Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care.
The number of cases of vaping-related illness has topped 1,000. The FTC is probing Juul and other e-cigarette companies, while conservatives are urging the administration to lay off its plan to ban flavored vapes. And President Trump gave a speech on Medicare in Florida.
We’ll start with the president…
Trump attacks ‘Medicare for All’ in Florida, accuses Dems of wanting to fund ‘socialism’
If you need more evidence that President Trump is making attacking Medicare for All a central part of his reelection bid, you got it in Florida today.
Trump, speaking at The Villages, a sprawling retirement community in the key swing state of Florida, sought to portray himself as a protector of Medicare for seniors, in contrast to Democratic plans to expand the program to everyone through Medicare for All.
“They want to raid Medicare to fund a thing called socialism,” Trump said of Democrats.
“The last administration frankly was moderate compared to the maniacs you’re hearing from today,” he added, pointing to “Elizabeth Pocahontas Warren,” whom he said appeared to be his leading challenger.
Other health care highlights from the speech:
- Trump is clearly still interested in allowing drug importation in Florida. He said that would be coming “soon,” though his administration has so far only approved a preliminary step.
- He gave a shoutout to ending surprise medical bills, saying “We’re gonna end that practice.” He did not get into details of which approach he preferred.
- He also made no mention of Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s (D-Calif.) drug pricing plan, which she is hoping to get his support for.
- Trump also, without evidence, implied that pharmaceutical companies are behind the “hoax” driving the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry
Lawsuit by ‘traumatized’ separated children and families seeks damages from Trump administration
A new lawsuit against the Trump administration seeks damages on behalf of the thousands of migrant children and families who were forcibly separated after crossing the southern border.
The lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union covers families separated at the southern border from 2017 through the present.
“The suffering and trauma inflicted on these little children and parents is horrific,” Lee Gelernt, the ACLU’s lead lawyer in the family separation lawsuit, said in a statement. “Tragically, it could take years for these families to heal. Some may never recover, but we are fighting to give them a chance.”
The ACLU is representing multiple children and families from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who were separated along the border in Arizona for up to 16 months. Attorneys are seeking class-action status for the case.
The suit was filed in federal court in Arizona, and names several current and former Trump administration officials as defendants, including: former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former White House Chief of Staff and Homeland Security Director John Kelly; White House advisor Stephen Miller, as well as both the current and former directors of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Flashback: Miller and Kelly and other administration officials named in the lawsuit decided that separating children from their families would be an acceptable way to deter would-be asylum seekers from trying to cross into the U.S. The “official” policy lasted just six weeks, from May to July 2018, before the administration ended it after a massive public backlash. Nearly 2,700 children were separated during that period.
CDC: Cases of vaping-related illness top 1,000
The number of vaping-related lung illnesses has topped 1,000, with 18 confirmed deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday.
The numbers are steadily climbing, and the disease shows no sign of slowing down.
“The increasing number of lung injury cases we see associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, is deeply concerning,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield.
Most of the 578 patients who have been interviewed by health officials said they had vaped THC with or without nicotine products, the CDC said.
Still, the CDC says it doesn’t know the cause of the illnesses, and no brand or substance has been linked to all cases.
It may not be THC or nicotine that is making people sick, but any number of the chemicals or additives that are found in vaping liquids, particularly those bought off the street.
“We really want to caution people that it is pretty much impossible for you to know what is in e-cigarette or vaping products, particularly THC-containing products bought off the street or bought off social sources,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat.
In other vaping news today…
Conservative groups urge Trump to back off ban on flavored vaping products
A coalition of conservative groups led by Americans for Tax Reform is urging the Trump administration to abandon its plan to ban flavored e-cigarette sales.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to issued guidance on the prohibition soon, arguing the flavors are appealing to children and leading to rising youth vaping rates.
But conservatives say the ban, which doesn’t apply to tobacco and menthol flavors, would hurt small vape businesses and adults trying to quit cigarettes.
“Eliminating all but one or two of these options for adults would destroy thousands of small businesses, force many adult vapers to return to smoking, and force some to seek out products on the black market,” the groups wrote in a letter to President Trump on Thursday.
FTC orders e-cigarette companies to turn over marketing, advertising info
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is ordering the country’s largest e-cigarette manufacturers to turn over information related to their marketing and promotional practices, ratcheting up pressure on an industry that’s already under intense scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators.
The agency sent orders to companies including Juul Labs, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, Fontem U.S. and NJOY after a 5-0 vote.
The FTC has conducted similar studies on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products, and has the authority to compel companies to disclose information.
According to the FTC, the extensive orders will collect information about e-cigarette sales, advertising and promotional practices in the U.S. for the calendar years 2015 through 2018.
E-cigarette companies are facing widespread furor over a mysterious lung illness as well as rising youth vaping rates. The industry’s marketing practices are also the subject of separate congressional, state and federal regulatory probes.
CMS opens public comments on Idaho Medicaid expansion waiver
The federal government on Thursday said it will begin accepting public comments on Idaho’s request to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries. Voters last year approved a ballot measure requiring the state to expand Medicaid, and lawmakers passed a bill adding work requirements.
The state is likely to get permission from the administration, which has made approving work requirements a cornerstone of its Medicaid policy. However, a federal judge has struck them down in Arkansas, New Hampshire and Kentucky.
Idaho is proposing a requirement that “able-bodied” people between 19 and 59 years old need to work, attend school or volunteer 20 hours per week to be eligible for Medicaid. Exemptions would be granted for people who are elderly, pregnant, mentally or physically ill or are receiving substance abuse treatment.
The state wants the waiver to take effect Jan. 1, 2020.
Idaho had previously failed to convince the administration to approve an altered Medicaid expansion plan that would have allowed newly eligible beneficiaries to buy private insurance using federal tax credits.
The administration in August said the state’s waiver was missing information, but even if it was complete, it wouldn’t be approved because it would cost the federal government too much money. State officials at the time said they felt like the administration let them down, after coordinating on the waiver application.
Trump administration officials have long said they believe in state flexibility from ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, and have been encouraging states to apply for waivers. However, they have discovered there are limits to what can legally be approved.
What we’re reading
Purdue challenged over attempt to pay $38 million in bonuses (Bloomberg)
“It’s very unethical”: audio shows hospital kept vegetative patient on life support to boost survival rates (ProPublica)
Walmart to test programs for U.S. workers to cut its healthcare costs (Reuters)
State by state
After hospitals’ donation to New York Democrats, a $140 million payout (The New York Times)
Legislators on the road in southern Minnesota hear about skyrocketing drug prices (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
Tennessee block grant experiment would boost federal funding, state Medicaid chief says (Kaiser Health News)
DeLeo unsure if vape bill will address ban (Boston Globe)
From The Hill’s Opinion Page