Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: Nixing private insurance divides ‘Medicare for All’ candidates | Warren calls on ex-FDA chief to quit Pfizer board | Facebook targets bogus medical claims

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Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care.

Today, Elizabeth Warren is calling on the former FDA commissioner to reconsider his decision to join the board of Pfizer. And news on Medicare for All. A new poll finds that people like the proposal if they can keep their doctors. We also took a deeper look at how many 2020 Democrats are reluctant to embrace eliminating private insurance as part of “Medicare for All.” We’ll start there…


Nixing private insurance divides ‘Medicare for All’ candidates

Some Democratic presidential candidates who say they support “Medicare for All” are walking a tightrope on whether to fully embrace a key portion of the proposal that calls for eliminating private insurance.

Only a few White House hopefuls raised their hands when asked at last week’s debates if they were willing to abolish private insurers, even though others who were on the stage have publicly backed legislation from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) which would do just that.{mosads}

Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) enthusiastically raised her hand, along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sanders, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. But Harris later walked it back, saying she misunderstood the question, and said that she does not actually support eliminating private insurance.

So… what’s happening? Democrats are trying to strike a delicate balance. They want to highlight their progressive chops by talking about Medicare for All, even though much of the voting public isn’t ready to give up their private insurance. So the candidates are trying to have it both ways.

Harris has waffled on the issue of private insurance for months, despite being a co-sponsor of Sanders’s legislation. But she isn’t the only candidate in this situation. 

Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) are co-sponsors of Sanders’s bill, while Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Tim Ryan (Ohio) and Eric Swalwell (Calif.) are co-sponsors of a similar House bill introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 

None of those candidates has explicitly endorsed eliminating private insurance. 

What’s the downside? Medicare for All as an idea polls well — but most of the public still doesn’t seem to understand what it actually means. Once people are made aware that the bills currently introduced would mean the end of private health insurance, Medicare for All’s popularity goes down. And endorsing the elimination of private insurance opens candidates up to GOP attacks. Moderate candidates are wary of giving President Trump and Republicans an opening to accuse Democrats of pushing for a “socialist” takeover of health care.  

More on how the candidate are navigating the issue here.


Poll: Most favor ‘Medicare for All’ if they can keep their doctors

A new Morning Consult/Politico poll sheds some light on the “Medicare for All” debate: 

  • 46 percent of voters support Medicare for all when told it would diminish the role of private insurers 
  • That rises to 55 percent of voters when told it would diminish the role of private insurers but that people could keep their doctors. 
  • Overall, when people aren’t told anything about insurers or doctors, support lies at 53 percent. 

Reaction: Medicare for All backers touted the poll to show that when people are informed about the facts of Medicare for All (that they won’t lose their doctors), the policy is more popular. 

“Would you look at that. Medicare for All is wildly popular when you tell people what it would actually do,” tweeted Josh Miller-Lewis, a spokesman for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Read more here


Warren calls on ex-FDA chief to resign from Pfizer board

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday called for the former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb, to reconsider his decision to join Pfizer’s board of directors.

Warren, a 2020 White House hopeful, praised Gottlieb’s work during his tenure at FDA, but said his decision to join the board of a company he used to regulate “smacks of corruption.”

“This kind of revolving door influence-peddling smacks of corruption, and makes the American people rightly cynical and distrustful about whether high-level Trump administration officials are working for them, or for their future corporate employers,” Warren wrote in a letter to Gottlieb dated Monday.

Gottlieb did not respond to a request for comment but said on Twitter that he would respond to Warren privately.

“While I was at FDA, I had a productive relationship with Senator Warren, working together to advance shared public health goals. I respect the Senator, and I will respond to her letter that I received today from reporters promptly, directly, and privately,” Gottlieb tweeted. 

Read more here.


Facebook seeks to limit circulation of debunked medical claims

Facebook on Tuesday announced it is seeking to limit the circulation of debunked medical claims after multiple reports found that bogus cancer cures are rampant on the platform.

Last month, the company started down-ranking posts promoting “exaggerated or sensational health claims,” meaning they now show up lower in the News Feed and Facebook won’t surface them, according to a Tuesday blog post from the company.

And it is taking the same action against posts promoting products or services purportedly based on medical claims, like pills to help someone lose weight, Facebook said.

“In order to help people get accurate health information and the support they need, it’s imperative that we minimize health content that is sensational or misleading,” the blog post reads.

Facebook’s update does not explicitly mention what it is doing about groups dedicated to promoting “exaggerated or sensational health claims.” Most of the announcement focuses on down-ranking posts in the News Feed and predicts some pages will be affected.

Facebook and other top social media websites have been working to crack down on the issue of medical misinformation, an effort that has picked up steam as the U.S. faces the worst measles outbreak it has seen in over a decade. But critics have said Facebook, and its image-sharing platform Instagram, are hotbeds for people promoting medical conspiracy theories. And Instagram, in particular, continues to surface popular hashtags and accounts that promote anti-vaccine theories that have been identified as false by medical experts.

Read more on the move here.


What we’re reading:

Trump advisers pursue Democratic drug-price ideas as campaign looms (The Washington Post)

HHS gets a new HIV prevention patent, but will the agency demand royalties from Gilead? (Stat)

Buyer beware: When religion, politics, health care and money collide (Houston Chronicle)


State by state:

California broadens investigation of doctors for issuing questionable vaccination exemptions (Kaiser Health News)

Florida is the latest Republican-led state to adopt clean needle exchanges (WLRN)

More states are targeting teen vaping, but health advocates say it’s not enough to curb use (The Washington Post)

Kentucky group gives out emergency contraception as abortion access tightens (WFPL)

Tags Bernie Sanders Bill de Blasio Cory Booker Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Eric Swalwell Kirsten Gillibrand Pramila Jayapal Tim Ryan Tulsi Gabbard
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