Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems
Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules | Chamber launching ad blitz against Trump drug plan | Google offers help to dispose of opioids
Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.
Today, Democrats are pressing the Trump administration to halt new Medicaid work requirements, the Chamber is launching a seven-figure ad blitz against President Trump's drug pricing plans and Google wants to help the public get rid of unneeded opioids.
Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules after 18,000 lose coverage in Arkansas
Top congressional Democrats are calling on the Trump administration to stop approving work requirements for Medicaid programs after more than 18,000 people lost coverage last year due to the requirements in Arkansas.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote to the administration that the requirements "threaten to impede access to critical care for millions of Americans."
The context: Medicaid work requirements are one of the most significant health care changes that the Trump administration has put forward, but they have not always received a ton of attention. The Democrats are looking to intensify scrutiny.
Flashback: Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told reporters in November that she was "looking closely" at why thousands of people had lost coverage in Arkansas.
"We are looking closely at the people that have left the program to understand the reasons why they have left the program, and I think that's going to give us a lot of lessons learned," Verma said at the time.
Chamber of Commerce launches seven-figure ad campaign against Trump drug pricing proposal
The Chamber of Commerce is launching a seven-figure ad campaign targeting a controversial proposal from the Trump administration aimed at bringing down drug prices.
The proposal would link what Medicare pays for prescription drugs to what other countries pay, and it is fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry and other groups.
The Chamber has paid for cable, digital and print ads to run through early to mid-March.
The campaign urges the administration to drop the proposal and for members of Congress oppose it, characterizing it as "foreign price controls."
Context: Many groups, including PhRMA, have come out swinging against the proposal, which would essentially mean that Medicare pays less for prescription drugs than it currently does.
Purdue exec agreed to hide OxyContin strength from doctors
There are new developments in the ongoing Purdue Pharma opioid saga. Purdue Pharma executive Richard Sackler agreed to hide the strength of opioid OxyContin from doctors, ProPublica and STAT reported Thursday.
Sackler allegedly agreed not to contest the belief that OxyContin was less potent than morphine at the suggestion of sales and marketing director Michael Friedman, the outlets said citing emails that appear in a sealed court deposition.
"It would be extremely dangerous at this early stage in the life of the product," Friedman reportedly wrote to Sackler in 1997, "to make physicians think the drug is stronger or equal to morphine... We are well aware of the view held by many physicians that oxycodone is weaker than morphine. I do not plan to do anything about that."
"I agree with you," Sackler reportedly responded. "Is there a general agreement, or are there some holdouts?"
Sackler is a member of the family that owns Purdue and has served on its board of directors, including as co-chairman of the board.
Google launches effort to fight opioid epidemic
Tech is getting in on the fight against opioids. Federal agencies, state governments and local pharmacies helped Google identify 3,500 drug drop-off locations across the country where people are invited to dispose of leftover pain pills and other addictive drugs. Now, using Google Maps or search, users can look up phrases similar to "drug drop off near me" or "medication disposal near me" and find directions to the nearest permanent disposal locations.
"By bringing opioid disposal site information to Google Maps, Americans are only a search away from helping to address the opioid crisis," Health and Human Services (HHS) chief technology officer Ed Simcox said in a statement. "This type of consumer empowerment--providing easily accessible data--is the kind of innovation needed to improve healthcare."
Google says it partnered with agencies and companies including HHS, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), CVS and Walgreens to determine drop-off locations across seven states.
What we're reading
Build your own 'Medicare for All' plan. Beware: There are tough choices. (The New York Times Upshot)
Opinion: Alternatives to Medicare-for-all that are worth studying and debating (The Washington Post)
Spending forecast offers ammunition -- and some alarm -- for Democrats pushing Medicare expansion (The Washington Post)
State by state
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison creates task force to combat high drug prices (Twin Cities Pioneer-Press)
Medicaid expansion repeal effort fails in Idaho committee (Associated Press)
From The Hill's op-ed page