Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Buttigieg unveils aggressive plan to lower drug prices | Supreme Court abortion case poses major test for Trump picks | Trump takes heat from right over vaping crackdown

Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care. 

Today, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg unveiled his prescription drug plan. Also, the Supreme Court will take up at least one abortion case in its new term, and the administration is taking heat from the right over its new vaping policy.

We’ll start with drug pricing…


Buttigieg unveils aggressive plan to lower drug prices

Pharma does not fare too well in 2020 Democratic campaign proposals, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s plan, released Monday is no exception. The presidential candidate’s plan is similar to the one championed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Buttigieg would:

  • Allow both Medicare and the new public option plan he would create to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, and those lower prices would be available to people with private insurance too.  
  • Cap out-of-pocket drug costs in Medicare at $200 per month and force drug companies to pay rebates back if their prices rose faster than inflation. 
  • For the “worst offender” companies, he would exercise rarely used authority under current law to strip firms of their patents if they were not offering a drug at a reasonable price. 

Bigger picture: Lowering drug prices is a top priority for voters and Democratic presidential candidates have put forward a range of very tough plans across the spectrum. Even the more moderate candidates, like former Vice President Joe Biden and Buttigieg, are proposing to crack down hard on the industry. While candidates may differ on how to address health insurance coverage, their policies on the pharmaceutical industry are much closer to each other.  

President Trump has also called for lowering drug prices, but he has yet to propose any major action that has gone into effect on the issue. 

Read more here.



Supreme Court abortion case poses major test for Trump picks 

The Supreme Court will hear at least one abortion-related case this term. 

The case from Louisiana marks the first time the Supreme Court will hear an abortion case since Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch joined the bench, shifting the balance of power to the conservative wing.

Their nominations were fiercely fought by abortion-rights activists, who saw them as a threat to Roe v. Wade and other decisions the Supreme Court has made over the years in favor of abortion access.

The case centers on a Louisiana law that would require doctors at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, a requirement critics say is aimed at forcing those clinics to close. 

“For the first time in at least 25 years the court does not have a majority of justices who are committed to the legacy of a constitutional right to abortion on demand. That’s huge,” said Steven Aden, chief legal officer and general counsel for Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion legal group.

Potential changes coming: The Supreme Court in 2016 struck down a similar Texas law in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Justices said in the 5-3 ruling that admitting privilege requirements posed obstacles to abortion access and created an “undue burden” for women.

But that ruling came at a time when the court had only eight justices following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. It was also before the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote who often sided with the court’s liberal wing on abortion.

Other cases: The court is expected to decide soon whether it will hear a challenge to an Indiana law that requires women get ultrasounds at least 18 hours before an abortion.

Read more on the case here.


First lady calls for end to marketing e-cigarettes at youth

Melania Trump wants e-cigarette companies to stop marketing to underage people. 

In a speech Monday at the Drug Enforcement Agency, the first lady said teenagers and young adults who suffer from addiction, including to e-cigarettes, need to be encouraged to admit they have a problem and get help.

“It is important to me that we all work to educate children and families about the dangers associated with this habit,” she said. “Marketing this addictive product to children must stop.”

Melania Trump was one of the driving forces behind President Trump’s crackdown on flavored vaping products.

State of play: E-cigarette companies have been adamant they never deliberately targeted underage youth in their advertising campaigns. Some, including market-leader Juul Labs, have stopped all advertising in the U.S. as scrutiny of the companies’ marketing practices has grown sharper. 

Read more here.


Trump takes heat from right over vaping crackdown

The Trump administration is under fire from conservative groups and some GOP lawmakers, who are pushing back over its planned crackdown on e-cigarette flavors. 

They say the administration is overreaching, and the flavor ban will harm small businesses, a violation of core Republican free market principles. 

But so far, President Trump has shown he will listen to his health advisers, who say that sweeping the market of all flavors except tobacco is the best way to cut down on an epidemic of youth vaping.

Trump and federal health officials last month announced a crackdown on the sale of all nontobacco flavors of e-cigarettes until they can be submitted for regulatory review. 

Key quote: The scope of the administration’s plans has some of its staunchest allies crying foul.

“It would be disastrous. Maybe not for the big guys who sell e-cigarettes like Juul, but for the more than 10,000 independent retailers whose sole business model is the sale of these products — these are the guys that would be put out of business overnight,” said Paul Blair, director of strategic initiatives at Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).

Read more on the criticism from the right here.




What we’re reading

Three scientists win Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering how cells sense and adapt to oxygen levels (Stat News)

Vapers accuse officials of overreach as investigation into deadly lung illness lags (Kaiser Health News)

Elizabeth Warren has many plans, but on health care, she’s ‘with Bernie’ (Bloomberg)

Doctors, once GOP stalwarts, now more likely to be Democrats (The Wall Street Journal)


State by state

Fighting for abortion access in the South (The New Yorker

Utah health department takes next step toward full Medicaid expansion (KPCW)

Opioid treatment scam may be coming to your state (Stateline

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