Labor Market Continues to Dominate and States Push Back on Pharma
June 22, 2017
U.S jobless claims continue to be at very healthy levels and some of the only hiccups in the labor market now are issues with getting working visas for some companies. The Senate healthcare bill is moving somewhat to the center, due to Mitch McConnell’s narrow margin for error. Missouri has joined Ohio and Mississippi in trying to hold pharmaceutical companies to account for their role in the opioid epidemic.
- Senate healthcare bill to move to the center. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is working to make his version of the American Health Care Act more appealing to the centrists in his party. He needs overwhelming GOP support if the bill is to be passed since he can only lose 2 Republican votes, assuming no Democrats vote for the bill. Some of the changes that are being discussed are keeping tax cuts for low-income Americans to mitigate any potential negative impact for poor seniors. The Senate bill is also working to provide insurance to more Americans, which stands in contrast to the House bill, which would cause 24 million to lose their insurance in ten years. The Senate bill might also change the mechanism for tying Medicaid to inflation, a proposal championed by conservatives. Because of parliamentary rules, the bill will likely not include measures on abortion or cutting funding for Planned Parenthood. [The Hill]
- Missouri joins Ohio and Mississippi in suing Pharma companies over opioid epidemic. The state’s new attorney general announced and filed the lawsuit, claiming that Purdue, Endo, and Johnson & Johnson “created a sprawling campaign of misinformation and deception to convince doctors and consumers that opioids pose little risk of addiction and that such risks can be easily identified and mitigated.” The drug company’s products, OxyContin, Percocet, Opana, Duragesic, and Nucynta were at the heart of the lawsuit. Missouri’s death rate from opioids is 1.6 times the national average and hospitalizations are up 200% from 2007. [WSJ]
- Visas for summer workers in short supply. With a change in policy to the H-2B visa, no longer allowing returning workers to be exempt from the need for a visa, the number of seasonal foreign workers has dropped dramatically. This has prompted businesses and members of Congress to pressure the Department of Homeland Security to increase the number visas available. Secretary John Kelly announced that he would, but also pointed out that he believed Congress was “passing the buck” by not amending the law themselves. The increased cap will be decided upon in conjunction with the Department of Labor, to ensure that only businesses that are truly at risk get additional visas. [WSJ]
Economic Indicators & News
- U.S. jobless claims just barely over estimates. 241,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, only 1,000 above the estimate. These numbers have spent 120 weeks below 300,000, which is a typical benchmark for a healthy labor market. [CNBC]