.
The catch: Home care generally costs a lot less than hospitalization — when it’s paid for at all, that is. Private insurance rarely covers it, and Medicaid pays so little that few providers will take it. That leaves the burden on parents, many of whom have had to quit working to become full-time caregivers.
The majority of people who would be affected by Medicaid work requirements are already working, according to a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Among those who aren’t working, a plurality — 36% — say it’s because they’re ill or disabled; 30% said it’s because they’re taking care of family.
Why it matters: The Trump administration has endorsed states’ efforts to add work requirements to Medicaid benefits, saying the program should be a safety net for the most vulnerable, not able-bodied adults.
Correction: Yesterday’s Vitals misstated the Congressional Budget Office’s latest cost estimates for renewing the Children’s Health Insurance Program. An extension would cost roughly $800 million, not $800 billion. Big difference. I apologize for the error.
What we’re watching today: Azar.
Also, the HELP Committee holds a hearing on the opioid epidemic. (10 am; livestream).
Kentucky men’s basketball vs. Texas A&M (7pm, ESPN).
How should we celebrate our one-year anniversary? Don’t say karaoke. I hate karaoke. Send your other ideas to me at email@example.com