Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens

Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care. Senators who spent the day answering questions on Brett Kavanaugh will get some relief the rest of this week. After passing the "minibus" $854 billion spending bill, which includes funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Senate announced no more votes until next week.

The Kavanaugh controversy is consuming Washington, but there's plenty of health care news as well. And if you don't receive it, CLICK HERE to subscribe to our newsletter.

Bipartisan senators unveil measure to crack down on surprise medical bills.

There is at least some bipartisanship going on in the Senate, on a problem that doesn't always get a lot of attention.


A bipartisan group is unveiling a draft measure to crack down on surprise medical bills, which they say have plagued patients with massive unexpected charges for care.


What does it do?

  • Prevent a health care provider that is outside of a patient's insurance network from charging additional costs for emergency services to patients beyond the amount usually allowed under their insurance plan.
  • Require health care providers to give written notification to patients who receive emergency care at an out-of-network facility before they receive any follow-up nonemergency care.
  • Patients also could not be charged more for care from out-of-network doctors at an in-network hospital (for example, an anesthesiologist).


Why is it needed? The lawmakers point to examples like one that received a flood of national attention last month, when NPR and Kaiser Health News reported on a high school teacher who was charged $109,000 by the hospital that cared for his heart attack, even after his insurance had already paid $56,000.


It's not a group of senators you see together every day: Sens. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyAmerica's newest comedy troupe: House GOP EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall MORE (R-La.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTo stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D-Del.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess MORE (R-Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Mo.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetWilliamson: Climate change result of an 'amoral' economic system Bennet: 'This generation has a lot to be really angry at us about' Democrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' MORE (D-Colo.) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices MORE (R-Iowa).


Timeline: Cassidy said lawmakers will work to refine the bill before pushing for consideration of it at the beginning of the next Congress, in January.

Read more here.

Read the bill text here.


New ads pressure lawmakers against easing costs on drug companies.

Drug pricing advocates are trying to stop one of Pharma's top priorities from getting through Congress with new ads.

The ads from Patients for Affordable Drugs Now seek to counteract an aggressive lobbying push by drug companies to undo a change from February that shifted billions of dollars in new costs onto them.

"Big Pharma's trying to cut a backroom deal in Washington, forcing seniors to pay more, so drug companies can make more," the ad states. "If they get away with it, it'll mean a $4 billion windfall for them, and even higher drug prices for you."


What's the provision? At issue is a change Congress made in February as part of a budget deal that shifted more costs in a gap in Medicare coverage known as the "donut hole" onto drug companies.

Ever since, drug companies have been scrambling to undo the change.


What could be in the deal: As part of the dealmaking, one possibility is that a measure aimed at lowering drug prices, known as the Creates Act, could be included as something of a trade in exchange for easing the burden on drug companies from the February provision.

Read more here.

Watch the ad here.


A bipartisan group of senators want Congress' final opioids package to lift a decades-old restriction on Medicaid funding for substance abuse treatment.

Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCost for last three government shutdowns estimated at billion The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Ohio), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate confirms two Treasury nominees over Democratic objections Congress passes bill to begin scenic byways renaissance GOP lawmaker: 'Dangerous' abuse of Interpol by Russia, China, Venezuela MORE (D-Md.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinA national interest rate cap would harm consumers in the name of consumers Senate committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE (D-Ill.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Hillicon Valley: Google to promote original reporting | Senators demand answers from Amazon on worker treatment | Lawmakers weigh response to ransomware attacks Senate Democrats want answers on 'dangerous' Amazon delivery system MORE (D-Ohio) introduced a proposal Tuesday to allow states to use Medicaid money to pay for coverage at addiction treatment facilities for people with diagnosed substance use disorders for up to 90 consecutive days -- something prohibited under federal Medicaid law.

"This new legislation represents a thoughtful, bipartisan solution that will expand access to treatment while targeting the cost, and we will push for its inclusion in the final House-Senate opioid package," Portman said in a statement.


Why it matters: Current law bans the use of Medicaid funds for inpatient treatment centers with more than 16 beds. This was passed as part of Medicaid in 1965 and aimed at preventing the warehousing of mentally ill people in large institutions. But advocates say the restrictions are now outdated because of changes in how people with substance use disorders are treated.


What's next: A partial repeal of the restriction was included in the House-passed opioids package, but now in the Senate's. Now Portman is pushing for his proposal to be included in the final bill that comes out of the conference between the two houses.

Read more here.


FDA launches teen anti-vaping ad campaign.

The Food and Drug Administration is launching a new advertising campaign aimed at educating teenagers about the dangers of vaping.

The "Real Cost" campaign will target nearly 10.7 million middle and high schoolers ages 12-17 by placing ads in school bathrooms and on social media and educational platforms frequented by teens.

It comes as the FDA is in the middle of a major crackdown on e-cigarette sales to minors.

FDA said the campaign is a nearly $60 million effort funded by user fees collected from the tobacco industry, not by taxpayer dollars.

The "hard-hitting" advertising, which will detail the dangerous chemicals that e-cigarettes can contain, will appear on sites including YouTube, Pandora and Instagram.

The new campaign aims to educate young people that using e-cigarettes, just like cigarettes, puts them at risk for addiction and other health consequences.

Read more on the new campaign here.


Senate eyes better transparency over health costs.

Lawmakers heard from health industry officials on efforts to increase transparency in pricing and care quality during a Tuesday hearing before the Senate health committee, The Hill's James Wellemeyer reports.

Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns MORE (R-Tenn.) highlighted a case where a patient paid $3,500 for tests in a hospital when a nearby doctor could have run them for $500.

The four witnesses before the committee echoed Alexander and discussed how the lack of transparency in health care raised costs.

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTo boost minority serving institutions, bipartisan Future Act needs immediate action Cruz to oppose Trump appeals court pick The Hill's Morning Report — The wall problem confronting Dems and the latest on Dorian MORE (R-S.C.) said that "when people have the tools they need to shop around for care, consumers and employers could save 50 percent" on health care. But Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Buttigieg calls Warren 'evasive' on Medicare for all Sanders hits 1 million donors MORE (D-Mass.) questioned whether more transparency on costs alone was enough.

"When a health plan has all the power over whether or not you can get quality care, information on the price and transparency alone are not going to solve the problem," the progressive senator said.


What we're reading

Behind your rising health-care bills: Secret hospital deals that squelch competition (The Wall Street Journal)

The health dangers don't stop with a hurricane's churning. They can get worse. (The Washington Post)

AbbVie accused of paying kickbacks, using a stealthy network to promote Humira (STAT)


State by state

ObamaCare insurers dramatically lower rates in Maryland after state props up marketplace (Washington Examiner)

Connecticut psychologist charged with defrauding Medicaid $79,000 (Associated Press)

Judge to consider suspending Idaho's abortion reporting law (Associated Press)