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Health Care — Spending bill tackles Medicaid, pandemic response

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Today in health, we take a look at which health provisions made it into the spending bill.

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? Sign up here or in the box below.

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Bill to rework pandemic response, Medicaid funding

The sweeping year-end $1.7 trillion congressional spending package would revamp the country’s pandemic response and make major changes to Medicaid policy, among other health provisions.

The legislation includes most of a bipartisan bill from Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) aimed at improving the U.S. preparedness for pandemics after the many shortcomings in the response to COVID-19.

  • The bill includes changes aimed at improving public health communication and data collection, speeding up the development of vaccines and treatments, and bolstering oversight of health agencies. 

  • But the spending bill notably excludes a measure that would have established a bipartisan task force modeled on the 9/11 Commission to examine the U.S. response to COVID-19 as well as the controversial subject of the origins of the pandemic.

Pandemic Medicaid change: States will be allowed to begin kicking people off their pandemic-enhanced Medicaid coverage in April as the federal government phases out the extra funding states have received since the earliest days of the pandemic.

Removing Medicaid coverage from the public health emergency was a major priority for Republicans, but it would also give state health officials certainty.

The public health emergency did not have a firm end date, so state Medicaid officials never knew when they would have to start going through their Medicaid rolls to figure out who was no longer eligible.

Read more here.

CVS, Walgreens limiting sales of child pain meds

CVS and Walgreens are limiting the amount of child pain medication that customers can buy at once amid high demand and an increasing number of cases of multiple illnesses.

CVS said in a statement that it is limiting the number of child pain relief products sold in stores and online to two per customer, while Walgreens said in a statement that it instituted a limit of six per online transaction to prevent excessive buying.

  • “We’re committed to meeting our customers’ needs and are working with our suppliers to ensure continued access to these items,” CVS said.  

  • “While Walgreens continues to have products to support our customers and patients, we have put into effect an online only purchase limit of 6 per online transaction to prevent excess purchasing behavior,” the company said.

The limits are being put in place as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors and medical experts express concern about a surge of a “tripledemic” of the flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a respiratory illness that can cause the most severe symptoms in infants.

Read more here.


Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) has sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging both agencies to act on the recent shortage of ADHD drugs.

In her letter to DEA acting Administrator Anne Milgram and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, Spanberger asked the two agencies to collaborate on a comprehensive federal response to ensure access to Adderall and other ADHD medications for Americans who rely on the drugs.

“The ongoing shortage has made it incredibly difficult for ADHD patients to manage their daily lives, and I encourage your agencies to collaborate and do everything possible to alleviate this shortage as quickly as possible,” Spanberger wrote in her letter.

The FDA reported in October that there was an Adderall shortage due to ongoing manufacturing delays.

Read more here.


The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed many Americans’ lives, but new research shows mothers were especially susceptible to symptoms of traumatic stress following the crisis’s transformation of daily routines.

Higher pandemic-associated hardships, coping mechanisms and behavior changes were linked with greater significant symptoms of pandemic-associated traumatic stress in mothers from a diverse set of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, researchers explained in JAMA Network Open.

More than 8,000 mothers included in the study fell into the category that experienced major disruptions.

However, these women tended to have higher incomes, higher education and a majority of them were white, while those who reported fewer changes tended to have lower income, less education and were primarily Black and Native American.

Data showed Hispanic women were fairly evenly split between the groups.

Researchers described these findings as somewhat unexpected, given COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on communities of color

Read more here.

FDA struggling to regulate tobacco products: review

The staff at the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) tobacco division are overwhelmed, leading to a division that is too reactionary and has “struggled to function as a regulator,” according to an outside report.

The report by the Reagan-Udall Foundation found a division weighted down by the sheer volume of product applications, changes in agency leadership, and near constant litigation from both public health advocates and the tobacco and vaping industry.

  • The FDA was given the authority to regulate the marketing, manufacturing and distribution of tobacco products in 2009 when Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act.  

  • But instead of proactively creating regulations, the center has been “forced to operate primarily in a reactive mode, moving from one challenge to the next,” the review found.

Key finding: “The Center’s current goals and priorities are unclear in communication and practice,” the review stated, and the panel, chaired by former FDA chief of staff Lauren Silvis, “was unable to identify a current comprehensive plan that clearly articulates CTP’s priorities, direction for the future, and its near-term and longer-term goals and objectives.”

Read more here.


  • Beijing covered up COVID-19 outbreak that sparked current death wave: official (Radio Free Asia)

  • Amid dire maternal mortality rates, Congress falls short on Medicaid postpartum care (Stat)

  • Many hospitals get big drug discounts. That doesn’t mean markdowns for patients (Wall Street Journal)


  • Transformation Project responds to South Dakota terminating contract for community health worker (Argus Leader)

  • Inside a children’s hospital: struggling to cope with a surge of respiratory illness (Michigan Public Radio)


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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