Overnight Health Care: Trump urges Congress to take action on surprise medical bills | New bipartisan drug pricing bill introduced | Trump gambles in push for drug import proposal

Overnight Health Care: Trump urges Congress to take action on surprise medical bills | New bipartisan drug pricing bill introduced | Trump gambles in push for drug import proposal
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Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

Today, the White House laid out how it wants Congress to handle surprise medical bill legislation. Also, there's a new bipartisan drug pricing bill in the Senate, President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE is breaking with Republicans on drug importation, and the House voted to roll back some of Trump's ObamaCare moves. 

We'll start with medical bills:


Trump urges Congress to take action on surprise medical bills

It's an issue that most people across the country are familiar with: getting stuck with a massive medical bill because even though you were at an in-network hospital, the surgeon, attending physician, anesthesiologist, or some other doctor, was out of network.

President Trump on Thursday said he wanted to work with Democrats in Congress to solve the problem. The White House sent lawmakers a list of policy priorities that they hope will ultimately form the basis for bipartisan legislation targeting surprise billing.


"We're going to hold insurance companies and hospitals totally accountable," Trump said. "We want patients to be in charge and in total control."  

The administration's top priorities: eliminating balance billing for emergency care, and make sure patients no longer receive separate bills from out-of-network doctors.

How will they do it? That's TBD. The principles from the White House were fairly high level, and basically serve to give Congress direction as lawmakers push ahead with legislation. It's seen as one of the most likely areas for bipartisan action on health care this year, and Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns MORE (R-Tenn.) said the aim is to vote on a bill in July.

What's the problem? Someone's going to have to foot the bill. Industry groups are jockeying to make sure someone else is responsible, with insurance companies pitted against hospitals and doctors. White House officials said the involvement of so many special interest groups has impeded the ability of the legislators to work, and members of Congress have been urging Trump to wade into the fight.

Read more here.


New bipartisan drug pricing bill

Sens. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinFederal funding for Chinese buses risks our national security Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall The Trump downturn: Trouble ahead for the US economy MORE (D-Wis.) and Mike BraunMichael BraunOvernight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan MORE (R-Ind.) have a new bipartisan bill aimed at lowering drug prices.

What's it do? The measure would require drug companies to submit a justification for price increases of more than 10 percent per year for a drug costing over $100.  They would also need to submit transparency data like the research and development costs and the marketing spending on the drug.

Baldwin told The Hill the bill would "finally lift the veil of secrecy around their pricing."

Chance of passage? Baldwin said she hoped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Overnight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts MORE (R-Ky.) would want a win on drug pricing to tout in reelection races next year.

"At some point the politician in him is going to want an issue or two to run on," Baldwin said. "He's up, a lot of his caucus is up. And I think that a real possibility would be having had some sort of accomplishment in terms of lowering the cost of healthcare and in particular standing up to the pharmaceutical companies."


Trump gambles in push for drug import proposal

President Trump is breaking from his party again on drug prices, this time on importing drugs from Canada.

Trump's own secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, expressed concerns with the idea in a meeting at the White House on Monday, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate committee overseeing the issue, questioned whether the imported drugs would be safe.

But Trump appears eager to push forward in his pursuit of lowering drug prices, embracing an idea that is one of the signature proposals of progressives like 2020 Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll The polls are asking the wrong question Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt MORE (I-Vt.).

Obstacles: Will HHS certify drug importation to be safe?

No secretary has ever done that before, and the current secretary, Azar, a former pharmaceutical company executive, has voiced reservations over the idea.

"We support importation if it can be done safely," Azar told reporters on a press call.

Read more here.


House votes on Trump ACA moves

The House today voted on a bill (H.R. 986) to block the Trump administration's efforts to allow "state innovation waivers" that would waive certain ObamaCare coverage requirements.

Democrats say states would be able to waive the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The administration says it wants states to have more flexibility from burdensome regulations, and congressional Republicans have framed the vote as Democrats taking away health care options and choices for states.

No state has actually tried to apply to use the waivers like the administration wants, but Democrats say the mere fact that such options are being promoted shows the administration's continued disregard for the law.

The bill isn't expected to go anywhere in the Senate, and the White House said it would veto the bill if it ever made it to the president's desk.

"The legislation threatens access to healthcare for our nation's citizens and runs counter to the President's healthcare vision of expanding affordable coverage, improving care for people with pre-existing conditions, and enhancing competition," the White House said in a statement. 


What we're reading

Government reports ObamaCare coverage gains are starting to retreat (CNN.com)

Juul's 'switch' campaign for smokers draws new scrutiny (Associated Press)

Many hospitals charge double or even triple what Medicare would pay (The New York Times)

Why Biden's cold shoulder on 'Medicare for All' is a safe bet politically (Morning Consult)


State by state

Wisconsin Republicans vote to kill Medicaid expansion (Associated Press)

Minnesota lawmakers look for ways to reduce prescription drug prices (Minnesota Public Radio)

Chaos erupts as Alabama Senate strips rape exception from abortion ban, delays vote (Al.com)


From The Hill's opinion page

Prescriptions are down, but overdoses are up -- is that progress?

Trump's health-care contradiction harms small business