Overnight Health Care: House set to vote on bill targeting drug companies for overcharging Medicaid | Dems press Trump officials on pre-existing conditions | Tobacco giant invests $1.8B in Canadian marijuana grower

Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care.

Virginia's Medicaid waiver is now open for public comments, the country's largest tobacco company is getting into the marijuana industry, and President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE will soon sign a maternal care bill.  

But first some drug pricing news.

 

House set to vote on bill cracking down on drug companies overcharging Medicaid

Congress might be about to take action to crack down on drug companies, a possible sign of things to come next year.

The House is expected to vote next week on a bill to crack down on drug companies that overcharge the government, according to two House aides.

How we got here: The bipartisan bill is aimed at stopping a repeat of the actions from Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, which made headlines last year for overcharging the Medicaid program for its commonly used product by as much as $1.27 billion over 10 years.

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The bill, from Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate votes to end debate on criminal justice reform bill Five takeaways from the court decision striking down ObamaCare The Year Ahead: Tough tests loom for Trump trade agenda MORE (R-Iowa) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — New momentum for privacy legislation | YouTube purges spam videos | Apple plans B Austin campus | Iranian hackers targeted Treasury officials | FEC to let lawmakers use campaign funds for cyber FEC votes to allow lawmakers to use campaign funds for personal cybersecurity Senate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure MORE (D-Ore.), allows the government to fine drug companies that misclassify their drugs as generics in order to give smaller discounts to the government.

The House is moving first but there are hopes the Senate will also act soon.

Sign of things to come? The bill is quickly moving forward after being introduced just this week. And Grassley taking over the Finance Committee, combined with Democrats taking over the House, could lead to more action on drug prices, though that is always an uphill battle.

We've got more here.

 

Trump administration considering Medicaid work requirements in Virginia

The Department of Health and Human Services opened the proposal for public comment Friday.

Virginia expanded eligibility for Medicaid earlier this year to more low-income adults, but needs approval from the Trump administration to establish work requirements.

Didn't Virginia just elect a Democratic governor? Yes, but he needed the support of the Republican legislature to expand Medicaid. Republicans agreed to do so if it came with work requirements.

What's next: The comment period ends Jan. 6. The administration will make a decision sometime after that, though it usually takes several months.

Context: The administration has already approved work requirements in Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas and New Hampshire.

Arkansas' work requirements are being challenged in court.

Read more here.

 

Altria to invest $1.8 billion in Canadian marijuana grower

Tobacco giant Altria on Friday said it was investing $1.8 billion in Canadian marijuana company Cronos, while also discontinuing its e-cigarette products.

In October, Altria stopped selling e-cigarette "pods" and pulled almost all its flavored products from the market in an attempt to help curb teen vaping. The new move is a sign the company was also struggling to gain traction in a market dominated by Juul.

Altria is the country's largest tobacco company, and manufactures products like Marlboro and Virginia Slim cigarettes.

"We do not see a path to leadership with these particular products and believe that now is the time to refocus our resources. We recognize the impact this decision has on our employees and business partners, which we do not take lightly," Howard Willard, Altria Chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Growing market: The Food and Drug Administration is also proposing a ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes, which could force Altria to rethink its sales strategy. The large investment in one of Canada's leading cannabis companies could provide that shift. Canada legalized recreational marijuana in October.

Read more here.

 

Top Dems press Trump officials for answers on pre-existing conditions

Four incoming House Democratic chairmen on Friday pressed the Trump administration for answers about its decision to call for overturning ObamaCare's pre-existing condition protections in court.

"In declining to defend these provisions, the Trump Administration is seeking to invalidate these critical patient protections, and once again subject millions of Americans with preexisting conditions to the discrimination they faced before the ACA," the Democrats wrote in a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma.

Who signed on? The four Democrats, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneIncoming Dem chairman vows hearings on ObamaCare lawsuit 'right away' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — Dems to reframe gun violence as public health issue | Court orders key documents from OxyContin maker unsealed | Pfizer announces stock buybacks Dems to reframe gun violence as public health issue MORE (N.J.), Richard NealRichard Edmund NealUnion urges key Dem to investigate how AT&T is using GOP tax-law savings Term limit fight highlights growing pains for Pelosi’s majority The Year Ahead: Tough tests loom for Trump trade agenda MORE (Mass.), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottThe results are in: How the nation voted on criminal justice issues that impact our youth Overnight Health Care: House set to vote on bill targeting drug companies for overcharging Medicaid | Dems press Trump officials on pre-existing conditions | Tobacco giant invests .8B in Canadian marijuana grower A new Congress, time for a new focus on public education MORE (Va.) and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) previously wrote to Azar in June, after the administration declined to defend the Affordable Care Act's pre-existing condition protections in a lawsuit brought by 20 GOP-led states. The Democrats say they never received a substantive response and are now pressing for answers again.

More here

 

Maternity care bill headed to Trump's desk

The Senate on Thursday passed a bipartisan bill that aims to expand access to OB-GYNs in underserved areas.

The bill, sponsored by Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health Chairman Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessOvernight Health Care: House set to vote on bill targeting drug companies for overcharging Medicaid | Dems press Trump officials on pre-existing conditions | Tobacco giant invests .8B in Canadian marijuana grower GOP struggles to find right Republican for Rules Cards Against Humanity offering midterm expansion pack in effort to back Dems in key races MORE (R-Texas), passed the House last year.

"This important legislation, now headed to the president's desk to be signed into law, will help to better identify areas in the nation with shortages in maternity care -- ensuring pregnancies are without unnecessary risk and barriers to care regardless of a woman's zip code," said Burgess, a former OB-GYN, in a statement Friday.

Yes, but: Another bill supported by health experts that would address the astounding rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. has not moved from the House or Senate, despite having bipartisan support. It would support state-level efforts to form review committees that specifically track and investigate pregnancy-related deaths and then look for ways to prevent future deaths from occurring.

 

What we're reading

What in the world did this patient cough up? (The Atlantic)

A new way to cut medical errors: talk more to patients and families (STAT)

The real reason ObamaCare enrollment is lagging this year (Vox)

 

State by state

State, federal officials missed warnings at All Children's heart unit in Florida (Tampa Bay Times)

Georgia legislators plan a broad revamp of state's health care regulations (Savannah Now)

New York's ObamaCare sign-ups 'outpacing' 2017 (crainsnewyork.com)