Health Care

House progressives work on ‘Medicare-for-all’ as debate heats up
The House bill from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., will have at least 100 initial co-sponsors

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., arrives for a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol on Nov. 15, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House progressives are set to introduce a revised single-payer “Medicare-for-all” bill during the last week of this month, as Republicans sharpen their criticism of the policy and Democratic presidential hopefuls face questions about whether they support it.

The House bill from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., will have at least 100 initial co-sponsors. It comes as Democrats are offering a range of bills to expand health insurance coverage, such as a proposal to allow adults between 50 and 64 to buy into Medicare that was unveiled Wednesday, and presidential candidates refine their positions on what “Medicare-for-all” should mean and the role private insurers would play.

FDA commissioner outlines new opioid enforcement action
The agency used, for the first time, a new type of enforcement designed to control the illegal flow of opioids

The outside of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters is seen in White Oak, Md. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Food and Drug Administration released a warning letter to a top drug distributor on Tuesday, using for the first time a new type of enforcement authority that the agency’s head called an important step in controlling the illegal flow of opioids.

FDA's letter alleged that distributor McKesson Corp. sent drugs that were supposed to be opioids — but were missing pills or were not even opioids — to multiple pharmacy locations, raising questions about whether potent opioid painkillers were missing and where they may have gone.

High school e-cigarette use is exploding and reversing prevention gains
Monthly e-cigarette usage among high schoolers nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018, a new CDC report finds

Signs in the window of the Smoke Depot advertise electronic cigarettes and pods by Juul, the nation's largest maker of e-cigarette products, on Sept. 13, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The number of young people using tobacco products has reached its highest level in years, as e-cigarette popularity is reversing recent progress on other products that contain nicotine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday.

In recent years, the overall proportion of high school students using any tobacco products fell, mainly due to fewer students smoking cigarettes and cigars, the CDC said. But from 2017 to 2018, the number of high school students reporting e-cigarette use within the past month nearly doubled from 11.7 percent to 20.8 percent. That pushed their overall tobacco use rate from 19.6 percent to 27.1 percent in 2018.

House members want official office supply store to stock tampons
Three House lawmakers seeking clear guidance on using office funds for feminine hygiene products

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., is among the members who want clarity on using official funds for feminine hygiene purchases. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Three House lawmakers are asking the new leadership of the House Administration panel to clarify if tampons and other feminine hygiene products can be purchased with official office allowances.

It’s the latest development in a saga that started last summer when Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a New York Democrat, was denied permission to buy tampons for his office using his Members’ Representational Allowance.

2020 Democratic contenders largely align on drug price bills
Candidates may strain to stand out on drugs in crowded primary field

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, introduced a three-bill drug pricing package last month. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is one of its original co-sponsors. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A bold stance on drug pricing will be a prerequisite for any candidate who wants to win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, but one challenge will be differentiating the contenders from each other.

The main distinction among candidates could be between those pushing bipartisan policies and those promoting more liberal ideas that currently stand little chance of enactment. But in most cases, the bills have a list of co-sponsors that could resemble a future primary debate stage.

Drug pricing is secretive. Fix that first
If the rebate system is a complex web, consumers are the ones who get caught

By the time patients pull out their wallets at the pharmacy, their drugs have passed through an elaborate rebate system, Hoagland writes. Above, a technician grabs a bottle in Midvale, Utah. (George Frey/Getty Images)

OPINION — Health care economist Uwe Reinhardt once described pricing in the health care sector as “chaos behind a veil of secrecy.” That description aptly applies to the opaque U.S. pharmaceutical market.

To make health care policy that works, we must lift the secret veil on drug pricing. The administration’s recent proposal to fundamentally change the drug rebate process is one step in that direction.

The change-makers: Roll Call’s people to watch in 2019
A surge of energy from activists has defined the Trump era. What’s the end game?

Varshini Prakash co-founded the Sunrise Movement, an environmental group, in 2017. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images file photo)

Several activists who will be on the front lines of some of the biggest policy battles in the year ahead rank among Roll Call’s People to Watch in 2019. 

They include the leader of a fledgling environmental group pushing for aggressive action on climate change; the new president of Planned Parenthood, the lightning rod in the raging debate over abortion; and an expert on transportation safety who will be insisting on strong regulations to prevent deaths and injuries from driver-less vehicles. 

Democrats kick off push for Medicare drug price negotiations
The measure includes tactics to urge drugmakers to reach an agreement with Medicare on a price

Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, left, and Peter Welch, D-Vt., attend a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center with House and Senate Democrats on a report which they say shows prescription drug prices have risen under President Trump on May 10, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The leader of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee on Thursday offered a proposal to require the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices for drugs covered by the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, is set to formally introduce the bill later Thursday with more than 100 House co-sponsors. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate backed by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

Parkland shooting to be commemorated with new bill requiring background checks on gun sales
The bill would require gun sellers to conduct background checks on buyers

"There's nothing statistically that supports that," Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., said to the claim by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that undocumented immigrants are to blame for gun violence in the U.S. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Flanked by the parents of children killed or disabled by guns, including the parents of children slain in the Parkland shooting one year ago, Rep. Jerry Nadler announced Thursday he would advance a bill to require background checks on gun sales next week.

Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over firearm regulations. The New York Democrat announced the committee will advance the Bipartisan Background Checks Act on Wednesday, Feb. 13th. The next day, February 14th, marks the anniversary of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which claimed 17 lives.

After calls for unity, Trump sets table for 2020 re-election fight
President reverts to hardline immigration talk, vows 'America will never be a socialist country'

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in the House chamber Tuesday night as President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address. All are either running to replace him or seriously considering a bid. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

ANALYSIS | President Donald Trump, slowly but surely, morphed into Candidate Donald Trump Tuesday night during his second State of the Union address. What promises to be a loud and bruising 2020 presidential race is now under way.

His top aides billed the speech as one in which he wanted to set the table for breaking Washington’s era of gridlock and working with Democrats to pass major legislation on immigration, infrastructure and lowering prescription drug prices. But by the time he walked out of the House chamber, the placemats were all set for his 2020 re-election campaign.

One speech, two Trumps
Despite softer touches, president’s State of the Union still divides

President Donald Trump greets lawmakers as he prepares to deliver his second State of the Union address. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republican lawmakers stood and roared Tuesday night as President Donald Trump described the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border as a hellscape awash in drugs and violent criminals moving freely into the country. Democrats sat statuesque and silent, displaying no sign that his call for cross-party cooperation resonated inside the House chamber.

Trump stood before Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and delivered what has become customary for Republican and Democratic presidents alike, saying that the state of the country is “strong” and that the American people hope “we will govern not as two parties but as one nation.”

Trump could be his own biggest obstacle on HIV/AIDS plan
Administration’s broader policies are at odds with increasing access to drugs and other steps

President Donald Trump talks with members after his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House chamber on January 30, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump’s plan to eliminate HIV transmission in the United States by 2030, which he announced Tuesday night, would be an ambitious goal that would require his administration to reverse course on a number of policies that potentially hinder access to HIV/AIDS care.

“Together, we will defeat AIDS in America,” Trump said in his State of the Union address. He said that his budget will “ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years.”

Primary care changes could be part of Senate effort to lower health care costs
A committee discussed ideas including provider incentives to buy drugs directly from wholesalers, and encouraging employers to offer on-site clinics

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., right, and Tina Smith, D-Minn., talk with attendees of the a Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Sept. 25, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Tuesday highlighted changes to primary care coverage that could be part of a Senate effort to lower health care costs this year.

Those ideas include incentives for providers to buy drugs directly from wholesalers, expanding which services qualify for health savings account purchases, encouraging employers to offer on-site clinics to workers, and clarifying how direct primary care programs can help physicians reduce time spent on administrative tasks.

Trump’s call for unity likely to ring hollow among Democrats
‘Border wall chicken’ hangs over State of the Union vibes

President Donald Trump speaks during his first official State of the Union address in the House chamber on Jan. 30, 2018. (Win McNamee/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump will make a plea for unity in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, but his words are likely to ring hollow with Democrats amid an ongoing border wall and immigration standoff.

The president is typically blunt and straightforward, his prepared and off-the-cuff remarks built less on rhetorical flourishes and more on bravado and definitive statements frequently questioned by critics and fact-checkers. But Tuesday evening’s address will feature several lofty lines aimed at convincing Democrats to work with him or — a major long shot — even support some of his policies.

Azar touts rebate proposal as solution to 'broken' system
The proposal would create safe harbors under the anti-kickback statute for upfront discounts to patients and flat service fees to PBMs

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifying at a hearing called "Prescription Drug Affordability and Innovation: Addressing Challenges in Today's Market" in front of the Senate Finance Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Tuesday, June 26, 2018 (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Friday pitched a proposal he released the day before as a major step in reforming the complex system of the prescription drug supply chain and lowering prices.

The proposed rule released by HHS and the Office of the Inspector General Thursday would eliminate federal protections for manufacturer rebates paid to health plans and pharmacy benefit managers under federal health programs, although Azar expects the rule would also trigger changes in the commercial market. The proposal would instead create safe harbors under the anti-kickback statute for upfront discounts to patients and flat service fees to PBMs.