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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 McConnellGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Grassley defends acting AG against calls for recusal Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure 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 SchatzDem senator: Scandalous that troops at border will miss Thanksgiving for 'no national security reason'  Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Dems close campaign by hammering GOP on health care | Senior HHS official dies | FDA approved cannabis-based drug now available | Bipartisan report looks into insulin price spike Democrats close campaign by hammering GOP on health care 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

 

 

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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 TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE is really getting into the attacks on Medicare for all (and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersProgressive House Dem pushes for vote on 'Medicare for all' bill Castro takes steps toward likely 2020 bid Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February 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