Good morning ... Not only did the Department of Health and Human Services tell employees not to use certain words during the annual budget process, those rules were actually written down in an official style guide, the Washington Post reported last night. Oy.
Congress will almost certainly vote this week to repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, as part of a tax bill that should have no trouble passing. Lawmakers might have a harder time, though, following through on the ostensibly easy and bipartisan task of renewing federal funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which expired 80 days ago.
The lack of CHIP funding is getting serious.
Driving the news: While lawmakers haven't announced a CHIP deal, an agreement seems to be closer at hand on a pair of ACA stabilization measures.
The drug industry's leading trade group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, spent roughly $57 million on state and federal lobbying in 2016, according to tax records reviewed by Kaiser Health News. That's an increase of two-thirds over the year before — the biggest increase since the debate over the ACA.
Speaking of Billy Tauzin: He has registered as a lobbyist for a small health services and biotech company called Avalon GloboCare. But, per my colleague Bob Herman, there's a catch: The lobbying contract comes just one month after Avalon named Tauzin to its board. Tauzin also has a lobbyist-and-board-member position with home health company LHC Group.
The public's anger over high pharmaceutical prices won't go anywhere in 2018 — if anything, in a campaign year, it might burn even hotter. But don't expect that to lead to lower prices. Bob combed through a couple of reports from investment bank Leerink Partners, which found:
Translation: There won't be any tangible changes to drug pricing because the pharma industry still doesn't have an incentive to do so, and because finger-pointing around the issue delays any form of political action.
Go deeper: Bob reported earlier this year that executives at drug giant AbbVie told Wall Street analysts the "intensity of the drug pricing debates and political risks is waning," and they might pursue multiple large price hikes next year.
Having health insurance makes health care easier to pay for, and the number of people who struggle to pay their health care bills has fallen since the ACA's coverage expansion took effect, according to updated data released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why it matters: There's a not-insignificant chance this trend could start to reverse itself over the coming years. Employer-based coverage — by far the biggest source of private coverage — is trending toward higher out-of-pocket costs, and the repeal of the individual mandate will likely squeeze some middle-class families out of the individual market altogether.
What we're watching this week: It's all about the tax bill, CHIP and keeping the government open, as Congress tries to finish up its work and get home for the holidays.
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