Overnight Health Care — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — VA unveils proposal to expand private health care for veterans | House Dems launch probe of 'skyrocketing' insulin prices | Fight erupts over late-term abortion bill in Virginia

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — VA unveils proposal to expand private health care for veterans | House Dems launch probe of 'skyrocketing' insulin prices | Fight erupts over late-term abortion bill in Virginia
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Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care, where we're still recovering from all of the drug pricing hearings yesterday. There's more drug pricing news today, on an insulin inquiry, but we'll start with news from the VA.


VA unveils proposal to expand private healthcare for veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs Wednesday jumped into the controversial issue of allowing veterans to see private doctors.

Veterans who live an average of 30-minutes driving time away from a Veteran Affairs medical facility would be allowed to see a private doctor under proposed guidelines released Wednesday.

The proposal released by the Department of Veterans Affairs could potentially make more than a million more veterans eligible for private healthcare than under current rules.

The proposal released Wednesday seeks to implement the VA Mission Act, which Congress passed in June and which Trump has touted as a signature legislative achievement. The law aims to address issues with an earlier law dealing with overhauling and consolidating the network of private health care providers accessible to veterans.

The details: Right now, veterans can use their VA benefits to see private doctors if they live 40 miles away from a VA medical facility or if they have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment.

The new proposed rules would allow veterans to see a private doctor for primary care or mental health care if they live at least 30 minutes away or have to wait more than 20 days for an appointment.

For specialty care, the eligibility threshold would be increased to 60 minutes of drive time or a 28-day wait for an appointment.

Veterans would also be allowed to go to an urgent care facility outside of the VA system but within a forthcoming network of community care provides.

Timeline: The final rules are expected to be published this coming June.

The debate: Critics have expressed concern that expanding private health care could drain resources from improving the VA system itself, undermining the system and ultimately leading to full privatization.

Read more on the changes here.



House Dems launch probe of 'skyrocketing' insulin prices

There's yet another drug pricing investigation: House Democrats are now probing the three main insulin manufacturers in the U.S. over "skyrocketing costs."

Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi received questions about their pricing strategies from Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight 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 Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Overnight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Energy: EPA to reconsider cost benefit analysis of air pollution rules | Interior gets new rules on free concert tickets | Dem challenges EPA for skipping hearing House Democrats press leaders to start Trump impeachment WHIP LIST: Democrats who support an impeachment inquiry against President Trump MORE (D-Colo.), chairwoman of the panel's Oversight subcommittee. Pallone and DeGette said they worry about diabetics rationing their insulin because they can't afford to buy more.

"When patients go without insulin--or ration their doses--there can be tragic consequences," they said in a letter to the drug manufacturers.

"As one of the few manufacturers of insulin in the United States, your company is well-suited to shed light on these issues and offer potential solutions."

The numbers: Pallone and DeGette say the price of insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013, and nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016. The three big insulin companies also control 99 percent of the world's supply.

What to watch: Insulin prices in particular are an area of potential bipartisan action. GOP Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Bipartisan House bill calls for strategy to protect 5G networks from foreign threats Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (R-Texas) questioned insulin pricing during a hearing on Tuesday as well.   


Dem bill in Virginia would loosen restrictions on late-term abortions

Conservatives on Wednesday seized on Democratic abortion proposals coming out of Virginia.

The state legislation would eliminate the requirement that abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy occur at state-licensed hospitals and would require only one doctor to determine if a pregnancy threatens the woman's life or health to allow abortions in the third trimester.

Under current Virginia law a doctor and two consulting physicians are needed to make that determination.

The bill is unlikely to pass given Republican control of the House of Delegates and was tabled on Monday.

But a video clip of Delegate Kathy Tran (D) defending her proposed bill has since gone viral.

Read more here.


FDA is failing to stop underage teens from using e-cigarettes, report finds

The federal government is failing to protect children from the dangers of electronic cigarettes, according to an American Lung Association report card published Wednesday.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received an "F" from the group's 17th annual State of Tobacco Control. The FDA has taken some initial steps, but "continued to avoid meaningful action" on vaping products, the association said.

"This year's report finds a disturbing failure of the federal government and states to take action to prevent and reduce tobacco use in 2018, placing the health and lives of Americans at risk, including our youth," the American Lung Association's national president and CEO, Harold P. Wimmer, said in a statement.

The American Lung Association blamed a lack of regulation by the FDA for the high rates of teen vaping. The FDA has the authority to regulate tobacco products in the U.S.

Read more on the report here.



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What we're reading

Ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says he would improve ObamaCare, force Big Pharma to negotiate drug prices with the government (CNBC)

The Medicare-for-All Trap (New York Times opinion)

'Medicare for all' is unlikely if Democrats take power, but an ObamaCare 'public option' seems inevitable (Washington Examiner opinion)


State by state

Oklahoma governor, GOP leaders open to Medicaid expansion (Associated Press)

Bill seeks to keep ObamaCare protections in Maine, even if ACA is repealed (WGME)

How a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid in Utah may be denied (The Atlantic)


From The Hill's op-ed page

Benzo prescriptions have increased substantially -- it's a major public health problem