Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — FDA restricts sales of flavored e-cigs | Proposes ban on menthol in tobacco | Left wants vote on single-payer bill in new Congress | More than 12k lost Medicaid in Arkansas

Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines —  FDA restricts sales of flavored e-cigs | Proposes ban on menthol in tobacco | Left wants vote on single-payer bill in new Congress | More than 12k lost Medicaid in Arkansas
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Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

Thousands of additional people lost Medicaid coverage in Arkansas this month because of work requirements, the FDA is moving ahead with restrictions on e-cigarettes and a ban on menthol, and progressive House Democrats are pushing for a vote on "Medicare for all" when they take control in the next Congress.  

We'll start at the FDA...


FDA restricts sales of flavored e-cigarettes, proposes ban on menthol in tobacco

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday announced restrictions on the sales of most flavored e-cigarettes to crack down on the epidemic of use among minors.

  • The sales will be limited to age-restricted, in-person locations, essentially ending sales at gas stations and convenience stores.
  • This doesn't apply to tobacco, menthol or mint e-cigarettes because these flavors may be important in helping adult smokers transition away from cigarettes, the FDA said.
  • Online sales are still allowed, but only under "heightened practices for age verification."
  • The FDA also proposed a ban on menthol in combustible tobacco products, including cigarettes and cigars.

The move on e-cigarettes had been telegraphed for some time, but ultimately FDA did not go as far as what the agency initially leaked. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has been trying to balance the need to regulate e-cigarettes to stop teen vaping, but also recognize the public health benefits of a product that can help adults quit smoking traditional combustible cigarettes.  

What they're saying: Dems applauded the plan, but said the FDA needs to go further.

"Strong and swift progress to implement today's announcements is key and there is still more work to do to protect kids from all kid-appealing flavors and marketing," said Sen. 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.), ranking member of the Senate health committee.

"Today's announcement is an important step, but too much is at stake to be content. We must remain vigilant about protecting kids from tobacco."

Incoming House Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said he was encouraged by the FDA's actions but will introduce legislation that goes further.

"I will also be releasing legislation in the coming days to address the epidemic of youth tobacco and e-cigarette use by restricting flavored e-cigarette products even further than FDA's proposal and enacting additional marketing requirements for these products," he said.

"I continue to believe that the availability of flavored e-cigarette products overall should be reconsidered in order to fully combat this epidemic."

Some Republicans pushed back: Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Barr throws curveball into Senate GOP 'spying' probe Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems MORE (R-Wis.): "No one wants minors to use tobacco products or become addicted to any substance, including nicotine, but I am concerned the FDA's proposed actions could limit adult Americans' access to e-cigarette products that help them quit a more dangerous habit. I am also concerned about regulatory overreach regarding a product that Public Health England has concluded is 95 percent safer than smoking."

Read more on the move here.



Left wants a vote on single-payer bill in new Congress

A potential headache is on the horizon for House Democratic leaders: Now that they have the majority, progressives want a vote on Medicare for all legislation, even if it has no chance of becoming law with Republicans controlling the Senate and White House.

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalPelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval House Democrat: Seattle airport's ban on ICE detainee flights helps 'hold a lawless administration accountable' MORE (D-Wash.), who is co-chair of the Medicare for All Caucus in the House, told supporters on an organizing call Tuesday night that simply expressing support for the idea is not enough.

"When we have that majority, we need to make sure that we put it to use," she said.

Watch for grassroots pressure: Medicare for all supporters say they are not going to take no for an answer and will shower Democratic holdouts with calls and office visits.

National Nurses United is organizing "barnstorms" of intense grass-roots activity to pressure Democrats on Medicare for all from Feb. 9-13.

Read more here.


More than 12k people lost Medicaid in Arkansas  

More than 12,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in Arkansas have lost coverage for not complying with the state's work requirements, according to data released by the state on Thursday.

In the past month alone, 3,815 beneficiaries lost coverage for failing to meet the work requirements for three straight months.  

Arkansas began phasing in work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries in August. In the three months the requirements have been in effect, 12,128 people were removed from Medicaid and are locked out until Jan. 1.

In addition, there are 6,002 people with two strikes against them who are at risk for losing coverage next month.

Arkansas became the first state ever to implement work requirements, after gaining approval from the Trump administration earlier this year.

Under the rules, which took effect in June, recipients must work, go to school, volunteer or search for jobs for at least 80 hours a month or be stripped of their coverage until the following year.

State officials and the Trump administration say work requirements are a pathway out of poverty, and provide an incentive for people to work. Yet the data show almost all of the people who lose coverage are not reporting any work activities.

Read more here.


Medical device industry pushing to repeal device tax in lame duck

Medical device companies are back for another push to repeal the Affordable Care Act's 2.3 percent tax on medical devices.

Congress delayed the tax for two years earlier this year, but it's set to take effect again at the start of 2020. The industry wants full repeal, not just another delay.

Companies also think they're chances are better if they can act while Republicans still control the House, rather than waiting until Democrats take over next year.

"We just had more numbers and more support with the Republican majority in the House," Scott Whitaker, CEO of AdvaMed, the medical device industry lobbying group, told reporters.

"It's less of a priority right now," for Democratic leadership, he added.

Still, Whitaker said members on both sides of the aisle agree the tax is harmful, and the main question is one of process and what the best legislative vehicle for action is. He said lawmakers had not been asking for offsets to pay for repeal of the tax, which would deprive the government of about $20 billion over 10 years.  

"Let us get back to the certainty we need to grow our companies and create jobs," Whitaker said.



What we're reading

ObamaCare sign-ups for 2019 off to a slow start (CNN)

Uninsured rate keeps falling despite claims Trump is sabotaging Obamacare (Washington Examiner)

Hospital chain settles U.S. suit over stifled competition (The Wall Street Journal)


State by state

Medicaid OKs Michigan waiver to negotiate drug prices based on outcomes (Modern Healthcare)

Gov. Charlie Baker (R) will roll out Massachusetts drug-pricing plan in January (MassLive)

NFL awards Boston Children's Hospital $14.7m to study brain injury (Boston Globe)