Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Drug pricing out of Biden framework, at least for the moment

President Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) leave a House Democratic Caucus meeting where they discussed the Build Back Better agenda and the bipartisan infrastructure deal on Thursday, October 28, 2021.
Greg Nash

Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Out of the 455 new words and meanings that Merriam-Webster added to its dictionary, several were popularized during the pandemic, including “long COVID,” “breakthrough” and “vaccine passport.”

President Biden’s social spending framework is out…and it doesn’t include drug pricing (at least for now). It does include Medicaid expansion and enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies.

For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan (psullivan@thehill.com), Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@thehill.com) and Justine Coleman (jcoleman@thehill.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.

Let’s get started.


Drug pricing is out of Biden’s framework, but Dems say they’re not giving up yet

Sen. R Wyden (D-Ore.) speaks to a reporter before the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon on Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

Two Democratic committee chairmen said Thursday that they are not giving up on including provisions to lower prescription drug prices in President Biden‘s social spending package after it was left out of a framework released by the White House. 

“We’re staying at it. This is too important,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “I’ve had a number of conversations on that this morning.”

A House Energy and Commerce Committee aide said Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) “does not think the Build Back Better Act can pass the House without meaningful reforms to lower the cost of prescription drugs.”

But the path forward remains steep, given objections from a handful of moderate Democrats.

Where things stand: One of those moderate Democrats, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), reached an agreement with the White House on a far more scaled-back drug pricing measure, according to a source familiar with the talks.

That agreement was similar to a proposal put forward by Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), which would allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices only in far more limited circumstances, for older drugs that no longer have patent protection.

That proposal has been described as grossly inadequate by drug pricing advocates and by a key House Democratic chairman.

A House Energy and Commerce Committee aide said Thursday that the proposal “would be unable to pass in the House,” and “would do functionally nothing to lower prescription drug prices for the American people.”

Path forward: So it remains to be seen if lawmakers can reach a deal to satisfy both Sinema and the many Democrats who want to go further. 

Read more here




Altria’s companies are leading the way in moving adult smokers away from cigarettes – by taking action to transition millions towards potentially less harmful choices. Learn how at Altria.com.



What does it include? Medicaid coverage, and some Medicare expansion

There are no drug pricing provisions, but the White House-backed social spending framework does feature a pared-down expansion of both Medicare and Medicaid coverage.

On Medicaid, the framework would offer four years of subsidized private health insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges for people with lower incomes living in states that did not expand Medicaid under the health care law.

That means $0 premiums for 4 million people in the “coverage gap,” meaning they don’t earn enough to qualify for ACA subsidies but, since they live in a non expansion state, also make too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Subsidizing coverage is the more industry-friendly way to help people in the coverage gap. The alternative offered by House Democrats in September would have created an entirely new “Medicaid-like” government program.

Not much Medicare: Progressives wanted to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits. But the framework only would cover hearing. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said having all three in the bill was non-negotiable; but on Thursday, Sanders did not say he opposes the framework, only that it needs to be improved. The provision also won’t take effect until 2024.

ACA subsidies: The framework does include the extension of enhanced financial assistance to help people afford premiums under the ACA, a key part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s (D-Calif.) legacy.

Read more here.



One percent of all adults in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll said they’ve left a job due to COVID-19 vaccine requirements as more workplaces institute mandates.

The KFF Vaccine Monitor for October released on Thursday determined that out of unvaccinated adults, just 5 percent left their jobs because of the requirements, “despite widespread news reports” of workplace vaccine mandates driving resignations.

Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to report knowing someone who left their job due to a vaccine mandate, with almost a quarter of all adults saying they know someone who’s quit.

A quarter of workers reported their employers instituted a COVID-19 vaccine mandate — an increase of 16 percentage points since June. 

Expected mandate response: The vaccine requirements come as the Biden administration moved forward with its plan to institute a vaccine-or-test mandate for all employers with at least 100 employees.

Almost half of unvaccinated workers, 46 percent, said under that type of mandate, they would opt for weekly testing. Eleven percent said they’d most likely get the vaccine while 37 percent, representing 1 percent of all adults, said they would leave their job.

But without the weekly testing option, a majority of unvaccinated workers, at 72 percent, said they would quit their jobs, representing 9 percent of all adults. Seventeen percent said they would get the vaccine in that situation, amounting to 2 percent of all adults.

Read more here



Pfizer and BioNTech announced in a press release Thursday that they will be providing the U.S. government with 50 million additional pediatric doses of COVID-19 vaccinations.

According to the companies’ statement, the move is meant to help prepare for vaccination needs for children under the age of 5, should the vaccine eventually be approved for children that young.

Pfizer says that with the inclusion of this order of doses, the U.S. government has secured 600 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines since the start of the pandemic.

What’s next: Pfizer has stated that it expects to deliver all the doses by the end of April.

The announcement comes after a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel recommended approving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children as young as 5 on Tuesday.

The trial data for those aged 2 to less than 5 and for those aged six months to less than 2 years old is expected to be available late this year or early next year.

Read more here




Altria’s companies are leading the way in moving adult smokers away from cigarettes – by taking action to transition millions towards potentially less harmful choices. Learn how at Altria.com.



DeSantis sues Biden over federal contractor vaccine mandate

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday sued the Biden administration over its COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal contractors, the latest in a series of GOP attacks on President Biden‘s pandemic response efforts.

The complaint, filed in federal district court in Tampa, calls the policy a “radical intrusion on the personal autonomy of American workers,” and seeks a preliminary nationwide injunction to block it from taking effect.

It names as defendants President Biden and a handful of federal agencies, including NASA, the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget. 

“It’s important for us to take a stand,” DeSantis said at a press conference. “Tossing people aside is just not something we can tolerate here in the state of Florida, so we are going to do everything we can.”

Deadline, but not a cliff: The policy is set to take effect Dec. 8. On Wednesday, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said the purpose of the mandates isn’t to punish people, and noted the deadlines for federal employees and contractors “are not cliffs.” He also indicated there will be levels of flexibility, and nobody will lose their jobs immediately: federal employers and contractors will be expected to educate, counsel and accommodate their unvaccinated workers to persuade them to receive the shot before terminating them.

Read more here.



  • Public health groups worry threats to local officials could escalate as US plans vaccine rollout for kids (CNN)

  • Biden vaccine rule will let employers make workers pay for tests (Bloomberg Law)

  • U.S. bets on Covid-19 boosters’ efficacy against a changing virus, as doses roll out (The Wall Street Journal)

  • World faces shortage of syringes as COVID vaccine doses rise (The Associated Press)



  • New York plans for shortages of police officers and firefighters as its vaccination deadline nears. (The New York Times)

  • As ‘test to stay’ gears up nationwide, Massachusetts’ ‘rocky’ rollout raises questions (Stat News)

  • New Mexico in ‘uncomfortable plateau’ with virus cases as state has higher infection rate (The Santa Fe New Mexican)



Tags Bernie Sanders Jeff Zients Joe Biden Kurt Schrader Kyrsten Sinema Nancy Pelosi Ron DeSantis Ron Wyden Scott Peters

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video