Overnight Health Care: Drug price fight heats up | Skepticism over drug companies' pledges | Ads target HHS secretary over child separations | Senate confirms VA pick

Overnight Health Care: Drug price fight heats up | Skepticism over drug companies' pledges | Ads target HHS secretary over child separations | Senate confirms VA pick
© Getty Images

Welcome to the soggy Monday edition of Overnight Health Care.  This is the last week the House is in session before the August recess, and they'll be voting on a few health care bills, including a repeal of the medical device tax. Over in the Senate, lawmakers voted to confirm Robert Wilkie as the new Veterans Affairs Secretary. 

Also in today's newsletter: A liberal group that focuses on reproductive rights is launching an attack over family separations, and in the drug pricing world, experts, and a new poll, are questioning the effectiveness of Trump's newest policy moves.


Poll: Majority think Trump's drug plan won't lower prices they pay

Despite the chatter in the health-care world around President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE's drug pricing plan, the public is skeptical that their prices will be coming down anytime soon.

A new poll from Politico and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that 57 percent of adults think the plan will make "no difference" in the prices they pay for drugs, while 22 percent said they would pay less and 13 percent said they thought they would pay more.


Not a huge amount of awareness: Just 27 percent of adults said they had heard or read about Trump's drug pricing plan, though, the poll finds.

Still, key elements of the plan received favorable ratings in the poll, such as requiring TV ads for drugs to disclose their prices, which 63 percent of adults said they favor.

The poll comes as the administration has been trying to step up its actions on drug pricing, frustrated by media coverage that questions how much is actually happening.

As a refresher, here are some recent steps:

  • The FDA is forming a working group to explore the idea of allowing importation of drugs to increase competition and address price spikes on old, off-patent drugs. (This could be one of the most consequential actions, but only affects a narrow segment of drugs, not new drugs).
  • A notice was posted of a new regulation possibly banning rebates and simplifying the pricing system.

Read about the poll here.


Also on drug pricing, experts question how much pledges from drug companies actually matter:

Last week, we saw several pledges from drug companies to hold off on raising prices or in some cases lower them, but experts say the moves might not be much more than PR.

Key quotes:

  • Rachel Sachs, a drug pricing policy expert and associate professor of law at Washington University: "The president in May promised there would be massive, voluntary price decreases in a couple of weeks, and we haven't seen those... All we've seen so far is a couple of companies choosing to delay planned price increases, which is unlikely to have much of an impact on patients or on prices more generally."
  • Ian Spatz, a former Merck lobbyist and current senior adviser at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, a health-care consulting firm in D.C: "It's clearly a time when there's a lot of scrutiny on drug companies and pricing decisions. It makes sense that each company is thinking about the potential public relations and political implications of price increases."

Read more here.


Liberal group launches ads targeting HHS secretary over child separations:

A reproductive rights group is launching an ad campaign targeting Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar for his role in enforcing the Trump administration's policy of family separations at the country's southern border.

Equity Forward said it spent more than $1 million on a television ad in the Washington, D.C., metro area, encouraging people to call Congress and tell lawmakers to hold Azar and the administration accountable for the separation policy.

What the ad says: The ad opens with audio of detained children crying, and juxtaposes it with an interview Azar gave to CNN earlier this month where he said: "It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids who are smuggled into our country or come across illegally."

A voiceover then says: "Generosity? No Secretary Azar, this is a disgrace."

Why it's important: The fact that a reproductive rights group is getting involved in the migrant children crisis, especially in the middle of a Supreme Court fight, shows a major escalation in Democratic priorities of for the midterms. Democrats are trying to make Azar the face of the administration's confusing retreat from the divisive policy, and they're hoping the public will make the same connection.

You can view the ad here and read more about the campaign here.


On the topic of family separations, ICYMI from Friday:

A federal judge, who has criticized the Trump administration's tardiness in reuniting families separated at the border, offered praise during a status hearing after the administration said 450 children between the ages of 5 and 17 were reunited with their parents.

"The reunifications are happening very rapidly, which is good. A big block will be reunified in a timely manner," U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said. "It really does appear there's been great progress."

But even with the progress, the administration must still work to reunite 1,150 children with their parents just days before a court-mandated deadline. And as of Friday, there were 37 children whose parents were "unaccounted for" and could not be identified.

The next status update is Tuesday. The deadline for reuniting the children is Thursday.

Read about Friday's proceedings here.


Senate confirms VA pick:

The Senate easily cleared President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday.

Senators voted 86-9 on Robert Wilkie's nomination to be the VA secretary.

The nine "no" votes make Wilkie the first VA secretary to have senators vote against their nomination since the post was elevated to a cabinet-level position in 1989.

Who voted no? Democratic Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSanders endorses Oakland teachers strike The Hill's 12:30 Report: Anticipation builds for Mueller report Why Georgia is the place for black migration and politics MORE (N.J.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Feinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Anticipation builds for Mueller report Kamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOvernight Energy: Natural gas export project gets green light | Ocasio-Cortez says climate fight needs to address farming | Top EPA enforcement official to testify Sanders endorses Oakland teachers strike News media has sought to 'delegitimize' Tulsi Gabbard, says liberal journalist MORE (Calif.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Overnight Energy: Natural gas export project gets green light | Ocasio-Cortez says climate fight needs to address farming | Top EPA enforcement official to testify Ocasio-Cortez explains ‘farting cows’ comment: ‘We’ve got to address factory farming’ MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDems face tough vote on Green New Deal GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The border deal: What made it in, what got left out MORE (Ore.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders endorses Oakland teachers strike On The Money: Dems set Tuesday vote on Trump's emergency declaration | Most Republicans expected to back Trump | Senate plots to avoid fall shutdown drama | Powell heading before Congress News media has sought to 'delegitimize' Tulsi Gabbard, says liberal journalist MORE (Mass.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules | Chamber launching ad blitz against Trump drug plan | Google offers help to dispose of opioids Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules after 18,000 lose coverage in Arkansas Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes MORE (Ore.) and Independent Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders endorses Oakland teachers strike Dem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 News media has sought to 'delegitimize' Tulsi Gabbard, says liberal journalist MORE (Vt.) voted against the nomination.

Flashback: Wilkie's confirmation gives the VA its first Senate-confirmed secretary since Trump fired David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? It’s time to end the scare tactics and get to work for our veterans House Democrats open investigation of Trump associates' influence at VA MORE in March amid months of controversy over allegations of misusing taypayer funds. Trump tapped White House physician Ronny Jackson to be his successor. But Jackson withdrew his nomination in April amid a firestorm of accusations of professional misconduct

Jordain Carney has more on the vote here.


Tomorrow: Groups march on HHS to protest family planning changes:

Democrats will be protesting tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. outside HHS against the Trump administration's proposed changes to the Title X family planning program, which they say will harmfully restrict the ability for doctors to give patients information about abortions.

Speakers include: Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayJohnson & Johnson subpoenaed by DOJ and SEC, company says Top Dems blast administration's proposed ObamaCare changes Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment MORE (D-Wash.), and Reps. Judy ChuJudy May ChuDems introduce bill to take gender-specific terms out of tax code to make it LGBT-inclusive Dems build case for obtaining Trump's tax returns Schumer hits back at Trump: ‘He’s hostage-taking once again’ MORE (D-Calif.), Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Trump, Dems open drug price talks | FDA warns against infusing young people's blood | Facebook under scrutiny over health data | Harris says Medicare for all isn't socialism Hillicon Valley: Kremlin seeks more control over Russian internet | Huawei CEO denies links to Chinese government | Facebook accused of exposing health data | Harris calls for paper ballots | Twitter updates ad rules ahead of EU election Patients, health data experts accuse Facebook of exposing personal info MORE (D-Ill.) and Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelDems call on Trump to fire Acosta Lawmakers wear white to State of the Union to show solidarity with women Trump will give State of Union to sea of opponents MORE (D-Fla.).


What we're reading

Yale law professor Abbe Gluck looks at Judge Kavanaugh's potential impact on health care (Vox.com)

Pence's anti-abortion law could upend Roe v. Wade (Politico)

Trump's Medicaid work rules hit states with costs and bureaucracy (Forbes)


State by state

Funding for Obamacare navigators in Florida cut by 81 percent (WUSF)

Is there renewed hope for Medicaid expansion in Missouri? (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Massachusetts passes repeal of 173-year-old abortion ban amid fears for future of Roe v. Wade (Time.com)

N.J. Republican who tried to kill ObamaCare faces heat for claiming his plan wouldn't hurt patients (Nj.com)