Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Utah Senate votes to scale back Medicaid expansion | Virginia abortion bill reignites debate | Grassley invites drug execs to testify | Conservative groups push back on e-cig crackdown

Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Utah Senate votes to scale back Medicaid expansion | Virginia abortion bill reignites debate | Grassley invites drug execs to testify | Conservative groups push back on e-cig crackdown
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Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care.

Utah Republicans on Monday decided they weren't going to allow a voter-approved Medicaid expansion initiative move forward; a new study shows how the Trump administration's policies have stoked fears over contraception access; and national Republicans have seized on a bill in Virginia to reignite a battle over abortion rights.

We'll start in Utah:

 

Utah Senate passes bill to scale back voter-approved Medicaid expansion

Utah voters approved Medicaid expansion in November. Now GOP state legislators want to scale back the move.

The state Senate on Monday voted 22-7, with all six Democrats and one Republican opposed, to pass a bill shrinking the Medicaid expansion to a smaller group of people.

The details: Voters in the state approved a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in November. Under the typical Medicaid expansion, people with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level are eligible for health coverage. The GOP bill would shrink the number of eligible people down to those making less than 100 percent of the poverty level.

The politics: Democrats denounced the move, saying GOP legislators are undoing the will of the voters. "This is the opposite of what Utahns voted for. The voters got it right, and the politicians need to listen," Andrew Roberts, spokesman for the pro-Medicaid expansion group Utah Decides, told the Deseret News.

Read more here.

 

 

Demand for certain forms of contraception increased after Trump's election: study

Remember after Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE was elected all of the news stories about women rushing to get IUDs? Now we have hard data backing it up.

In the 30 days after the election, there was a 21.6 percent increase in the insertion rates for long-acting reversible contraception, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The authors of the study said the increase could be attributed to fears that Trump would follow through on his campaign promise to repeal ObamaCare, which requires employers cover 18 types of contraception in their insurance plans with no copays for beneficiaries.

Context: While the GOP's efforts to repeal ObamaCare have failed, the administration has tried to issue rules broadening exemptions for employers that have moral or religious objections to providing contraception for their employees. Those rules are temporarily blocked while lawsuits challenging them play out in court.

Read more here.

 

Grassley invites drug company execs to testify

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySeniors win big with Trump rebate rule  Klobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs Just one in five expect savings from Trump tax law: poll MORE (R-Iowa), along with the committee's top Democrat Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress should take action to stop unfair taxation of the digital economy Trump officials take bold steps on Medicaid GOP steps up attack over tech bias claims MORE (D-Ore.) on Monday invited seven major pharmaceutical companies to testify before a committee hearing on Feb. 26.

The companies invited include AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Pfizer and Sanofi.

"This is an opportunity for companies that produce life-saving treatments to explain how they price these treatments and whether the status quo is acceptable. Patients and taxpayers deserve to hear from leaders in the industry about what's behind this unsustainable trend and what can be done to lower costs," Grassley and Wyden said in a joint statement.

Background: The public invite comes after the senators disclosed last week that several companies turned down invites to appear in public at the committee's first hearing. Testifying is not something company executives are eager to do, but there's increasing bipartisan pressure on the industry over the high cost of prescription drugs.

The chairman's request poses a tough choice for drug companies as they try to navigate congressional inquiries and risk being subpoenaed by lawmakers to force them into testifying. 

Grassley promised to take a hard look at drug prices this year, and his approach is so far more antagonistic to the drug industry than the committee's previous chairman, retired Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchNY's political prosecution of Manafort should scare us all Congress must break its addiction to unjust tax extenders The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate MORE (R-Utah).

 

Virginia abortion bill reignites national debate

Republicans at the national level this week jumped into the firestorm surrounding a Virginia abortion-rights bill, marking a rare instance in which a state issue has drawn harsh rebukes from members of Congress and the White House.

The bill, proposed by a Democratic state lawmaker, would have made it easier for women to get third trimester abortions if their health was threatened by pregnancy.

While the same measure was introduced without controversy in recent years, comments from the bill's author and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) provoked outrage among anti-abortion groups, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and even the president and vice president, with some saying the bill's supporters were embracing infanticide.

Northam's office said the governor's comments were not referring to infanticide, and that critics were making "bad faith" arguments.

Read more on the debate here.

 

Coming this week: Dems highlight family separation policy

House Democrats will hold the first oversight hearing about the Trump administration's family separation policy this week.

While Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will not be testifying in front of the Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight subcommittee on Thursday, Jonathan White will be.

White is a commander with the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and is leading the group responsible for reunifying unaccompanied children.

White is certain to face questions about a report from the HHS inspector general that found the Trump administration separated thousands more migrant children from their parents than was previously known.

In a court filing late Friday, White and Jallyn N. Sualog, the deputy director for Children's Programs in HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement, defended the administration's efforts at reunification, and said it would require a substantial effort to reunite the thousands of families it separated before the "zero tolerance" policy was implemented.

 

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Conservative groups urge Trump to stop FDA's crackdown on e-cigarettes

The Food and Drug Administration's attempts to impose limits on e-cigarette sales and marketing is drawing fire from conservative groups. In a new letter, 19 groups led by Americans for Tax Reform urged Trump to stop the FDA's "aggressive regulatory assault" on businesses that sell e-cigarettes.

"Without your intervention, Commissioner Gottlieb may not only destroy tens of thousands of jobs at small stores and manufacturers, but he will prevent some of the more than 35 million American adults who still smoke tobacco cigarettes from ever successfully quitting," the 19 groups wrote.

As the number of teens vaping has reached record numbers, the FDA has proposed rules that would limit the sales of flavored e-cigarettes to age-restricted, in-person locations, and require a heightened age verification process for online retailers selling e-cigarettes.

Gottlieb says he's tried to strike a balance between making it harder for minors to access e-cigarettes and keeping them available for adults who want to transition away from cigarettes.

But the groups argue the FDA is overreacting and will harm adults who want to stop smoking cigarettes.

More on the conservative opposition here.

 

What we're reading

Democratic anxieties over 'Medicare for all' kick off first 2020 primary fight (CNN)

As Democrats shift left and debate 'Medicare for All,' what does that mean for the insurance capital? (Hartford Courant)

Transparency alone won't solve drug prices (Axios)


State by state

Patients suffer when California health care behemoths quarrel over contracts (mercurynews.com)

Colorado lawmakers bring back bill to help insurance companies cover high-cost claims (Denver Post)

Plan to limit Medicaid expansion estimated at $72 million (Associated Press)

 

From The Hill's opinion page

Howard Dean says Trump's Medicare Part D proposal will put seniors at risk