Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent $1 trillion on hospitals in 2018

Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent $1 trillion on hospitals in 2018
© Getty Images

Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. 

House Democrats will vote next week on Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases House Democrats urge congressional leaders to support .1B budget for IRS Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE’s signature drug pricing proposal, youth tobacco use is growing, Planned Parenthood is launching ads targeting GOP senators and the U.S. spends more money on hospitals than any other health sector.

We’ll start with drug pricing: 


House to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices 

After months of anticipation, next week is the big week for the House’s drug pricing bill. 

The bill, a top priority for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats, would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for up to 250 drugs per year, with the lower prices applied to people with private insurance as well as Medicare. 

Democrats have tried to show that they are moving forward with kitchen-table issues like lowering drug prices at the same time they are also taking steps forward on impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE

“We are going to give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices, and make those prices available to Americans with private insurance as well as Medicare beneficiaries,” Pelosi said in a statement with other top Democrats. “American seniors and families shouldn’t have to pay more for their medicines than what Big Pharma charges in other countries for the same drugs.”

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Biden unveils batch of his White House team This week: Congress races to wrap work for the year MORE (D-Md.) and three key committee chairmen, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), joined Pelosi on the statement.

Read more here.


But...there are still some problems to work out:

Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanCapitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Wis.), the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is warning that some progressives could vote no on Pelosi's drug pricing bill unless changes are made.

“We have told leadership that there could be people who vote against the bill so they should be ready for that if things aren't included,” Pocan told reporters after a meeting of the Progressive Caucus, adding that the group had not done a formal vote count. 

Pocan added "we haven't gotten that far" when asked if the group would issue a formal statement threatening to vote no, adding he still hoped leadership would agree to changes before a vote. 

Note: The measure is still widely expected to pass, but the progressive concerns do pose an obstacle that Democratic leadership will need to navigate. 

Read more here.

Conway: Trump trying to find ‘balance’ on youth vaping issue 

Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Press: Where is Jim Baker when we need him? MORE, a top adviser to President Trump, said Thursday that Trump is trying to strike a balance on regulating e-cigarette flavors that preserves the products for adults but keeps them from children. 

"He's looking for a way to respect and recognize and accommodate the fact that e-cigarettes have a public health benefit for those legal adult users who are trying to come down from combustibles [cigarettes]," Conway told reporters. 

Trump initially said in September his administration would clear the market of e-cigarette flavors like mint and fruit that studies show are appealing to kids and fueling a youth vaping epidemic. 

The president and his top deputies have indicated he wants to find a compromise that makes everyone happy … but that’s unlikely. 

Anti-tobacco advocates want a full ban on e-cigarette flavors, including menthol. Vaping advocates and the industry want the administration to leave favors alone and instead raise the purchasing age from 18 to 21.

Conway also said the final guidance will come from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not the White House. 

Between the lines: Yes, the guidance will come from the FDA. But that doesn’t mean Trump and officials in the White House aren’t weighing in heavily on what that guidance says. 

Read more here.

U.S. spent $1 trillion on hospitals in 2018, report finds

The U.S. spent $1.2 trillion on hospitals last year, according to a new government analysis of health spending.

The study from nonpartisan actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found that total health spending hit $3.6 trillion in 2018, and 33 percent was spent on hospitals.

The report comes as Congress, the Trump administration and 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are debating ways to slow health spending and lower how much money Americans have to pay for care. 

The Trump administration has targeted hospitals recently with new rules intended to increase transparency and drive down costs by boosting competition. The administration wants hospitals to disclose the discounted prices they give insurers for a wide range of services.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma said the growth in hospital pricing is clear evidence the administration’s transparency rules are needed. 


“With hospital prices increasing 2.4% in 2018– and with price increases driving the growth we’re seeing in hospital spending – why wouldn’t we want to make hospital prices transparent?” Verma tweeted Thursday. 

Read more here.

CDC: Tobacco use among kids jumped to 6.2 million this year

More than 6 million teenagers in a new government survey said they have used tobacco products in recent days. Cigarette use fell to a record low in 2019, but other tobacco products like e-cigarettes are taking their place, according to federal data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The survey found that about 1 in 3 high school students (4.7 million) and about 1 in 8 middle school students (1.5 million) are tobacco users, compared with a total of 3.6 million in 2018.

For the sixth year in a row, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among high school and middle school students.

Last year’s numbers prompted then-Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to crack down on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in stores and online.


Read more on the survey here.

Planned Parenthood targets GOP senators in seven-figure ad campaign 

Planned Parenthood is targeting Republican senators in a seven-figure ad campaign over the Trump administration's changes to a federally funded birth control program.

The campaign, which will include ads on television, radio and digital platforms, as well as mailers, will target three Republican incumbents who Democrats hope to defeat in 2020: Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerMark Kelly to be sworn in as senator on Wednesday Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE (Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyArizona certifies Biden's victory over Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Biden unveils batch of his White House team Mark Kelly to be sworn in as senator on Wednesday MORE (Ariz.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGrassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge North Carolina — still purple but up for grabs MORE (N.C.).

Planned Parenthood and other groups left the Title X family planning program earlier this year arguing they could not ethically follow the Trump administration's new rules blocking providers from referring people for abortions. 

Planned Parenthood predicts outrage over the change will lead to a backlash against Trump and Republicans in 2020. 

An ad airing in Colorado argues that Gardner doesn't "care about women's health." We reached out to the Tillis, McSally and Gardner campaigns for comment, but only heard back from McSally. 

"Senator McSally is focused on providing access to actual health care for women all across Arizona, while Planned Parenthood is only focused on protecting their business model,” said McSally’s campaign manager Dylan Lefler. 

“Senator McSally’s pro life voting record speaks for itself.  We expect every hysterical liberal special interest group in the country to invade Arizona with false, negative ads for the next year since they know it is a pivotal race to keep the Senate majority. They can spend all they want but Martha will not back down in the fight to protect real health care for women in Arizona, especially the ones served by community health centers who take care of far more women than Planned Parenthood, and to protect life.”

Read more here.

What we’re reading: 

Inside the cell where a sick 16-year-old boy died in border control care (Propublica)

Tufts will scour Sackler name from its medical campus (Stat)

TeamHealth sent thousands of surprise medical bills in 2017 (Axios)

State by state

Mass. banned vape sales more than two months ago. And now business in N.H. and Maine is booming (Boston Globe)

45,000 Idahoans sign up for Medicaid under expansion (idahonews.com)

With Medicaid transformation stuck mid-stream, DHHS seeks to reassure patients, providers (North Carolina Health News)

The Hill op-eds

The US must act now to help stop the global measles surge