Overnight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine

Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

Today, House Democrats voted to condemn the Trump administration's push to have courts invalidate ObamaCare, key House lawmakers reached an agreement on a drug pricing legislation, a major insurer announced big savings on insulin, and a Republican House member wants to raise the legal smoking age.  

We'll start with drug pricing:

 

Pallone, Walden reach bipartisan deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill

Some progress on drug pricing: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone and Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenBipartisan House panel leaders ask agencies for maternal mortality data Congress has questions for Google's 'Sensorvault' Conservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown MORE (R-Ore.), the panel's top Democrat have a deal in six bills aimed at lowering drug prices.

Aides in both parties said Democrats verbally agreed to make changes to one of the most prominent measures, known as the Creates Act, which cracks down on tactics drug companies use to delay the introduction of cheaper generic drugs.

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That bill was stalled for much of last year amid lobbying in opposition from the powerful pharmaceutical industry. But opposition from the industry has lessened recently amid intensifying scrutiny of high drug prices, and some drug company CEOs even said they supported the bill during a high-profile hearing before the Senate Finance Committee in February.

The path forward: The measures likely could have passed the House anyway, given Democratic control of the chamber, but the support from Walden and other key Republicans makes it more likely there will be pressure on the Senate to act as well, especially given that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyCongress can retire the retirement crisis On 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 MORE (R-Iowa) also supports the Creates Act and the "pay for delay" legislation.

Read more here.

 

Eight House Republicans condemn Trump's latest anti-ObamaCare push

The House on Wednesday passed a resolution condemning the Trump administration's push to have the courts invalidate ObamaCare.  The measure passed 240-186.

Eight Republicans joined all but one Democrat in voting for the measure, which passed 240-186.

GOP Reps. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikDem gun efforts run into Senate GOP bulwark Overnight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine The 8 Republicans who voted against Trump's anti-ObamaCare push MORE (N.Y.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoCybersecurity Advisory Committee will strengthen national security through a stronger public-private partnership There's a pain bill that's actually sensitive to patients — let's pass it Dogfighting victims need the HEART Act to find their way home MORE (N.Y.), Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithMain Street businesses need permanent tax relief to grow Overnight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine The 8 Republicans who voted against Trump's anti-ObamaCare push MORE (N.J.), Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedLawmakers offer bipartisan resolution highlighting sexual assault prevention GOP lawmaker: Battle over Trump tax returns 'is going to have to be litigated' Overnight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine MORE (N.Y.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickFreshman House Dems surge past GOP in money race Cybersecurity Advisory Committee will strengthen national security through a stronger public-private partnership Congress is ready to tackle climate change MORE (Pa.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonOvernight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine The 8 Republicans who voted against Trump's anti-ObamaCare push House condemns Trump's latest anti-ObamaCare push MORE (Mich.), Pete StauberPeter (Pete) Allen StauberOvernight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine The 8 Republicans who voted against Trump's anti-ObamaCare push House condemns Trump's latest anti-ObamaCare push MORE (Minn.) and Denver RigglemanDenver RigglemanOvernight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine The 8 Republicans who voted against Trump's anti-ObamaCare push House condemns Trump's latest anti-ObamaCare push MORE (Va.) voted in favor of the resolution. Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezOvernight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine House condemns Trump's latest anti-ObamaCare push Overnight Energy: Collins to oppose Wheeler for EPA chief | Feinstein clarifies views on Green New Deal | Schumer calls McConnell push for vote on deal a 'diversion' MORE (R-Ohio) voted present.

Democratic Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonDemocrats, making a difference is better than making a point House votes to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act, closing 'boyfriend loophole' Overnight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine MORE (Minn.) voted with Republicans against the measure.  Why it matters: Democrats want to force Republicans to take tough votes on health care ahead of the 2020 elections. This follows the House's January vote to intervene in the Texas lawsuit (which only three Republicans voted for, Katko, Fitzpatrick and Reed.)
Read more on the vote here and on the GOP defectors here.

 

Trump administration approves Medicaid expansion in Maine

The Trump administration on Wednesday approved Maine's request to accept federal funds under ObamaCare to expand Medicaid, after nearly a year and a half of political battles.

According to Gov. Janet Mills (D), the administration's approval is retroactive to July 2, 2018, the date the expansion was originally supposed to be implemented.

Maine was the first state to approve expansion by a ballot initiative in 2017, but former GOP Gov. Paul LePage had long blocked it from taking effect. He argued that expansion was not adequately funded but vetoed a spending bill that would have funded it. LePage continued to oppose expansion even after a judge ordered him to start it.

When Mills took office, she signed an executive order instructing the state to move forward.

As part of the expansion plan, the federal government will pay more than $800 million from July 2, 2018 through state fiscal year 2021. Maine is among 36 states plus the District of Columbia that have expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare.

The expansion will cover an additional 70,000 people.

 

GOP lawmaker to propose raising tobacco age of sale to 21

A Republican lawmaker will introduce legislation this week that would raise tobacco age of sale requirements from 18 to 21.

Rep. Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtAnti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Barr forms team to probe FBI actions in Russia investigation: report The single-sentence Russia bombshell that Attorney General Barr delivered to Congress MORE (R-Ala.) said his intent is to keep tobacco products like e-cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers.

"It's these enterprising 18-year-olds that are selling to minors and increasing the age to 21 will make it harder for this type of activity," Aderholt said at an appropriations hearing Wednesday.

Why it matters: Democrats in Congress have long tried to raise the minimum tobacco buying age from 18, with bills introduced in the past by Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzAnti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Hillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Lawmakers, tech set for clash over AI MORE (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteBipartisan House panel leaders ask agencies for maternal mortality data Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group MORE (D-Colo.). But this is the first time such a bill will be introduced by a Republican in Congress. The idea has been embraced by e-cigarette companies like Juul as it tries to heed off federal regulation.

Read more here.

 

FDA investigating reports of seizures after e-cigarette use

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating reports that e-cigarettes might be triggering seizures among a small portion of smokers.

The agency on Wednesday said it is looking into 35 reported cases of seizures, mainly among young people, following use of e-cigarettes between 2010 and early 2019.

Agency officials said they can't say for certain that vaping is the cause of the seizures, but they want the public to be aware.

The FDA has not established a pattern among reported cases: Seizures have been reported among first-time e-cigarette users and experienced users, and they have been reported as occurring immediately after inhalation and as much as a day after use.

FDA officials urged anyone who has used e-cigarettes and had a seizure to report the issue on a federal safety portal.

"While 35 cases may not seem like much compared to the total number of people using e-cigarettes, we are nonetheless concerned by these reported cases," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy said in a statement. "We believe these 35 cases warrant scientific investigation into whether there is in fact a connection."

Read more here.

 

Cigna says it will cap insulin costs at $25 a month for some patients

Health insurance company Cigna announced Wednesday it will cap the price of a 30-day insulin supply at $25 for some of its members.

The announcement comes as insurers and drug manufacturers face growing questions from Congress and the Trump administration about the rising cost of insulin.

Cigna and its pharmacy benefit manager, Express Scripts, said the program will be available for nongovernment Cigna plans for employers, unions and individuals starting Wednesday.

Why it matters: Pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen who negotiate the prices of drugs with drugmakers, have faced intense scrutiny from political leaders, who argue that they do not pass the savings they get on drugs down to the patients who buy them.

Upcoming scrutiny: Express Scripts and four other pharmacy benefit managers will testify before the Senate Finance Committee and House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee next week, where they are likely to face questions about insulin prices.

In a statement, Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was skeptical of the timing of the announcement.

"Any time out-of-pocket prescription drug costs are lowered, that's good news for patients. But it's unclear why this is only happening now. Why couldn't this have been done years ago?" Grassley said. "It shouldn't take bad press and congressional scrutiny to get health plans, their pharmacy benefit managers and pharmaceutical companies to arrive at a fair price for a drug that's been on the market for nearly a century."

More on Cigna's move here.

 

What we're reading

The GOP's capitulation to ObamaCare (The Washington Post)

The clinic's experimental stem cell treatment blinded patients. Four years later, the government is still trying to shut it down. (The Washington Post)

Sorrento Therapeutic sues billionaire Soon-Shiong over development of cancer drug (The Wall Street Journal)

It's terrifyingly easy to get measles vaccine exemptions (Kaiser Health News)

 

State by state

ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion is helping fight West Virginia's opioid epidemic (Vox.com)

30K people removed from Louisiana Medicaid rolls, deemed ineligible (The Advocate)

 

From The Hill's opinion page:

Association health plans are enticing but ultimately not worth the risk

Congress take action now to make insulin affordable  

Health care debate front and center for 2020