Overnight Health Care —Sponsored by PCMA — Spotlight on Trump drug pricing plan

Overnight Health Care —Sponsored by PCMA — Spotlight on Trump drug pricing plan
© Greg Nash

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


Washington, D.C. will be consumed with Capitals fever tomorrow as the team takes their victory parade through the city. Get ready for it. It's the first championship in the team's history, so people have been waiting a long time. Some insurers might call this a pre-existing condition.


Also tomorrow on Capitol Hill...


Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar appears before Congress Tuesday for the first time on the administration's proposed plan to lower drug prices.

What to watch for: Democrats haven't been happy with the proposal. Expect questions about President TrumpDonald John TrumpComey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Congress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama New York man accused of making death threats against Schumer, Schiff MORE's campaign promise to allow the government to negotiate drug prices directly with drug companies, which was not included in the proposal. Expect Democrats to also ask why the plan doesn't do anything to reduce the profits of drug companies and CEO pay.

The administration rolled out its blueprint to lower drug prices early last month. Here's a recap of what it would do, though the plan is still a little light on details:

  • Require drug companies to disclose their prices in television ads.
  • Crack down on delay tactics drug companies use to prevent cheaper generic drugs from reaching the market.
  • Pressure other countries to raise their prices for prescription drugs. The administration argues high drug prices in the U.S. are subsidizing innovation that benefits other countries.
  • "Work" to give Medicare Part D plan sponsors more negotiation power with drug makers.
  • Prohibit "gag clauses" in Part D contracts that prevent pharmacists from informing patients when they could save money by paying for their prescriptions with cash instead of insurance.

Don't forget: Azar will also be asked about the administration's decision not to defend ObamaCare in court, with the Department of Justice last week filing a brief arguing that the law's pre-existing conditions protections are now unconstitutional. He could also be asked about Medicaid work requirements, proposed changes to the Title X Family Planning Program and the opioid crisis.




Sponsored content - Pharmaceutical Care Management Association

Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are hired by employers, unions, and government programs to negotiate aggressive discounts from drug companies and drugstores. Learn how PBMs are part of the solution to reducing Rx costs at DrugBenefitSolutions.com.



Trump officials meeting with drug companies to seek voluntary price cuts

One way for the administration to tout some immediate benefits of President Trump's drug pricing plan? Get companies to announce they are cutting prices on their own. 

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials have been meeting with pharmaceutical companies to seek voluntary cuts in drug prices, according to sources familiar with the meetings.

The advantage: Voluntary moves would happen much faster than waiting for any regulatory actions to take effect.

The catch: It's not clear yet whether any drug companies have actually agreed to cut their prices voluntarily. And any voluntary actions could be more minor than the more sweeping changes that government could impose. 

Keep watching: Trump said at the end of May that "in two weeks" drug companies would "announce voluntary massive drops in prices."

Officials have not provided any more details on what he meant with those remarks. The two-week mark is coming up this week.

Read more here



GOP on the attack on single payer in California

The GOP thinks it has an effective rebuttal to Democratic attacks on repealing ObamaCare or rising premiums: support for single payer.

At least 5 of 7 Democrats in battleground House races in California support single payer, which Republicans are looking to use against them.

Key quote from GOP: "The anger of the Democratic base against the president is pushing the party aggressively leftward," said Michael Steel, a Republican strategist and former aide to Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Lobbying world Pelosi-Trump relationship takes turn for the terrible MORE (R-Ohio). "That's going to leave them with a lot of candidates who aren't a good fit for their districts."

Dems' defense: "The status quo in our health-care system is broken and people know," said Katie Porter, a Democrat who supports single payer running against Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.). "Washington does not need more can't-do Democrats."

We have more on the fight here.




CMS released guidance for states early Monday, focused on how they could leverage Medicaid to combat the opioid epidemic.

Specifically, it focuses on two items:

  • Information related to covering services for infants born exposed to opioids
  • How to enhance federal funding for telemedicine and programs that keep tabs on patients' prescriptions.

Key quote: "The number of American infants born dependent on opioids each day is heartbreaking," Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said in a press release.

"Today's announcement reflects the Trump Administration and HHS's commitment to helping states use Medicaid to support treatment for this condition and other challenges produced by our country's crisis of opioid addiction."

Read more here.



Also on the opioid front:

  • The House begins voting on a slate of opioid bills this week.
  • On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will vote on the Helping to End Addiction and Lessen (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act.


The suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have highlighted a growing health issue in the U.S.

"These prominent deaths remind us that [suicide] is the 10th leading cause of death in America," said Dr. Jerry Reed, a national suicide prevention expert and executive committee member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

In reality, he said "this happens every day to people all across the country. It's a reminder we have a long way to go."

The troubling numbers:

  • Suicide rates have increased in 49 states since 1999, with half of those seeing an increase of 30 percent, according to a report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • 45,000 people died from suicide in 2016, but suicide prevention experts argue it still doesn't get as much attention as other public health issues, like the opioid epidemic.
  • The CDC also noted that more than half of the people who died from suicide during its study period did not have any known mental health issues (though some people could have been undiagnosed.) Relationship problems, a traumatic event, physical health problems and substance use disorders are all factors that can contribute to suicide among those with and without known mental health conditions, the CDC said.

Read more here.



Sponsored content - Pharmaceutical Care Management Association

The Congressional Budget Office’s $43 billion score of point-of-sale rebates in Medicare Part D is the latest in a series of official estimates showing this mandate would increase costs for the government and taxpayers. This score strikes another blow to the drugmakers’ multi-million dollar campaign to shift blame for their own prices onto the health plans and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that negotiate discounts and rebates to reduce costs.



In brief:

Physician groups, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and others, want the DOJ to reconsider its decision not to defend ObamaCare's pre-existing condition protection. Their statement.


What we're reading

Fed up with rising costs, big US firms dig into health care (Reuters)

ObamaCare used to be political poison for Democrats. Not anymore. (Los Angeles Times)

CRISPR-edited cells might cause cancer, finds two studies (STAT)


State by state

California's Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCalifornia delivers swift suit after Trump orders water diversion States sue Trump administration at record pace California has a privacy law, but will companies comply? MORE vows to defend Affordable Care Act (Kaiser Health News)

Ohio cancels $1.1 billion Medicaid cut to hospitals (cleveland.com)

Nursing homes sue to halt Montana Medicaid cuts (Associated Press)


From The Hill's opinion page:

Physician-assisted suicide is not the answer for doctors or patients