Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Major e-cig maker Juul boosts lobbying by 400 percent | HHS chief says overdose deaths have leveled off | Scott defends health care record in Florida Senate race

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Major e-cig maker Juul boosts lobbying by 400 percent | HHS chief says overdose deaths have leveled off | Scott defends health care record in Florida Senate race
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Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Overnight Health Care.

Florida Senate candidate Rick Scott (R) is defending his record on health care and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says drug overdose deaths have hit a "plateau."

 

But first...

Juul boosts lobbying spending by more than 400 percent amid threats from Trump admin

Juul spent about $1.2 million on lobbying in the third quarter of 2018, which runs from July through the end of September, according to newly released disclosure reports.

That compares to the $210,000 it spent in the previous quarter -- a 452 percent increase.

Why it matters: The Food and Drug Administration is considering cracking down on Juul and other e-cigarette companies as it tries to deal with the "epidemic" of use among teens.

That could include a ban on the sale of flavored e-liquids, which the FDA says are marketed at youth.

The FDA conducted a surprise inspection of Juul's corporate headquarters in September and collected more than a thousand pages of documents.

Read more here.

 

SPONSORED CONTENT - PURDUE PHARMA 

 

Purdue Pharma encourages you to safely dispose of unused Rx medications on the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day this Saturday, October 27. It is our hope that through the proper disposal of prescription drugs we can all help saves lives. Learn more.

 

Rick Scott says he supports forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions even as his state is backing a lawsuit to overturn those protections in ObamaCare.

Scott is playing defense in a new ad released Tuesday that tells the personal story of growing up with a sibling who had a pre-existing condition.

Taking a shot at his opponent, Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonRepublicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment Rubio says hackers penetrated Florida elections systems MORE (D-Fla.), Scott says in the ad: "For Senator Nelson, it's just another political issue. But for me, it's personal."

Context: Democrats, including Nelson, have been hammering Republicans in tight races on pre-existing conditions, as poll after poll shows it's a potent issue among voters.

Democrats are trying to tie Republicans to the Trump administration's decision not to defend parts of ObamaCare against a lawsuit brought by 20 Republican attorneys general -- including Florida's.

The lawsuit argues ObamaCare is unconstitutional after Congress' repealed the individual mandate. The Department of Justice largely agreed, saying ObamaCare's provisions keeping insurers from charging people with pre-existing coverage more, or denying them from coverage, should be struck down.

Scott has struggled on this issue, since his attorney general, Pam Bondi, is part of this lawsuit. But Scott has said she joined the lawsuit without his input. Scott has also not asked Bondi to withdraw from the lawsuit.

Worth noting: In 2009, Scott founded a lobbying group called Conservatives for Patients' Rights, which ran a series of ads attacking health reform. The ads said if pre-existing conditions were guaranteed coverage, premiums would skyrocket. 

Read more here.

 

White House attacks socialism ahead of midterms

The White House put out a report you don't see every day, attacking socialism... with references to Mao Zedong, the Soviet Union... as well as Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMillions of taxpayer dollars fueled Bernie Sanders to wealth success Robert Smith's gift to Morehouse graduates and its meaning for education, especially black colleges Democratic candidates should counter Trump's foreign policy MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenMillions of taxpayer dollars fueled Bernie Sanders to wealth success Robert Smith's gift to Morehouse graduates and its meaning for education, especially black colleges Teflon Joe? Biden brushes off attacks MORE (D-Mass.).

The report tried to portray Democrats as extremists, but some cases cited by the White House report are far from anything that Democrats have actually proposed.

For example, the report warns against the economic systems of the Soviet Union and Venezuela.

Other parts of the report do examine policies that some Democrats are proposing, like Medicare for All, which is gaining support on the left, or higher taxes.

The report states that Medicare for All would have to be financed through higher taxes and would cause GDP to "fall by 9 percent."

Contrary to these proposals, the White House report argues that evidence shows "a strong association between greater economic freedom and better economic performance."

Other parts of the report do examine policies that some Democrats are proposing, like Medicare for All, which is gaining support on the left, or higher taxes.

The report states that Medicare for All would have to be financed through higher taxes and would cause GDP to "fall by 9 percent."

Contrary to these proposals, the White House report argues that evidence shows "a strong association between greater economic freedom and better economic performance."

Read more here.

Vox had some fun in response (after reporter Sarah Kliff was cited in the report): "A White House report points out that Mao and I both like low health care costs. True, but..."

Read their story.

 

Drug overdose deaths have hit plateau, HHS chief says

The number of people dying from drug overdoses in the United States has begun to level off after reaching a record high last year, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday.

The record numbers were largely driven by the opioid epidemic, but efforts to help support treatment at the local and community level are making a difference, Azar said.

"We are so far from the end of the epidemic, but we are perhaps, at the end of the beginning," Azar said at a conference sponsored by the Milken Institute, according to prepared remarks.

Azar touted the administration's response to the opioid epidemic, including the sweeping bipartisan legislation that President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats claim victory as Trump gets battered in court Juan Williams: Anti-abortion extremism is on the rise Trump feels squeeze in tax return fight MORE will sign tomorrow.

But not everyone thinks enough is being done: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Bipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package Senate chairman says bipartisan health care package coming Thursday MORE (D-Wash.) released a government watchdog report on Tuesday that they said demonstrates the public health emergency "has resulted in almost no meaningful action by the Trump Administration."

The administration has made use of three of the emergency authorities available -- one to reduce paperwork, one to hasten pilot programs that states were already developing, and one regarding research, according to the Government Accountability Office report. The administration hasn't made enough of an investment into a long-term strategy to fight addiction, they said.

Read more here.

 

In case you missed it - Trump administration moves to revamp employer health coverage

A new policy announced by the administration Tuesday could reshape how employers offer insurance coverage. The proposal would lift an Obama-era prohibition and allow more companies to use health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to pay for insurance premiums.

It's a complicated idea, but the proposal would allow companies to use HRAs to reimburse employees' premiums on the individual health-insurance market. The new policy would apply to small- and medium-sized companies that currently do not offer health insurance coverage to employees, administration officials said.

The proposal is the third part of President Trump's executive order on ObamaCare and insurance competition from last fall. Two other policies from the order have already been made final: expanding the duration of non-ObamaCare short-term insurance plans, and allowing for employers to form association health plans.

How the administration is selling it: "More access to association health plans, short-term insurance, and flexible HRAs complement the work we are doing at HHS to bring down drug prices and lower the cost of healthcare services. Each of these actions is focused on empowering patients through transparency, choices, and competition," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

CDC director warns against potential 'stigma' of Trump transgender proposal (STAT)

White House anti-socialism report inadvertently makes a case for single-payer (Vox)

FDA launches global crackdown on websites selling illicit opioids and drugs (Washington Examiner)

 

State by state

How one Colorado town is tackling suicide prevention -- starting with the kids (NPR)

Trump officials make it easier for states to skirt health law's protections (New York Times)

Gavin Newsom is bullish on single-payer. Except when he's not. (Kaiser Health News)