HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Senate Drug Measures Cut Deficit, CBO Says

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Senate Democrats’ tax, climate, and drug-pricing bill would cut down federal budget deficits by $102 billion over 10 years, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said.

The deficit decrease is driven in part by a repeal of a Trump-era restriction on prescription drug rebates, generating $122 billion, and by letting Medicare negotiate the cost of high-priced drugs, which generates $102 billion. The deal’s spending includes $31 billion to provide Obamacare premium subsidies for three years along with a slew of tax breaks for clean energy.

The CBO estimate will be used both to sell the legislation to the public and by the top Senate rules official to determine whether provisions comply with the chamber’s arcane budget rules. Read more from Erik Wasson.

  • Health-Care Savings: The typical US family will save roughly $1,000 per year on health insurance costs, with people getting coverage from Obamacare saving about $1,500 per year under Democrats’ pending reconciliation package, according to an analysis released Thursday by the center-left group Third Way. Read their analysis here.
  • BGOV Bill Summary: Senate Democrats’ Reconciliation Package

Investors Say Bill Unfairly Picks Favorites: Biotechnology investors say Democrats’ drug pricing bill will unfairly make biologic drugs more valuable, tipping future research funds toward pricier medicines. A group of investors that includes Peter Kolchinsky, founder of RA Capital and Gaurav Gupta, founder of Ascendant BioCapital, told reporters on Wednesday if Democrats pass their drug-pricing measure, small molecule medicines will lose out, Alex Ruoff reports.

The deal Democrats are considering allows the US to negotiate for lower prices from a list of the costliest drugs to Medicare, with exemptions for small molecule drugs approved in the last nine years and biologics approved in the last 13 years. Kolchinsky and his group of investors wants Democrats to change their bill to exempt all drugs approved in the last 13 years.

Also on Lawmakers’ Radars

Blunt Faults HHS Response to Monkeypox: The top Republican on the Senate health spending panel blasted HHS’s monkeypox response as partisan, leaving Republicans in the dark as the White House is gearing up to request potentially billions of dollars to respond to the outbreak. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) referred to reports that public health officials have briefed Democratic leaders in Congress about a response plan and cost estimates, but not Republicans, Jeannie Baumann and Alex Ruoff report. Read the letter here.

Senators Decry ‘Incompetence’ in Organ Transplant System: The organization that oversees connecting patients who need organs with donors needs to remedy “gross mismanagement and incompetence,” said Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Senators raised concerns about the United Network for Organ Sharing and the nation’s network of transplant groups, saying their lack of oversight has caused avoidable mistakes. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

GOP’s Johnson Says Medicare Shouldn’t Be Entitlement: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) called for transforming Medicare and Social Security from entitlements to budget items Congress debates annually, handing Democrats a potent line of attack as they aim to oust him in the November election. Steven T. Dennis has more.

Senators Pressed to Back Medication Opioid Treatments: A coalition of Ohio-based addiction advocates are pushing Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to back legislation meant to expand prescriptions for medication-assisted treatment of opioid addiction. The groups want the senators to cosponsor the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (H.R 1384, S. 445), which passed the House in June. Read their letter here.

Biden Signs Abortion Order

President Joe Biden predicted the threat to abortion rights will drive people to the polls in November’s midterms after Kansas voters rejected an effort to strip abortion protections in the state constitution.

The order Biden signed Wednesday directs the Health and Human Services secretary to consider actions to help patients travel outside their states for abortions using funds from Medicaid. The measure is likely to face a legal challenge from conservatives. The Hyde Amendment bars Medicaid from paying for an abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life. Read more from Jordan Fabian and Nancy Cook.


Regulatory & Legal News

Long Covid Office Aims to Advance Treatments: The HHS is creating a new long Covid office as part of a White House plan to better understand the condition. The new “Office of Long COVID Research and Practice” will fall under the Health and Human Services assistant secretary, according to the White House’s National Research Action Plan on Long COVID released Wednesday. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.

Eli Lilly to Sell Antibody to Health Providers: Eli Lilly plans to sell its Covid-19 antibody directly to health providers, states, and territories in a bid to keep the drug available even as US government funding and purchases dry up. Read more from Riley Griffin and Josh Wingrove.


  • Covid Isolation Guidance: Most Covid-19 patients continue to test positive past the CDC’s five-day isolation guidelines but only around half of them are actually contagious, a small study out of Boston found. The findings appeared Wednesday in JAMA Network Open.Read more from Jeannie Baumann.
  • Health Worker Retention: Health-care workers in New York state could get up to $3,000 in bonuses under a state program launched Wednesday aimed at increasing the workforce by 20% over five years. Keshia Clukey has more.

Black, Pacific Islander Women Held Top Fetal Death Rates in 2020: Black, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women continued to have the highest fetal mortality rates in 2020, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. Read more from Ayanna Alexander.

AbbVie’s Humira Win Thwarts Antitrust Attacks: The Seventh Circuit’s ruling that AbbVie‘s extensive patent portfolio covering its Humira arthritis treatment is not anti-competitive suggests antitrust challenges against such groups of patents won’t loosen the drug industry’s grip on name-brand drugs. Read more from Kelcee Griffis.


  • Gender-Confirmation Surgery: Transgender Medicaid beneficiaries in West Virginia can now look to the state to pay for surgeries deemed medically necessary to treat gender dysphoria, after a federal court in the state said a blanket ban on such coverage is unconstitutional. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.

With assistance from Jeannie Baumann

To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at; Alex Ruoff in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at; Michaela Ross at

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