Daily on Healthcare: Advisory group bites into dietary guidelines

By | July 11, 2019

Subscribe today to the Washington Examiner magazine and get Washington Briefing: politics and policy stories that will keep you up to date with what’s going on in Washington. SUBSCRIBE NOW: Just $ 1.00 an issue!

ADVISORY GROUP BITES INTO DIETARY GUIDELINES: A nutritional advisory committee to the government met publicly for day-long sessions on Wednesday and again on Thursday to chew over changes to the government’s dietary guidelines that will be released late next year.

The guidelines have come out every five years since 1990. They affect not only what people perceive to be nutritious and the eating recommendations doctors give to their patients, but also influence food labeling and federal food assistance programs, such as school lunches.

The final product is a joint effort between the Departments of Health and Human Services and of Agriculture, and the committee’s job is to review scientific evidence and provide a report to the secretary of each agency. The top officials then use the report to inform any changes to the dietary guidelines.

The crafting of the guidelines often raises thorny topics as officials sift through the latest science on nutrition but also are exposed to heavy lobbying from industry groups. During the writing of the last iteration of the guidelines, members of Congress accused a scientific panel of politicizing a report that endorsed a vegetarian diet as being best for human health and key to a sustainable environment. After the outcry, President Obama’s cabinet secretaries decided not to include the sustainability recommendations.

The latest meeting is the second of five. As the panelists deliberate in the next few months, here are some of the questions on the table:

*Will low-carb diets get a boost? Backers hope that officials will call low-carbohydrate diets a “viable option for Americans.”

*What is healthy during pregnancy? Officials are expected to lay out more specific guidelines for pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding, as well as for infants and toddlers.

*Will alcohol guidelines get narrowed? The committee is examining the effects that alcohol has on weight, cancer, and overall health. Some recent studies on alcohol have caused backlash by suggesting there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

*How often and when should people eat? Panelists are looking at whether there is a difference in health for people who follow the traditional three-meal-a-day routine or for those who have smaller meals throughout the day. They’re also looking at whether eating during certain times of day affects health.

*Will any specific food or drink get a second look? One of the major changes to come from the 2016 guidelines was for the document to designate eggs as being a good source of nutrition. For four decades prior, the government had warned the public that eggs raise cholesterol.

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.

‘BACKDOOR REBATES’ DRUG PRICING RULE GETS NIXED: An idea to reduce drug prices by having insurers who negotiate drug prices, known as pharmacy benefit managers, pass on rebates to patients who are on Medicare and Medicaid has gotten the axe from the White House — hat tip to Axios for getting the news first. The plan would have cost the federal government nearly $ 180 billion in a decade and PBMs said that it would cause premiums in Medicare to increase.

When introducing the idea, HHS Secretary Alex Azar had said the plan “has the potential to be the most significant change in how Americans’ drugs are priced at the pharmacy counter, ever, and finally ease the burden of the sticker shock that millions of Americans experience every month for the drugs they need.”

HEALTHCARE BILLS SET TO MOVE OUT OF HOUSE PANEL: The House Energy and Commerce Committee is marking up 10 bills this morning, from measures on newborn screening to addressing surprise medical bills and reducing drug prices. Tune in.

OVERSIGHT SPOTLIGHTS OBAMACARE LAWSUIT: Democrats in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee used a hearing Wednesday to highlight the lawsuit waged by Republican state officials, and made possible by the GOP tax overhaul in Congress, that seeks to invalidate Obamacare. Republicans, in turn, accused Democrats of using the hearing to score political points. GOP representatives attacked Democrats by drawing attention to Democratic proposals to move everyone living in the U.S. onto a government plan while also extending that coverage to people living in the U.S. illegally. The hearing provided a peek into how each side will weaponize healthcare during the 2020 election.

TRUMP SIGNS A FIRST-OF-ITS KIND ORDER TO IMPROVE KIDNEY CARE: President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order that takes significant steps to treat Americans with kidney disease and to make transplants more available. The executive order would encourage dialysis clinics to provide services in the comfort of the patient’s home, will hold Organ Procurement Organizations responsible for obtaining all organs eligible for transplantation, even if they’re infected with a curable virus or from an older donor, and implement a wide-reaching campaign to raise awareness of kidney disease and encourage people to donate.

HOUSE PASSES PAID LEAVE FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES: The House passed an amendment Wednesday to guarantee paid leave for all federal employees as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Under the amendment, all 2 million federal government employees will be permitted to take paid time off to care for a new child or sick family members, the first measure of its kind. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The amendment would make it that federal employees would be paid for the leave.

MINORITY GROUPS IMPLORE LEGISLATORS TO SUPPORT MEDICARE FOR ALL: NAACP, the Center for Popular Democracy, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and other minority/civil rights groups called on legislators Wednesday to support a single-payer healthcare system to battle coverage disparities for minorities. “There is only one form of universal health care that covers everybody, without exception,” the groups wrote. “Just as the passage of Medicare over 50 years ago helped spur hospital integration and improved health access, it can today usher in true universal health care.”

FDA WARNS N.J. DRUG MANUFACTURER THAT THEY’RE READY TO SUE IF STERILIZATION AND PACKAGING METHODS DON’T IMPROVE: The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to pharma company Akorn Inc. this week after finding in 2018 inspections that manufacturers were not using proper sterilization procedures. Manufacturers were lax in maintaining a clean workplace, including by wiping their feet on plastic wrap and not washing their hands. The FDA found leaks in packaging that could contaminate the drugs. The FDA told Chief Executive Officer Douglas S. Boothe that if sanitation measures don’t improve, the department is ready to take legal action without further notice.

ADAM BOEHLER TO LEAVE CMS: The White House announced Wednesday that Adam Boehler will leave his position as Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation to become the CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. Before joining CMS, Boehler was the mastermind behind Landmark Health, which provides at-home medical care for the chronically ill. He then joined HHS as an adviser to Azar. CMS Administrator Seema Verma credited Boehler with advancing the agency’s plan to promote value-based care over profit, and to implement measures to create at-home dialysis treatments.

CDC SAYS MOST ADULTS, EVEN SMOKERS, WANT LESS NICOTINE IN CIGARETTES: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought attention to a study on Thursday that most U.S. adults, including 80% of smokers, want to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes to make them less addictive.

MOTHER SUES FOR BEING DENIED CHANCE TO ABORT DOWN SYNDROME CHILD: Edyta Mordel is suing the British National Health Service for allegedly not diagnosing her child in utero with Down syndrome even though she requested the screening. Mordel said she would have aborted her son, now four years old, if she had known before giving birth that he had the condition.

The Rundown

San Francisco Chronicle Legislation to stop patients getting massive ER bills is on life support

The Hill Children urge Congress to renew funds for diabetes research

The New York Times Rolling out the welcome mat for travelers with autism

Boston Herald Veterans, advocates pitch PTSD bill to save lives

VT Digger Vermont seeks to end disparities in teen access to gender affirming surgery


THURSDAY | July 11

Congress in session.

July 9-11. Orlando. National Association of County and City Health Officials annual conference. Details.

10 a.m. 2123 Rayburn. House Energy and Commerce Committee to mark up 10 healthcare bills. Details.

10 a.m. 2154 Rayburn. House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on “Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Childhood Trauma: A Pervasive Public Health Issue that Needs Greater Federal Attention.” Details.

10:15 a.m. Rayburn 2175. House Education and Labor Committee Workforce Protections Subcommittee hearing on “From the Fields to the Factories: Preventing Workplace Injury and Death from Excessive Heat.” Details.

MONDAY | July 15

Noon. Dirksen G-50. Alliance for Health Policy congressional briefing on “Balancing the Bills: Policy Solutions to Address Surprise Billing.” Details.

TUESDAY | July 16

10 a.m. 2123 Rayburn. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee to hold hearing on “Oversight of Federal Efforts to Combat the Spread of Illicit Fentanyl.” Details.

2:30 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE. Heritage Foundation event on “Examining Medicare for All.” Details.