November 8, 2019
November 8, 2019
The president recently announced his intent to ban flavored e-cigarettes from the market to curb the widespread vaping epidemic among children and teens. However, while speaking at the White House on Wednesday, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway said the administration may exempt vape shops from the flavor ban and may continue to allow menthol flavored cigarettes.
Conway made a distinction between menthol flavors and fruit, mint and other flavors, saying their focus was on decreasing use in kids and teens, who are drawn to mint and other flavors.
“This is a burgeoning health crisis; the difference is between kids and adults,” she said. “Kids report they use mint, and other flavors like mango, bubble gum, tuity fruity, unicorn milk—pretty remarkable—and that they don’t care for menthol.”
Conway also said the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are limited in their jurisdiction over vape shops.
“HHS and FDA have jurisdiction over cigarettes and e-cigarettes under the Tobacco Control Act. They do not have jurisdiction over vaping and vape shops, for example. So, if we’re talking about e-cigarettes, the president…[has] been discussing this with his team and he will, or HHS will, make an announcement soon.”
FDA was expected to issue guidance on the issue this week, but we may now get additional information from the White House or HHS.
The Prevent Cancer Foundation® supports a full flavor ban on cigarettes and e-cigarettes, as flavors appeal to youth who are at higher risk of addiction and damage to their brains and lungs. By exempting vape shops from a flavor ban, kids and teens would still have an outlet to purchase these products, and the availability of flavors may further drive addiction.
The Prevent Cancer Foundation® also supports menthol being included in any flavor ban. The Foundation signed a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar encouraging a menthol ban.
Act now: Tell your members of Congress to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of children by supporting the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act!
There was a flurry of activity this week around two drug pricing bills in the House and Senate as Congress moves forward with the debate on how to limit out-of-pocket costs for patients. H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Prices Now Act—and the bill backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi—had another setback this week when President Trump said he would not support the legislation and said he may endorse S. 2543, the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act. That bill is sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and passed through the committee last summer.
The administration is working with Grassley and Wyden on strengthening provisions to limit out-of-pocket costs for seniors. Seniors who reach their catastrophic spending limit would pay lower monthly premiums as opposed to thousands of dollars upfront.
The bill poses challenges for other Senate Republicans who do not want to require drug manufacturers to pay the government back for drug prices that exceed the inflation rate. Senator Grassley is defending the measure and referred to criticisms as “scare tactics.”
“This policy limits government subsidies to provide predictability for the Medicare program and protection for the American taxpayer. That’s all,” he said. “Any subsidies that pharmaceutical companies would have received from an exorbitant raise in price is returned to Americans, not to line pharma’s pockets.”
Senator Grassley is expected to file the bill next week with any new additions. We will keep you posted as the story develops.
In reaction to a lawsuit filed against Indiana’s Medicaid program, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced last week it will suspend work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Now, any resident who was at risk of losing coverage after the new year because of these requirements will maintain coverage.
Indiana filled a waiver to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) earlier this year requiring beneficiaries to work at least 20 hours a month, be actively seeking a job or be job training as part of its Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP). Critics of the measure were concerned about people who may not be able to meet the requirement due to chronic conditions like cancer, claiming the move was aimed at cutting people from the Medicaid rolls.
Indiana residents filled a lawsuit in September, Rose v. Azar, which accused the Trump administration of attempting to bypass Congress to “fundamentally transform Medicaid.” After oral arguments were heard in court, Indiana suspended its work requirements to allow time for the Rose lawsuit to be resolved so the court can address the challenge to HIP.
Though the requirement is suspended, the state encourages beneficiaries to report any related job searching activities, which may help them find employment through other services or programs.