Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul
Overnight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major 'Medicare for All' hearing
Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.
The House Ways and Means Committee held its first hearing on "Medicare for All" today. Meanwhile, there may be more bipartisan action ahead with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) both looking to make birth control available over the counter. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also has a secret plan to replace ObamaCare, and a House panel is investigating Juul.
But first some late-breaking news...
Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after progressive complaints
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is making changes to her drug pricing plan after complaints from the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).
Pelosi told lawmakers, including the heads of the Progressive Caucus, during a private meeting Wednesday night that she had heard their complaints.
Why Democrats were at odds: The CPC chairs, Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), had been sharply criticizing the emerging outline of Pelosi's plan to lower drug prices for only requiring Medicare to negotiate prices on a minimum of 25 drugs per year. The progressives said that number of drugs was far too small and would not do enough to bring prices down.
Pelosi told Pocan and Jayapal Wednesday night that she had heard that complaint and that the plan would increase the number of drugs to be negotiated to be something like 250 drugs, according to Pocan.
And now some 2020 news...
16 Democrats to attend 2020 abortion forum hosted by Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood announced Wednesday that 16 of the 24 candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination will participate in a forum on reproductive rights the group will host later this month.
The candidates will be questioned for roughly 15 minutes about their positions and voting records on issues like abortion rights, access to health care and contraception, according to The New York Times.
The event will be hosted in Columbia, S.C., on June 22, the same weekend and city as the state Democratic Party convention the majority of White House hopefuls are already planning to attend.
Why it matters: The forum comes after a slew of states passed restrictions on abortion, drawing widespread condemnation from Democrats running for president. But there's still some ambiguity about where some candidates stand on reproductive health issues. Joe Biden flip-flopped on his support for the Hyde amendment last week. Some candidates, Biden included, have also yet to introduce their plan to protect and expand abortion access.
Read more here.
Ways & Means holds first major 'Medicare for All' hearing
Supporters of "Medicare for All" scored a major victory Wednesday when one of Congress's most powerful committees debated the proposal to shift the U.S. to a single-payer health care system.
Democrats and Republicans on the Ways & Means Committee were at odds with each other and, at times, with the lively audience of Medicare for All advocates, over how to pay for a multi-trillion dollar system.
It was the first time a committee with control over health care issues held a hearing on the proposal, following two hearings in lower-tier committees earlier this year.
"This is a historic step in the process of recognizing health care as a human right," said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), co-chair of the House Medicare for All Caucus.
Why it matters: Medicare for All isn't going to pass Congress as long as Republicans control the Senate. It's not even clear if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will allow a floor vote on the measure. But supporters, led by the bill's sponsor Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), have been pushing Democratic leadership to take the proposal seriously in hopes that the party wins back the White House and the Senate in 2020.
What's next: Jayapal said today she will start conversations with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) "soon" about holding a Medicare for All hearing in his committee.
"Hopefully he'll see this was a great hearing and an important issue for us to be debating," she said.
Cruz pitches Ocasio-Cortez on bill to make birth control available over the counter
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is looking to join forces with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on legislation that would make over-the-counter birth control legal.
The GOP Texas senator on Wednesday offered to team up with her to create a "simple, clean bill making birth control available over the counter," a move that comes just weeks after he offered to take up lobbyist reform with her.
"Perhaps, in addition to the legislation we are already working on together to ban Members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, we can team up here as well," Cruz said on Twitter, quoting a tweet from Ocasio-Cortez last week in which she argued for making birth control obtainable over the counter.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) said legislation from herself and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is expected to be introduced tomorrow, and both said on Twitter that they would welcome Cruz's support.
Why it matters: Most types of oral birth control are only available by prescription at the pharmacy. And it's free for those with insurance under ObamaCare's contraception mandate. But insurance doesn't typically cover over the counter drugs. So, whether Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez can actually agree on a proposal like this will likely come down to the issues of cost.
Politics: Republicans have long railed against ObamaCare's birth control mandate, which requires all employers that offer health insurance cover birth control for female employees. Other conservatives have pitched over-the-counter birth control as an alternative to the mandate.
But it's not likely that Democrats will want to substitute one for the other. One theory is that competition for over-the-counter medicine could help bring down the cost for women who can afford to pay on their own, but insurance would help keep birth control free for those with a prescription under ObamaCare.
Read more here.
Romney says he has new plan to replace ObamaCare
Did you miss talking about ObamaCare replacement plans?
Well, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Wednesday that he has a new one.
"It's a replacement for ObamaCare," Romney told The Hill. "We're ready with that but we'll see what kind of support we get."
The problem(s): Romney commands a certain stature in the Senate as the former GOP presidential nominee. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made clear that he does not want to dive back into the divisive ObamaCare debate.
In April, McConnell shut down a push by President Trump to work on a new ObamaCare repeal and replacement plan.
Romney did not provide any details of what his replacement plan entails. His office also declined to elaborate.
Senate Judiciary Committee plans markup of drug pricing bill this month
More drug pricing action!
The Senate Judiciary Committee is planning a markup of legislation to lower drug prices this month, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the panel's chairman, told The Hill on Wednesday.
The action from the Judiciary Committee is a sign of the movement on the issue of drug pricing in both parties, which could provide Congress with a rare bipartisan achievement this year. The Senate Finance Committee is also moving forward with drug pricing legislation this month or next.
Graham said Wednesday that a bill from Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to crack down on drug companies gaming the patent system to extend their monopolies would be included in the markup.
Pharma fight: The pharmaceutical industry is opposed to that legislation and has been lobbying to at least win changes to the measure to ease the blow on the industry, lobbyists say.
House panel launches investigation into Juul
A powerful House committee is launching an investigation into e-cigarette manufacturer Juul, seeking a host of information about whether the company has actively marketed its product to children.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent a letter to Juul asking for all documents related to the company's marketing strategy, the product's impact on minors, information on the health effects of the product, and details about its business arrangements with potential investors, among other information.
"The safety and well-being of America's youth is not for sale," Krishnamoorthi wrote in the letter, which is dated June 7. "I am extremely concerned about reports that Juul's high nicotine content is fueling addiction and that frequent Juul use is sending kids across the country into rehab, some as young as 15."
The investigation comes just two months after a group of Senate Democrats launched a similar probe, pressing Juul for information about its advertising practices and recent partnership with tobacco giant Altria, which makes Marlboro cigarettes.
NIH director will no longer participate in all-male panels
The word of the day: "manels."
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on Wednesday said he will no longer participate in all-male panels-- derisively referred to as "manels."
"It is time to end the tradition in science of all-male speaking panels," Collins said in a statement. "Too often, women and members of other groups underrepresented in science are conspicuously missing in the marquee speaking slots at scientific meetings and other high-level conferences."
The decision comes in response to a report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine which identified a key role for scientific leaders to play in combatting gender harassment and disparities in women's visibility in science.
The Hill event
On Tuesday, June 25th, The Hill will host Cost, Quality and Care: The Medicare Equation at the Newseum in Washington, DC. The Hill's Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons and Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack will sit down with Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and an expert panel for a discussion on how leaders in Washington and the health industry can bring down drug costs for Medicare patients while continuing to ensure quality of care for those who depend on the program. RSVP here.
What we're reading
Top Democrats hesitate again on Medicare for all (CNN)
Florida company sued over sales of skimpy health plans (The New York Times)
Never say 'die': Why so many doctors won't break bad news (Kaiser Health News)
State by state
Threading the Needle: Anti-vaxxers spot a loophole in New Mexico's immunization law--one the state's known about for years, but that's proven hard to close (Santa Fe Reporter)
Medicaid expansion made Louisiana an outlier in national trend of stalling insurance coverage (The Advocate)
'We are not letting you steal our children': Massachusetts state rep calls out e-cigarette makers (MassLive)
Maine Senate passes bipartisan prescription drug reform bill (Portland Press Herald)
From The Hill's Opinion page