Overnight Health Care — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump boosts fight against surprise medical bills | Majority in poll say health care should be top issue for Congress | Group for children's doctors wants stronger e-cig rules

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump boosts fight against surprise medical bills | Majority in poll say health care should be top issue for Congress | Group for children's doctors wants stronger e-cig rules
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Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care.

The shutdown is over! For the next three weeks, at least.

Meanwhile, President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE is catalyzing support for an effort to stop surprise medical bills and a top liberal advocacy group wants Congress to focus on strengthening existing health laws.

We'll start with surprise bills...


Congress might actually do something bipartisan on healthcare: Stopping surprise medical bills

Momentum is building for action to prevent patients from receiving massive unexpected medical bills, aided by President Trump, who is vowing to take on the issue.

“[People] go in, they have a procedure and then all of a sudden they can't afford it, they had no idea it was so bad," Trump said at a roundtable with patients about the issue on Wednesday.

“We're going to stop all of it, and it's very important to me,” he added.

The problem: Calls for action against so-called surprise medical bills have been growing, spurred by viral stories like one involving a teacher in Texas last year who received a $108,951 bill from the hospital after his heart attack. Even though the teacher had insurance, the hospital was not in his insurance network.

The big obstacle: Health care industry groups. Asked if he expected resistance from the health care industry, Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight 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 Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, told reporters Thursday, "I would expect so."

"Someone has to pay the bill," Alexander added.

A source familiar with the discussions said insurers and hospitals are "both at the table," but "they're just battling with each other on who's going to take the bigger hit."

Bipartisanship alert: "I was very glad to see the president start to pay attention to the issue," Sen. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanBipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package 'American Taliban' released from prison 'American Taliban' set to be released after years behind bars MORE (D-N.H.), who has sponsored legislation to protect patients from surprise bills, said in an interview.

She said she is "very optimistic that we will be able to find common ground."

What's next: Lawmakers must first reconcile competing bills. In addition to Hassan's measure, there is a bill from a bipartisan group led by Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyBipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package Senate passes bill to undo tax increase on Gold Star military families Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag MORE (R-La.), and a House bill from Rep. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettDemocrats seize on IRS memo in Trump tax battle Treasury Department rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns On The Money: New tariffs on China pose major risk for Trump | Senators sound alarm over looming budget battles | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders team up against payday lenders MORE (D-Texas), the chairman of the Ways and Means health subcommittee.

"I am encouraged by the increased bipartisan interest, but we still face significant pushback," Doggett said in a statement, adding that he will keep pushing to end the "predatory practice" of surprise billing.

Read more here.



More on surprise billing: Emergency doctors share framework.

Highlighting the momentum for action on surprise billing, the American College of Emergency Physicians released a framework for addressing the issue on Monday.

Like others, they call for protecting patients from paying more for out of network emergency care than they would for in network care.

They then call for arbitration to settle disputes between insurers and providers on how much payment should be.

"Patients can't choose where and when they will need emergency care and they should not be punished financially for having emergencies," said Vidor Friedman, the president of the group.  


Poll: Majority of voters say health care should be a top issue for Congress this year

A new poll from pro-ObamaCare group Protect Our Care shows voters want to see Congress focus on health care issues. The numbers:

  • 71 percent said health care should be a top issue for Congress in 2019
  • More than half of the Democrats polled saw expanding coverage as the top priority. But independents and Republicans thought the focus should be on reducing premiums and out-of-pocket costs (51 and 61 percent.)  
  • 24 percent said ObamaCare should be kept in place, with changes to make it work better, while 27 percent said a new health care law, like Medicare for All, should be passed.
  • 82 percent said Medicare should be required to "negotiate directly with drug companies to get lower prices for prescription drugs."
  • 79 percent said Congress should hold hearings with drug company executives "to stop abusive conduct and practices ... in setting and raising the prices of prescription medicines."

Read the poll results here.


Pediatricians want stronger regulations of e-cigarettes

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wants stronger restrictions on the sales and marketing of vaping products.

A new policy statement from the group released Monday calls for the Food and Drug Administration to take a number of steps including, banning the sale of the products to people under 21 years old; banning online sales of e-cigarettes and e-cigarette solutions; banning certain flavors including menthol; and banning ads and promotions that can reach young people.

The AAP warned that a surge in vaping among American teens threatens to turn back 50 years of public health gains in reducing tobacco use.

The vaping industry is coming under intense scrutiny from the FDA, and commissioner Scott Gottlieb has threatened to remove the products from store shelves if the youth vaping epidemic isn't significantly curtailed.  

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, nearly 21 percent of high school students and 5 percent of middle school students reported having used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days in 2018-- a 78 percent increase from 2017.

More than 28 percent of middle and high school students – or about 20.5 million youth – were exposed to e-cigarette advertisements from at least one source in 2016.

The AAP's statement is here.



Individuals with kidney diseases are living longer and fuller lives, but there’s more to be done. A continued focus on earlier diagnoses and innovative approaches to treatment are critical. Learn more.


What we're reading

The transplant surgeon needed a new heart--even if it had hepatitis C (The Wall Street Journal)

Judge orders full release of redacted lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin (Stat News)

Chinese scientist told US Nobelist about gene-edited babies (Associated Press)

How to build a Medicare-for-all plan, explained by somebody who's thought about it for 20 years (Vox.com)


State by state

Medicaid expansion supporters to rally as Utah Legislature opens (Associated Press)

In Massachusetts and beyond, an effort to bolster access to abortion (Boston Globe)


From The Hill's op-ed page

States are moving forward with 'Medicare for all': More power to them