Healthcare

Health Care — Biden pushes drug price wins

President Joe Biden reacts after speaking during an event on health care costs, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here 

Shutdown watch: the government spending bill appears to be on track to pass later this week, and lawmakers are ready to hit the campaign trail ahead of the mid-term elections. 

Today in health, President Biden touted the benefits of drug pricing reforms, highlighting Democrats’ campaign message on health. 


For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@thehill.com) and Joseph Choi (jchoi@thehill.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @NateWeixel and @JosefChoi. 

Let’s get started. 

Biden touts Democratic wins on drug prices

President Biden on Tuesday celebrated recent prescription drug reforms, proclaiming that Democrats had finally delivered an elusive win against Big Pharma. 

Speaking on the White House Rose Garden, Biden praised the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in early August, as “one of the most significant laws in our history.” 

Biden referred to the signing of the bill as the fulfillment of a promise to the American people that has gone unanswered for decades. 

“We pay more for prescription drugs than any other advanced nation in the world and there’s no good reason for it. For years, many of us have been trying to fix this problem, but for years Big Pharma has stood in the way. Not this year,” Biden said. “This year, the American people won and Big Pharma lost.” 

The sweeping bill included provisions allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for the first time in its history and also placed caps on the cost of certain medications, though this too applied largely to seniors on Medicare. 

Campaign fodder: During his speech, Biden called out Republicans in Congress for not supporting the provisions in the bill aimed at lowering health care costs. 

“I wish I could say the Republicans supported this progress and reducing health care costs and strengthening Medicare. That would be good for all of America, but [they] had a very different idea,” he said. 

“Every single Republican voted against the Inflation Reduction Act. When it actually came time to do something about inflation around the kitchen table, every one of them said no.” 

Read more here

Emergency funds missing from spending bill

A White House request for emergency funding to support coronavirus and monkeypox response efforts is missing from the recent must-pass spending bill. 

The White House has been pushing for billions in funding to bolster those efforts as part of a short-term funding bill Congress is aiming to pass this week to avert a government shutdown.  

Earlier this month, the White House asked Congress for more than $22 billion in funding to address what it described as “critical” needs to fund COVID-19 response efforts, including dollars to procure more vaccines, offer free community testing, bolster research, and more.  

But the request has drawn considerable pushback, especially in light of Biden’s recent comments declaring the COVID-19 pandemic “over.” 

“If that’s true, I’m glad. And so why does he want tens of billions of dollars for COVID?” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told reporters last week, speculating the comments “certainly makes it harder” for more coronavirus funding to be secured. 

The White House asked for $4.5 billion in funding to fight monkeypox, including $1.6 billion to strengthen vaccine manufacturing and hundreds of millions to help support state and local efforts, as well provide testing. 

Read more here. 

WATCHDOG DETAILS DISTRESS OF MIGRANT CHILDREN 

Unaccompanied migrant children held at a makeshift shelter in a Texas military base last year spent weeks without hearing any updates on their cases, causing distress, anxiety, and in some cases, panic attacks, according to an internal watchdog report released Tuesday. 

A rapid staffing ramp up at Fort Bliss resulted in inexperienced and overworked case managers responsible for hundreds of children, many of whom ended up falling through the cracks, according to the report from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. 

The report found that staffing shortages, high rates of turnover, and the large number of children onsite led to overloaded case managers during the spring of 2021, which contributed to delays in providing children with updates. 

A large influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border in the spring of 2021 forced the Biden administration to open more than a dozen emergency intake facilities: unlicensed, temporary facilities designed to meet basic standards of care for children on a short-term basis.  

Those inexperienced case managers also meant children were released into potentially unsafe situations. 

“In some cases, release recommendations made by these inexperienced case managers reportedly failed to consider children’s significant history of abuse and neglect or whether sex offenders resided in the potential sponsor’s household,” the report found.  

Read more here.  

CONGRESS TO ADVANCE ‘CLEAN’ FDA USER FEE DEAL  

Lawmakers this week will advance a deal to fund drug and medical device evaluations at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the next five years, but without any additional policy reforms. 

The agreement, which will be included as part of broader legislation to fund the government into December, represents a victory for Republican leaders who had insisted on a “clean” user fee bill before moving forward. 

Keeping jobs intact: The legislation will keep the lights on at the FDA and avoid furloughs, but will not include any additional language for how the agency regulates dietary supplements, lab developed tests, cosmetics or the controversial accelerated approval process for certain drugs. 

A House-passed version of the reauthorization included those sweeping regulatory proposals, but Democrats in the Senate agreed to strip them out for now. 

In a joint statement, Senate Health Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and ranking member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said there will be more negotiations ahead. 

“We are glad to announce an agreement to reauthorize the FDA user fee programs, which will ensure that FDA can continue its important work and will not need to send out pink slips. However, there is more work ahead this Congress to deliver the kinds of reforms families need to see from FDA, from industry, and from our mental health and pandemic preparedness efforts,” the lawmakers said. 

Read more here

Medicare Part B premiums to decrease

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced that Medicare Part B premiums will decrease in 2023, marking the first time this cost has been lowered in more than a decade. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare Part B premiums would be lowered by three percent, or $5.20, going from $170.10 a month to $164.90. The program’s annual deductible will also fall by $7, from $233 to $226. 

The last time Medicare Part B premiums fell was in 2012 when they went from $115.40 to $99.90 a month, a decrease of 13.4 percent. 

In 2022, Medicare Part B premiums rose by 14.5 percent, one of the largest annual increases ever seen in the program’s history. A major factor in this increase was the inclusion of Aduhelm, the first Alzheimer’s medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 20 years. 

The drug was highly scrutinized due to questions regarding its efficacy in treating Alzheimer’s disease as well as its sky-high price. Aduhelm initially cost $56,000 before its manufacturer Biogen announced it was halving the price to $28,200. 

Foreshadowing: News of this decrease does not come as a complete surprise, as Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra had said in May that the premiums in 2023 would be adjusted in light of a report that found the cost of including Aduhelm in Medicare had been overestimated. This report was ordered following Biogen’s decision to decrease the cost of Aduhelm. 

Read more here

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • What’s behind dramatic drop in monkeypox cases in the US (ABC News)   
  • Britain’s hard lessons from handing elder care over to private equity (Kaiser Health News)   
  • ‘It is sinking us even further’: STI clinics, already stretched thin, strain under weight of monkeypox response (Stat

STATE BY STATE

  • University of Idaho releases memo warning employees that promoting abortion is against state law (Idaho Capital Sun)   
  • Wisconsin Department of Health confirms first case of West Nile Virus (WISN)   
  • Newsom signs abortion protections into law (CalMatters)   
  • Georgia’s health care ranks near bottom in nation (WUGA

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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