Overnight Health Care: House Dems hold first hearing on 'Medicare for All' | Trump urges Dem senator to revive ObamaCare talks | Booming cannabis market puts pressure on FDA

Overnight Health Care: House Dems hold first hearing on 'Medicare for All' | Trump urges Dem senator to revive ObamaCare talks | Booming cannabis market puts pressure on FDA
© Stefani Reynolds

Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.

It was a big day for supporters of Medicare for All. House Democrats held their first hearing on the proposal, with the promise of more to come. Also, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE wants to revive bipartisan ObamaCare talks, and expressed an interest in working with Democrats on drug prices. Meanwhile, progressives want Democrats to go bolder on drug pricing.

We'll start with Medicare for All:

 

House Democrats hold first ever 'Medicare for All' hearing

Progressive Democrats scored a victory Tuesday when Congress held its first ever, long-awaited hearing on Medicare for all, the left's ambitious proposal to reshape the American health care system. 

It's not likely to get a floor vote in the House. It's not clear if it will even be considered by the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over health care issues.

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But supporters of Medicare for All say Tuesday's hearing in the Rules Committee -- which has no jurisdiction over health care -- is a big step in legitimizing a proposal that has galvanized large swaths of the Democratic party. Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealSchiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill MORE (D-Mass.) also committed Tuesday to holding a hearing on the proposal, another major victory for its supporters.

"This was the first step, it's a big step, but we're on our way," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Rules Committee and a supporter of Medicare for All.

Details: Ten years of fighting over ObamaCare taught us that health care is often a contentious issue among members of Congress.

But Tuesday's hearing was actually pretty low-key. Members of both parties mostly asked witnesses substantive questions about how Medicare for All would work and what its costs would be.

But members were clearly moved by Ady Barkan, a health care advocate and ALS patient, who delivered emotional testimony about his struggles with private insurance companies.

His deteriorating condition means he has to rely on a computer to speak for him.

"I needed Medicare for All yesterday. Millions of people need it today," he said.

"The time to pass this law is now."

 

Ways and Means Committee to also hold 'Medicare for All' hearing

While the Rules Committee hearing was underway, Medicare for All advocates got some more good news: the House Ways and Means Committee will hold its own "Medicare for All" hearing. While the Rules Committee was the first hearing, it doesn't normally oversee health care.

Ways and Means does, which makes the promise of a hearing a significant step forward for the legislation.

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalCentrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage push Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage push Overnight Health Care: Democratic bill would require insurance to cover OTC birth control | House Dems vote to overturn ban on fetal tissue research | New rule aims to expand health choices for small businesses MORE (D-Wash.), one the primary co-sponsors of the bill, said the pledge from Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) was important, but she wanted the focus to stay on the historic nature of Tuesday's hearing.

"We will get those hearings, I believe in putting in the time and the work to the process. But this hearing today is historic. I'm thrilled. I think it was a massive victory for us," Jayapal said.

GOP trolling: Of course, it isn't just advocates who are thrilled. House Republicans are perfectly happy to showcase the Medicare for All hearings as a sign that Democrats are moving towards socialism. The top Ways and Means Republicans on Tuesday morning-- Reps. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyFirst major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides First major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides House passes bipartisan IRS reform bill without 'Free File' provision MORE (R-Texas) and Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Lawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing MORE (R-Calif.) had asked to hold a hearing in order to have a "public accounting" of the plan to move to a "one-size-fits-all government controlled health care system."

Read more on the next hearing here

 

Trump urges Dem senator to revive bipartisan ObamaCare talks

Today's White House meeting with President Trump and Democrats was supposed to be about infrastructure.... but there was lots of other news, including speculation about maybe restarting ObamaCare talks?

Trump said that he did not understand why the bipartisan proposal that Democratic Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control access face major obstacles It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices Ocasio-Cortez shares verse by the 'Congressional Destiny's Child' in promotion of new birth control legislation MORE (Wash.) worked on in 2017 and 2018 with Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTaylor Swift thanks Cory Booker for signing Equality Act petition Taylor Swift thanks Cory Booker for signing Equality Act petition Senate health panel to move forward on package to lower health costs next week MORE (R-Tenn.) had been dropped, according to a Democratic source.

Murray replied that she had been told the White House would veto the measure. Trump replied that he never said that and encouraged Murray and Alexander to resume their efforts, a Democratic source said.

Why to be skeptical: The politics of ObamaCare are still extremely divisive, which makes it very hard to get done any bipartisan agreement to shore up the law.  In addition, the previous deal fell apart over abortion funding restrictions in 2018. And there hasn't been any progress on bridging that divide since then.

Still: Murray says she welcomes the chance to try again on bipartisan ObamaCare action. And in a statement Tuesday evening, Alexander said he would also "welcome the opportunity" to discuss the legislation, but only if Democrats were willing to modify their position on the abortion restrictions.

Read more here.

 

Progressives push House chairmen to go bolder on drug pricing

The latest on the intra-Democrat divide on drug pricing: a meeting of two powerful chairmen and progressives on Tuesday.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus urged House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneTop Trump health official warned against controversial ObamaCare changes in private memo Top Trump health official warned against controversial ObamaCare changes in private memo First major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides MORE (D-N.J.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) to support a far-reaching drug pricing bill from Rep. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettFirst major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides First major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides Overnight Health Care: Liberals rip Democratic leaders for writing drug pricing bill in secret | Dems demand answers from company that shelters migrant kids | Measles cases top 1,000 MORE (D-Texas) that would allow the government to strip drug companies of their monopolies if they refuse to sell drugs at a reasonable price.

The progressives also pushed back on a competing proposal under discussion that would allow an outside arbiter to help set drug prices, warning that the idea would be too weak.

Why it matters: House Democrats are trying to bridge a divide that has opened up within the party on the best way to move forward on lowering drug prices, one of their signature issues.

Lawmakers said the chairmen listened during the meeting and expressed openness to different ideas while not offering a plan of their own.

Read more here.

 

On the business side of things...

 

Booming cannabis market puts pressure on FDA

The market for cannabis-based products is booming, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is struggling to keep up.

Congress legalized the use of hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) products late last year in the farm bill, sending the agency scrambling to figure out new rules around regulating a unique product that is both a drug and a dietary supplement. In the meantime, the CBD industry is operating in a grey area and facing uncertainty about what the next steps will be.

The problem: FDA considers CBD a drug. The agency approved its first CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, for the treatment of epilepsy last year. But under agency rules, that means any other CBD product must also be considered a drug and subject to a rigorous approval process. As such, FDA says that adding CBD to foods and dietary supplements in interstate commerce are both illegal.

But isn't that already happening? Yes. The glut of CBD and hemp products already on the market is creating a headache for the agency, and lawmakers want to know what regulators are going to do about it. Hemp companies took the farm bill as essentially carte blanche for CBD products, and the market is flooded. CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have begun selling CBD-infused beauty and wellness products like topical creams, patches and sprays. Some coffee shops even sell CBD-infused drinks.

What's next: FDA can't remove every single CBD product from store shelves. The agency is currently only cracking down on companies that make outrageous health claims about CBD, like curing cancer. And even then, the companies mainly get a strongly worded letter telling them to knock it off, or else. There's a public meeting at the end of May, and many in the industry are pushing for some kind of interim clarification of the rules.

Get the rest of the story here.

 

Philip Morris gets FDA nod to begin selling new tobacco device

The Food and Drug Administration will allow Philip Morris International to sell a new tobacco device that's designed as an alternative to traditional cigarettes.

It is not an e-cigarette. The iQOS is a small pen-like electronic device that heats a stick of tobacco, rather than burning it, making the vapor less harmful than smoke from traditional cigarettes. The tobacco stick also sets the device apart from electronic cigarettes, which utilize a nicotine-laced liquid that allows users to inhale much stronger levels of nicotine and tobacco than a traditional cigarette.

Public health concerns: The FDA review took nearly two years to complete, highlighting the public health debate over whether the device will actually help people. Philip Morris International and FDA both said the device doesn't produce the same level of toxins as a traditional cigarette. But the agency hasn't decided yet if the company can say the device is actually less harmful than other tobacco products, or that it can reduce the risk of disease.

Not an e-cig: E-cigarettes like Juul have come under fire for marketing flavors that many say are aimed at children. The iQOS is not flavored, but anti-smoking advocates are still concerned. Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association urged FDA to "carefully monitor how this product is actually being used -- and by whom." The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids warned FDA not to let iQOS become the next Juul, saying Philip Morris International has marketed the product abroad in ways that appeal to children.

More on the approval here.

 

What we're reading

Abortion in the third trimester: A rare decision often made in tragic Ccrcumstances (NPR)

They want it to be secret: how a common blood test can cost $11 or almost $1,000 (The New York Times)

Teens say they don't vape, they Juul, making e-cigarette use hard to track (Bloomberg)

Nearly all doctors can freely prescribe opioids. Now a new movement aims to vastly deregulate an addiction treatment (Stat)

 

State by state

West Virginia hospitals sue opioid firms (Charleston Gazette-Mail)

Maryland takes step toward capping drug prices (The Wall Street Journal)

After closed-door talks, lawmakers agree to fully fund Medicaid waiver for disabled children (The Tennessean)

Medicaid work requirements hit roadblocks (Stateline