Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — ObamaCare premiums dropping for 2020 | Warren, Buttigieg shift stances on 'Medicare for All' | Drug companies spend big on lobbying

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — ObamaCare premiums dropping for 2020 | Warren, Buttigieg shift stances on 'Medicare for All' | Drug companies spend big on lobbying

Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care. 

Republicans are out with a repackaged version of their ObamaCare repeal and replace plan. ObamaCare premiums are dropping for 2020, Warren and Buttigieg have swapped positions on Medicare for All, and drug companies are spending millions on lobbying as Congress seeks to reign in their profits.  

We'll start with ObamaCare:

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ObamaCare premiums dropping for 2020

The Trump administration is touting its success running a program it has actively tried to end, as a number of ObamaCare plans will be cheaper in the upcoming open enrollment period.

According to new administration figures, average premiums for Affordable Care Act insurance plans will decrease 4 percent in 2020, and there will be more insurers participating in states that use the federal exchange.

The 4 percent decline marks just the second year in a row that premiums have decreased since the law took effect in 2014. 

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, there will be 175 different insurers offering plans in 2020, compared to 132 in 2018. Only two states will have a single insurer in 2020, compared to five states that had only one insurer in 2019.

Market correction: Insurance companies took a few years to figure out how to make a profit on the exchanges in the final years of the Obama administration, and premiums reflected that. In 2017, the first year the Trump administration was responsible for the law, insurance companies implemented massive double-digit premium hikes, citing concerns about the elimination of the individual mandate, short-term plans and cuts to ObamaCare's outreach and advertising budget. Experts argue this year's numbers are a sign that the market is stabilizing,and is basically a market correction.

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Contemptuous language: The health law's seventh open enrollment season begins Nov. 1, and while Trump administration officials openly decry the law, they also said they are focused on making it work. "The ACA simply doesn't work and it is still unaffordable for far too many. But until Congress gets around to replacing it, President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE will do what he can to fix the problems created by this system for millions of Americans," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. 

Read more on the figures here.

 

 

Warren, Buttigieg shift stances in battle over 'Medicare for All'

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Gabbard, Buttigieg battle over use of military in Mexico MORE clashed on Medicare for All at last week's debate. But they both have not been entirely consistent. 

Buttigieg praised Medicare for All earlier this year, but now is attacking Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for supporting the plan. 

Warren, meanwhile, previously expressed openness to "different pathways" toward Medicare for All, including optional "buy-ins." She has since pivoted to a full-throated defense of a single-payer system. 

The politics: Buttigieg is trying to be the candidate of the moderate lane who could overtake former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE. Warren, meanwhile, risks being outflanked from the left by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (I-Vt.) if she doesn't fully support Medicare for All. 

Read more here.

 

Drug companies spend millions on lobbying as Congress tries to rein in high drug prices 

Prescription drug companies and trade groups shelled out millions of dollars to lobby Congress as it considered legislation aimed at reigning in skyrocketing drug prices, according to new lobbying disclosure reports. 

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The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) -- the trade group representing branded drug companies -- spent $6.2 million on lobbying in the third quarter of 2019, which ran from July through the end of September.

That's an increase of $240,000 from what it spent during the same time frame last year.

Bipartisan members of Congress have worked all year on proposals aimed at curbing rising drug prices as polls show voters are increasingly worried about the issue. 

Here's numbers from some of the top drug companies: 

  • Gilead, the maker of HIV drug Truvada, spent $1.5 million on its lobbying efforts in the third quarter of 2019, a 117 percent increase over what it spent during the same time frame last year.
  • Amgen, whose drugs treat chronic illnesses, spent $3 million in the third quarter, a 16 percent increase over what it spent in the same time frame last year.
  • Meanwhile, Bayer, the maker of a top-selling prescription blood thinner, spent $2 million on lobbying in the third quarter, 32 percent increase over what it spent during the same time frame last year. 
  • Abbott Labs, which makes Lipitor, a drug that treats high cholesterol, increased its lobbying by 57 percent from the third quarter of last year, reaching $1.1 million. 
  • AbbVie spent $1.8 million on lobbying in the third quarter of 2019, a nearly 200 percent increase from what it spent in the same time frame last year. 
  • Sanofi, which has been under fire over the rising costs of insulin, spent $1.7 million on lobbying in the third quarter, an increase of 105 percent from what it spent during the same time frame last year. 

Read more here

 

Conservative Republicans unveil latest ObamaCare replacement plan

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House conservatives on Tuesday released the first part of their latest health care plan, wading headfirst into the fraught political fight on overhauling the nation's health system.

Members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) said they understand that health care has been a third rail for the GOP in recent years, but they are hoping this plan, combined with a push from the White House, will help lead the party back to a House majority in 2020. 

Democrats took control of the House in 2018 in part by attacking Republicans for trying to repeal ObamaCare and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Republicans think they can turn health care into a winning issue in the next election by drawing a contrast to "Medicare for All" and other single-payer proposals currently being debated by Democratic presidential candidates.

But the plan itself essentially rehashes many of the past Republican efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act. It would allow states to decide which "essential health benefits" to cover, remove the ban on annual and lifetime limits on covered benefits and would remove the law's rules that plans cover certain preventive services for free.

Read more here.

 

Court settlement sets stage for broader opioid deal

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It was major news yesterday when three of the country's top drug distributors and a drug manufacturer announced an eleventh-hour settlement to avoid a trial. The $260 million settlement between McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp. -- the "Big Three" distributors -- manufacturer Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and Summit and Cuyahoga counties in Ohio --would net only a fraction of what the counties were seeking, but legal experts said it could set the bar for other settlements in the future. 

Of course, the sense of an impending trial creates a different sense of urgency, but experts said it felt like a bar, of sorts, was set. 

"There are now thousands of cases, but this will set a precedent on pricing," said Ekow Yankah, a professor at Cardozo School of Law. "This, to me, sets a baseline market rate for liability, and only the people who really want to gamble are the ones who will take the next phase to trial."

Just hours later, the same companies, along with Johnson & Johnson, announced they had agreed in principle to a $48 billion global settlement with North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas. Those states are pushing for others to join in quickly. According to University of Kentucky law professor Richard Ausness, if the other states do not agree to the settlement, they will take nothing under it, and will have to litigate or settle with the defendants separately.

Read more here.

 

Verma to push back on Democrats' claims Trump 'sabotaged' ObamaCare 

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will push back on Democrats' claims that President Trump "sabotaged" the Affordable Care Act during her testimony on the hill Wednesday. 

"Under President Trump's direction, the Administration acted to promote market stability, increase competition, and provide states additional tools and flexibility to meet the needs of their residents and promote more affordable coverage," Verma will say to the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Oversight panel, according to her prepared remarks. 

She will also say premiums are "too high" and customers who don't get subsidies to buy insurance are "fleeing" the market. 

Why it matters: The title of the hearing is "Sabotage: The Trump administration's attack on health care." Democrats are unlikely to buy her remarks. 

Read Verma's full statement here.

 

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What we're reading

Johnson & Johnson CEO testified Baby Powder was safe 13 days before FDA bombshell (Reuters)

 In shocking reversal, Biogen to submit Alzheimer's drug for approval (STAT)

Novartis lauds launch of world's most expensive drug (Wall Street Journal

Medicaid Covers a Million Fewer Children. Baby Elijah Was One of Them. (New York Times)

 

State by state

Michigan ends controversial mental health pilot programs (Crain's Detroit Business)

Arizona to give Medicaid to people who don't work in blow to Trump's plan (AP)

Idaho identifies about 70,000 newly eligible for Medicaid (Associated Press)