Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care. We were prepared for a five-day workweek, but Congress had other plans. Federal workers have a day off tomorrow, as President Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a national holiday.

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Today: ObamaCare is sticking around, after the Supreme Court decided that an individual mandate without a penalty didn't actually harm anyone. The administration is investing in finding a pill to fight COVID-19, and Democratic lawmakers pressed PhRMA over its pandemic lobbying. 

We'll start at the Supreme Court: 

Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision

In what has become something of a Washington tradition, the Supreme Court again upheld the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, in the third major case from Republican challengers to reach the high court. 

The margin this time was larger, 7-2, as the High Court appears less and less interested in revisiting the health care law through the judiciary. 

Some takeaways:

This could be the last gasp of repeal efforts

There were some fairly resigned statements from GOP senators:

"It's been my public view for some time that the Affordable Care Act is largely baked into the health care system in a way that it's unlikely to change or be eliminated," said Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of Senate GOP leadership. 

The Supreme Court was fairly united 

The margin of victory for the health law was fairly large, with even more conservative justices such as Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts ruling to uphold the law, joining the opinion from liberal Justice Stephen Breyer

What is the Republican health care message now?

The Republican health care message for years was summed up with the simple slogan "repeal and replace."

But now those efforts have failed in Congress, in 2017, and have failed for a third time in the courts. 

Read more takeaways here


COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life

The coronavirus pandemic shortened American lives by a wider degree in 2020 than any cause other than heart disease and cancer, according to a new analysis. 

Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, analyzed by the Pew Research Center, found the virus that killed more than 380,000 Americans last year - and more than 600,000 to date - cost nearly 5.5 million years of life that those victims would otherwise have been expected to live. 

That is more years of lost life than Americans lose to all accidents combined, including traffic accidents, drug overdoses, drownings and firearm deaths. It is about half the 10.2 million years of life that cancer costs Americans in a given year.

The measurement of the number of life years lost to any particular cause takes into account the average life expectancy of a victim.

Read more here.


Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19

The Biden administration plans to invest billions of dollars in antiviral pills to treat COVID-19 and ready the U.S. to combat future viruses that have the potential to spark a pandemic.

Officials committed to spending more than $3 billion on the Antiviral Program for Pandemics that aims to support and speed up the development and production of antiviral treatments for COVID-19 to reduce serious illnesses and deaths. 

The multiyear funding will help to launch clinical research and manufacturing, and the hope is for some treatments to be available by the end of 2021. 

The goal of the program is to produce an oral drug that Americans can take early in their COVID-19 infection to prevent hospitalizations and fatalities from the disease. Such an oral pill would operate similarly to antiviral treatments for influenza, HIV and hepatitis C.

Read more here.


Democratic senators press PhRMA over COVID-19 lobbying efforts  

Democratic senators are pressing the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to provide more information about its lobbying efforts amid the pandemic.

In a letter to PhRMA CEO Stephen Ubl, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) asked the trade group and its member companies to disclose their lobbying spending to oppose a measure to waive intellectual property projections on COVID-19 vaccines.

"While taking credit for the development of new COVID vaccines - which were developed with massive infusions of federal funds - the pharmaceutical industry has not backed off of its efforts to block drug pricing proposals and maintain the status quo," the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent Wednesday.

Drugmakers have renewed clout in Washington after successfully manufacturing lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines. But progressives criticized pharmaceutical firms such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson for lobbying against a waiver meant to allow lower-income nations to manufacture their own doses.

Read more here. 


COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave

Coronavirus patients enduring long-term symptoms are joining a campaign to lobby Congress on passing legislation that would provide paid family leave for all workers.

The grassroots, nonpartisan group COVID Survivors for Change is now working with other groups in an effort led by the advocacy group Paid Leave for All, drawing attention to the growing number of Americans known as COVID-19 long-haulers because of the longevity of their conditions after contracting the coronavirus.

More than 230 COVID-19 survivors, including those who experienced long COVID-19, across 46 states have signed an open letter requesting Congress pass legislation providing paid family leave.

Read more here.


What we're reading

Aduhelm will balloon America's health spending (Axios)

Device makers have funneled billions to orthopedic surgeons who use their products (Kaiser Health News)

Furor rages over FDA approval of controversial Alzheimer's drug (Washington Post) 


State by state

It's about to get tougher for transgender people in Montana to amend birth certificates (Kaiser Health News)

Feeling lucky? Vaccine lottery odds will be better than in the state's regular games (Boston Globe)

Beaumont and Spectrum Health plan to merge, forming Michigan's biggest health system (Detroit Free Press)

On 50th anniversary of war on drugs, Connecticut legalizes marijuana (CT Mirror)


Op-eds in The Hill

The ill-advised push to vaccinate the young 

Biden's vaccine diplomacy embraces global solidarity - but there's more to be done

We need a comprehensive commission on COVID-19