Daily on Healthcare: Senate bill takes another swing at medical device tax repeal

By | March 8, 2019
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Senate bill takes another swing at medical device tax repeal. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., along with 18 bipartisan co-sponsors, have introduced a bill aimed at repealing Obamacare’s medical device tax. The bill, the Protect Medical Innovation Act, would undo the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices. The House and Senate has voted to repeal the tax at different times, and the tax currently being delayed for two years as part of a spending bill passed last year. The tax initially went into effect in 2013 but was suspended beginning in 2016. “Unless Congress acts quickly, America’s medical technology companies face a $ 20 billion tax hike at the end of 2019 when the device excise tax returns,” said Scott Whitaker, president and CEO of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, or AdvaMed. “If not stopped, this tax will put future patient innovations and good-paying U.S. job at risk.”

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House Dem: Google, Facebook face test in keeping anti-vax promises. Both Facebook and Google promised U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff to work harder to protect their users from misleading anti-vaccine posts that frightened some parents out of immunizing their children against preventable and potentially fatal diseases. The test, says Schiff, D-Calif., who wrote to the two companies and Seattle-based Amazon requesting information on how they handle such posts, will be whether they deliver on their commitments. “I plan to continue working with the companies on the issue of misinformation on their platforms and monitoring the effectiveness of the changes they are making because our health, and particularly the health of our children, is at stake,” he said Thursday.

Democrat blasts Trump for late drug control plan: ‘Absolutely inexcusable’. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., blasted the Trump administration for failing to release a drug control strategy in 2017 or 2018 during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. “It is absolutely inexcusable that the administration did not bother to issue a National Drug Control Strategy during the first two years that he was in office,” Maloney said in the hearing. She also slammed the Office of National Drug Control Policy Director James W. Carroll Jr. for failing to outline in a 200-page document an interagency plan of action to address the flow of illegal drugs into the country.

Trump’s drug czar battles Wasserman Schultz on the border: ‘A wall will actually cut it’. Carroll told Congress Thursday that the nearly 1,800 pounds of fentanyl seized at the southern U.S. border since 2017 is one reason why President Trump’s border wall will help tame the opioid crisis. He also told the House Oversight Committee that U.S. Border Patrol agents, which are stationed between points of entry, have seized 6,500 pounds of cocaine in fiscal 2018 and 8,100 pounds of cocaine in the first five months of 2019. Rep.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., took issue with Carroll’s numbers and said a wall would not stop drugs coming into her home state. Wasserman Schultz argued that 90 percent of the drugs that enter the U.S. come through lawful points of entry. “Ma’am, 90 percent of the drugs that are captured — it’s not 90 percent of the flow,” Carroll said. “There’s a big difference between what is captured and the flow of drugs.” And when Wasserman Schultz said a wall won’t cut it, Carroll responded, “A wall will actually cut it.”

E+C wants briefing on failures at Indian Health Service hospitals. Bipartisan leaders from the House Energy and Commerce Committee want the Indian Health Service to brief them on medical errors and systemic failures at IHS hospitals. In a letter to IHS Acting Director Michael Weahkee, the lawmakers said they wanted to hear about the corrective actions the agency took.

“We have serious concerns about the apparent failure of IHS to provide quality healthcare services to the American Indians it serves, in the Great Plains Area and elsewhere,” the committee leaders wrote. “Stopping these deplorable conditions and ensuring the safety and well-being of those who entrust IHS with their health care needs must be the top priority of your agency.”

FDA and USDA to share regulation of lab-grown meat. Two government agencies will team up to regulate the emerging market of lab-grown meat, the Trump administration announced Thursday. The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service will share the regulation of the products, which scientists create by multiplying animal cells to mimic traditional chicken, pork, beef, and fish. The foods will need to be reviewed and approved by both agencies before they are allowed to hit grocery stores.

Under the agreement, FDA will oversee cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth. The USDA will then take it from there to oversee how the food is produced and how it is labeled. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who is leaving his post in a month, uses the term “cell-cultured foods” to describe the products. The latest regulation is one he will have seen to completion before he steps down from his role.

Texas confirms 10th case of measles this year, more than total seen in 2018. Texas this week reported its 10th case of measles and has now seen more incidents of the virus this year than it saw throughout 2018. Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman Chris Van Deusen told the Washington Examiner the state has confirmed 10 cases since Jan. 1. A total of nine cases were documented in 2018. Houston’s Harris County has the most measles cases with four documented since January. State officials have confirmed one case in Bell, Denton, Galveston, Jefferson, and Montgomery counties.

HHS asks Pentagon to find housing for 5,000 immigrant children. Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan on Tuesday asked military officials to “identify space to house up to 5,000 unaccompanied alien children on DoD installations,” according to a statement from Lt. Col. Jamie Davis. HHS is looking for temporary housing through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Davis said Defense Department officials will look at potential locations, including existing facilities and land where they could house thousands of children. Once Pentagon officials make a determination of which bases are suitable the request, HHS must make additional requests to then use those facilities.

Federal judge lifts injunction against Trump’s transgender military ban. A federal judge lifted the fourth and final injunction against the Trump administration’s policy barring most transgender individuals from serving in the military on Thursday. U.S. District Judge George Russell III reversed his prior ruling, stating he was required to lift his order “because the court is bound by the Supreme Court’s decision” after the high court lifted two other injunctions imposed in January. The Pentagon celebrated Russell’s decision, heralding it as the demise of the final roadblock after four injunctions were put in place in 2017 as legal challenges against the ban played out. “The Department is pleased with the district court’s decision to stay the final injunction against the Department’s proposed policy,” the Pentagon said in a statement Thursday. “The 2016 policy will remain in effect until the Department issues further guidance, which will be forthcoming in the near future.” Despite the Pentagon’s celebratory mood, activists said they aren’t ready to give up the fight, noting that one injunction still remains in place despite a ruling to strike it down.

The Rundown

Wall Street Journal Trump administration weighs publicizing secret rates hospitals and doctors negotiate with insurers

Kaiser Health News Hidden FDA reports detail harm caused by scores of medical devices

Politico State Department report will trim language on women’s rights, discrimination

Stateline Some sunscreens may kill corals. Should they be banned?

CNBC Juul is pitching its e-cigarette as an anti-smoking tool to employers and insurers

Stat Forget about an international pricing index for drugs. Cost-effectiveness is a better bargain


THURSDAY | March 7

House and Senate in session.

March 7-8. Ronald Reagan Building. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW. Medicare Payment Advisory Commission meeting. Details.

MONDAY | March 11

House and Senate in session.

Noon. 214 Massachusetts Ave NE. Heritage Foundation event on “Affirming Ethical Options for the Terminally Ill.” Details.

TUESDAY | March 12

Noon. 2123 Rayburn. House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the Department Health and Human Services budget. Details.

WEDNESDAY | March 13

March 13-14. America’s Health Insurance Plans health policy conference. Agenda.

10 a.m. 2123 Rayburn. House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs: Reducing Barriers to Market Competition.” Details.

THURSDAY | March 14

10 a.m. Arkansas Medicaid work requirement oral arguments in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Kentucky oral arguments follow at 11 a.m.

10:15 a.m. 215 Dirksen. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to testify about the agency’s budget before the Senate Finance Committee. Details.