Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials ratchet up fight over drug pricing | McConnell says Republicans could try again on ObamaCare repeal | Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials ratchet up fight over drug pricing | McConnell says Republicans could try again on ObamaCare repeal | Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit
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Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Overnight Health Care.

The Trump administration is picking a fight with the drug industry to push a policy proposal that experts think may not actually help patients and won't result in lower drug costs.

Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE said Republicans may take another crack at ObamaCare repeal after the midterms, and the GOP lawsuit against pre-existing conditions is firing up Democratic candidates across the country.

We'll start with the administration's new proposal on disclosing drug prices:


Trump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight

The Trump administration is ratcheting up its fight with the drug industry, with a new proposal that would force drugmakers to disclose their prices in television advertising.

For months, officials have beat the drum over high drug prices but offered only minor tweaks to address the issue. With the latest proposal, which the industry is vowing to defeat, both sides are heading for a fierce clash.

It's also a fight the administration appears to relish, with the proposal attracting some bipartisan support in Congress.

Experts and analysts think the proposal is not likely to make much of a dent on the price of drugs. They are questioning why the administration has chosen to pick this issue to go after the drug industry.  

If it ends up being finalized as written (which will take months, at the earliest) the proposal would certainly lead to bad PR for the drug industry, with high drug prices flashing across TV screens around the country. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association--the powerful drug lobby-- has also all but promised to sue.

So why do this? The policy seems rooted in President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE's desire to shame the industry for high prices. Many members of Congress are also on board, because transparency is an easy idea to sell to the public. But experts seem to think that shaming companies will lead to lower prices.

Key quote: "This is a policy change whose impact is very uncertain. I'm not certain it will have an impact, and the administration can't make a clear case it will do so," said Rachel Sachs, a drug pricing policy expert and associate professor of law at Washington University. "It's not obvious to me why they're [fighting] over this proposal rather than any that will have a greater impact on patients."

Read more 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.


McConnell says the GOP could try repealing ObamaCare again after the midterms

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that Republicans may take another crack at repealing ObamaCare if they maintain a majority in Congress.

"If we had the votes to completely start over, we'd do it," McConnell told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

"But that depends on what happens in a couple weeks," he added, referring to the midterm elections. "We're not satisfied with the way ObamaCare is working."

Democrats seized on McConnell's comments immediately to highlight what they say is at stake if Republicans keep the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.) said:"If Republicans retain the Senate they will do everything they can to take away families' health care and raise their costs, whether it be eliminating protections for pre-existing conditions, repealing the health care law, or cutting Medicare and Medicaid. Americans should take Senator McConnell at his word," Schumer said.

Why it matters: Health care is a huge issue ahead of the midterms, with Democrats forcing Republicans to play defense. But McConnell wouldn't make these comments unless he thought they would help Senate Republicans more than they would hurt them.

Senate Democrats are defending a number of seats in states won by Trump in 2016 -- and Trump ran on repealing ObamaCare.

Read more here.


First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpAlec Baldwin leads Trump Oval Office sing-along on 'Saturday Night Live' The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition — Trump: GOP has `clear contrast' with Dems on immigration The Hill's 12:30 Report: Alabama abortion bill revives national debate MORE met with families affected by neonatal abstinence syndrome

The meeting took place in Philadelphia, where Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Azar toured a neonatal intensive care unit. The syndrome refers to conditions babies experience when they withdraw from drugs they were exposed to during the pregnancy.

"There are few things harder than seeing a newborn suffering," the first lady said at the meeting, according to a White House press pool transcript. "I am anxious to do all I can to help shine a light on this."

Wednesday's visit was part of Melania Trump's "Be Best" initiative, a public awareness campaign that focuses on children. She has taken an interest in NAS, and has visited hospitals in Tennessee and Ohio that treat babies experiencing opioid withdrawal.

Read more here.


Democrats press pharma execs on tax windfall, drug prices

A group of 16 House Democrats want answers from five major pharmaceutical companies about how they spent the money they got back from the GOP tax law.

The five corporations – Amgen, AbbVie, Eli Lilly, Merck and Pfizer – each benefitted from last year's GOP tax bill, the Democrats said, citing figures that show one-time tax cuts on offshore products ranging from $4 billion (AbbVie) to over $25 billion (Pfizer).  

In letters to the five CEOs, the lawmakers noted that even though each company benefits from publicly funded research, four of the five spent billions of dollars on stock buybacks, which benefit wealthy shareholders. Publicly funded research contributed to every new drug approval from 2010-2016, the letters said.

The lawmakers, led by Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyHouse Dem cites transgender grandson in voting for Equality Act Dems plan 12-hour marathon Mueller report reading at Capitol US should be producing the HIV prevention drug its research helped create MORE (D-Ill.), asked each pharmaceutical executive a series of questions related to their use of taxpayer dollars, the pricing of their drugs, their employment practices, and their corporate spending.

"The fact that taxpayer dollars are also paying for research and development for these companies through publicly-funded research only adds insult to injury," Schakowsky said in a statement. "We need answers from these PhRMA execs about why the taxpayer dollars they receive don't benefit taxpayers – and we need them now."


Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit on pre-existing conditions

A lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act has a new starring role in Democratic advertisements across the country, as candidates warn that their Republican opponents would seek to end the law's protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

The lawsuit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel (R), claims ObamaCare was rendered unconstitutional after Congress included a provision in last year's tax-reform package to eliminate the individual mandate to buy health care. Initial arguments took place last month in a federal courtroom in Fort Worth.

In many states, Democrats are using Paxton's lawsuit as a cudgel against some of the attorneys general who signed on -- and who are now seeking higher office.

Read more here


New survey shows many with serious illnesses face financial ruin

The survey, from The Commonwealth Fund, The New York Times and the Harvard School of Public Health, shows problems with the U.S. system leave many of the sickest feeling helpless, confused, isolated, and puts them at risk for financial difficulties. From the survey:

  • 56 percent very sick people said they have had difficulty paying one or more of their health care bills. 27 percent said their illness was a major financial strain on their family.
  • Even those with health insurance face financial difficulties. Among very sick people with health insurance, 31 percent said they have had trouble paying hospital bills, and 27 percent said they had trouble affording their medicine.
  • 37 percent of very sick people used up most or all of their savings, and 23 percent couldn't pay for necessities such as food, health or housing.

Read more here.


Names on the move

Jeff Myers joined the leadership staff of CareSource, a large public health plan. Myers was previously the president and CEO of the trade group Medicaid Health Plans of America. 


What we're reading

Vulnerable Republicans bury ObamaCare repeal talk (Washington Examiner)

Is it possible to be an anti-abortion Democrat? One woman tried to find out (The New York Times)

Pre-existing conditions: Does any GOP proposal match the Affordable Care Act? (Politifact


State by state

Wisconsin GOP Senate leader would support bill covering preexisting conditions (WSAU)

2.7 million people in California are uninsured. Can that number go lower? (sacbee.com)

Medicaid and the fate of ObamaCare at the heart of heated Georgia gubernatorial race (cnbc)


From The Hill's opinion page:

Cancer care should not be tied to tariffs