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 CassidyUN Security Council to meet after Turkey launches Syria offensive Trump faces growing GOP revolt on Syria To win the federal paid family leave debate, allow states to lead the way MORE (R-La.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Liz Cheney applauds Trump for pulling out of Paris climate agreement MORE (D-Del.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungTester: Our forefathers would not have tolerated Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Erdoğan at White House | Says Turkish leader has 'great relationship with the Kurds' | Highlights from first public impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMSNBC's McCaskill: Trump used 'his fat thumbs' to try to intimidate Yovanovitch GOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' Iranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts MORE (D-Mo.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetFox News anchor apologizes for saying Booker dropped out of 2020 race Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president New poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa MORE (D-Colo.) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate aides met with tax return whistleblower: report Booker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse 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 PortmanWhy Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump GOP lawmakers fear Trump becoming too consumed by impeachment fight MORE (R-Ohio), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOvernight Health Care: Democratic gains mark setback for Trump on Medicaid work requirements | Senate Dems give Warren 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder | Judge strikes Trump rule on health care 'conscience' rights Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Former NAACP president to run for Cummings's House seat MORE (D-Md.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Democratic senators introduce bill to push ICE to stop 'overuse' of solitary confinement Pentagon watchdog declines to investigate hold on Ukraine aid MORE (D-Ill.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Senate Democrats unveil priorities for federal privacy bill On The Money: Trump asks Supreme Court to block Dem subpoena for financial records | Kudlow 'very optimistic' for new NAFTA deal | House passes Ex-Im Bank bill opposed by Trump, McConnell 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 AlexanderFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Pelosi aide hopeful White House will support drug-pricing bill despite criticism Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies 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 ScottOn The Money: Appeals court clears way for Congress to seek Trump financial records | Fed chief urges Congress to boost US workforce | Federal deficit hits 4 billion in one month | China talks hit snag over agricultural purchases GOP senator blasts Dem bills on 'opportunity zones' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight 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 WarrenRahm Emanuel: Bloomberg, Patrick entering race will allow Democrats to have 'ideas primary' Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Jayapal hits back at Biden on marijuana 'prohibition' 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)