Good morning ... The short list to replace Tom Price is going to get longer before it gets shorter. If you're hearing any interesting names floating around, or have reason to be skeptical about any of the ones you've heard, let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
The hunt for a new Health and Human Services secretary is on, and so far the speculation is heavily focused around one name: Seema Verma. At least in these early days, many people in the health care world think the job is hers to lose.
Yes, but: It's still incredibly early. Verma is the early front-runner, not a lock. The short list will likely grow. Other names we've already heard circulated include:
Some cold water: There are big reasons to be skeptical about a couple of other names you might have seen in the mix:
Federal funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program has expired. (It ended at the close of the fiscal year, which happened over the weekend.) Most states have enough extra cash on hand to carry them for a while, but Congress will buckle down on reauthorization efforts this week.
Trump could release an executive order as early as this week on "association health plans," which would allow groups of small employers to band together and purchase their health care coverage as a collective — and to buy that insurance from across state lines.
There's considerable concern among nonpartisan health care experts that broader association health plans would weaken insurance markets by peeling healthy consumers away from the rest of the market. But there's another, potentially stronger possibility: that they wouldn't accomplish much at all.
The reason: Networks. Insurance isn't just a local product because of regulatory tradition. It's because people buy insurance so they can use some health care service, and they usually want to use those services reasonably close to the places they live.
Buying insurance from another, less regulated state might sound like an effective cost-saver in economic theory, but who's going to buy a plan from another state when you need to see doctors and hospitals in your area?
Go deeper: If you want to bone up on association health plans before Trump releases his executive order, here's a good primer from the American Academy of Actuaries.
The devastation that followed Hurricane Maria has left Puerto Rico's health care system in a crisis. Similar to the situations following Harvey and Irma, loss of electricity and a lack of clean water are among the biggest problems. But Maria's severity, and the slower response, have made things even worse.
What we're watching this week: Movement toward a bipartisan agreement on ACA fixes between Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray. Plus, Energy and Commerce Committee marks up bills to renew funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program and community health centers.
Tuesday: Energy and Commerce health subcommittee hearing on access to investigational drugs.
Wednesday: Finance Committee's CHIP markup
What's on your radar? I'd love to hear your tips, feedback and questions: email@example.com