Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts

Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts
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Remember the Tom Price private jet scandal? It seems so long ago. But the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general's office is now out with its findings...Let's dive in.


Watchdog finds Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceGOP on timing of Haley’s announcement: 'Unusual' and 'odd' Watchdog calls for investigation into Haley flights White House officials discussing potential replacements for FEMA chief: report MORE improperly used federal funds on private flights

The report took Price's travel to task. Here are some of the big findings:

  • Price's travel resulted in $341,000 in wasted taxpayer dollars
  • 20 of 21 flights examined did not comply with federal regulations
  • HHS did not compare the cost of flying on commercial airlines before booking private jets

Price's response points to staff: A spokesman for Price, Nicholas Peters, said "the report addresses overall functions of Department staff charged with administering travel."


"There is no indication in the IG report that the paperwork and regulatory issues of Department staff were anything other than good faith mistakes," he added.

The current HHS chief wants you to know things have changed: Current HHS Secretary Alex Azar has flown commercial for all of his official travel, except for three instances which were at the request of the White House, HHS said. He has paid personally for travel to his home in Indiana, HHS added.

Read more here.


Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen

Democrats are accusing a major pharmaceutical company of trying to influence the Trump administration's plan to lower drug prices.

Emails obtained by Democrats and publicly released Friday show that Novartis sent Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE, a list of proposals to lower drug prices.

Several of those proposals later appeared in the administration's "blue print" to lower drug prices.

In an email dated June 5, 2017, ex-Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez sent Cohen an email with a document attached called "drug pricing initiatives."

"Based on our conversation last week, I am forwarding you some ideas to lower drug costs in the US," Jimenez wrote.

Cohen responded a few hours later: "Received and I will forward to you their suggestions."

Read more here.


HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts

The saga over controversial HHS social media posts just won't end.

Two Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials are departing the agency after being forced out following incendiary social media posts, Politico reported Friday.

The officials are Tim Clark, the HHS's White House liaison, and Gavin Smith, a policy adviser, according to the outlet.

Clark is resigning while Smith was fired and escorted from the building this week.


Not the first time this has been a problem. In May, the agency reassigned Ximena Barreto, a deputy communications director who had worked on Trump's campaign, after it was found that she had helped promote the "PizzaGate" conspiracy theory that a pedophilia ring was being run out of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.

Read more here.


What's happening next week:

Monday: Watch for a flood of comments on President Trump's drug pricing plan, as Monday is the deadline for submissions.

11:30 a.m. Pew Charitable Trusts will hold an event with Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsConservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns Susan Collins and the mob mentality MORE (R-Maine) on drug pricing.

Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Longworth House Office Building, the Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on fraud in Medicare.

2 p.m. The same committee will hold another hearing on modernizing the Stark Law to "ensure successful transition from volume to value" in Medicare.

10 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 430, the Senate health committee will hold a hearing on health care spending.

Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2123, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on the 21st Century Cures Act's implementation of mental health initiatives.


Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.7B in ovarian cancer suit

Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $4.7 billion to 22 women who claimed the company's baby powder caused ovarian cancer.

It's the largest ever verdict again Johnson & Johnson.

The women claimed their ovarian cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos allegedly found in the baby powder.

The verdict was reached by a St. Louis jury Thursday evening after eight hours of deliberations.

The plaintiff's lawyers said asbestos fibers were found in the ovarian tissues of many of the women and introduced evidence that explained how asbestos is intermingled with the mineral talc -- the primary ingredient in Johnson's "Baby Powder" and "Shower to Shower" products.

The microscopic asbestos fibers enter the body when talcum powder is inhaled or applied to the genital area, medical experts said during the trial.

Read more here.


What we're reading

"Medicare-for-all" means something. Don't let moderates water it down. (Vox.com)

Supreme Court could return abortion debate to the states (Associated Press)

As in Maine, Republican candidates across the country struggle with Medicaid (The Washington Post)


State by state

ObamaCare: Lower ACA premiums, more options likely for Tennesseans in 2019 (Knoxville News Sentinel)

Oklahoma Medicaid approved for drug pricing experiment (Associated Press)