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Health Care — House passes sweeping bill with health measures

by Atlanta Business Journal

Parents, children and children-at-heart — prepare yourselves. We are officially getting a “Kung Fu Panda 4” in 2024.

Today in health, the House passed a massive legislative package with provisions included to lower the cost of prescription drugs, delivering a badly needed win for Democrats ahead of the midterms. 

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here.

Dems push climate, health and tax bill over finish line

The House late Friday passed a sweeping bill from Democrats that would advance their climate, tax and health care agenda, sending the legislation to Biden’s desk and securing a huge win for the president and his party less than three months from the midterm elections. 

All 220 Democrats voted for the $740 billion bill, which includes provisions to increase taxes on corporations, address climate change, decrease the prices of prescription drugs and bring down the deficit.

More work to do: The legislation makes historic changes to the health care system, but Democrats acknowledged they wished they could have done more. 

  • “It’s a great bill; it’s historic,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters this week in the Capitol. “I want more, of course — we always want more. But this is a great deal.”
  • “People like me wanted a lot more, right? But the bottom line is you can only get done what’s possible within the reality you’re living,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).

The exclusions have prompted some grumbling from progressive lawmakers who’d fought for a more expansive package, but none of them opposed the bill.  

Read more on what’s in the bill here.

Polio found in NYC sewage suggests virus circulating

The virus that causes polio has been found in New York City’s wastewater in another sign that the disease, which hadn’t been seen in the U.S. in a decade, is quietly spreading among unvaccinated people, health officials said Friday. 

The presence of the poliovirus in the city’s wastewater suggests likely local circulation of the virus, health authorities from the city, New York state and the federal government said.

The authorities urged parents to get their children vaccinated against the potentially deadly disease. 

  • “The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple — get vaccinated against polio,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said. 
  • “With polio circulating in our communities there is simply nothing more essential than vaccinating our children to protect them from this virus, and if you’re an unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated adult, please choose now to get the vaccine. Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us.” 

In New York, one person suffered paralysis weeks ago because of a polio infection in Rockland County, north of the city. Wastewater samples collected in June in both Rockland and adjacent Orange County were found to contain the virus. 

CDC officials said the virus identified in wastewater samples collected in New York City did not contain enough genetic material to determine if they were linked to the Rockland County patient. 

Read more here.

DEMOCRATS EYE MEDICAID EXPANSION, INSULIN CAP

House Democratic leaders said they want to fill in the gaps from the Inflation Reduction Act by focusing on Medicaid expansion and insulin pricing if they manage to hold the majority next year.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters the No. 1 priority he wants to tackle if Democrats keep the House and Senate is providing health coverage to the 12 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid. 

“There is no doubt we’re going to pursue objectives that both [Majority Whip] Clyburn and I have talked about being priorities. Number one making sure the 12 states that refused to include the people under Medicaid,” Hoyer said. 

Hoyer said he also wants to extend a $35 cap on insulin costs to the private sector. The legislation only applies the cap to Medicare patients. The original Senate bill included that provision, but Republicans voted against overruling the Senate parliamentarian and it was removed. 

FLORIDA TO RESTART TWO-DOSE REGIMENS OF MONKEYPOX VACCINE 

The Florida Department of Health is allowing two doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine to be administered to residents again.   

After cases doubled over the past week, state health officials began to ration the state’s supply of monkeypox vaccines — only allowing the first of a two-dose regimen to be given.    

But days after the Food and Drug Administration approved a different method of administering the vaccine, Florida health officials told Changing America that it will start to re-administer second doses and reschedule previously canceled vaccination appointments made by residents. 

  • “Preventing the spread of monkeypox is a priority for the Department of Health,” said health department spokesperson Jeremy Redfern.
  • “We will continue to make adjustments as more supplies are made available from the federal government.”  

Following a rising number of monkeypox cases, Florida initially announced earlier this week that it will administer one dose of the two-dose regimen to ration its supply of the vaccine.

But on Tuesday, the Biden administration authorized a new federal monkeypox vaccine distribution plan to potentially vaccinate up to five times as many people.   

Read more here

Florida to bar Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming care

Transgender Medicaid recipients in Florida will no longer be able to use Medicaid to cover gender-affirming health care under a new state rule that will take effect later this month.

The rule published Wednesday by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which controls most of the state’s Medicaid program, eliminates coverage for gender-affirming health care for transgender Floridians of all ages. It will go into effect Aug. 21. 

Under the rule, Florida residents will no longer be allowed to use Medicaid to help pay for puberty blockers, hormones, gender-affirming surgeries or “any other procedures that alter primary or secondary sexual characteristics” when those procedures are used to treat gender dysphoria. 

Advocates outraged: In a joint statement on Thursday, Lambda Legal, the Southern Legal Counsel, the Florida Health Justice Project and the National Health Law Program called the move “medically and scientifically unsound” and said it was politically motivated. 

  • “This rule represents a dangerous escalation in Governor DeSantis’s political zeal to persecute LGBTQ+ people in Florida, and particularly transgender youth,” the groups wroe.  

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) earlier this month suspended Andrew Warren, an elected state attorney in Tampa, after Warren said he would not prosecute people who receive abortions or gender-affirming medical care in Florida. The governor said Warren was a supporter of “disfiguring young kids.” 

Read more here

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Big Pharma went all in to kill drug pricing negotiations (Kaiser Health News
  • What to know about the polio vaccine and why most people aren’t at risk of infection (ABC News
  • What is the legacy of burn pits? For some Iraqis, it’s a lifetime of problems (NPR
  • World ignored monkeypox threats, including signs of sexual transmission (Washington Post

STATE BY STATE

  • Louisiana Supreme Court rejects appeal in abortion ban case (Associated Press
  • Smaller doses of monkeypox vaccine got the OK. Here’s how that works at one clinic (Los Angeles Times
  • Pa. doctors call Oz’s run for Senate a ‘threat to public health’ (WHYY

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

Without new antibiotics, the superbugs will keep winning 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week.

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