Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — Dem vows Medicare drug price negotiations will be priority | ObamaCare enrollment down compared to last year | HHS declares health emergency in California

Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — Dem vows Medicare drug price negotiations will be priority | ObamaCare enrollment down compared to last year | HHS declares health emergency in California
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

Today, the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee discussed his drug pricing agenda for the next term, progressive House Democrats are pushing for a vote on a "Medicare for all" bill, and ObamaCare enrollment is down from this point last year.

We'll start with drug pricing...



Incoming Dem chairman: Medicare negotiating drug prices is a priority

Drug prices will be a top priority for House Democrats next year, and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse Democrats criticize Texas's 'shortcomings in preparations' on winter storms House panel to probe conspiracy theories in the news House Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products MORE (D-N.J.), the incoming chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, shed some light on what that will entail. The two items he mentioned:

  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices
  • The Creates Act, a bill to crack down on stalling tactics used by drug companies to prevent cheaper generic competition from entering the market.

The path forward: Democrats are hoping they can get President TrumpDonald TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE on board, given he has supported Medicare negotiation in the past.

"I've always been an advocate for negotiated prices under Medicare, and as you know, President Trump says that he's for that, so I think that's an area where we can get agreement with the president," Pallone told reporters.

The Creates Act could be the easier of the two, since it has support from members of both parties and is smaller in scale. Still, even that bill has been delayed all year amid lobbying from drug companies.

Read more here.




ObamaCare enrollment down compared to this time last year

Fewer people are signing up for ObamaCare plans this year compared to a similar period last year, according to data released Wednesday by the Trump administration.

About 1.2 million people signed up for ObamaCare plans in the first ten days of this year's sign up period, which began Nov. 1.

In the first nine days of last year's enrollment period, 1.5 million people signed up for plans -- a difference of more than 300,000.

In week two of this year's sign up period, which stretched from Nov. 4 through Nov. 10, 805,000 people signed up for coverage, compared to the 876,788 people who enrolled during a similar period last year.

Context: It's the first year since ObamaCare was passed that people don't have to pay a penalty for not having insurance. But it's also too soon to tell how much of an impact that will have on enrollment. Open enrollment ends Dec. 15.

Read more here.


ObamaCare repeal architect Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Republican David Richter wins NJ primary in race to challenge Rep. Andy Kim What to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday MORE loses reelection

Tom MacArthur, the Republican congressman credited for bringing ObamaCare repeal back from the dead, officially lost his reelection race Wednesday.

Andy Kim, a former national security official, said he was inspired to run against MacArthur because of his role in helping House Republicans pass a bill that would have repealed and replaced ObamaCare.

MacArthur crafted an amendment that united House Republicans behind a repeal bill.


MacArthur's defeat means New Jersey will only have one Republican congressman come next year, down from five.

Read more here.


Rebel attacks threaten Ebola response in Congo

Militant attacks on health-care personnel and members of the Congolese army have hindered a global response to a growing outbreak of the Ebola virus in two eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Global and American health officials said at least two rebel groups were behind three separate attacks over the weekend in and around Beni, a regional trading hub in North Kivu Province. Health officials responding to the outbreak were forced to pause their efforts to track and vaccinate contacts of those infected with the virus for several hours.

"This is probably the most complex context that we've ever had to fight an Ebola outbreak before," Peter Salama, the deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response at the World Health Organization, told The Hill in an interview. "The security situation is indeed tense and it has been there for many, many years."


Read more here.


HHS declares public health emergency in California

The declaration gives Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and providers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs created by the wildfires.

"We are working closely with state health authorities and monitoring the needs of healthcare facilities to provide whatever they may need to save lives and protect health," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. "This declaration will help ensure that Americans who are threatened by these dangerous wildfires and who rely on Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program have continuous access to the care they need."


What we're reading:


When hospitals merge to save money, patients often pay more (The New York Times)

Makers of top-selling drugs hike prices in lockstep, and patients bear the cost (STAT)

'Rapid release' Tylenol gelcaps are slower to dissolve than cheaper tablets, study finds (The Washington Post)

Expensive, name-brand medications drive up drug spending (NBC News)



State by state:

In Michigan, Medicaid can now pay for drugs based on how well they work (Stat)

Connecticut is spending more, not less, on inmate health care (ctmirror.com)

With divided Congress, health care action hightails it to the states (Roll Call)


From The Hill's opinion page:

The health care repeal effort is dead

GOP failed to fight Dem's health-care scare tactics in midterms