Good morning ... It's Friday! We made it!
President Trump keeps flip-flopping on whether he supports a bipartisan bill to stabilize health care markets. And it has created a weird dichotomy in the Senate: No one's taking his position on the bill very seriously at any given moment, even though it needs his support to pass and become law.
Trump has shifted from sounding supportive of Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray's bill, to calling it a "bailout" for insurance companies, and back again, and back again. But Alexander and Murray — and a lot of their colleagues — are simply pushing ahead. And support for their bill seems to be growing, at least in the Senate, irrespective of what Trump says.
What they're saying: My colleague Caitlin Owens caught up with a few Republican senators to ask them how much Trump's vacillations are affecting things:
Be smart: It's awfully early in the administration for Trump's own party to be so securely on its own, independent trajectory. But Trump's opinion will likely hold more sway in the House — meaning, if he wants to pick a side, he could probably exercise some real leverage over the final product.
Trump's public statements aren't the only thing giving the health care world constant whiplash about where this administration stands.
Why it matters: No one — not members of Congress, not state regulators, not insurance companies, not even the president's own aides — knows what to expect from this administration on health care. Does it want to affect conservative change? Blow things up for the sake of it? Enforce the rules? Not enforce the rules? That lack of clarity complicates policymaking at every level.
The quick update:
The bottom line: The state of play here hasn't really changed. There absolutely is a path to pass this bill — most likely as part of a larger end-of-year package, as we outlined yesterday. Getting floor votes in the Senate and House will be harder than winning them, and that's why all signs point to Democrats forcing that vote when they have the leverage to do so.
Hospitals and other health care facilities are in a tough spot when it comes to online reviews, like the ones posted to Google and Yelp.
Escalation: A pair of Texas hospitals is sharpening this double-edged sword — they're seeking a court order that would compel Google to turn over the identities of some two dozen online reviewers, the Dallas Morning News reports. The hospitals believe these reviewers were never actually treated in their facilities.
The bottom line: Settling these issues through litigation is still rare, but it's becoming more common — and that will give the courts, as well as providers, a whole new set of issues to wrestle with.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is known for creative, high-tech research projects that often sound like science fiction. Now, a philanthropic heavyweight and a former DARPA program director together are pushing for the federal government's health department to have its own version.
The big questions: How would it fit in the health department that also includes the National Institutes of Health? And how will pharmaceutical and other companies be incentivized to take products to market? The answers — and some clever navigating of the potential tensions — could help determine whether an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or HARPA, ever gets off the ground.
What we're watching today: Honestly? The clock. If you work in health care, you deserve a weekend. Hope you have a great one.
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