Overnight Health Care — Presented by Rare Access Action Project — Repeal of ObamaCare taxes costs $373B | Trade deal leaves PhRMA out in the cold | Health officials approve sale of low-nicotine cigarettes

Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care. 

The year-end funding deal was a big, expensive gift to the health industry. But industry players don’t always rack up wins – just look at PhRMA and the trade deal. Also today, the Trump administration is making organ donation easier, and the FDA has approved new low-nicotine cigarettes.

We’ll start with the spending bill:

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Analysis: Repeal of ObamaCare taxes in bipartisan spending deal costs $373B

There’s a lot of money in tax cuts for the health care industry in this bipartisan deal.

The repeal of three ObamaCare taxes in the bipartisan government funding deal poised to pass Congress this week will deprive the government of $373.3 billion over 10 years, according to a nonpartisan analysis. 

The bipartisan year-end spending deal includes repeal of the 40 percent tax on generous “Cadillac” health insurance plans, the 2.3 percent medical device tax, and the Health Insurance Tax. Those repeals cost:

  • $197 billion for the Cadillac Tax
  • $25.5 billion for the medical device tax
  • 150.8 billion for the Health Insurance Tax

Takeaway: These taxes were unpopular with lawmakers in both parties. Some of the only people voicing opposition to their repeal were health economists and other experts. 

“At a moment when policymakers should focus on reducing health costs and raising revenues to expand health coverage, this legislation repeals an important cost-reducing measure and sacrifices hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue,” wrote Robert Greenstein, president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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Read more here. 

 

Trade deal leaves PhRMA out in the cold

It’s not all winning for PhRMA recently. 

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) is the lone major trade group not supporting President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel didn’t take lead on Trump letter to Pelosi: reports Trump endorses Riggleman in Virginia House race Lisa Page responds to ‘vile’ Trump attacks: ‘Being quiet isn’t making this go away’ MORE‘s new North American trade deal after the drug industry lost crucial intellectual property (IP) protections in the agreement.

The loss was a blow to a powerful industry group that has long held sway in Washington, and while other industries are rallying behind the trade deal, PhRMA finds itself alone.

The House is set to vote this week to secure passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which updates the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Democrats in negotiations with the administration were able to eliminate language that would have given a certain class of drugs, biologics, 10 years of patent protections.

The drug industry fought the changes, arguing that they were necessary to encourage industry investments in research and development but lost.

That’s left PhRMA taking a stance against a deal that business groups across the board, including the National Association of Manufactures (NAM), U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable (BRT), are backing. While those other groups have expressed disappointment over the changes to drug patent protections, they are still on board with the deal.

Read more here. 

 

Health officials authorize low-nicotine cigarettes for public sale

Federal health officials on Tuesday said they will allow the sale of two new cigarettes with extremely reduced levels of nicotine.

The Food and Drug Administration said it will allow 22nd Century Group to begin selling two new cigarettes, called Moonlight and Moonlight Menthol, that contain significantly less nicotine than standard cigarettes.

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FDA officials said the new products have the potential to reduce nicotine dependence in addicted adult smokers. The agency said it determined that non-smokers, including youth, are also unlikely to start using the new cigarettes, because of the low nicotine levels.

The products differ from conventional cigarettes in nicotine content only, FDA said. Cigarettes can still cause cancer, lung disease and a number of other health problems. The agency emphasized that there are no safe tobacco products, and those who do not use tobacco products should not start.

Mitch Zeller, the FDA’s tobacco chief, said the new cigarettes are the first to “successfully demonstrate the potential … to help reduce nicotine dependence among addicted smokers.”

Read more here.

 

Trump administration announces move aimed to increase organ donations

It’s not always on the radar of DC health care news, but the Trump administration is making a move to increase organ donation. 

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The Department of Health and Human Services said that 20 people die each day while on the waitlist for a life-saving organ transplant, and that the new rules are intended to reduce that number and save lives. 

Big picture: The announcement is part of a range of health care moves that the Trump administration has been touting in an effort to show that the president is making progress on health care, an issue Democrats used to great effect in the 2018 elections. 

Officials said they are trying to make progress in health care areas unrelated to ObamaCare, after failing to repeal and replace that law in 2017. White House Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan told reporters on Tuesday the organ announcement is part of an effort to “widen the aperture from an obsession with ObamaCare.”

Details: The proposed rules would impose tougher accountability standards on organ procurement organizations, which help facilitate organ donations, including changing evaluations from once every four years to every year, officials said. 

The administration is also proposing to increase the financial incentives for people to donate organs, particularly kidneys, while they are still alive, by expanding the items donors can be reimbursed for to include lost wages. 

Read more here.

 

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What we’re reading

Warren backs down on Medicare for All, now says it’s a ‘choice’ (Bloomberg)

Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House counsel didn’t take lead on Trump letter to Pelosi: reports House panel sets guidelines for historic impeachment vote Protesters rally against Trump in multiple cities on eve of impeachment vote MORE just skipped out on the ObamaCare tab (Washington Examiner opinion) 

A CT scan costs $1,100 in the US — and $140 in Holland (Vox.com)  

 

State by state

Maryland hits four-year high for ObamaCare enrollment (Baltimore Sun) 

Nonprofits claim Texas broke the law by leaving them out of Medicaid contracts (Texas Tribune) 

Michigan sues Walgreens, other drug companies for causing opioid crisis (Detroit Free Press)

 

The Hill op-eds

Pass less salt and when you pass it, make it potassium salt

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