Overnight Health Care: Bill banning 'gag clauses' on drugs heads to Trump's desk | Romney opposes Utah Medicaid expansion | GOP candidate under fire over ad on pre-existing conditions

Overnight Health Care: Bill banning 'gag clauses' on drugs heads to Trump's desk | Romney opposes Utah Medicaid expansion | GOP candidate under fire over ad on pre-existing conditions
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Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.

The House is preparing to wrap up votes this week, including legislation to fund the government through early December, and then recess until after the election. Meanwhile, the Senate could stay through the weekend to run out the procedural clock on Brett Kavanaugh.

In the health world, the House today took some small steps forward on President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE's drug pricing blueprint.


The chamber also approved a bill on emergency pandemic preparedness. The bill provides for the Health and Human Services assistant secretary for preparedness and response (ASPR) to stockpile medicines, respond to disasters or biologic threats and support new drugs to fight pandemic threats like influenza.

Lawmakers in both parties and chambers are also closing in on a final deal on an opioids bill, which could be released as soon as tonight.

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The House passed two bills banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts, and now it heads to President Trump's desk.

The bills ban prescription drug middlemen from preventing pharmacies from telling customers they can save money on a drug if they pay with cash instead of insurance.

Pharmacy benefit managers sometimes include these clauses in contracts with pharmacies. The two bills passed on Tuesday ban the use of these clauses in private and public health plans.

"We offer patients more transparency into the costs of their vital medications and pave the way for pharmacists to freely and responsibly advise their customers on alternative payment methods," Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOutdated safe harbor laws have no place in trade agreements Trump officials propose easing privacy rules to improve addiction treatment Lawmakers call on Trump to keep tech legal shield out of trade talks MORE (R-Ore.) and health subcommittee Chairman Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessTrump officials propose easing privacy rules to improve addiction treatment House approves bill raising minimum wage to per hour The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-Texas) said in a statement.

The bills now head to Trump's desk, and he's likely to sign them. Similar proposals were included in his blueprint to lower drug prices. 


Groups urge lawmakers not to include change urged by drug companies

The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing is making one last effort in a letter to pressure Congress not to include a top priority of pharmaceutical companies in the opioid bill currently being finalized. 

Drug companies are pushing to undo a change from February's budget deal that shifted more costs onto them in Medicare's coverage gap, known as the "donut hole."

The move has drawn fierce resistance from drug pricing groups. "We urge you to stand with Medicare beneficiaries and taxpayers to resist any attempts from the pharmaceutical industry to undo these critical reforms," the letter, which is also signed by groups like AARP and America's Health Insurance Plans, states. 


GOP Senate candidate says he supports pre-existing conditions while backing lawsuit to end them.

Missouri GOP Senate candidate Josh Hawley is taking some heat for saying he supports pre-existing condition protections. Why? He's part of a lawsuit against ObamaCare that would end those protections.

Hawley, Missouri's attorney general, who is running against vulnerable incumbent Sen. 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), said in the ad released Monday that his oldest son has a rare chronic disease -- a pre-existing condition, he notes.

"I support forcing insurance companies to cover all pre-existing conditions, and Claire McCaskill knows it," Hawley says in the ad.

"You deserve a senator who's driven to fix this mess. Not one just trying to hang on to her office." 

But the catch: Hawley is part of a coalition of 20 Republican attorneys general suing to overturn ObamaCare.

"He sues to wipe out the protection then 'goes to camera' to say he doesn't mean it," McCaskill tweeted.

"He knows there are zero protections for pre-existing conditions if his lawsuit is successful."

Hawley response: "Here's what nerve is. Holding patients w/ preexisting conditions hostage to Obamacare because you care more about liberal politics than patients' health," Hawley tweeted.

"Cross the aisle, Senator. Do what you said you would do. WORK for the people of Missouri."

Note: Hawley hasn't laid out any policy alternatives to ObamaCare that would force insurers to cover preexisting conditions.

Read more here.


Romney opposes Utah's Medicaid expansion ballot measure.

Medicaid expansion is on the ballot in Utah this November, but Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney: 'Putin and Kim Jong Un deserve a censure rather than flattery' A US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE, running for Senate there, isn't having it.

Romney said he supports the state's efforts to partially expand Medicaid, but does not think a full expansion will be viable.

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Romney praised the state's partial approach, which would use federal money to expand coverage to people earning up to 100 percent of the poverty level. It would also institute a work requirement.

"Medicaid expansion is a very complex issue," Romney told the newspaper. "It requires extensive research and analysis and I think is generally done best by elected representatives of the people."

Romney said he thinks the state's plan is better than the ballot measure.

"What the state has arrived at is a better way," Romney said.

Is it 2012 again? Democratic group Protect Our Care sent out an email about the news with the subject line: "Yes, Mitt (47%) Romney, The People Understand The Benefits of Medicaid Expansion Just Fine"

Flashback part 2: Liberal groups have also been quick to point out that RomneyCare, which was passed while he was governor of Massachusetts, was the inspiration for ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion. The expansion has been largely funded by federal dollars since it first started almost a dozen years ago.  

Read more here.


GOP ad uses shark to hit Dem on 'government takeover' of health care.

House Republicans' campaign arm is launching a new ad using an image of a shark to attack a Democratic candidate over government-run health care.

The ad targets Democrat Elaine Luria, who is running against Rep. Scott TaylorScott William TaylorFormer GOP rep launches Senate campaign in Virginia Virginia special prosecutor indicts former GOP campaign staffer The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE (R) in a tight House race in eastern Virginia, and warns of "danger lurking in the race for Congress."

Over an image of a shark fin poking out of the water, the ad states: "Stealth candidate Elaine Luria has quietly promised something radical and dangerous. Luria backs a gateway to a government takeover of health care."

The catch: Luria does not support Medicare for all. But she does support a public option where people as young as 50 could get Medicare coverage.

The Republican ad deals with Luria's lack of support for Medicare for all by saying she supports a "gateway" to a government takeover of health care.

Read more here.


Trump administration terminates contract with fetal tissue firm after opposition from anti-abortion groups.

The Trump administration has ended a contract with a fetal tissue firm after receiving blowback from anti-abortion groups and Republican lawmakers.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) canceled the $16,000 contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources because it was not "sufficiently assured" that the contract included appropriate protections and followed requirements for fetal tissue research, the agency said in a statement Monday evening.

HHS is also conducting an audit of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to "ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations," the statement says.

But anti-abortion groups are still dissatisfied. "Secretary Azar must put an immediate moratorium on funding for research using aborted baby organs and tissue purchased from the abortion industry," said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. "Further, Secretary Azar should instead devote tax dollars to ethical alternatives that – unlike experimentation on fetal tissue – produce successful therapies for patients. Canceling a single contract and conducting a review is a small step forward, but overall is completely inadequate."

Read more here.


The Hill Event

Join us Thursday, Sept. 27, for "Evolution of Telehealth: Patient Awareness and Education," featuring Rep. Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterCongress needs to continue fighting the opioid epidemic Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Federal board votes to rename Georgia's 'Runaway Negro Creek' to 'Freedom Creek' MORE (R-Ga.), Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyBottom Line I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Washington takes historic step forward on paid parental leave MORE, M.D. (R-La.) and Rep. Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiLawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Lobbying World House bill would make World Cup funds contingent on equal pay MORE (D-Calif.)Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack will sit down with our speakers to discuss the growth of telemedicine, and how policymakers in Washington are responding to the shifting delivery of medical care. RSVP Here.


What we're reading

Insulin prices could be much lower and drug makers would make healthy profits (STAT)

5 things to know about Trump's new 'public charge' immigration proposal (Kaiser Health News
Analyzing new bipartisan federal legislation limiting surprise medical bills (Health Affairs)

Taken for a ride: Doctor injured in ATV crash gets $56,603 bill for air ambulance trip (NPR)


State by state

A GOP Senate candidate highlights his drug industry career. Should he? (New York Times)

Rural Trump voters hurt most when states don't expand Medicaid (The Washington Post)