Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems see midterm advantage in new ObamaCare fight

Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems see midterm advantage in new ObamaCare fight
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.

 

It's Thursday in Washington. The Senate might have wrapped up its work for the rest of the week, but the House is still in tomorrow, and we'll be here to bring you all the latest health news.

Today, a federal court dealt a blow to the insurance industry, abortion providers are fighting restrictions in Texas, and Democrats are striking hard at the Trump administration over pre-existing conditions.

 

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Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms

Democrats think they have been handed a political gift after the Trump administration argued in court that ObamaCare's pre-existing condition protections should be overturned. And they are beating the drum.

Democrats have been pressing GOP candidates to say where they stand on the issue.

Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist, said that after GOP efforts to repeal ObamaCare failed last year, "Republicans wanted to change the topic and they might have been able to if Trump hadn't sued to overturn the protections."

"The last thing they wanted to talk about is the thing Trump is now putting front and center," he added.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell says the GOP knows the danger. "What McConnell is trying to do is protect his Senate majority, and this issue could put folks in jeopardy like Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThe farm bill gives Congress a chance to act on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act GOP’s midterm strategy takes shape Battle of the billionaires drives Nevada contest MORE," O'Connell said, referring to the Republican senator from Nevada.

GOP response: "The Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare, is the reason we have massive price escalations despite the promises they were going to reduce the cost of care," said NRSC chair Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBusinesses fear blowback from Russia sanctions bill Senate GOP campaign arm asking Trump to endorse McSally in Arizona: report When it comes to drone tech, wildfire officials need the rights tools for the job MORE (R-Colo.). "Nobody's going to all of a sudden think that ObamaCare is McConnellCare."

What to watch: More Democratic campaigns are latching onto this issue. They think it's a winner: Polls show strong support for pre-existing condition protections.

We've got more on the politics here.

 

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A federal court ruled against insurance companies in a lawsuit over ObamaCare's risk corridor payments. Insurance companies argue they are owed billions of dollars under the program, which was created in 2014 to help cushion insurers from major losses during the early years of the law.

Conservatives argue the program is an illegal bailout of insurers, and in Congress, Republicans sought to block the payments.

Ruling: The court agreed with the Trump administration that since congressional Republicans made the risk corridor program budget neutral, insurers are not owed anything.

Key quote from the ruling: "Congress clearly indicated its intent here. It asked GAO [the Government Accountability Office] what funding would be available to make risk corridors payments, and it cut off the sole source of funding identified beyond payments in. It did so in each of the three years of the program's existence."

What's next: The insurers are likely to appeal and seek a review by the full court, rather than just a panel. If that doesn't succeed, the next step would be an appeal to the Supreme Court.

We break down the legal fight here.

 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first generic version of a medication used to treat opioid addiction called Suboxone. 

The hope: It will make it easier for people to get access to treatment.

"The FDA is taking new steps to advance the development of improved treatments for opioid use disorder, and to make sure these medicines are accessible to the patients who need them. That includes promoting the development of better drugs, and also facilitating market entry of generic versions of approved drugs to help ensure broader access," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a press release.

 

Another opioid lawsuit.

Kentucky's attorney general sued Walgreens today, alleging that the company contributed to the state's opioid epidemic.

What the lawsuit alleges: Kentucky says the company failed to report suspicious shipments of opioids to authorities and that it dispensed large quantities of the painkiller.

Walgreens declined to comment because the subject is a matter of pending litigation.  
Context
: Kentucky has been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic.

The big picture: Other states have been suing opioid manufacturers and distributors.

And so have counties, cities and tribes -- an effort which has been consolidated under one judge in Cleveland, Ohio.

Read more here.

Also in opioids news: Only 14 percent of high school students admitted to misusing opioids, according to a recently released National Youth Risk Behavior Survey report.

The survey found that 14 percent of students said they had used opioids, including OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin, without a prescription or medical advice. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first began polling for teen opioid use in 2017.

More on the study here.

 

 

Two House lawmakers are asking for more funds for suicide prevention efforts in the wake of a report that showed rising rates across the country.

Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoProtesters confront Ivanka Trump on family separations Progressives’ wins highlight divide in Democratic Party The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Wild night of primaries reshapes 2018 midterms MORE (R-N.Y.), co-chairs of the bipartisan House Suicide Prevention Task Force, noted Wednesday that funding for suicide prevention programs has remained flat or decreased in recent years.

"Congress cannot afford to continue to undercut investments in critical programs that help prevent suicide," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Reps. Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenDems eyeing smaller magic number for House majority Puerto Rico mayor: Territory's profile has grown since hurricanes House panel advances homeland security bill with billion in border wall funding MORE (R-N.J.) and Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyWomen poised to take charge in Dem majority Trump faces long odds in avoiding big spending bill House panel advances homeland security bill with billion in border wall funding MORE (D-N.Y.), the chairman and ranking member respectively of the House Appropriations Committee.

Why it matters: An analysis released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week showed suicide rates have increased in every state except Nevada since 1999 -- with half of those states seeing an increase of 30 percent.

More here.

 

The same abortion provider who won a major Supreme Court in 2016 has a new lawsuit.

Whole Woman's Health Alliance filed suit Thursday against Texas again, arguing that its abortion restrictions impose "medically unnecessary burdens on patients, require doctors to lie to their patients and have led to clinics being shut down."

"For years, Texas politicians have done everything in their power to push abortion out of reach for Texans. Today, we join communities and advocates across the state to send the message that we have had enough," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, President of Whole Woman's Health Alliance.

Why it matters: WWHA is challenging two decades worth of abortion restrictions in the state. And the group is represented by the same legal group, the Lawyering Project, that argued the 2016 case.

Will this challenge also make it to the highest court in the land? Stay tuned.

We've got more on the lawsuit here.

 

Drug pricing bill advances.

There was a rare bipartisan win for drug pricing advocates on Thursday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the Creates Act, a bill aimed at lowering drug prices by cracking down on tactics drug companies use to delay competition from cheaper generic drugs.

Republicans, though, are split on the measure, meaning it still has a tough road ahead. The vote was 16-5.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyConnect Beltway to America to get federal criminal justice reform done Schumer to meet with Kavanaugh on Tuesday Dems threaten to sue for Kavanaugh records MORE (R-Iowa) said the bill "saves $3.8 billion in taxpayer dollars and likely far more for consumers and private insurers."

"I look forward to getting this important tool passed so we can improve access to lower-cost generic drugs," he added.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning public health officials in six states about an outbreak of Hepatitis A among drug users and the homeless.

From January 2017 to April of this year, the CDC has received more than 2,500 reports of infections from California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Utah and West Virginia.

Why it matters: Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine, but people experiencing homelessness and using drugs are hard to reach, the CDC said. In the mid-1980s, drug use was a risk factor for more than 20 percent of cases reported to the CDC, but no large outbreaks have occurred among people who use drugs since 1996.

And while outbreaks of Hepatitis A among homeless people have occurred in other countries, it has not previously happened in the U.S.

More on the outbreak here.

 

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Sponsored content - Pharmaceutical Care Management Association

Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) have outlined several policy solutions to ensure patients receive opioid prescriptions when safe and medically appropriate. One important solution would be requiring e-prescribing of controlled substances in Medicare (S. 2460 / H.R. 3528, the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act). A study by the Opioid Safety Alliance finds this could save taxpayers $13 billion over 10 years.

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What we're reading

They fought over the last ObamaCare lawsuit, but they agree this one Is nonsense (Huffington Post)

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL players stand in tunnel during anthem, extending protests 12 former top intel officials blast Trump's move to revoke Brennan's security clearance NYT: Omarosa believed to have as many as 200 tapes MORE's flip-flop on coverage for preexisting health conditions (The Washington Post)

Exploring the link between housing and health (Marketplace)

 

State by state

Medicaid expansion gains popularity in red states (The Wall Street Journal)

Poll: Majority of Texans support expanding Medicaid (Austin American-Statesman)

Texans want state leaders to do more to solve state's health care crisis (Houston Chronicle)

 

From The Hill's opinion pages

Opioid treatment plans must include a trauma-informed approach

Trump is right not to defend ObamaCare