Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems advance drug pricing bill | Cases of vaping-related lung illnesses near 1,500 | Juul suspends sales of most e-cigarette flavors

Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems advance drug pricing bill | Cases of vaping-related lung illnesses near 1,500 | Juul suspends sales of most e-cigarette flavors

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

House Democrats have been spending the day in multiple markups of drug pricing legislation. On the campaign trail, the declining popularity of "Medicare for All" could cause problems for Democratic front-runner Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJuan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete Trump DACA fight hits Supreme Court Democrats on edge as Iowa points to chaotic race MORE (D-Mass.). Also there was big news from Juul, which will stop selling its most popular fruit flavors, and health officials say the vaping sickness has now affected nearly 1,500 people. 

We'll start with drug pricing...

 

House Democrats advance drug pricing bill

Two House committees on Thursday debated a sweeping bill to allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs. 

The Education and Labor committee voted along party lines to advance the bill, and the Energy and Commerce Committee spent the entire day working through hundreds of Republican amendments.

Republicans have accused Democrats of rushing a partisan bill through committee, and the Energy and Commerce amendments reflected their frustration.

The Education and Labor Committee, which has limited jurisdiction, passed the bill after accepting a few minor amendments from Democrats.  

The amendment offered by Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProgressive House Democrat unveils bill to allow state-based 'Medicare for All' Progressives press Democrats to rethink Israel policy Democratic lawmakers call on Judiciary Committee to advance 'revenge porn' law MORE (D-Wash.) would require the Department of Labor to study applying inflation rebates to group health plans. 

The Ways and Means Committee also held a hearing, and that committee markup will happen next week. The aim is to have a floor vote later this month or early next month, though there are still concerns from both progressive and centrist lawmakers. 

Reality check: The bill will pass the House, but has basically no chance of being taken up in the GOP-controlled Senate. There is a bipartisan drug pricing bill that cleared the Senate Finance Committee, but it is also unlikely to reach the floor unless it can overcome some GOP opposition.  

 

 

Number of vaping-related lung illnesses nears 1,500 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday announced it has confirmed nearly 1,500 cases of vaping-related illnesses across the U.S., including 33 deaths, since the outbreak began earlier this year. 

That's an increase of 180 cases, and seven deaths, from last week. 

The CDC still doesn't know what is causing the illnesses and hasn't identified a brand or substance tied to all cases. 

But it acknowledges that THC vaping products, particularly those purchased from the black market, seem to be playing a large role. 

Context: According to the CDC, of the 849 patients for whom information is available, 78 percent had reported vaping THC products before becoming sick, with or without using nicotine-containing products.

Read more here.

 

Juul suspends sales of most e-cigarette flavors ahead of expected crackdown

E-cigarette manufacturer Juul is suspending the sales of all of its popular fruity flavors ahead of a potential nationwide ban, the company announced Thursday.

The company said it is pulling mango, creme, fruit and cucumber flavors off the market, but will continue to sell tobacco, mint and menthol flavors.  

CEO K.C. Crosthwaite said the company is in the middle of a "reset" because of the public's lack of trust in the e-cigarette industry. He said Juul will submit products to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for regulatory review. 

"We continue to review our policies and practices in advance of FDA's flavor guidance, and have not made any final decisions," the company said in a statement.

Last year, Juul stopped selling its flavor pods in retail stores just ahead of an FDA guidance that would enact a similar rule. Ever since, customers have only been able to purchase flavors on the company's website, which added additional age-verification measures.

Trump's crackdown: The backdrop to Juul's announcement is the threat of action from the Trump administration. Last month, President TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE and health officials said all flavored e-cigarettes would be removed from the market until the FDA reviews them and determines they are safe enough to be sold. But unlike Juul's move, the administration would not exempt mint or menthol. 

Public health reaction: Public health groups though, said it was not good enough, and slammed the company for leaving mint and menthol on the market. 

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said Juul's announcement "shows that it hasn't changed one bit under its new leadership, and isn't serious about preventing youth use."

Read more here.

 

Abortion rights group to host presidential forum on reproductive rights

NARAL Pro-Choice America will host a presidential forum focused on reproductive rights and abortion, the group announced on Thursday.

The forum will take place in the second to last week in January in Des Moines, Iowa, a key primary state. 

The abortion rights campaign group said the forum would feature Democratic presidential candidates, but did not provide a list of who is expected to attend. 

"We are pleased that the Democratic field stands with us on these critical issues and look forward to bringing candidates together for a rich discussion on how they plan to counter the extreme but vocal minority who wants to roll back progress and champion abortion rights in 2020 and beyond," said NARAL President Ilyse Hogue. 

Planned Parenthood held a similar forum this summer, where nearly every candidate spoke about their plans to protect access to abortion and other women's health care services. 

More on the forum here

 

Warren faces tougher sell with 'Medicare for All'

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) main health care proposal is losing support in the polls, posing a challenge to the emerging front-runner as "Medicare for All" comes under fresh attacks from fellow presidential candidates, hospitals, doctors and insurers.

Opposition to Medicare for All was on full display at Tuesday night's Democratic primary debate, where moderate candidates called the plan a "pipe dream" and an "obliteration" of the private health insurance system.

The bulk of those attacks came from moderates like South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegJuan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete Democrats on edge as Iowa points to chaotic race Democrats debate how to defeat Trump: fight or heal MORE, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDemocrats debate how to defeat Trump: fight or heal Republicans, Democrats brace for first public testimony in impeachment inquiry Klobuchar: A woman with Buttigieg's experience would not be on presidential debate stage MORE (D-Minn.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Trump DACA fight hits Supreme Court Juan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete MORE, who accused Warren of being evasive on how she would pay for the proposal.

Meanwhile, several polls showed support dropping or plateauing for Medicare for All throughout the summer. Those shifts in public opinion came amid Democratic debates that spent significant time on the issue, and a well-funded opposition campaign launched by the health care industry.

The takeaway: The declining support creates a challenge for Warren, who gambled on not devising her own health care plan, like other candidates, but instead telling voters “I’m with Bernie” on Medicare for All.

Read more on the shifting politics on Medicare for All here.

 

 

What we're reading

Doctors urge Americans to get flu shots amid fears over deadly flu strain (The Wall Street Journal

When medical debt collectors decide who gets arrested (Propublica

J&J agrees to $117M settlement over pelvic mesh devices (Associated Press)

We found over 700 doctors who were paid more than a million dollars by drug and medical device companies (ProPublica

 

State by state

Grassley questions University of Virginia Health System on findings from Kaiser Health News investigation (Kaiser Health News)

People with disabilities ask Senate panel: don't cut Medicaid funding (Herald-Tribune)

New Mexico pot legalization plan would subsidize patients, pay police (Associated Press

 

From The Hill's opinion page: 

Why isn't Mayor Pete talking about the Indiana program that's superior to single payer?