Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care.
President Trump attacked Mike Bloomberg over health care, which did not go as well as he might have hoped. Oklahoma sued the three major opioid distributors, and the administration’s TV drug disclosure rule may not be coming back any time soon.
We’ll start with a Trump tweet…
Trump knocks ‘mini Mike Bloomberg’ over health care
President Trump waded back into the health care debate with a tweet on Monday morning.
“Mini Mike Bloomberg is spending a lot of money on False Advertising,” Trump tweeted.
“I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare,” he continued, adding that he would “always protect your Pre-Existing Conditions, the Dems will not!”
About that claim: The administration is backing a lawsuit in federal court that would overturn the entire Affordable Care Act, but last week, the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court not to take up the case until after the 2020 election. If successful, Trump hasn’t said what the law would be replaced with.
Despite Trump’s claim that he “saved” coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, he also backed a bill that Republicans passed through the House in 2017 that would have let states get waivers to allow people with pre-existing conditions to be charged significantly higher premiums, something that is banned under ObamaCare.
Trump also claimed that Democrats will not protect the provision of ObamaCare that prevents people with pre-existing conditions from being charged higher premiums, while Republicans will. But Democrats passed the protections into law in the first place and have expressed unity in wanting to protect them.
Appeals court skeptical of Trump rule on TV drug ads
A Trump rule that would require companies to disclose the list prices of their drugs in television advertising might not be making a comeback anytime soon.
Three drug companies — Merck, Eli Lily and Amgen — argue the rule, which was blocked by a federal court in July, is outside the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The Trump administration on Monday urged a federal appeals court to overturn that ruling, arguing it has the authority under the law to run the Medicare and Medicaid programs efficiently. Both programs paid about $240 billion combined for prescription drugs in 2016.
But the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit sounded skeptical in its grilling of government lawyers, questioning the agency’s authority to issue the rule and whether the disclosure of list prices, which are often higher than what patients end up paying, would be helpful to consumers.
“The problem is the cost of prescription drugs. I don’t see this as a solution to the problem,” said Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush.
The list price “is not the price I’ll ever pay. Why is that not adding confusion?”
Why it matters: Lowering drug prices is one of President Trump’s top goals and one he hopes to run on this year. But his administration has accomplished little in the way of actually doing so. The price disclosure rule was blocked before it could take effect and it’s not clear whether it would lead to a decrease in prices anyway. The administration is also finalizing a rule that would let some states import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, but that one is also likely to end up in court.
Oklahoma sues three major opioid distributors
Oklahoma is suing three of the country’s largest drug distributors over their alleged role in the state’s opioid crisis, the state announced Monday.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) said McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp. “fueled the opioid crisis by supplying massive and patently unreasonable quantities of opioids to communities throughout the United States, including Oklahoma.”
Hunter said the “Big Three” companies supplied more than 34 billion doses of opioids to Oklahoma and the rest of the U.S. between 2006 and 2012 and did not stop or report suspicious drug orders because they were making so much money.
“Defendants ignored their duties and responsibility to protect against oversupply and diversion of opioids for illicit and nonmedical uses. Defendants did so for one reason: Greed,” Hunter said in the complaint.
Location, location, location: The lawsuit was filed in Cleveland County, the same court where Oklahoma secured a $465 million verdict against opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. So far, it is the only case that reached trial, but is currently under appeal before the state Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Congress is set to examine how states are responding to the opioid epidemic…
The House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations subcommittee will hold a hearing on Tuesday to find out how state officials have been using billions of dollars in federal funding to respond to the opioid crisis.
According to Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) who chairs the committee, lawmakers want to know what federally-funded efforts have proven to be successful in helping to curb the epidemic in various states, and which efforts have failed. They also want to know what additional tools and resources state health officials need going forward to better respond to the crisis.
Senate Democrats blast exemptions in Trump vaping ban
More than 30 Senate Democrats on Monday criticized the Trump administration’s new vaping ban for exempting menthol flavored e-cigarettes and any e-liquids that are not in a cartridge.
In a letter to newly appointed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn, the 31 Democrats, led by Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), said the omissions in the policy created loopholes that will place millions of children at risk of addiction.
“The newly announced e-cigarette flavors policy, which represents an alarming reversal from what the Administration promised, is weak and unlikely to have a meaningful impact on e-cigarette use by youth,” the Democrats wrote.
Under the policy unveiled by the FDA on Jan. 2, the administration will strip the market of popular fruit and mint pod-based flavors, but not tobacco and menthol. Open tank systems, which are commonly found in vaping shops and not as popular with young people, will be exempt from the policy, even though they use flavored “e-liquids.”
What we’re reading
Taiwan’s single-payer success story — and its lessons for America (Vox.com)
Democrats should expand Medicaid again (Slate)
U.S. diabetes patients turn to ‘black market’ for medications, supplies (Reuters)
To the contrary, Trump has tried to weaken protections for pre-existing conditions (The New York Times)
State by state
Nebraska Medicaid head steps down as state expands coverage (KOLN)
Spotlight on North Carolina GOP as another red state reaches Medicaid expansion compromise (Winston Salem Journal)
Kansas GOP to stymie ban in reversing abortion-rights ruling (Associated Press)
Flavored vapes ban could soon come to New Jersey (NJ.com)
From The Hill’s opinion page: