Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump official says agency would not have supported family separations | 2020 Dems walk fine line on 'Medicare for all' | Advocates skeptical of Trump AIDS pledge | Johnson and Johnson to show drug prices on TV

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

A federal health official told lawmakers today he never would have supported the administration's "zero tolerance" policy of family separations if he had known ahead of time. Also: President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE's pledge on eliminating HIV is being met with skepticism, congressional Democrats unveiled a Medicare price negotiation bill, and 2020 Democratic candidates need to figure out just how far to lean into Medicare for all.

We'll start with family separations:

 

Trump health official says agency would never have supported family separations

A Trump administration health official on Thursday told lawmakers neither he nor anyone at his agency responsible for the care of migrant children would ever have supported a policy to force family separations.

"Neither I nor any career person ... would ever have supported such a policy proposal," Jonathan White, a commander in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, said during a House subcommittee hearing.

White reiterated comments he made to a Senate panel last year-- he first learned in February 2017 the administration was considering separating migrant families, but was told by senior officials outside the Department of Health and Human Services that a separation policy would not be implemented.

White, who is in charge of reunifying separated children with their families, told lawmakers he raised concerns with his superiors months before an official policy was implemented.

Specifically, White said he told Scott Lloyd, then-director of the HHS refugee office; Steven Wagner, then-acting assistant secretary for children and families; and counselor Maggie Wynne that family separation would be inconsistent with the agency's legal requirement to act in the best interests of children.

HHS is the agency responsible for caring for unaccompanied children who cross into the country. HHS did not actually set the separation policy, but the agency's refugee office took custody of separated children and placed them in facilities sometimes hundreds of miles from their parents.

What's next: This was the first hearing from House Democrats about the administration's family separation policy. They want to flex their new oversight powers, and clearly intend to make this a recurring issue. Scott Lloyd is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next week.

Notable absence: HHS Secretary Alex Azar declined an invite to testify. Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneAnti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group MORE (D-N.J.) noted Azar will be testifying "in the coming weeks" about the agency's budget and will face family separation questions then.

A full wrap on the hearing can be found here.

 

 

 

2020 Dems walk fine line with support for 'Medicare for all'

Democratic presidential contenders have a delicate balancing act when it comes to Medicare for All, one of the key early issues in the primary.

The issue: Stopping short of Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersAndrew Cuomo: Biden has best chance at 'main goal' of beating Trump Poll: Buttigieg tops Harris, O'Rourke as momentum builds Buttigieg responds to accusation of pushing a 'hate hoax' about Pence MORE's fully government-run system risks alienating progressives. But embracing the Vermont Independent's bill opens up lines of attack around eliminating the private insurance coverage most people already have.

How they come down:

The coming GOP line of attack: "Democrats in 2019: If you like your plan, let's eliminate it," the Republican National Committee wrote in an email to reporters after Harris's comments in January. Expect to see even more of that argument as the campaign progresses.

Read more here.

 

Dems unveil bill for Medicare to negotiate drug prices

Democrats took a step forward on of their key priorities on Thursday, lowering drug prices.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is considering a presidential run, and Rep. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettLobbying World Treasury to miss Dem deadline for Trump tax returns Overnight Health Care: Oversight Republicans accuse Dems of partisan drug pricing probe | Democrats struggle to unite behind drug price plan | CDC investigating E. coli outbreak MORE (D-Texas), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, led the announcement of a bill to let Medicare negotiate drug prices.

Path ahead: The odds are long the measure can get through the GOP-controlled Senate, but Brown said he hoped a strong vote in the House would "put the pressure on Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote McConnell: 'Time to move on' from Trump impeachment talk MORE."

Doggett said that, even in the House, the path forward for the bill remains unclear, given that committees are just beginning to hold hearings on the drug-pricing issue and there are multiple different bills on the topic.

Read more here.

 

Johnson and Johnson to show drug prices in TV ads

Johnson & Johnson on Thursday said it will start giving the list price of its prescription drugs in television ads, making it the first company to do so.

The company will roll out the policy later this quarter, starting with its most frequently prescribed medicine, Xarelto, an oral blood thinner. Scott White, head of J&J's North American pharmaceutical marketing, in a blog post said the ads will include both the list price and potential patient out-of-pocket costs.

The move follows a proposal by the Trump administration to require companies to disclose list prices in direct-to-consumer advertising. The administration's policy is opposed by the drug industry's primary lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

PhRMA has said putting list prices directly into advertisements is misleading and doesn't give patients the context they need to make informed decisions. Instead, the group wants its members to voluntarily direct viewers to a website or a toll-free telephone number where they can learn about the list price, average out-of-pocket costs and patient assistance programs.

 

FDA says nearly 1,400 Walgreens stores sold tobacco products to minors

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is putting Walgreens on notice over the sales of tobacco products to minors.

The FDA said on Thursday that 22 percent of the 6,350 stores it has inspected -- or 1,397 locations -- sold tobacco products to minors, making Walgreens the top violator among pharmacy chains.

In all, Walgreens has racked up nearly 1,800 violations for selling tobacco products to minors, the agency added.

Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says he has requested a meeting with Walgreens executives over the matter.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as FDA battles an epidemic of e-cigarette use among minors.

Read more here.

 

Trump's AIDS turnaround greeted with skepticism by some advocates

President Trump's State of the Union pledge to end the HIV epidemic within 10 years represents a significant turnaround for his administration, which has pushed to cut funding for key programs and fired all the members of a council advising him on the issue during his first year in office.

As a result, some advocates greeted it with wary skepticism.

"It sounds very much like teleprompter Trump saying words but not being invested in the statement itself," said Scott Schoettes, counsel and HIV project director for Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization focused on the LGBT community.

What Trump proposed: Administration officials on Wednesday released a multi-year, multi-agency approach that would direct “substantial” money to parts of the country most impacted by HIV.

The administration will request funding in its budget to go toward diagnosing and treating HIV, while protecting those at highest risk‚ including the LGBT community and African Americans.

More on why advocates are skeptical here.

 

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What we're reading

Is employer-sponsored insurance really a good deal for workers? (Vox.com)

Veterans are taking their own lives on VA hospital campuses (The Washington Post

Democrats unite to begin push to protect pre-existing conditions coverage (The New York Times)

 

State by state

Republicans signal they will keep Wisconsin in ObamaCare lawsuit (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Medicaid rolls fall in Missouri, Tennessee, worrying advocates for poor (Kaiser Health News)

Republicans want to block Utah's voter-approved Medicaid expansion and replace it with something worse (Vox