Overnight Health Care: Top Trump official privately warned against ObamaCare changes | Drugmakers sue over TV ad rule | Court rules against Trump policy on abortions for undocumented teens
Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over $2K drug price tag
Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.
Today, Democrats jammed Republicans on drug pricing bills, Kevin McCarthy said Alabama's abortion law goes too far, senators unveiled surprise medical bill legislation, and the administration backed off a controversial Medicare drug pricing change.
We'll start with the Democratic maneuvering on drug prices:
Republicans cry foul over House Democrat tactics on drug pricing bills
House Democrats on Thursday forced Republicans to vote against their own drug pricing bills by packaging them with measures intended to shore up ObamaCare.
The House passed the package in a 234-183 vote, with Democrats drawing only five Republicans to vote with the majority.
As part of the package, Democrats voted on three bills that would help remove barriers to generic drugs entering the market and would crack down on tactics that lawmakers say pharmaceutical companies use to tamp down competition and keep prices high.
The bills were bipartisan and passed unanimously out of the Energy and Commerce Committee, but Democratic leaders this week combined them with legislation rolling back what they call the administration's "sabotage" of ObamaCare.
That forced Republicans into the tough position of voting down popular drug pricing bills, so as not to be seen as favoring ObamaCare.
The move was slammed by Republicans for inserting politics into something that has traditionally been bipartisan.
"I have to express my regret that the bipartisan work we did ... gets paired up with a purely partisan bill they know we had problems with," said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday decried what he called adding "partisan poison pills" to legislation where everyone was in agreement.
"They took a situation where we found common ground on drug pricing and transparency ... but before they came to the floor, they put poison pills in it dealing with the Affordable Care Act," McCarthy said.
Fallout from Alabama's controversial abortion law... the House GOP leader is not on board
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Thursday he believes the Alabama law banning nearly all abortions goes too far.
"It goes further than I believe, yes," McCarthy said during a press conference.
McCarthy emphasized his opposition to abortion, saying, "First of all, I believe the most precious gift God gives us is life. And I [defended] my pro-life position my whole political career. "
But he added that he's always felt there should be exceptions -- such as for cases of rape, incest and the life of a woman being at risk -- when it comes to the law.
McCarthy's comments are a sign that even many Republicans are not comfortable with how far the Alabama law goes.
And over in the upper chamber...
Senate GOP running away from Alabama abortion law
Senate Republicans are scrambling to distance themselves from a harsh new Alabama law that bans nearly all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, and carries a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for anyone performing the procedure.
Most GOP senators are trying their best to steer clear of the firestorm, arguing it's a state-level issue that doesn't involve Congress. But the controversial law will undoubtedly stoke the abortion debate heading into the 2020 elections.
Some of the reactions: Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who is up for reelection next year in a state Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won in 2016, is taking the lead in slamming the Alabama statute as "very extreme" and a "terrible law."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), another leading Republican moderate, declined to comment on the Alabama law as she headed into a lunch meeting Thursday.
When later pressed as she headed to the Senate floor for the final vote of the week, Murkowski told reporters that she disagrees with the lack of an exception for the victims of rape or incest.
"I think you know where I come from on that. I believe that there need to be exceptions," she said.
Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO for nearly $2K price tag on HIV drug that costs $8 in Australia
Another moment from AOC that could go viral at a hearing today on the price of an HIV drug...
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) confronted a CEO Thursday for pricing a drug designed to reduce the risk of HIV transmission at $8 in Australia but over $1,500 in the U.S.
"You're the CEO of Gilead. Is it true that Gilead made $3 billion in profits from Truvada in 2018?" Ocasio-Cortez asked Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day.
"$3 billion in revenue," he clarified.
"The current list price is $2,000 a month in the United States, correct?" she asked, referring to Truvada.
"It's $1,780 in the United States," O'Day responded.
"Why is it $8 in Australia?" Ocasio-Cortez countered.
"Truvada still has patent protection in the United States and in the rest of the world it is generic," O'Day explained, adding, "It will be generically available in the United States as of September 2020."
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Bipartisan senators unveil measure to end surprise medical bills
The action is picking up on stopping surprise medical bills.
The latest: Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) led a group of senators on Thursday introducing a bill.
Bipartisan momentum: Hassan, a Democrat, noted that she joined Trump at the White House for an event last week to call for an end to surprise bills.
"There is strong bipartisan momentum behind ending the absurd practice of surprise medical bills," she said. "Sen. Cassidy and I were at the White House last week to join the president as he spoke out on the importance of addressing this issue."
What to watch: Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are still working on their own plan. That will be key to watch given that Alexander is the chairman of the relevant panel, and their bill is set to be included in a broader package to lower health care costs that Alexander hopes will come to the Senate floor this summer.
Trump administration backs off controversial Medicare drug pricing rule
The Trump administration on Thursday backed off a controversial Medicare drug pricing proposal that would have allowed insurers to exclude certain drugs if prices rise faster than inflation.
In a final rule, the administration said it was leaving in place the current policy about Medicare's "protected classes" of drugs.
Under current law, private Medicare health plans are required to cover all or "substantially all" drugs in six "protected" classes, such as HIV treatments, antidepressants, drugs to prevent blood clots, and cancer drugs, regardless of cost.
Last fall, the administration proposed allowing health plans to exclude protected drugs with price increases that are greater than inflation, as well as certain new drug formulations that were not a "significant innovation" over the original product.
The move, which was aimed at lowering drug costs for private Medicare plans, was vigorously opposed by some patient advocacy groups, which argued the plan would have decreased seniors' access to medicine.
This isn't the first time an administration has tried to save money by cutting the protected classes. In 2014, then-President Obama tried to remove the protected status from some types of drugs, but he also backed off after outrage from patient groups and bipartisan lawmakers.
What we're reading
In Washington, a partisan approach to lowering drug costs leaves Democrats doubting their own party leadership (Stat News)
How generic drug makers are responding to price-fixing lawsuit (PBS Newshour)
The costliest drug on the planet will treat infants with rare disease. The market fight focused on cost and safety is just getting started. (The Washington Post)
Opioid crisis has spread beyond United States: OECD (Reuters)
State by state
Alabama just enacted the country's most restrictive abortion law. What happens now? (CNN.com)
'The time is now': States are rushing to restrict abortion, or to protect it (The New York Times)
From The Hill's opinion page: