Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America’s Health Care Future — Juul pitched products to Native American tribes | Vaping execs deny deliberately targeting young people | Republicans seek hearing on Medicaid block grants
Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care.
Another plane of Americans arrived from Wuhan today, and there’s more on the way. E-cigarette companies testified about their roles in the youth vaping “epidemic,” and a congressional investigation shows Juul pitched its products to native American tribes.
We’ll start with the latest news on Juul…
Juul pitched products to Native American tribes, congressional investigation finds
Juul targeted Native American tribes when trying to sell their e-cigarette products, according to a report released by Congressional investigators Wednesday.
The company, which is one of the most popular e-cigarette brands in the U.S., is under fire by the Trump administration and Congress for its marketing tactics and rising youth vaping rates.
Juul, responding to questions from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, also admitted to pitching its products to leaders of at least eight Native American tribes.
Between December 2018 and February 2019, Juul met with leadership from the Moapa Band of the Paiute Tribe, the Lummi Nation, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the S’Klallahm Tribe and the Chickasaw Nation to discuss their products.
Juul representatives discussed the concept of a “switching program” for current cigarette smokers, according to the report.
Juul told Congress no agreements were made and the company terminated the program in Spring 2019.
Why it matters: A witness representing the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe told the committee during a public hearing in July that Juul representatives claimed their products were effective for smoking cessation and less harmful than tobacco products. It was previously not publicly known that Juul had met with other tribes to discuss their products.
The report on Juul was well timed, coming the same day that vaping executives testified in the House.
Vaping execs tell lawmakers that e-cigarettes are not meant for young people
Executives from the five largest e-cigarette companies defended their products on Wednesday as House lawmakers pressed them about rising youth nicotine addiction.
The company leaders appeared for a hearing before a subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee just one day before the Trump administration’s limited vaping ban will take effect.
Executives from Juul, Reynolds American, NJOY, Logic and Fontem told lawmakers that they did not deliberately market to young people. The companies represent 97 percent of the $19.3 billion U.S. e-cigarette market.
“I fully recognize that the opportunity for the millions of adult smokers who still use combustible cigarettes to have an alternative is at risk if we don’t address this issue,” said K.C. Crosthwaite, Juul’s CEO. “We are focused on combating underage access because I know it puts it all at risk if we don’t make progress here.”
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the full Energy and Commerce Committee, cast doubt on the companies’ assurances that they did not intentionally target young people.
“I heard all of you over and over again say you are responsible men, men of integrity. That is not true,” Pallone said. “If you wanted to be men of integrity and responsible men, you would not be selling this product, you’d be doing something else.”
What happens tomorrow: The “vaping ban” will take effect. The final policy was rolled out in early January and has been under fire from Democrats and public health activists ever since. Fruit and mint pod-based flavors will be stripped from the market, but not tobacco and menthol. But disposable e-cigarettes, open tank systems and e-liquids of any flavor, including those mixed in vape shops, will all remain available under the policy.
Energy and Commerce GOP call for hearing on Medicaid block grant policy
The top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee want a hearing on the Trump administration’s block grant policy before the House votes to officially disapprove of it.
In a letter to chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) shared with The Hill, Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said Democrats are focused on scoring political points and are not interested in having a serious debate about the guidance. Walden and Burgess said lawmakers acted too quickly to criticize the plan and noted there are elements both parties can get behind.
Background: The controversial Medicaid plan will let states apply for a waiver to scale back Medicaid spending by converting part of their Medicaid funding into a block grant. Democrats have been arguing the administration doesn’t have the authority to approve such drastic changes, and Medicaid advocates argue the changes would hurt low-income people and invite states to cut costs and reduce coverage.
What’s next: The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on a non-binding resolution of disapproval over the administration’s guidance. The resolution is not likely to be taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate.
Also unlikely: A quick hearing. Democrats probably wouldn’t mind the opportunity to call Trump administration officials to defend the guidance, which is something CMS Administrator Seema Verma has been working on for over a year. But they want to put Republicans in a bind and force them to vote in favor of a Trump plan they say will cut Medicaid.
Supreme Court to consider taking ObamaCare case this month
The ObamaCare lawsuit saga continues… and be on the lookout for possible Supreme Court announcements Feb. 21.
That’s the day justices will consider whether to take up the case.
Don’t get too excited, though: While there is at least some possibility they could decide to take the case this term, meaning a ruling would be issued by June, most observers expect a ruling will not come until after the 2020 election. That’s because either the court will wait until the next term to hear it, or because it decides not to take up the case at all until lower courts have finished considering it.
Campaigns watching closely: Whether the high court takes up the case and on what schedule is a key question for the 2020 campaign. Democrats have seized on the lawsuit to attack Republicans for seeking to overturn the health care law, and particularly its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
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Coronavirus update: More planes carrying Americans evacuated from Wuhan to arrive this week
The U.S. is expecting several planes this week carrying American evacuees from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the growing coronavirus outbreak.
Two planes landed Wednesday in California and two more will land Thursday at airbases in Texas and Nebraska, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The passengers will be quarantined for 14 days at airbases in those states.
“We expect to see additional cases of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. among returning travelers as well as their close contacts,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC.
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. has remained at 11 throughout the week. But Messonnier said it’s too soon to determine whether the virus has slowed down.
“We don’t think there is any sign this has stopped. I think it’s premature to comment on whether it has slowed down,” she said.
What we’re reading
How ObamaCare lives on, despite Trump’s best efforts (Bloomberg)
Fact check: Trump on ‘Medicare for All’ and the costs of extending health care to undocumented immigrants (Kaiser Health News)
In the race to develop a coronavirus treatment, Regeneron thinks it has the inside track (Stat)
China sacrifices a province to save the world from coronavirus (Bloomberg)
State by state
Fact check: Is Trump right about California’s health care for undocumented immigrants? (sacbee.com)
Trump rule could lead to big Medicaid cuts, governors warn (AP)
Patients caught in crossfire between giant hospital chain, large insurer (California Healthline)
The Hill op-eds
Funding is needed now for hospitals to prepare for the coronavirus
We’ve responded to the substance misuse crisis as if it’s only about opioids
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