Overnight Health Care: McConnell offering bill to raise tobacco-buying age to 21 | NC gov vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill | CMS backs off controversial abortion proposal

Overnight Health Care: McConnell offering bill to raise tobacco-buying age to 21 | NC gov vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill | CMS backs off controversial abortion proposal
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

It was Robert Mueller report day, so we understand if you've been a bit distracted. But we'll get you caught up on health care news.

In the health world, North Carolina's governor vetoed an abortion bill, Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster Hickenlooper announces Senate bid Trump orders elimination of student loan debt for thousands of disabled veterans MORE wants to raise the legal smoking age, and the Trump administration backed off a controversial abortion proposal for health plans.

We'll start with the news from the Senate:


McConnell introducing bill to raise age to buy tobacco to 21

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he will introduce legislation that would raise the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.

The forthcoming bill, which the Senate GOP leader announced during a press conference in Kentucky, would set the nationwide minimum age at 21 and would cover all tobacco products, including vaping devices.


McConnell said his legislation would be similar to the current law that enforces the 18-year-old minimum age.

"For some time, I've been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children. In addition, we all know people who started smoking at a young age and who struggled to quit as adults. Unfortunately it's reaching epidemic levels around the country," McConnell said in a statement.

Why it matters: Facing regulation from the FDA, tobacco companies have recently began supporting tobacco 21 legislation. But anti-tobacco advocates worry the industry is using these bills to avoid stronger regulation that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products.

Put another way: Anti-tobacco advocates see raising the purchasing age to 21 as a starting point. Tobacco companies see it as a solution to the increasing numbers of kids smoking e-cigarettes.
Read more about the debate here.


North Carolina governor vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) on Thursday vetoed a controversial "born alive" abortion bill, arguing the legislation is unnecessary because the practice doesn't exist.

The measure would establish new criminal penalties for infanticide by requiring doctors and nurses to provide the same level of care to an infant that survives an abortion as they would to any other newborn.

"Laws already protect newborn babies and this bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients," Cooper said in his veto message. "This needless legislation would criminalize doctors and other healthcare providers for a practice that simply does not exist."

Cooper's veto could set up an override attempt in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, though Democrats won enough seats in the 2018 election to take away the GOP's supermajority. An override requires support from 60 percent of the legislators present.

What's the controversy? Democrats have argued that infanticide is already illegal, and that the legislation is an attempt to discourage doctors and nurses from participating in legal abortions. Republicans counter that the legislation is designed to protect children and is not meant to be anti-abortion.

Read more on the legislation here.


CMS backs off controversial abortion proposal ... for now

A proposal that would require insurers that cover abortion to also offer plans that don't cover abortion will not take effect in the 2020 plan year, CMS said Thursday.

The proposal was controversial and opposed by abortion rights groups that argued the administration's goal was to discourage insurers from covering the procedure in their plans.

The administration argued that some consumers want to enroll in health plans, but they don't want to be in plans that cover abortions due to religious or moral reasons.

But CMS said it is still reviewing the 25,000 responses it received on the proposal and wouldn't be able to finalize it in time for the 2020 plan year.

CMS noted it may finalize the rule in the future.


What we're reading

High-deductible health policies linked to delayed diagnosis and treatment (NPR)

As syphilis invades rural America, a fraying health safety net is failing to stop it (Kaiser Health News)

Drugmakers reveal list prices online after pressure from Trump (Bloomberg)

CMS rule would stop drugmakers' coupons from applying to patients' out-of-pocket limits (Modern Healthcare)


State by state

Amid measles outbreak, Washington state moves closer to a crackdown on vaccine exemptions (Seattle Times)

Ohio may increase hospital oversight after Mount Carmel patient deaths (Columbus Dispatch)

Medical marijuana oil sales signed into Georgia law (Atlanta Journal Constitution)


From The Hill's opinion page

A Hippocratic Oath for big data