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 GrassleyOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (R-Iowa) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' 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 NealSchiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill 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 DeGetteBipartisan former EPA chiefs say Trump administration has abandoned agency's mission Congress: Expand access to physical therapy for underserved communities Overnight 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 MORE (D-Colo.), the chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyNew push to regulate self-driving cars faces tough road Democratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories Democratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories 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.

 

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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 Stabenow It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices Trump judicial nominee says he withdrew over 'gross mischaracterizations' of record Trump judicial nominee says he withdrew over 'gross mischaracterizations' of record MORE (D-Mich.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinValedictorian says he was not allowed to use graduation speech to come out as gay Valedictorian says he was not allowed to use graduation speech to come out as gay Democrats highlight history-making LGBTQ lawmakers for Pride month MORE (D-Wis.), along with Reps. Brian HigginsBrian HigginsHas Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Democratic senators unveil 'Medicare X' bill to expand coverage MORE (D-N.Y.) and Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One Trump shares renderings of red, white and blue Air Force One Trump shares renderings of red, white and blue Air Force One 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 BrownCongress can defend against Russia by outlawing anonymous shell companies Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties 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