Health Care — Trump staffers interfered in CDC guidance, report finds

Health Care — Trump staffers interfered in CDC guidance, report finds

All seven members of the Korean megastar boy band BTS will be serving their mandatory time in the South Korean military, it was announced today, with plans to regroup in 2025. Best of luck to the ARMY.

In health new, a House committee report shows how the Trump administration interfered with and undermined the CDC in an effort to push the former president’s rosy pandemic outlook.

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. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Trump staff obstructed CDC guidance, panel says

The Trump administration regularly interfered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) process for developing and issuing guidance about the coronavirus, changed scientific reports and undermined top public health officials, a congressional panel said Monday.

The House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis said interviews, emails and other documents obtained by the panel showed how political appointees in the Trump administration took control of CDC’s public communications and overruled scientists in an effort to bend the agency to Trump’s rosy outlook on the pandemic .

The panel concluded political interference has caused lasting harm to CDC staff morale, as well as a loss of credibility in the nation’s public health institutions.

  • Former CDC Director Robert Redfield and other top agency staff described to the committee how the White House required CDC guidance to be reviewed by officials at the Office of Management and Budget, who ultimately had veto power over the content even though many had no background in infectious diseases.
  • Redfield told committee staff that agency guidance was “compromised” at times, and that the process of getting approval from non-CDC officials gave him “PTSD.”

No masks: In one instance, Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s division of global migration and quarantine, described how the Trump administration blocked a mask requirement for public and commercial transportation in the summer of 2020.

“The evidence was scientifically there” to support a mask requirement, Cetron said, but “despite what seemed like a fairly broad consensus, ultimately that decision was made and we were told that there would be no such use of federal authority for masking in a transportation corridor.”

Title 42: Cetron also said the order on Title 42 “was not drafted by me or my team,” but was “handed to us.” He indicated Stephen Miller, one of former President Trump’s immigration advisors, was one of the people behind the policy.

  • Both Trump and Biden administrations have argued Title 42 is a public health order meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
  • But Cetron’s testimony gives more evidence it was a tool to limit immigration

Read more here

Dems try to break through on drug pricing message

Much of the public appears to be largely in the dark about Democrats’ signature effort to let Medicare negotiate drug prices, a potentially troubling sign ahead of next month’s midterm elections.

The inclusion of a provision allowing those negotiations in the Inflation Reduction Act marked the culmination of an at least 20-year push by Democrats and was touted as a major win over Big Pharma.

Health care has been a winning issue for the party in previous midterm elections, and the law’s passage was intended to give lawmakers a major political victory to campaign on.

But a new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll shows most adults are unaware of the law’s key health provisions.

  • Only 36 percent of Americans said they were aware that the Inflation Reduction Act allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices; 29 percent said they knew the law put a cap on insulin prices for people on Medicare and only 29 percent said they knew about a cap on out of pocket prescription drug costs.

Biden highlighted the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act to older Americans during events in California and Oregon over the weekend, warning that Republicans will take away Medicare’s ability to negotiate drug prices if they win control of Congress in the midterm elections next month.

His messaging aimed to reinforce the idea that Democrats are tackling issues of importance to the average family.

But the negotiation provision of the law won’t start until 2026. Even then, the negotiations will at first be limited to just 10 drugs; it will be expanded to 20 drugs by 2029.

Read more here.

WHITE HOUSE MARKS ROLLOUT OF OVER-THE-COUNTER HEARING AIDS

The White House on Monday marked the rollout of hearing aids at retailers such as Walgreens, CVS and Walmart following a new rule from the Biden administration to allow them to be sold over the counter.

Where they’re being sold:

  • On Monday, Walgreens started selling hearing aids in stores and online for $799 a pair, CVS started selling them online at different price points, and Walmart started selling them at more than 1,000 vision centers in the retailer’s stores and 474 Sam’s Club locations for between $199 and $999 per pair.
  • Best Buy will offer nearly 20 hearing devices online and will offer hearing aids at nearly 300 stores by the end of the month for as low as $200. Additionally, Hy-Vee will sell them online and in 34 locations, with plans to sell them at
    100 rentals by the end of the year.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August finalized a rule allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter and said that they could be available as early as mid-October in retail and drug stores.

The FDA estimates that the rule could lower average costs by as much as $3,000 per pair of hearing aids, which could impact nearly 30 million Americans with hearing loss, including nearly 10 million adults under age 60.

Read more here.

HOUSE DEMS TO REAFFIRM FDA AUTHORITY ON ABORTION PILL ACCESS

House Democrats on Monday introduced a resolution to reaffirm the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to preempt state law and ensure patients continue to have access to reproductive health care products.

The resolution from Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Mondaire Jones (D-NY) reaffirms the FDA’s authority to prevent states from enacting regulations that limit or prohibit patients from accessing reproductive health products approved by the agency, including abortion pills delivered directly to patients.

It also reaffirms the authority of the US Attorney General to take action against any state that enacts a law that prohibits or limits a patients’ ability to access or use such products.

So far, more than a dozen states have enacted new laws to limit, or outright ban, patients’ access to reproductive care in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

There are two pills needed for a medication abortion within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, which the Food and Drug Administration approved nearly 20 years ago. Medication abortion accounted for 54 percent of all pregnancy terminations in the US

Read more here.

US on edge as Europe deals with new COVID rise

Rising COVID-19 cases in Europe are setting off warnings that the US could experience a new surge this winter.

Previous jumps in the US have followed a pattern in which cases first rise in Europe, making officials nervous they could see a spike in US cases as the weather turns.

  • The most recent data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control shows that cases began going up around the beginning of September in Europe.
  • In the US, cases and deaths have continued to trend down, but dropping temperatures that push people indoors, dismal booster vaccination numbers and an overall disregard for pandemic mitigation practices are setting the stage for a winter wave resembling the one across the Atlantic.

Ali Mokdad, epidemiologist and professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, told The Hill the contrast in the regions can be attributed to multiple factors, including warmer temperatures in the US and differing levels of community immunity.

“In the US, we have a higher infection rate than many European countries, where more people have been infected here. So we have a little bit more immunity than they do, but still we have waning immunity,” Mokdad said.

COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations in the US will likely begin going up in three to four weeks, Mokdad said, though they won’t reach the same levels seen during the omicron wave last winter. He emphasized that this projection is contingent on a situation in which new coronavirus variants that are better at escaping immunity don’t rise in dominance.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Research hints at why monkeypox cases could keep falling in the US (NPR)
  • CDC: Signs point to an early start for flu season, with cases already ticking up in parts of the US (Stat)
  • Cigna received millions of Medicare dollars based on invalid diagnoses, lawsuit claims (ABC News)

STATE BY STATE

  • Florida county sees spike in deadly infections caused by “flesh-eating” bacteria after Hurricane Ian (CBS News)
  • Novant doctors say RSV cases are on the rise in North Carolina (Queen City News)
  • Minnesota’s weird weed experiment (Politico)

THE HILL OP-EDS

The pandemic is not over: We ignore it at our risk

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

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