Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems

Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care.

It's going to be a busy week in Congress before lawmakers leave for the Memorial Day recess. Today, Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump congratulates Steve King challenger on GOP primary win The Hill's Morning Report - Protesters' defiance met with calls to listen Republicans turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks MORE introduced his bipartisan "Tobacco 21" bill. Meanwhile, the measles outbreak is still growing, a pro-ObamaCare group is working to protect vulnerable House Democrats, and we look into how Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeMillions of Americans frustrated by delayed unemployment checks Trump rule limits states from blocking pipeline projects Inslee says Trump coronavirus response akin to if FDR called Pearl Harbor 'a hoax' MORE (D-Wash.) is showcasing a state public option.

We'll start with the latest tobacco news...



McConnell, Kaine introduce bill to raise tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who hails from one of the biggest tobacco-producing states, said he's proud of Kentucky's history, but that the purchasing age must be increased amid record high youth vaping rates.

He introduced the bill with Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Trump's move to use military in US sparks backlash | Defense officials take heat | Air Force head calls Floyd's death 'a national tragedy' Pentagon: Esper, Milley 'not aware' of Trump's church photo-op ahead of time Democratic senator plans defense bill amendment to bar using troops against protesters MORE (D-Va.), who happens to represent the state where industry giant Altria is headquartered.

"We're proud of our past, and we're proud of who we are, but Kentucky farmers don't want their children to get hooked on tobacco products while they're in middle or high school any more than any parents anywhere want that to happen," McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday.

How the bill is being received: Public health groups support increasing the purchasing age to 21, but they also argue much more needs to be done, including a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products, which are shown to be appealing to kids.

Tobacco companies have glommed on to the Tobacco 21 movement as the Food and Drug Administration considers additional regulation that could be harmful to the industry.


"Some of the tobacco industry's largest companies have supported tobacco 21 policies at the federal and state levels, either to score a public relations win or weaken efforts to pass more restrictive policies," American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement.

What's next: McConnell said passing the bill will be one of his biggest priorities. But it likely won't be enough for some members, who want more restrictions on the sale of tobacco products.

Read more on the bill and what's next here.



Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states

The number of measles cases in the United States climbed again this week, bringing the number to 880 cases across 24 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number is up by 41 cases since last week, and it has now spread to a 24th state, Oklahoma.

Some good news: The rate of new cases across the country has slowed in the past week.

The person with the measles in Oklahoma caught the disease after traveling internationally. Oklahoma public health officials are working to identify anybody who came into contact while the person was contagious. There is no information if the person had been vaccinated.

Roll some numbers: The total number of cases is inching closer to the record 963 cases reported across the U.S. in 1994. The current outbreak is still the largest since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000. The majority of measles cases are still concentrated in New York, where two outbreaks have been raging in Rockland County as well as in Brooklyn and Queens. As of May 17, there have been 231 confirmed reported cases of measles in Rockland County. As of May 13, there have been 498 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens, the CDC said.

We've got more on the outbreak here.


Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad campaign to protect 20 House Dems


As House Democrats take votes aimed at shoring up ObamaCare, they now have ads backing up many of their more vulnerable members.

The pro-ObamaCare group Protect Our Care on Monday announced it is launching a seven-figure advertising campaign aimed at protecting 20 House Democrats who could face tough reelections.

The politics: Democrats see protecting people with pre-existing conditions as an issue that helped them win back the House last year, and they want to keep up the momentum on the topic as they look towards the 2020 elections.

"We're going to make sure that despite the clutter and noise of Washington, constituents know when their Member of Congress stands up for health care and fights to lower costs and improve care," said Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach said in a statement.

GOP counterargument: Last week, the House passed a measure that combined bipartisan drug pricing bills with ObamaCare measures that were supported mainly by Democrats, leading Republicans to accuse Democrats of playing politics to scuttle a bipartisan vote on drug pricing.

Read more here.



Inslee gives public option first test in Washington state

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), a long-shot presidential candidate, signed a law this week that will make his state the first in the nation to offer a public option health plan to compete with private companies, renewing debate over an approach that first gained prominence a decade ago.

The new health care plans -- which will cover standard services and be available to all state residents by 2021 -- are expected to be up to 10 percent cheaper than private insurance.

When signing the bill into law, Inslee tied in his presidential ambitions, calling the public option a "template" for the U.S. Several states, including Colorado and Minnesota, are also exploring public option insurance.

"Washington does offer a chance to test that on a smaller scale," said Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "As Washington moves forward, it will help provide a test case for how a broader initiative could play out."

Read more here.



Romney says he opposes Alabama abortion ban

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRepublicans turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks GOP senators dodge on treatment of White House protesters Democrat Christina Hale and Republican Victoria Spartz to face off in House race in Indiana MORE (R-Utah) said in an interview that aired Sunday that he does not support Alabama's abortion ban because he believes there should be exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

"I don't support the Alabama law," he said during an appearance on CNN"s "State of the Union." "I believe that there ought to be exceptions... for rape and incest and where the life of the mother is at risk."

Why it matters: National Republicans including Romney, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Protesters' defiance met with calls to listen Top GOP lawmakers invite Blue Dogs to meet with China Task Force Top GOP lawmakers invite Blue Dogs to meet with China Task Force over coronavirus probe MORE (R-Calif.) and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielLongtime GOP Rep. Steve King defeated in Iowa primary Trump says he will move Republican convention out of North Carolina The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump and Biden battle over law enforcement MORE have all come out against the ban. This comes as Republicans try to paint Democrats as extreme on the abortion issue ahead of the 2020 elections.

More on the debate here.



PBMs serve as the check against drugmakers' pricing strategies by negotiating for consumers and clients to ensure prescription drugs are affordable. Learn how PBMs advocate for patients and payers at OnYourRxSide.org.


What we're reading

America's first-ever public option, explained by Gov. Jay Inslee (Vox.com)

AP Fact Check: Trump's miscues on trade and drug prices (Associated Press)

Recalled defibrillator among exemptions in FDA's hidden database (Kaiser Health news)

Dem Rep. Jared Golden (Maine) protests 'gotcha politics' move by House leaders (Lewiston Sun Journal)


State by state:

Why Missouri is the last holdout on a statewide prescription monitoring program (Kaiser Health News)

California regulators not taking action against nursing homes (The Center for Investigation Reporting and the AP)

Trial begins in challenge to 4 abortion laws in Virginia (Associated Press)


From The Hill's opinion page:

We can curb potential pandemics by investing in prevention tactics

Mercury rollback is a director threat to our children's health