Overnight Health Care: House to vote Tuesday on 'right to try' drug bill | Conservative groups warn against ObamaCare 'baillout' | Bipartisan bill would give DEA more power over opioid quotas

Overnight Health Care: House to vote Tuesday on 'right to try' drug bill | Conservative groups warn against ObamaCare 'baillout' | Bipartisan bill would give DEA more power over opioid quotas
© Thinkstock

The House will vote Tuesday on a newly released Right to Try Act aimed at letting very sick patients request access to treatments the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't yet approved.

The legislation is a priority for the White House.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpArizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Alyssa Milano protests Kavanaugh in 'Handmaid's Tale' costume Bomb in deadly Yemen school bus attack was manufactured by US firm: report MORE called on Congress to pass the bill in his State of the Union address in January. Vice President Pence is also a staunch supporter of right to try laws, signing a bill when he was governor of Indiana.

House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders had been working to change the bill, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent over the summer.

ADVERTISEMENT

Supporters of the measure, such as groups backed by conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch, had been urging the House to pass the Senate version, fearing changes could make it harder for the bill to get to Trump's desk.

The new version will indeed have to be sent back to the Senate, and in announcing the Tuesday vote, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyPelosi mocks McCarthy for tweet complaining of censorship GOP leader mocked for tweet complaining of conservative censorship on Twitter Three scenarios for how leadership races could play out in the House MORE (R-Calif.) noted in a statement Sunday that "following its passage, I look forward to swift Senate action so more Americans facing dire circumstances can find some light in their darkest moments."

Over the last few months, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenThree scenarios for how leadership races could play out in the House House committee considering subpoena for Twitter CEO: report Top Republicans concerned over impact of potential Trump drug rule MORE (R-Ore.) had been clear that changes to the legislation -- a revised bill which was unveiled in a press release early Saturday morning -- were coming.

Nearly 40 patient advocacy groups had argued that the measure would "likely do more harm than good" in a letter in early February. They said the Food and Drug Administration's current regulatory framework is meant to protect patients, and that the FDA has a program that approves nearly all requests of patients to try an experimental drug.

Proponents of the measure had countered that terminally ill patients should have every tool at their disposal to try a drug to potentially help them, and that the decision to do so should be between a doctor and a patient, not the patient and the government.

The House version of the legislation appears to further define which patients can request access to an experimental drug. To be eligible, a patient must have a disease or a condition with a "reasonable likelihood that death will occur within a matter of months" or would result in "significant irreversible morbidity that is likely to lead to severely premature death."

Read more here.

 

Key Democrat comes out against 'right to try' bill

The top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced his strong opposition Monday to a revised version of the "right to try" bill on experimental drugs that the panel's top Republicans introduced over the weekend.

The bill "puts vulnerable patients at risk by completely removing the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] from the review or oversight of access to investigational therapies," Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneDem: Trump ‘placing politics over our national security’ by revoking Brennan’s clearance House Dems press FCC chairman for answers on false cyberattack claim House Dems call for new FCC probe into Sinclair MORE (D-N.J.), the Energy and Commerce Committee's ranking member, said in a statement.

"Rather than rush to pass a bill that was hastily unveiled over the weekend without careful consideration or bipartisan consensus, we should work together to find a sensible path forward that protects patients and upholds FDA's approval process while ensuring patients, with no other recourse, have access to investigational therapies," he said.

Read more here.

 

Conservative groups warn against ObamaCare 'bailout' in spending bill 

A coalition of 15 conservative groups wrote to Congress on Monday, urging lawmakers not to include a "bailout" of ObamaCare in the government funding bill.

The groups are putting pressure amid bipartisan negotiations on providing payments to health insurance companies. The goal for supporters is to stabilize markets and lower premiums, but conservative groups see those payments as a "bailout" for the health-care law.

"Lawmakers should fulfill their longstanding promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare, not setting the dangerous precedent of bailing it out," the groups, which include Heritage Action, Club for Growth, and Americans for Prosperity, wrote.

"We the undersigned organizations, urge all members of Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare and to reject taxpayer bailouts for Obamacare and private health insurance companies, particularly in upcoming government spending bills."

Congress must fund the government by March 23 to avoid a shutdown, a spending measure that could be a vehicle for the ObamaCare payments.

Some more moderate Republicans support the idea of providing the ObamaCare payments, with the goal of lowering premiums.

Read more here.

 

Insurer credits GOP tax law for new commitment to ObamaCare

A health insurer in Alaska and Washington State is crediting the Republican tax law for its decision to participate in ObamaCare markets next year.

Premera Blue Cross said in a statement Monday that because of a one-time refund the company is getting under the GOP law, it will be able to make new commitments.

One commitment, the company said, is stepping in to offer coverage if any of Washington's counties lack an insurer on the ObamaCare marketplace, a problem the state contended with last year.

The company also said it is pledging to "ensure continued stability" of the Alaska ObamaCare market, where it is the only insurer offering coverage.

Read more here.

 

Bipartisan bill would give DEA more power in setting opioid quotas

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Monday they said would strengthen the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) ability to prevent opioid abuse. 

The bill would allow the DEA to take into consideration overdose deaths and abuse rates when it annually sets quotas for the number of Schedule I and II controlled substances, such as opioids, that can be manufactured and produced in the U.S. 

Under current law, it can only consider factors like past sales and estimated demand.

"Every day, more than 100 Americans die from an opioid overdose. While we know that there are legitimate uses for opioid painkillers, we also know that these dangerous pills are being over-produced, over-prescribed and over-dispensed," said Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems to challenge Kavanaugh for White House records 2020 hopefuls skeptical of criminal justice deal with Trump Sentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies MORE (D-Ill.), one of the bill's sponsors. 

Read more here.

 

What we're reading 

Insurers game Medicare system to boost federal bonus payments (The Wall Street Journal)

For doctors, more opioid prescriptions bring more money (CNN)

Big healthcare players are turning their partners into prey (Bloomberg)

 

State by state

Connecticut bill would require that certain Medicaid enrollees work (The CT Mirror)

Rauner signs new Medicaid funding plan for hospitals (Chicago Sun-Times)

Idaho Senate passes bill that would restore non-emergency dental coverage for Medicaid patients (spokesman.com)

 

Opinions in The Hill 

ObamaCare soon marks eighth birthday with no sign of repeal