Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe

Welcome to Wednesday's recess edition of Overnight Health Care.

Congress is out but there was plenty of news on the health care front. Vaping companies are suing the FDA, Planned Parenthood is warning that it may need to leave a federal family planning program, Democrats want the administration to withdraw a rule rolling back transgender protections, and lawmakers are accusing pharma companies of obstruction. 

We'll start with Planned Parenthood...

 

Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program Monday absent court action

Planned Parenthood will leave a federally funded family planning program Monday unless a court blocks the Trump administration's new restrictions on abortion providers.

While Planned Parenthood stopped using Title X family planning funds last month after the administration announced it would begin enforcing the restrictions, it told the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) it would stay in the program while it sues over the changes.

But the administration told Planned Parenthood it must completely exit the program by Monday if it does not plan to fully comply with the rules, regardless of whether it is using the money. 

"Your proposal to remain in the Title X program without complying with the final rule, even in the absence of drawing down or using Title X grant funds, is inconsistent with that guidance." 

Why it matters: Planned Parenthood said it wanted to stay in the program, without accepting the money, so it could "quickly" resume Title X services if the court rules in its favor. Leaving the program entirely could mean it has to go through a whole new application process. 

What's next: Planned Parenthood on Wednesday asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to block the abortion restrictions by Monday to prevent its "expulsion" from the program. 

Read more on the court fight here.

 

Democrats demand Trump officials withdraw rule on transgender health

Democrats are warning the Trump administration to not move forward with a proposed rule that would undo an ObamaCare provision that prohibits health care discrimination based on sex.

In a letter sent to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 125 House Democrats urged the administration to withdraw a proposal they said would give doctors, insurers, hospitals and others a license to discriminate against transgender patients.

"The proposed rule would dramatically undermine Congressional intent by inviting widespread discrimination, including by allowing ... healthcare providers and entities to deny patients care because of who they are, what language they speak, their sexual orientation or gender identity, or the color of their skin," the Democrats, led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) wrote.

A similar letter was sent by Senate Health Committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and 35 other Senate Democrats.

"In advancing policies that not only allow discrimination - but in fact endorse it - HHS is abdicating its responsibility to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans," the letter stated. 

Flashback: The proposal, which was announced in May, scraps ObamaCare's definition of "sex discrimination" to remove protections for gender identity. That provision said patients cannot be turned away because they are transgender, nor can they be denied coverage if they need a service that's related to their transgender status. It was part of a series of administration moves meant to bolster efforts by religious conservatives to narrowly define gender and gender protections. 

Read more on the letters here.

 

Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' congressional probe

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, said Tuesday they would investigate three companies -- Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Mylan N.V. and Teva Pharmaceuticals -- for allegedly obstructing their probe into generic drug prices. 

Cummings and Sanders first requested documents from the companies in 2014 detailing "staggering" price increases of generic drugs. 

None of the companies produced any documents despite "repeated inquiries," Sanders and Cummings wrote in letters to the companies. 

In May, Connecticut and 43 states filed a complaint alleging the three companies, and other drug makers, illegally colluded to keep generic drug prices high. 

The lawsuit states that Heritage, Mylan and Teva also coordinated their responses to Cummings's 2014 investigation, with one representative writing in an email that the "consensus at this point is that the responses will be polite f-u letters."

Read more on the probe here.

 

Vaping group sues Trump administration to delay expedited e-cigarette review

A vaping industry group on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in an attempt to delay an upcoming deadline for companies to submit their products for regulatory review. 

The lawsuit from the Vapor Technology Association (VTA) challenged the Food and Drug Administration's deadline of next May for vaping companies to submit their products for rigorous agency review.

The industry group called the deadline, which was imposed by a federal judge on the agency's recommendation, "arbitrary" and said it would be "impossible to meet for thousands of small and mid-sized vapor businesses." 

"The stark facts set forth in the Complaint are that, even with unlimited resources, there are not enough labs, there are not enough subjects, and there are not enough hours in the day to properly conduct the scientific inquiries that FDA only just laid out ... by the May 2020 deadline," the group said. 

Who does VTA represent? The group represents about 800 e-cigarette companies, including Juul. The group said there are over 3 million vaping products on the market today, and the current deadline means many companies will be forced to stop selling their products. 

The group noted FDA has now set five different deadlines for companies to meet. "It is time for FDA to stop moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game to the detriment of our manufacturers and small businesses," VTA executive director Tony Abboud said in a statement. 

Read more on the lawsuit here

 

Illinois passes law requiring insurance companies to cover EpiPen injections for children in historic first

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has signed off on legislation making his state the first in the nation to require insurance companies to provide coverage for children who require life-saving EpiPen injections.

"I was proud to sign two new laws expanding insurance coverage for children whose allergies require live-saving EpiPens and Illinoisans suffering from Lyme disease," the Illinois Democrat tweeted Tuesday.

"This legislation takes a big step forward in protecting our children and families," he continued.

Under House Bill 3435, insurance companies are required to "provide coverage for medically necessary epinephrine injectors for persons 18 years of age or under."

Why it matters: The maker of EpiPens, Mylan, has come under scrutiny in recent years for sharp price increases for the emergency allergy treatment. 

Last year, the company paid a $465 million settlement following claims that it overcharged Medicaid. 

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

'Juul-alikes' are filling shelves with sweet, teen-friendly nicotine flavors (The New York Times)

ObamaCare's unpopularity suggests Medicare for All may be a hard sell (FiveThirtyEight

FDA approves TB pill that cures more hard-to-treat patients (AP)

 

State by state

Medicaid expansion backers weigh targeting Missouri with petition drive next year (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Kansas to KanCare contractor: Your improvement plan isn't good enough (Kansas City Star)

Where doctors can recommend marijuana to replace opioids (Stateline)

 

From The Hill's opinion page:

Medicare for all: fears and facts

Outbrain