Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid

Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care.

The House Ways & Means Committee is turning its focus to drug prices. Also today, a troubling new report on health costs and how Utah's governor is defying voters on Medicaid expansion.


But first... Ways & Means' first hearing on drug prices focused on the greatest hits

The committee heard from a panel of health care experts about what's driving high drug prices in the U.S. But they didn't hear from any drug industry executives.

(That will come Feb. 26 in the Senate Finance Committee hearing focused on the same issue.)

Lawmakers had questions about policy proposals that have been batted around Capitol Hill for years, like Medicare price negotiation. There was also talk about some bipartisan proposals like the Creates Act, which would crack down on tactics brand name drug companies use to push stifle generic competition, and a bill sponsored by Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The 7 most interesting nuggets from the Mueller report Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy MORE (R-Iowa) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Spicer: 'Near impossible' for 2020 Democrats to refuse Fox News debate James Comey, wife donated ,400 to Klobuchar's presidential campaign MORE (D-Minn.) that would limit pay-off agreements between drug companies and their competitors that keep cheaper drugs off the market.

The bottom line: Democrats say addressing the high cost of prescription drugs is one of their top priorities. But big items like Medicare price negotiation are off the table while Republicans are in control of the Senate. Still, there might be action on the Creates Act, which has bipartisan support in both chambers. 
"This is not a Democratic or Republican issue," Ways and Means Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Waters renews calls for impeachment | Dem wants Fed pick to apologize for calling Ohio cities 'armpits of America' | Stocks reach record high after long recovery Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns WH spokesman: Trump 'not inclined' to turn over tax returns to Dems MORE (D-Mass.) said at Tuesday's hearing.

"It crosses the political spectrum. In fact, the President recently expressed his intent to address drug prices. If we are on the same page on this, there clearly is a problem."



Utah governor defies voters, signs limited Medicaid expansion

Utah's governor on Monday signed into law a limited Medicaid expansion plan, defying voters who approved a full expansion in November.

The bill signed by Gov. Gary Herbert (R) would cover far fewer people, and cost taxpayers more money, than the plan voters approved in November.

The new law calls for the state to ask the Trump administration for permission to launch a partial expansion of Medicaid for people earning up to 100 percent of the poverty level, rather than the 138 percent under ObamaCare.

In a statement, Herbert said the measure "balances Utah's sense of compassion and frugality. It is now time to set aside differences and move forward to get those in greatest need enrolled on Medicaid and on the federal health care exchanges."

Context: The legislation falls well short of a proposition approved by voters in November to expand Medicaid coverage to anyone earning between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level, covering about 150,000 people. The limited expansion will cover 100,000 people and cost $50 million more. Legal challenges are possible.

Read more here.


Health care spending for individuals who receive employer-sponsored insurance has reached a record high, according to a study released Tuesday.

Average annual spending for people who get their health insurance through work was $5,641 in 2017, up 4.2 percent from $5,416 the previous year, the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) found in its analysis. The average includes the amount paid by workers, their employers and insurers.

Spending on health care is increasing because of higher prices, not because people are using more services, according to the study.

The overall use of health care services declined 0.2 percent between 2013 and 2017, while spending on health care increased 16.7 percent.

More from the study here.


Dem chair asks FDA for documents on powerful new opioid

In November, the FDA approved a controversial new opioid. Now Democrats want documents from the agency on its decision.

Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteAnti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group Dems push back on White House suggesting they're 'not smart enough' for Trump's tax returns MORE (D-Colo.), the chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyThe Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? DHS plan for face scanning at airports sparks alarm Amazon hiring alcohol lobbyist MORE (D-Mass.) on Tuesday wrote to the FDA asking for documents that the agency relied on in approving the new opioid.

What's the controversy? Advocates and some lawmakers had warned against approving the powerful new opioid amid the epidemic of opioid overdoses.

Dsuvia is 10 times more powerful than fentanyl and 1,000 times more powerful than morphine.

FDA's view: In November when announcing the approval of the drug, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb acknowledged its potential dangers but said it could be beneficial to the military.

He noted that the drug can be administered under the tongue, which could be helpful on the battlefield in situations where injecting a drug is difficult.  

Read more on the controversy here.



At no cost to taxpayers, the 340B program is critical to the health of our patients because it allows hospitals serving vulnerable communities to address the health care needs of their communities, including providing free or substantially discounted prescriptions to low-income and rural patients, operating free clinics, treating patients with substance use disorders, and sustaining access to other lifesaving services for patients. Weakening this vital program will hurt patients. Learn more.


Tomorrow: New Medicare buy-in bill

Look out tomorrow for the latest Democratic health care plan. This one is more narrow than some others in the Medicare for all realm: It would let people buy into Medicare starting at age 50.

The sponsors are Sens. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowDemocratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer We can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's Bipartisan senators offer bill to expand electric vehicle tax credit MORE (D-Mich.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts MORE (D-Wis.), along with Reps. Brian HigginsBrian HigginsDemocratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Democratic senators unveil 'Medicare X' bill to expand coverage US labor unions say NAFTA replacement doesn't go far enough for workers MORE (D-N.Y.) and Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyDems offer smaller step toward ‘Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid House lawmakers look to reassure Australia after Mattis resignation MORE (D-Conn.).

They will hold a press conference at noon.


What we're reading

Three Obamacare tweaks that both parties can love (Politico)

A political 'bomb' over drug prices could threaten NAFTA 2.0 (Associated Press)

Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Waters renews calls for impeachment | Dem wants Fed pick to apologize for calling Ohio cities 'armpits of America' | Stocks reach record high after long recovery Sherrod Brown asks Trump Fed pick why he referred to Cleveland, Cincinnati as 'armpits of America' Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE separates from Dem pack on Medicare, 'Green New Deal' proposals (Politico)


State by state

Voters in four states have approved Medicaid expansion by ballot. Will Texas do the same? (Texas Tribune)

In Charlotte, Gov. Cooper renews Medicaid expansion push. Will it make a difference? (Charlotte Observer)


From The Hill's op-ed page

Our health depends on the passage of an achievable Green New Deal

Anti-vax and anti-abortion movements are filled with misinformation