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4. Political Cartoon: 'Bag On?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Bag On?'" by Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


In six weeks –Match Day!
For some med students, travel
ban leads to limbo.

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Summaries Of The News:

Veterans' Health Care

5. VA Nominee Says System Is 'Worth Saving,' Promises Not To Privatize Veterans' Health Care

David J. Shulkin, the sole holdover from the Obama administration, faced the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday and is expected to be approved by the full Senate.

The New York Times: Veterans Affairs Nominee Vows Not To Privatize Health Care
President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, David J. Shulkin, vowed at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to reform — but not privatize — veterans’ health care, potentially putting him at odds with Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to allow all veterans to choose private health care. “V.A. is a unique national resource that is worth saving,” Dr. Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He added, “The Department of Veterans Affairs will not be privatized under my watch.” (Philipps, 2/1)

USA Today: VA Nominee David Shulkin Vows Faster Improvement, More Choices For Veterans
At his confirmation hearing Wednesday, Shulkin said “there should be no doubt” that he will seek “major reform and transformation of the VA.” Shulkin, as the only Obama appointee among Trump’s Cabinet nominees, is walking something of a tightrope, outlining what he will do differently under Trump, while at the same time assuaging the fears of Democrats and some veterans' groups that VA services will be privatized. (Slack, 2/1)

The Washington Post: VA ‘Will Not Be Privatized Under My Watch,’ Cabinet Nominee Says In Clash With Trump Team
His opposition to turning over vast parts of the system to private doctors and approach seeking gradual changes at an agency still reeling from a 2014 scandal over patient wait times puts Shulkin at odds with Trump advisers and some Republican lawmakers who are pressing for more drastic reform, particularly more private care. But Shulkin, now serving as VA undersecretary in charge of the veterans’ health system, is likely headed for swift confirmation by the Senate, say Republican and Democratic aides. (Rein, 2/1)

CQ Roll Call: VA Nominee Shulkin Grilled On Private Health Care For Veterans
Republicans questioned whether Shulkin, who was confirmed as VA under secretary for health during President Barack Obama’s tenure, is committed to the VA shakeup that Trump promised on the campaign trail. “How can you assure veterans . . . that some of the big focuses that President Trump has talked about, of really shaking up the VA, [will occur] on your watch, when to be honest, you’ve been part of the outgoing administration?” asked Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. But Shulkin said that, as both a doctor and a health care executive, he's committed to a drastic overhaul of the agency. (Mejdrich, 2/1)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s VA Nominee Pledges Not To Privatize Department
The hourslong hearing was strikingly civil, in contrast with other confirmation proceedings in recent days in which Democrats have boycotted procedures and lawmakers have slung insults at their colleagues across the aisle. Veterans’ issues are the “one thing that’s kept us bipartisan,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) as he walked from the hearing. (Kesling, 2/1)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. In Sign Of Escalating Tension On Hill, Senate Panel Lifts Rules To Vote On Price Without Dems

The Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee were boycotting the vote on Rep. Tom Price because of ethics concerns.

Reuters: U.S. Senate Panel Suspends Rules, Backs Price, Mnuchin For Cabinet
Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee suspended committee rules and confirmed U.S. Representative Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services and banker Steven Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary Wednesday on a straight party line vote, sending the nominations to the Senate floor. Under pressure from their political base to block President Donald Trump's nominees, Democrats stayed away from the meeting for a second day running. This normally would have stopped action, but Republicans plowed ahead by voting to suspend the rule that required at least one Democrat to be present for business to be conducted. (Cornwell, 2/1)

The Washington Post: Senate Republicans Just Bent Committee Rules To Approve Cabinet Nominees. Is That The New Normal?
Senate Democrats aren't making it easy for Republicans to approve President Trump's Cabinet nominees — and now, Republicans are so mad, they're abandoning their own committee rules to push at least two nominees through. Democrats boycotted a Finance Committee hearing Tuesday, meaning the committee couldn't make a quorum. ... Republicans got predictably mad at the stall tactic but set another hearing for Wednesday morning, hoping to hold a vote. But Democrats, again, were no-shows. That's when the GOP senators on the committee got creative and made a move that is sure to infuriate the opposition. (Stevenson, 2/1)

The Associated Press: GOP Pushes 2 Top Cabinet Picks Through To Full Senate
Underscoring Congress’ foul mood, Finance panel Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Democrats should be “ashamed” for staying away from his committee’s meeting. “I don’t feel a bit sorry for them,” he told reporters, adding later, “I don’t care what they want at this point.” (Fram and Lardner, 2/1)

Politico: GOP Breaks Dem Blockade On Mnuchin And Price
"We have significant concerns that both Mr. Mnuchin and Congressman Price gave inaccurate and misleading testimony and responses to questions to the Committee," the Democrats said. Republicans slammed them as being obstructionists and downplayed their concerns with the nominees. The GOP adopted a similar approach in the environment committee, where chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) vowed to push past the Democratic boycott of EPA nominee Scott Pruitt — though he declined to say exactly how he would do so. (Warmbrodt, Cancryn and Schor, 2/1)

Modern Healthcare: Price's Confirmation For HHS Secretary Advances Without Votes From Democrats
Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia, sat on the Health Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. During his time in Congress, Price proposed legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. During confirmation hearings before the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees, Price mostly dodged questions aimed at pinning him down on maintaining ACA provisions such as not allowing insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions and providing free preventive care. He has been outspoken about his desire to give states more control over Medicaid. (Dickson, 2/1)