Daily on Healthcare, presented by SBEC: What not to watch for in Wednesday night’s debate

By | November 20, 2019

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HEALTHCARE TOPICS NOT TO WATCH FOR: There’s a lot happening in healthcare policy right now. But to judge by the past four Democratic presidential debates, you’d think that there was only one topic worth debating at length, namely the financing of “Medicare for all” — how much it would cost, whether it would involve raising taxes on the middle class, whether a less radical reform would be better, and so forth.

It’s probably safe to expect more of the same at tonight’s 9 p.m. debate in Atlanta.

Especially because of new “Medicare for all”-related proposals. Since the last debate, in which Elizabeth Warren caught a lot of flak for evading questions about whether she’d raise taxes on the middle class for “Medicare for all,” she’s rolled out one plan for financing the overhaul and another for phasing it in via a Joe Biden-esque public option. She is likely to face criticism from the right on the former proposal and could face an attack from the left, from Bernie Sanders, for the latter.

Also, can Pete take the heat? Pete Buttigieg has seen a surge of support this month, with some polls showing him ahead of Warren, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire. That is likely to mean more scrutiny tonight for him and his “Medicare for all who want it” plan and his past jabs at Warren over “Medicare for all.”

Perhaps as interesting, though, are the topics that are not likely to be discussed. Members of Congress from both parties have been working toward legislation to address “surprise billing” and to lower prescription drug costs — either of which would be major bills.

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Warren, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Tulsi Gabbard are sitting members of Congress. Do they have plans to get some sort of bill enacted? After all, they are talking about passing far more ambitious legislation if elected president. Are they willing to work with President Trump (and, by the way, give him a significant legislative accomplishment ahead of the election) if it means improving the healthcare system?

Meanwhile, the country is suffering from a horrible opioid crisis and a mounting meth abuse crisis. Also, it’s worth noting, the Trump administration is facing an outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and a run-up in youth vaping and struggling a bit to determine how to address it.

Good morning and welcome to the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Healthcare! This newsletter is written by senior healthcare reporter Kimberly Leonard (@LeonardKL) and healthcare reporter Cassidy Morrison (@CassMorrison94). You can reach us with tips, calendar items, or suggestions at dailyonhealthcare@washingtonexaminer.com. If someone forwarded you this email and you’d like to receive it regularly, you can subscribe here.

HEALTHCARE IS STILL TOP-OF-MIND FOR DEMOCRATIC VOTERS: Asked about the top issue they want to hear at the debate, a plurality, 24%, of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said healthcare, according to a new KFF Health Tracking Poll, ahead of the environment (12%), immigration (6%), jobs and the economy (5%), education (4%), and gun control (4%). Sanders is the most trusted candidate on the issue.

AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR TOTAL E-CIGARETTE BAN: The American Medical Association called for a total ban on selling and distributing all e-cigarettes that aren’t FDA-approved as smoking cessation products (so far, none are), a stronger position than Trump’s proposed vaping liquid flavor ban. “It’s simple – we must keep nicotine products out of the hands of young people,” said AMA president Dr. Patrice Harris.

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MASSACHUSETTS SENATE TO VOTE ON A BROAD BAN ON FLAVORED TOBACCO: The Massachusetts state senate will vote Wednesday on a sweeping tobacco flavor ban, the Wall Street Journal reports. The bill would make sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping liquids illegal. If the Senate passes the bill, it will go to Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who passed a near total-yet-temporary ban on e-cigarette sales in September, to be enforced for four months.

Robert DeLeo, the Democratic Speaker of the state House, said: “I hope other states will also address this public health crisis head on despite the anemic response from the Trump administration.” The bill would also require health insurers to cover tobacco cessation counseling and nicotine replacement therapies.

AFTER TRUMP BACKS OFF FLAVOR BAN, THE VAPING INDUSTRY SAYS THE FIGHT ISN’T OVER: Representatives of the vaping industry said that even though Trump halted the proposed vaping flavor ban Monday, the fight for vaping products is far from over, because vaping companies have to submit market approval applications to the Food and Drug Administration by May 2020. Alex Clark, the chief executive officer of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, said to Stat reporters: “This is a temporary stay of execution…Unless that deadline is delayed, the net result is the same: Thousands of shops are going to be closed down.” Representatives of the advocacy group American Vaping Association said Monday: “The collective voices of the vaping community and harm reduction advocates are being heard by the White House. At least for now… If we avoid this ban, we need to focus our efforts on the FDA’s next attempt at prohibition — the May 2020 PMTA deadline. #VapeBan #WeVapeWeVote.”

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REPORT: SHADY TACTICS USED TO BOOST OPIOID SALES IN CHINA: Worrying reporting from the Associated Press: “Representatives from the Sacklers’ Chinese affiliate, Mundipharma, tell doctors that time-release painkillers like OxyContin are less addictive than other opioids—the same pitch that Purdue Pharma, the U.S. company owned by the family, admitted was false in court more than a decade ago.”

The Rundown

Politico Contractor proposed Glamour magazine profile for Medicaid chief

The Associated Press Fake doctors, misleading claims drive OxyContin China sales

NPR America’s ‘Shame’: Medicaid funding slashed in U.S. territories

Roll Call Blame game in standoff over Violence Against Women Act

The Wall Street Journal New York attorney general sues Juul Labs for alleged deceptive marketing



10 a.m. Dirksen 430 Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on the Nomination of Stephen M. Hahn, MD, to serve as Commissioner of Food and Drugs. Details.

12 p.m. 1330 G. St. NW. Kaiser Health News Discussion, “How We Cope: Intimate Lessons From the Front-Lines of Family Caregiving.” Details.

2 p.m. Dirksen 215 Senate Finance Committee Hearing to examine Alzheimer’s awareness, focusing on barriers to diagnosis, treatment, and care coordination. Details.

2 p.m. Rayburn 2128 House Financial Service Committee hearing on the Current State of Residents’ Health and Safety in HUD Housing. Details.

FRIDAY | Nov. 22

House not in session.