Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul

Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.

New York is suing Juul, a top GOP senator said not to expect action on drug pricing this year, Senate leaders from both parties are trying to hammer out their differences to pass surprise billing legislation, and a new poll finds Iowans want something other than "Medicare for All." 

We'll start with drug pricing: 


Top GOP senator: Drug pricing action unlikely before end of year

Don't hold your breath for a drug pricing breakthrough in Congress this year, according to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). 

"I think it would be the triumph of hope over experience to think that we could get it done before the end of the year, but there's a lot of interest in doing something on drug pricing," Thune told reporters on Tuesday. 

The government funding package in December is seen as a possible vehicle for drug pricing measures as well as a range of other topics. Thune said drug pricing "possibly" could be included in that package but that it would be "hard."

What's the holdup? Despite basically everyone saying they want to lower drug prices in some way, obviously how to do that has not been so easy to agree on. 

The House is planning to vote on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) signature bill to lower drug prices, which would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices on up to 250 drugs per year, next month.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), though, has denounced that bill as "socialist" and vowed to block it. He has also declined to support a somewhat more modest bill in the upper chamber from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). 

Many Republican senators have objected to a provision of that bill that would force drug companies to pay the money back to Medicare if their prices rose faster than inflation. Grassley is trying to build support among his Republican colleagues for the measure.  

Read more here. 


House committee considers ban on flavored e-cigarettes

The House Energy & Commerce Committee is expected to pass a bill Tuesday evening that would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette products, raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21 and prohibit online sales of e-cigarettes. 

Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who sponsored the bill with Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), said its passage was even more important as the Trump administration backs off of its promise to ban flavored e-cigarette products. 

"Congressional action is even more critical after the president retreated from his promise to prohibit flavors in tobacco products that are so popular with our youth," Pallone said. 

"We must advance this legislation in order to prevent losing another generation to tobacco-related illnesses and premature death." 

What's next: Shalala told The Hill today the bill will see a vote on the House floor by the end of the year. But it faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sees raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 as the best solution to rising youth vaping rates. 

The Energy and Commerce Committee is also expected to pass two bills related to maternal mortality. A bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas) would give states the option to extend Medicaid coverage for pregnant women from two months to 1 year after giving birth. The federal government would pay five percent of the expansion for states that decide to participate. 


Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures

Congressional leaders are trying to work out differences between competing measures to protect patients from getting hit with massive, "surprise" medical bills. 

The effort is a rare area for possible bipartisan action this year, given that lawmakers in both parties and President Trump say that patients should be protected from getting medical bills for thousands of dollars when they go to the emergency room and one of the doctors in the facility happens to be outside of their insurance network.

The push for legislation has set off a lobbying war with insurers on one side, and physicians and hospitals on the other. The competing factions will likely have to be brought together in some fashion if legislation is to pass. 

Sources say that Schumer is sympathetic to the concerns raised by hospitals to the bill that passed out of the Senate Health Committee in June, and which was led by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). But the Greater New York Hospital Association, in Schumer's home state, is one of the leading opponents of that bill. 

Asked on Tuesday if he supported the Senate Health Committee's bill and about the New York hospitals' concerns, Schumer did not take a side, but said that lawmakers are trying to work out the dispute. "Look, I think we have to do something about surprise billing, and there are two different proposals, and I think the leadership is working that out," Schumer said. 

Read more here. 


New York sues Juul, saying company took 'a page from Big Tobacco's playbook'

New York on Tuesday became the second state in as many days to file a lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturing giant Juul. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said Juul "took a page from Big Tobacco's playbook" by engaging in deceptive business practices, and illegally sold its products to minors through its website and in third-party retail stores throughout the state.

According to the complaint, Juul's advertising and social media posts misled consumers about the content of its products by failing to warn that they contain nicotine. 

The lawsuit seeks to require Juul to stop targeting minors and pay fines associated with the deceptive marketing and illegal sales allegations. 

Juul is facing numerous state and federal investigations about the role it played in what public health officials have called an "epidemic" of youth vaping. 

California announced a lawsuit against Juul on Monday, and North Carolina was the first state to sue Juul earlier this year. 

Read more on the latest lawsuit against Juul here.


Campaign for Tobacco Free-Kids partners with conservative groups to push for flavors ban 

The Campaign for Tobacco Free-Kids partnered with former Trump health care adviser Katy Talento, the Concerned Women for America (CWA) and other conservative groups to push President Trump to clear the market of flavored e-cigarette products. 

"We urge you to continue standing with America's kids and families against predatory companies like Juul and implement this plan without delay," reads the letter that was sent to Trump Tuesday. 

"We are particularly concerned about recent reports that e-cigarette companies and other tobacco interests have launched an intense pressure campaign against your Administration's plan. We are disappointed that e-cigarette companies are prioritizing the sale and marketing of a highly addictive product over the health and well-being of our children. We urge you to put the health of our children first by rejecting this pressure campaign."

Why it matters: President Trump and his top health officials announced in September it would clear the market of flavored e-cigarette products. But the New York Times and other outlets report Trump backed down from that plan after facing pushback from vapers, conservative groups and the industry. 

But other conservative groups and talking heads like CWA and Laura Ingraham have urged Trump to stay the course. 

"By joining together, we seek to underscore the severity of this public health crisis that is affecting children and families across our nation and the broad support across the political spectrum for your Administration's plan to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes," the groups wrote in the letter. 


Majority of Iowans want health care option that isn't 'Medicare for All': poll

A majority of Iowans who will likely attend the state's 2020 Democratic caucuses want a health care option other than "Medicare for All," a new poll finds.

More than a third of Democratic respondents in a CNN-Des Moines Register-Mediacom poll -- 36 percent -- support Medicare for All, but nearly as many others -- 34 percent -- want a public option to buy into, CNN reports.

Another 20 percent want to restore old provisions from the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Combined, 54 percent -- more than half of respondents -- want a health care option that is not Medicare for All, CNN noted.

The likely caucusgoers who support progressive Democratic presidential candidates advocating for Medicare for All, particularly Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are slightly more likely to support the proposal than those who support other 2020 Democrats, according to the news network.

Supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg are more interested in a public option, the pollsters found.

Read more on the poll here.


What we're reading

Juul wanted to revolutionize vaping. It took a page from Big Tobacco's chemical formulas (Los Angeles Times)

How Purdue planted its 'anti-story' and delayed the reckoning for its role in the opioid epidemic (Stat/Pro Publica)

Top Democratic consultants working for anti-Medicare for All campaign (The American Prospect)

Doctors who helped develop heart drug now balk at $225,000-a-year price (Bloomberg)


State by state

Seattle children's hospital closing 10 operating rooms after mold kills six (Newsweek)

New California law may expand use of HIV prevention drugs, with caveats (California Healthline)

With no state budget, North Carolina's Medicaid overhaul will be delayed (News & Observer)


From The Hill's opinion page

Death from alcohol overuse can be prevented with medications