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 GrassleyMcSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R-Iowa) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far 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 NealWyden, Mnuchin clash over Trump tax returns, Hunter Biden probe Overnight Health Care: House panel advances legislation on surprise medical bills | Planned Parenthood, ACLU sue over Trump abortion coverage rule | CDC identifies 13th US patient with coronavirus White House warns of raising health costs in debate over surprise medical bills 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 DeGetteOvernight Energy: Panel gives chairman power to subpoena Interior | House passes bill to protect wilderness | House Republicans propose carbon capture bill | Ocasio-Cortez introduces bill to ban fracking House passes Protecting America's Wilderness Act Vaping execs tell lawmakers that e-cigarettes are not meant for young people MORE (D-Colo.), the chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyKennedy, Markey neck-and-neck in Massachusetts primary: poll Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development 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 StabenowOn The Money: GAO to investigate Trump aid for farmers | Bloomberg calls for bolstering Dodd-Frank | Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes GAO launches investigation into Trump aid for farmers Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength MORE (D-Mich.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOvernight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Democratic senators press Amazon over injury rates MORE (D-Wis.), along with Reps. Brian HigginsBrian HigginsOn The Money: Deficit spikes 25 percent through January | Mnuchin declines to say why Trump pulled Treasury nominee who oversaw Roger Stone case | Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts 'Medicare for All' backers notch win with high-profile hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) and Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyOvernight Defense: Inside Trump's 4B Pentagon budget | Highlights include .4B for Space Force, preview of Air Force One paint job | Senate eyes Wednesday debate on Iran war powers | 109 US troops diagnosed with brain injuries from attack Pentagon proposes 4B budget with boost for nukes, cuts to ships MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues 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: Stocks close with second day of steep losses | Dow falls over 800 points as coronavirus fears grow | Kudlow claims virus has been contained | US expects China to honor trade deal amid outbreak Hillicon Valley: Agencies play catch-up over TikTok security concerns | Senate Dems seek sanctions on Russia over new election meddling | Pentagon unveils AI principles Senate Democrats urge Trump administration to impose sanctions on Russia for election interference 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