Overnight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter

Overnight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter
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Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

The House today passed a funding package that provides money for the Pentagon, as well as the departments of Education, Labor and Health and Human Services.

The package also includes more than $7 billion in disaster aid for victims of Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolinas and parts of Virginia earlier this month.

Meanwhile, we can expect to see lawmakers vote on a bill aimed at combating the opioid crisis soon. Let's start there... And if you don't' get our newsletter, CLICK HERE to subscribe.


Agreement reached on opioids bill

Last night, the House and Senate last night agreed to a sweeping legislative opioids package. Fighting the crisis has been an area of bipartisan cooperation this year amid many fierce partisan battles raging with more publicity.

The 660-page bill takes a wide variety of actions aimed at fighting the crisis:

  • It lifts some limits on Medicaid paying for care at treatment facilities, undoing part of a decades-old restriction that many lawmakers called outdated.
  • It cracks down on illicit opioids being imported through the mail from other countries, fueling the epidemic.
  • It encourages the development of nonaddictive painkillers as an alternative to opioids.

What isn't in it: In a major loss, the pharmaceutical industry failed despite an intense lobbying push to attach a provision to the bill that would ease their costs in Medicare. The change would have rolled back a provision from February's budget deal that raised drugmakers costs in Medicare's coverage gap, known as the donut hole.

Victory for drug pricing advocates: Drug pricing groups and patient advocates quickly declared victory, calling it a battle of "David vs. Goliath."

"Big Pharma lobbied aggressively –– and spent a lot of money –– in this brazen cash grab," said Ben Wakana, Executive Director of Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW. "But patients and their allies stood up and said 'enough.' And Congress listened."

Read more about the opioids bill here.


Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie on Wednesday vowed that there will be no "inappropriate" outside influence at the agency under his watch.

Wilkie told a Senate panel that he is unaware of any ongoing contact between VA officials and a trio of high profile men known as the "Mar-a-Lago Crowd" who were reportedly helping to shape agency policy.

"I met with them once for an hour in Palm Beach the first week I was acting. I've had no connection with them since then," Wilkie said in response to a question from Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySen. Murray says Washington behavior reminds her of former preschool students Senate rejects government-wide ban on abortion funding Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal MORE (D-Wash.) during a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing.

Read more here.


CDC: 80K people in U.S. died from flu last winter

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 80,000 people in the United States died of the flu and its complications last winter, the most in at least four decades, according to the Associated Press.

"I'd like to see more people get vaccinated," CDC Director Robert Redfield told the AP in an interview. "We lost 80,000 people last year to the flu."

The AP reports that in recent years the flu death total has been between 12,000 and 56,000.

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 CarterFor George and Barbara Bush, White House staff became family Congress must protect eye care patients from frightful prescriptions Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' MORE (R-Ga.), Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyMnuchin meets with Senate GOP to shore up ranks on Russia sanctions vote Trump on declaring national emergency: 'Not going to do it so fast' Acosta mocked for border reporting: 'Exactly – walls work!' MORE, M.D. (R-La.) and Rep. Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiPelosi allies push back on proposed Speaker nominee rule change Congress must protect eye care patients from frightful prescriptions The bipartisan PACT Act would ensure access to life-saving bone marrow transplants for Medicare beneficiaries 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:

Taken for a ride: After ATV crash, doctor gets $56,603 bill for air ambulance trip (NPR)

The end of HIV transmission in the U.S.: A once-unthinkable goal up for discussion (STAT)


State by state

As federal Medicaid funding declines, states mull costs (Associated Press)

Medicaid expansion legal battle to continue in Portland on Thursday (Maine Public Radio)

For Gavin Newsom, a stealth run for California governor (New York Times)


From The Hill's opinion page:

America's opioid epidemic demands a long-term solution