Good morning ... This winter is like the 2016 election: We'll never be free of it.
Lawmakers last night finally released their 2,232-page omnibus spending bill, which would carry the government through the end of the fiscal year. Here's what you need to know about its health care components.
ICYMI: The House last night also passed its "right to try" bill, to give terminally ill patients more access to drugs that haven't yet been proven safe or effective. That measure failed previously under special rules, but sailed through 267-149 yesterday.
Six months ago, the Senate had a bipartisan health care deal with a good chance of becoming law. But now that deal appears to be dead — derailed by abortion politics, policy disagreements and months of lawmakers dragging their feet while the health care landscape shifted underneath them.
What went wrong: The biggest blow to this once-bipartisan package came from a debate over abortion policy. Republicans wanted to add new language to prohibit insurance plans that receive the ACA’s cost-sharing payments from offering abortion coverage. Democrats balked. Nobody backed down.
Go deeper: Caitlin has a longer autopsy at Axios.com.
Buried within the latest annual report to Congress from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission is an important finding that hospitals won't like. It helps rebut the theory that hospitals must charge private insurers more to make up for lower payments from Medicare and Medicaid, according to my colleague Bob Herman.
Here’s what MedPAC found (on page 84 for you voracious readers):
The big picture: Hospitals that lose money from Medicare’s mostly fixed payments are generally less efficient than hospitals that do OK on Medicare, as other research has shown. And they often are less efficient because they hold dominant bargaining positions in their markets and have no incentives to reduce costs.
Don’t forget: Hospitals also are making a fortune on Wall Street.
Both the sustained reach and the severity of the flu this past season caught many experts off guard. At its peak — around week 18 — there was a higher level of flu-like illnesses reported than at any other time during the past eight years.
Why it matters: Public health officials try to capture this data when developing the next year's vaccines. And, of course, they want to find better ways to prevent severe flu seasons.
What we're watching this week: All eyes are on the spending bill.
The NCAA tournament resumes tonight with the Sweet 16. (Kentucky plays at 9:30pm). And hopefully this snow will melt at some point.
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