Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: Dem chairs to meet with progressives on drug pricing | Oregon judge says he will block Trump abortion rule | Trump vows to ‘smash the grip’ of drug addiction | US measles cases hit post-2000 record

Greg Nash

Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care.

A federal court blocked the Trump administration’s “gag rule” on family planning, President Trump weighed in on the opioid epidemic, Americans are demanding protection from surprise medical bills, and New York City confirmed more measles cases.  

We’ll start with today’s drug pricing news:


House Dem chairmen to meet with progressives amid divisions over drug pricing

Two key House Democratic committee chairmen will meet with progressive House Democrats next week amid divisions in the party over how to craft their signature legislation to lower drug prices, according to House Democratic aides.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) will meet with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus next week to discuss legislation for Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

{mosads}Lawmakers in the Progressive Caucus have been pushing for what they view as a bill that is tougher on drug companies, from Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), which would strip a company of its monopoly on a drug if it refused to negotiate the price with the government.

But the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is working on a competing plan that would use an outside arbitrator to set the price if negotiations fell through, a system that some progressives view as too weak.

What to watch: A House Democratic aide said the chairmen will be listening, not presenting a plan. We’ll see if the meeting can help bridge the divisions.

Read more here.


Oregon judge says he will block Trump abortion rule

A federal judge in Oregon said late Tuesday he would block the Trump administration from enforcing a ban on abortion referrals at federally funded family planning clinics.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, who was appointed by former President Obama, said he would grant a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed against the Trump administration by Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association (AMA). However, he has not decided whether the decision will apply nationally, according to The Oregonian.

That means the changes will be blocked either in Oregon or nationwide while they are challenged in court.

What this means: We’re not sure yet! But the Title X rules will be blocked in some capacity, likely before parts of it take effect May 3. McShane, who made the comments after hearing arguments in the case Tuesday, said he will file a formal written opinion soon.

Reaction: “Judge McShane got it exactly right when he called the new Title X rule a ‘ham-fisted’ approach to health care,” AMA President Barbara McAneny said in a statement.

HHS said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

What’s next: We’re watching for McShane’s written opinion… but there are also a number of other lawsuits challenging these rules.

A federal judge in Maine heard arguments Tuesday morning in another lawsuit challenging the Title X rule, filed by Maine Family Planning and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

A federal judge in Washington state will hear arguments tomorrow afternoon in a case filed by the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.  

A federal judge in northern California heard arguments last week in yet another case brought by Essential Access Health, the administrator of the state’s Title X network.


Trump vows to ‘smash the grip’ of drug addiction

President Trump dove into a discussion of the opioid epidemic on Wednesday in a speech in Atlanta at a summit on drug abuse.

“We will end this terrible menace, we will smash the grip of addiction,” Trump said.

Steps he highlighted:

  • Helping stop fentanyl coming into the country through the mail
  • Opening up Medicaid funding for more treatment
  • $6 billion in funding over two years for anti-opioid efforts

The politics: While opioids are a bipartisan priority, there is still some partisan debate. Democrats argue that Republicans are not putting enough money toward treatment, and that Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion hurt anti-opioid efforts given that Medicaid is a major source of coverage for opioid treatment.

Read more here.


Poll: Majority of Americans want laws protecting them from surprise medical bills

Three-quarters of the public — including a majority of Republicans — think the federal government should protect patients from having to cover surprise medical bills, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation backs the situation in Congress, where finding a solution to surprise medical bills has bipartisan support. A surprise bill usually occurs after a patient visits a hospital that is inside their insurer’s network but received treatment from an out-of-network doctor, or the patient was taken by ambulance to an out-of-network emergency room.

The goal is to stop instances like a viral story last year of a teacher in Texas who got a $108,951 bill from the hospital after his heart attack because the hospital was not in his insurance network.

The divide: The debate, of course, is all about who will foot the bill. Lawmakers haven’t figured out yet how to determine how much the insurer will pay to the doctor or hospital; all the parties have been lobbying Congress to avoid being the ones who take a financial hit in any upcoming legislation. According to the poll, 43 percent of respondents said the insurance company alone should cover the cost, and 47 percent said the insurance company and the doctor or provider should share in covering the cost.

Is there legislation? Not yet, but the Senate health committee is working on it. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the panel’s top Democrat, have asked the Congressional Budget Office to analyze possible options for protecting patients from getting hit with surprise bills.  

Read more about the poll here.


US measles cases break record since disease was eliminated

Measles cases in the United States have surpassed the highest number on record since the disease was eliminated in 2000, federal health officials said Wednesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 695 cases of measles from 22 states. The previous record was 667 cases reported in 2014.

The high number of cases is primarily the result of a few significant outbreaks — one in Washington state and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018, CDC said.

“The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the U.S.,” the CDC said.

More on the numbers here.


And more on the outbreak in NYC…


New York officials confirm 31 new measles cases in less than a week

The number of measles cases keep rising. New York City health officials on Wednesday said they have confirmed 31 new cases of measles in less than a week, including two pregnant women. There are now 390 cases of measles in the city, up from 359 cases last Thursday.

More people face fines: Officials said they also issued summonses to twelve parents for failing to vaccinate their children, a violation of the mandatory vaccine order. The parents face a $1,000 fine if a hearing officer upholds the summons.

How we got here: New York has the largest measles outbreak in the country. More than 80 percent of all measles cases in the city have been concentrated among Orthodox Jews living in four ZIP codes within the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn; the same areas are under the mandatory vaccination order. The Orthodox community has been targeted by the anti-vaccine movement, and their efforts have turned many parents against vaccines. The outbreak is linked to unvaccinated people traveling abroad– eight individuals, including the initial case, acquired measles while travelling to Israel, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine, which all have active outbreaks.

Read more here.


What we’re reading

Juul names marketing vet Craig Brommers its first CMO (The Wall Street Journal)

Most Americans want lower health care costs, not ‘Medicare for All’ or ObamaCare repeal (CNN.com)

Medicaid expansion tied to positive gains for black babies (CNN)

Faced with an outcry over limits on opioids, authors of CDC guidelines acknowledge they’ve been misapplied (Stat)


State by state

New York City tickets 12 people for defying vaccination order (Reuters)

Vermont freezes association health plan growth amid federal legal fight (vtdigger.org)

In Pennsylvania, two health care behemoths are fighting. Patients are caught in the middle. (Kaiser Health News)

Health commissioner says Alaska isn’t seeking a Medicaid grant (Daily News-Miner)


From The Hill’s opinion page:

In the vaccine fight, measles is winning

Health workers are being killed while trying to fight Ebola in the Congo

Tags Donald Trump Frank Pallone Jr. Lamar Alexander Lloyd Doggett Nancy Pelosi Patty Murray Richard Neal

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

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