Overnight Health Care: CEO of largest private health insurer slams 'Medicare for All' plans | Dem bill targets youth tobacco use | CVS fined over fake painkiller prescriptions | Trump, first lady to discuss opioid crisis at summit

Overnight Health Care: CEO of largest private health insurer slams 'Medicare for All' plans | Dem bill targets youth tobacco use | CVS fined over fake painkiller prescriptions | Trump, first lady to discuss opioid crisis at summit
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Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.

It's been a busy day. The CEO of the country's largest health insurance company attacked Medicare for All, President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE will headline a summit on stopping substance abuse, CVS was fined for filling fake opioid prescriptions, and measles cases are up 300 percent worldwide.

We'll start with health insurance...

 

Largest private insurance company slams 'Medicare for all' plans

The CEO of UnitedHealth Group, the nation's largest health insurer, on Tuesday sharply criticized "Medicare for All" proposals being debated by Democratic lawmakers and presidential hopefuls, weighing in on a major political fight ahead of the 2020 election.

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Medicare for All would amount to a "wholesale disruption of American health care [that] would surely jeopardize the relationship people have with their doctors, destabilize the nation's health system, and limit the ability of clinicians to practice medicine at their best," UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann said on a conference call.

Are his comments that notable? The most sweeping version of Medicare for All would effectively eliminate the role of private insurance and replace it with Medicare, the government-run health insurance program. So, it's no wonder that insurers have been actively working to prevent any version of such legislation from being discussed.

But Wichmann's comments represent an escalation, as companies have been hesitant to wade directly into the fight. Most of the work has been done by advocacy groups or lobbyists.

The company was already in the news: Subsidiary UnitedHealth was publicly called out by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary MORE (I-Vt.), who is running for president, after CEO Steve Nelson was heard on leaked audio telling employees that the company was actively working to undercut support for Medicare for All.

"Our message to Steve Nelson and UnitedHealthcare is simple: When we are in the White House your greed is going to end," Sanders tweeted last week.

Read more on Wichmann's comments here.

 

Trump, first lady to discuss opioid crisis at summit

President Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats open televised impeachment hearings The Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems, GOP dig in for public impeachment hearings MORE will travel to Atlanta next week to discuss the opioid crisis at an annual substance abuse summit.

Organizers of the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit announced Tuesday that the Trumps will appear at the event, which is hosted by the National Conference on Addiction Disorders.

President Trump has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency to free up additional resources to combat the epidemic, which claimed the lives of nearly 50,000 Americans in 2017.

Controversy over Trump response: Advocates, though, say the administration and Congress's response has not done enough to help ease the epidemic.

States are using grant money made available through the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law in 2016, to fight the epidemic. And President Trump signed a comprehensive, bipartisan opioid bill that granted new authorities.

But advocates say the legislation doesn't provide enough guaranteed money for a long-term investment into opioid addiction treatment. And a 2018 report from a government watchdog found the administration was only using three of the 17 emergency authorities enabled under the declaration, though the administration has argued many of the authorities were not applicable to the opioid crisis.

Read more here.

 

In other opioid news ...

 

CVS fined for filling fake Percocet prescriptions

CVS is agreeing to pay $535,000 to settle allegations the pharmacy chain filled prescriptions for Percocet, a powerful painkiller, that its pharmacists should have recognized were forgeries.

The fine was announced on Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Rhode Island.

CVS locations in Rhode Island filled 39 prescriptions for Percocet, a Schedule II narcotic, despite the fact that its pharmacists "had reason to know" they were fraudulent, according to officials. CVS Health is headquartered in Woonsocket, R.I.

"Pharmacies put patients at risk when they dispense Schedule II narcotics, which have the highest potential for abuse, without a valid and legal prescription," DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian Boyle said in a statement.

More here.

 

House Dems unveil legislation aimed at curbing youth tobacco use

Democratic House lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled legislation aimed at tamping down the uptick of tobacco and e-cigarette use in young people.

Under the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act  -- spearheaded by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban House panel advances flavored e-cigarette ban Warren doubles down — to Democrats' chagrin, and Trump's delight MORE (D-Fla.), the former secretary of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration -- the government would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 years of age.

The bill would also make it unlawful for companies to market their cigarette and e-cigarette products to those under 21.

Why it matters: E-cigarette use among teens is at a record high. Some advocates see raising the minimum tobacco age to 21 as a way to at least partially combat that.

More on the bill here.

 

Senate Dems call for an increase in Title X funding

Forty Senate Democrats, led by Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanHillicon Valley: Facebook launches 'News Tab' | Senate passes bill to take on 'deepfakes' | Schumer outlines vision for electric cars Senate passes legislation to combat 'deepfake' videos Hillicon Valley: Senators seek national security review of TikTok | TikTok denies claims of Chinese government influence | CNN chief rips Facebook policy on political ads | Dem questions DHS' handling of personal data MORE (N.H.) Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides MORE (Mass.), are pushing for an increase in Title X family planning funding as the program faces an overhaul by the Trump administration.

The Democrats asked Senate Labor-HHS appropriations Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Alcohol industry races to save tax break by year-end deadline McConnell, GOP leaders say they won't be watching House impeachment hearing MORE (R-Mo.) and ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments Senate Democrats call on White House to abandon plan to collect DNA from migrants MORE (D-Wash.) to include $400 million for the program in Congress' upcoming spending bill. Title X has been flat funded at about $286 million since 2014.

"Access to Title X services has been seriously jeopardized by funding cuts in recent years," the senators wrote.

Read the letter here.

 

Measles cases up 300 percent globally

The number of measles cases worldwide has increased by 300 percent in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same time period last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

It's the third year in a row that reports of measles have increased, with countries in Africa and Asia experiencing the highest numbers of cases.

In all, 170 countries have reported 112,163 measles cases so far in 2019, compared to 28,124 during the same time period last year, though WHO says the actual numbers are likely much higher.

Why it matters: WHO notes that spikes have occurred in recent months in countries with high vaccination rates, including the U.S. and Israel, though on a much smaller scale.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has blamed outbreaks in the U.S. on unvaccinated travelers returning to the country from places where large outbreaks are occurring.

Read more here.

 

In administration news..

 

Top HHS official to leave agency

Matthew Bassett, assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, is leaving the agency after two years in Washington.

Bassett, who comes from Tennessee and whose family still lives in Nashville, said it's been difficult to be separated from his wife and son.

"Though I will be leaving Washington, my strong support of the president and secretary will continue," he said.

 

Acting FDA chief commits to Gottlieb's priorities

In first address to FDA staff on Tuesday, acting commissioner Ned Sharpless said he was committed to the priorities of his predecessor, Scott Gottlieb, who stepped down less than a week ago.

"I plan to maintain FDA's current course of action in every area and proceed full speed ahead," Sharpless said. "I promise you, for example, that we'll continue our important and successful work to increase competition and reign in prescription drug costs through advances in our generic drug and biosimilars programs "

Sharpless mentioned a number of regulatory challenges facing the agency, like electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), gene therapies, and CBD oil.

 

What we're reading

U.S. halts sales of pelvic mesh tied to injuries in women (Associated Press)

With abortion services in the crosshairs, Planned Parenthood is reshaping its image. Will it work? (USA Today)

 

State by state

Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Warren faces tough choices on 'Medicare for All' funding | Dems demand answers on Tom Price's charter flights | Medicaid expansion nears 2020 ballot in Oklahoma Senate Democrats demand answers on payment for Tom Price's charter flights Industrial food system is at the heart of biodiversity degradation and climate change MORE talks U.S. GOP health plan gap with Cobb conservatives (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Unaware he had measles, a man traveled from N.Y. to Michigan, infecting 39 people (The Washington Post)