Health Care

Overnight Health Care: Senate takes up massive HHS spending bill next week | Companies see no sign of drugmakers cutting prices, despite Trump claims | Manchin hits opponent on ObamaCare lawsuit

Greg Nash

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we hope you have plans for a relaxing weekend in anticipation of a busy week ahead.


Heavy lifting in the Senate: The Senate is back in session for a full workweek starting Monday night. Lawmakers are poised to debate a massive appropriations package that will fund the departments of defense, education, labor and health.

It’s a big deal. The Senate hasn’t passed a standalone funding bill for labor, health or education since 2007. Every other time it’s been part of an omnibus.  


But it remains to be seen if the bill can be kept clean of poison pill amendments once it gets to the floor. Senate leaders want to avoid the types of riders on controversial issues that are typically added in the House; such as limitations on abortion and scrapping funding linked to the Affordable Care Act. Those amendments would effectively kill the bill.


The White House has taken issue with some parts of the bill, including its funding of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program created under former President Obama.

The program provides grants to organizations nationwide working to end teen pregnancy, but the administration argues there’s no evidence it’s been successful.

But even if the Senate does pass the funding bill, it will still need to be reconciled with whatever funding bill passes the House. That’s assuming House lawmakers can get one through.


Pharmacy benefit managers say they’ve received no commitment from drugmakers to lower prices, despite President Trump’s pledge.

Express Scripts, Humana, MedImpact, Optum RX and Prime Therapeutics all wrote in letters to Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) that they have not received commitments from drug manufacturers to lower drug prices.

Why it matters: In May, Trump said drugmakers were going to announce “voluntary” and “massive” price cuts. That hasn’t happened. A slew of companies have said they won’t increase prices for the rest of the year. But only one company — Merck — has said it will lower the costs of some drugs.

PBMs, which manage prescription drug benefits for insurers, said they haven’t received any commitment from drugmakers, either.

We explain here.


Coming up next week:

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Elizabeth Darling, who has been nominated to serve as commissioner on Children, Youth and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services. The hearing is on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 215.

Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, will testify before the Senate health committee on “prioritizing cures” on Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 430.


The Hill event:

Join us Wednesday, Sept. 12 for “A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition,” featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service Brandon Lipps. Editor in Chief Bob Cusack will sit down with the headliners to discuss maternal, infant, and early childhood nutrition, and what steps can be taken to establish healthier eating patterns across all communities. RSVP here.


Manchin hits opponent on ObamaCare lawsuit

A new ad from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) shows Democrats– particularly red state Democrats — continue to see health care as a winning issue for them.

In the ad released Friday, Manchin takes aim at West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for backing a lawsuit from conservative states that argues ObamaCare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional.

Morrisey signed onto the lawsuit along with 19 other attorneys general.

The lawsuit argues that since the GOP tax law eliminated the individual mandate penalty, the law’s rules that prohibit insurers from denying people health insurance or charging them higher rates should be found unconstitutional.

Morrisey’s campaign challenged the idea that he wants to get rid of protections for pre-existing conditions, even though the lawsuit explicitly calls for it.

“There is no debate over coverage for preexisting conditions,” Morrisey campaign spokesman Nathan Brand said in a statement. “Attorney General Morrisey believes all West Virginians deserve access to affordable and quality healthcare and that is why we must repeal and replace the disaster of Obamacare.”

Read more and view the ad here.


What we’re reading:

Escape from the Mayo Clinic: How CNN reported the story on an alleged case of “medical kidnapping” (CNN)

WHO expects more Ebola cases in Congo, can’t reach no-go areas (Reuters)

Trump’s new immigration rule court hurt ObamaCare markets (Governing)

Synthetic pot seen as a public health danger (AP)


State by state:

Texas Tightens disclosure rules following Medicaid investigation (NPR)

Social worker pleads guilty to felony Medicaid fraud (CBS Baltimore)

Health insurance rates to increase 4.2 percent next year (Boston Globe)

Tags Bobby Scott Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Joe Manchin Tina Smith

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