HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Democrats’ Insulin Push Faces Rule Hurdle
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Democrats want to make insulin a major part of drug-pricing legislation set for a vote this week, but face a Senate rules hurdle, lawmakers said.
Democratic leadership wants to reinstate two major provisions of their drug-pricing language, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), said Tuesday. One would automatically subject insulin products to government negotiations for lower prices and the other would cap what people pay out-of-pocket for insulin at $35 per month.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday the limit would apply to both Medicare and private insurance plans. However, Senate rules may limit the out-of-pocket cap to just Medicare, Shaheen cautioned. For this reason, and to tackle the complicated issue of how rebates affect insulin prices, Shaheen said she hopes to pass a bipartisan measure that included some of these provisions. Read more from Alex Ruoff.
- Manchin, Sinema Talk: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) discussed the $433 billion tax, climate, and health plan with potential holdout Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), but gave no indication he won any commitment of her support. Erik Wasson has more.
Also Happening on the Hill
WEDNESDAY’S HILL HEARINGS
- Organ Procurement Network: The Senate Finance Committee holds a Wednesday hearing on the “organizational failures” of the country’s organ procurement and transplantation network.
- Genetic Medical Research: The Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats holds a Wednesday hearing on applying lessons from the Covid pandemic to gain-of-function research, a field of medical research that entails modifying viruses and pathogens. The National Institutes of Health in an email said it was not invited to the hearing, Jeannie Baumann reports.
‘Burn Pit’ Bill Passes Senate: Legislation (S. 3373) giving veterans exposed to toxic burn pits access to expanded health benefits cleared Congress in an 86-11 Senate vote Tuesday night. The bill ultimately drew support from 37 GOP senators and now heads to President Joe Biden for his signature. Read more from Diego Areas Munhoz.
Abortion in Post-Roe America
Biden to Sign Another Executive Order on Access to Abortion: President Joe Biden on Wednesday will sign a second executive order intended to improve access to abortion services more than five weeks after the US Supreme Court allowed states to largely put them off limits. The order will direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to consider actions to help patients travel outside their states for abortions using funds from Medicaid, a move which conservatives will likely challenge in the courts. Nancy Cook and Shira Stein cover the latest.
DOJ Sues Idaho Over Six-Week Abortion Ban: The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Idaho over the state’s law banning abortion after six weeks, arguing federal law requires doctors and hospitals to perform medically required abortions to preserve the pregnant person’s health. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the District of Idaho, is the White House’s first legal action against states that have restricted access to abortion following the Supreme Court ruling’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The filing argues the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act—which requires that doctors must perform medically stabilizing abortions in an emergency—preempts the state law. “The suit seeks to hold invalid the state’s criminal prohibition of providing abortions to women who are suffering emergencies,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference on Tuesday in Washington. Read more from Shira Stein.
HHS Looking to Boost Abortion Patient Privacy: The Biden administration’s efforts to protect reproductive health information from law enforcement post-Dobbs hangs on how much authority its health agency has to preempt state criminal laws—a thorny issue for health-care lawyers. Allie Reed and Christopher Brown have more.
MORE ON ABORTION RIGHTS
- Kentucky Abortion Ban: A Kentucky abortion provider suffered a setback in a case aiming to invalidate two near-total bans on abortion, as a state appeals court lifted an order that had allowed it to resume performing procedures in the state. Mary Anne Pazanowski has more.
- Kansas’ Abortion Vote: The unusual move of putting an abortion question on a primary election ballot backfired Tuesday when voters in Kansas rejected a proposal to change the state Constitution to declare there’s no right to an abortion. Alex Ebert has more.
- Anti-Abortion Group’s Taxes: Forty congressional Democrats called on the IRS and Treasury Department to review the tax-exempt status of the anti-abortion Family Research Council. “FRC is one example of an alarming pattern in the last decade: rightwing advocacy groups self-identifying as ‘churches,’” they said. Read more from Erin Slowey.
Industry & Legal Health News
Fourth Pfizer Dose Highly Effective: Hospital workers who got a fourth dose of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine were far less likely to get Covid than triple-vaccinated peers in a study. The findings published Tuesday in the American Medical Association’s open access journal are the latest to confirm the benefits of a second booster against breakthrough infections caused by the omicron variant. The study’s authors pointed to an extra dose as a tool to prevent medical staff shortages. Dong Lyu has more.
Vaping Group Siding With FDA on Menthol: The FDA gained an unlikely ally in its plans to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars: a leading vaping trade group that wants to see smokers switch to e-cigarette products. The Vapor Technology Association says it supports the proposals if the FDA authorizes more e-cigarettes as an alternative. Read more from Celine Castronuovo.
Teva Faces Adderall Supply Disruptions: Teva Pharmaceutical, the biggest seller of Adderall in the US, is experiencing “supply disruptions” of the popular ADHD drug, at a time when demand is at all-time highs, a spokesperson for the company said. Read more from Ike Swetlitz.
WHAT ELSE TO KNOW TODAY
- Antitrust Aide Leaving: White House adviser Tim Wu, who helped shape the administration’s agenda to bolster economic competition within industries including health care, is set to step down in the coming months, according to people familiar with the move. Read more from Emily Birnbaum, Leah Nylen, and Nancy Cook.
- CEO Defends Merger: Change Healthcare CEO Neil de Crescenzo defended the company’s proposed combination with UnitedHealth Group in court Tuesday as Justice Department attorneys tried to prove the deal would harm competition, John Tozzi reports.
- Doctor’s Defamation Suit: A Texas doctor who stood on the steps of the US Supreme Court and delivered a speech touting hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19 has lost a defamation suit against CNN, after a Texas federal court said she didn’t show the network’s statements were false. Mary Anne Pazanowski has more.
- BGOV HHS Contracting Profile: HHS is consistently one of the top three civilian agencies spending contracting money over the past decade. Click here to download the HHS agency profile from Kerry Burgott.
With assistance from Jeannie Baumann
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