Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders mounts staunch defense of 'Medicare for All' | Biden, Sanders fight over health care heats up | House votes to repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax' | Dems want details on fetal tissue research ban

Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders mounts staunch defense of 'Medicare for All' | Biden, Sanders fight over health care heats up | House votes to repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax' | Dems want details on fetal tissue research ban
© Aaron Schwartz

Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems change drug pricing bill to address progressive concerns | Top Republican rejects Dem proposal on surprise medical bills | Vaping group launches Fox News ad blitz Democrats have reason to worry after the last presidential debate Krystal Ball on Sanders debate performance: 'He absolutely hit it out of the park' MORE defended "Medicare for All" as his fight with Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says lawmakers should censure Schiff Schiff says committees will eventually make impeachment inquiry transcripts public Trump threat lacks teeth to block impeachment witnesses MORE over health care heats. Also today, the House voted to repeal ObamaCare's "Cadillac Tax," and Democrats want answers about the administration's fetal tissue research ban,  

We'll start with Sanders on Medicare for All...


Sanders strongly defends 'Medicare for All' after recent criticism

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is doubling down on his signature policy and escalating the fight between himself and his more moderate rivals -- namely former Vice President Joe Biden. 

"Despite what you're hearing about Medicare for seniors being weakened, the truth is exactly the opposite," Sanders said during a fiery speech at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

"It will be strengthened by providing benefits to seniors that they today don't have."

Attacks on Biden: Sanders' speech, which was entirely focused on Medicare for All, comes as the plan faces intense criticism from centrist candidates competing against him for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Biden, who is polling at the front for the Democratic party's presidential nomination, had warned Monday in a speech to seniors in Iowa that that under Medicare for All, "Medicare goes away as you know it." 

"All the Medicare you have is gone," Biden said. 

Before Sanders's speech, his campaign tweeted a video accusing Biden of "lying about Medicare for All." 

"We won't mention his name, but it might be a former vice president of the United States," Sanders said in the video. 

"Look, I think it's important that we have a health care debate on the facts and not on fear-mongering."

Sanders also demanded that his rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination reject campaign contributions from health insurance and drug companies, which was seen as a swipe at Biden, who has held large-dollar fundraisers with wealthy contributors from the health care industry.

Read more here



House votes to repeal Cadillac Tax: The House on Wednesday voted to repeal ObamaCare's "Cadillac Tax" on high-cost health plans, removing a part of the health law opposed by many in both parties.

The wide bipartisan vote of 419 to 6 illustrates how the tax is one of the few areas of ObamaCare that has opposition across the political aisle.

Few defenders: The tax was designed to help keep health care costs down by discouraging overly-generous "Cadillac" health insurance plans. But both unions and employers opposed the tax, helping to set up a broad coalition against it.

With former President Obama out of office, the main defenders of the tax are now health economists, who say it is a valuable tool to control health care spending.

The Cadillac Tax had never actually gone into effect because Congress repeatedly delayed it.

The savings: Repealing the tax will cost the government the hefty sum of $196.9 billion over 10 years, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

What's next? It is unclear if the Senate will also bring the bill up for a vote.

Read more here.


Democrats want information about White House fetal tissue research ban

A pair of House and Senate Democrats are demanding answers from the Trump administration about its decision to ban the use of federal funds for research involving fetal tissue.

In a Wednesday letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCracks emerge in White House strategy as witness testifies Overnight Defense: Pentagon insists US hasn't abandoned Kurds | Trump expands sanctions authority against Turkey | Ex-Ukraine ambassador says Trump pushed for her ouster On The Money: Trump announces limited trade deal with China | Appeals court rules against Trump over financial records | Trump expands authority to sanction Turkey MORE (D-Md.) and Senate Health Committee ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Biz groups say Warren labor plan would be disaster Freedom of the press under fire in Colorado MORE (D-Wash.) asked for a host of internal documents and communications relating to the ban.

Murray and Cummings said the decision appears to have been driven by ideology, not science, and warned of "unintended long-term consequences" to biomedical research. 

The decision "appears to have been made with no evidence of improper actions by researchers, threatens to interfere with important biomedical research and have long-term consequences," Cummings and Murray wrote. 

Flashback: The administration in June announced that it would block scientists from using federal funds to conduct research that relies on material collected from elective abortions. The administration also cancelled a multi-million-dollar contract with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) that uses fetal tissue to test new HIV treatments.

Read more here


Finance Committee Republicans huddle on drug pricing plan

Senate Finance Committee Republicans met again on Wednesday to discuss their package to lower drug prices, joined for part of the meeting by officials from the Congressional Budget Office. 

Lawmakers said they did not reach any firm decisions on the legislation. 

The obstacle: Several GOP senators have concerns with the bill, specifically a measure that would limit drug price increases in Medicare by making drug companies pay money back if their prices rose faster than inflation. 

Some lawmakers say they want more information from the CBO to make up their minds. 

"I won't know the impact of it until I see the score; we want to bring down drug costs," Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate Intel chair: Whistleblower hasn't agreed to testify before panel Juan Williams: Trump, the conspiracy theory president Blood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure MORE (R-N.C.) said Wednesday. 

Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoGOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Nearing finish line, fight for cannabis banking bill shifts to the Senate On The Money: Trump strikes trade deal with Japan on farm goods | GOP senator to meet Trump amid spending stalemate | House passes cannabis banking bill | Judge issues one-day pause on subpoena for Trump's tax returns MORE (R-Idaho) said he had "concerns." 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFarmers: New Trump ethanol proposal reneged on previous deal Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate Positive quotes from Iowa senators disappear from EPA's latest ethanol announcement MORE (R-Iowa) said there could be a markup next week if he can get a CBO score in time. 


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What we're reading

I don't love ObamaCare, but it's not unconstitutional: Ohio attorney general (USA Today)

Car shopping, handbags and wealthy uncles: the quest to explain high drug prices (NPR)

CBO projects Senate drug-pricing proposal will save money (Modern Healthcare)  

Bernie Sanders accepted pharma executives' donations prior to new pledge (ABC News)


State by state

North Carolina standoff over Medicaid and budget drags on. For the uninsured, there's a lot at stake. (News & Observer

After huge spikes, ObamaCare rates in Michigan now falling (Detroit Free Press

States are making progress on opioids. Now the money that's helping them may dry up (The New York Times)


From The Hill's opinion page:

Medicare is a path to potential major savings 

Medicare for all: A voter's cheat sheet