Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Democrats, McConnell spar over entitlements | Minnesota AG sues drugmakers over insulin price hikes | CDC investigates polio-like illness

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Democrats, McConnell spar over entitlements | Minnesota AG sues drugmakers over insulin price hikes | CDC investigates polio-like illness
© Stefani Reynolds

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Overnight Health Care.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Former House Republican: Trump will lose the presidency if he backs away from border security Pence quotes MLK in pitch for Trump's immigration proposal MORE (R-Ky.) gave an interview to Bloomberg today, and made some remarks that have Democrats fired up. In Minnesota, the attorney general is suing drug companies over insulin prices, and the CDC is investigating cases of a polio-like illness across the country. We'll start with McConnell's interview:


Democrats seize on McConnell comments.

In an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday, McConnell blamed "bipartisan reluctance" to tackle spending cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, for the rising federal deficit.

"It's disappointing, but it's not a Republican problem," McConnell said. "It's a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future."

Democratic lawmakers and activists said McConnell's comments are an indication of what Republicans want to do next year. Many pointed out that McConnell championed the GOP tax law, which added more than $1 trillion to the federal debt.


Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDemocrats signal they'll reject Trump shutdown proposal Trump expected to pitch immigration deal to end funding stalemate Dem senators debate whether to retweet Cardi B video criticizing Trump over shutdown MORE (D-Hawaii):


Former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau: 


McConnell also took a swipe at "Medicare for all."

"I think it would be safe to say that the single biggest disappointment of my time in Congress has been our failure to address the entitlement issue, and it's a shame, because now the Democrats are promising 'Medicare for all,"' McConnell said. "I mean, my gosh, we can't sustain the Medicare we have at the rate we're going and that's the height of irresponsibility."

For more on McConnell's remarks, click here






We make prescription opioids. And we want to limit their use. For over 25 years, we’ve developed opioid medications for patients with chronic pain, and we are acutely aware of the public health risks they can create, even when taken as prescribed. As such, we believe the country needs a new approach to prescribing opioids. Learn more.



Minnesota AG sues drug companies over insulin price hikes

Minnesota's attorney general is jumping into the fight over drug prices, and taking on a case that advocates often point to as an example of prices gone wrong: insulin.

The Minnesota attorney general on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against three major pharmaceutical companies for "deceptive and misleading" price increases for insulin to treat diabetes. The lawsuit was filed against the country's three major makers of insulin: Sanofi-Aventis, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly and Co.

What's the issue? The attorney general pointed to one insulin product, Lantus, made by Sanofi, that had a price rise from $99.35 in 2010 to $269.54 in 2018.

The case points to a potential larger problem: The lawsuit alleges that there is a deceptive difference between the sticker price of these insulins and the actual price that insurers pay after negotiators known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) get discounts.

The attorney general says drug companies are raising the sticker price ever higher so that they can give larger discounts to the PBMs, which helps them secure more favorable coverage of their products relative to their competitors in insurance plans.

Read more here.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 127 suspected cases of a polio-like condition that mostly affects children.

The CDC said that 62 of those cases have been confirmed in 22 states in 2018.

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious condition that can cause paralysis, drawing comparisons to polio.

AFM primarily impacts the nervous system and weakens muscles.

Context: The CDC isn't entirely sure what causes AFM or what its long-term effects are. There's also no cure. But the CDC says the rate of AFM every year is less than one in a million.

Read more here.


Florida records first flu death of the season

An unvaccinated child in Florida has died from the flu, becoming the first person to succumb this disease season, Florida state health officials announced Monday.

The child was diagnosed with influenza B and died sometime between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, according to the Florida Department of Health. The department noted that most deaths from the flu occur in people who are not vaccinated.

Context: The CDC says 80,000 people died from the flu and its complications last year. It's not possible to predict what this season will be like, but the CDC is, as it always does, urging people to get the flu shot.

Read more here.


Trump attacks "Crazy Bernie" over Medicare for all

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Lady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ We have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity MORE is really getting into the attacks on Medicare for all (and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination 2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend Bill Maher defends Bernie Sanders campaign over sexual harassment allegations MORE).

"Open enrollment starts today on lower-priced Medicare Advantage plans so loved by our great seniors. Crazy Bernie and his band of Congressional Dems will outlaw these plans. Disaster!" Trump tweeted Monday night.

Medicare's annual enrollment period began Monday and runs through Dec. 7. Medicare Advantage is the private insurance alternative to the Medicare program.

Trump's tweet comes after he penned an op-ed in USA Today last week criticizing "Medicare for all," arguing Democrats advocating for the plan would harm seniors on the current Medicare program by expanding it to everyone.

Sanders on Thursday wrote his own op-ed in USA Today to hit back at the president.

"Given the president's propensity to lie about almost everything, it is not surprising that Trump is grossly distorting what the Medicare for All legislation does," Sanders wrote.

Sanders added that his plan would expand coverage to seniors, not harm them.

Read more here.


What we're reading

Drugmakers funnel millions to lawmakers (Kaiser Health News)

This heartbreaking obituary for a 30-year-old Vermont woman who died from opioid addiction (sevendaysvt.com)

Republicans are suddenly running ads on pre-existing conditions. But how honest are they? (The New York Times)  


State by state

As Washington state health insurance premiums soar, candidates point fingers (McClatchy)

New York's health care workforce up 18 percent in one decade (Crain's New York Business)

Covered California open enrollment begins (sfchronicle.com)


From The Hill's opinion page:

Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers

Short-term insurance policies likely to cause long-term problems