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What Bloomberg believes on health care – Politico


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With Darius Tahir and Susannah Luthi

Editor’s Note: This edition of Pulse is published weekdays at 10 a.m. POLITICO Pro Health Care subscribers hold exclusive early access to the newsletter each morning at 6 a.m. Learn more about POLITICO Pro’s comprehensive policy intelligence coverage, policy tools and services at www.politicopro.com.

Michael Bloomberg’s public health record could be a big focus of the former New York City mayor’s potential presidential run.

— More than 2,000 people have been sickened in the outbreak of vaping-linked lung disease.

A second federal judge has axed HHS’ conscience rule, which the administration has touted as expanding protections for religious health workers.

THANK GOODNESS IT’S FRIDAY PULSE — Where your author can’t believe it’s time to play the Anonymous guessing-game again. (PULSE isn’t keen to read it, but he’s professionally curious which “senior administration official” had the time — and skill — to write an entire book in the past year.)

If looking for a weekend read, try Lee Child’s latest thriller — it has a major health care subplot. If you’ve got a better recommendation or other tips, bookmark them to ddiamond@politico.com.

WHAT MICHAEL BLOOMBERG BELIEVES ABOUT HEALTH CARE — The billionaire and former New York City mayor is weighing a jump into the Democratic presidential primary, with an aide saying that Bloomberg isn’t convinced the current field can beat President Donald Trump.

That’s got PULSE reflecting on Bloomberg’s track record on health care — arguably the top issue in the Democratic primary and potentially a deciding issue in the general election, too.

— Bloomberg’s pinned his legacy on public health, staking out aggressive positions as New York City’s mayor from 2002 to 2013. Among his initiatives: new smoking bans, calorie counts on menus and even attempts to limit the size of sodas.

“I like what I see when I look in the mirror,” Bloomberg said in a CBS interview in 2017, joking that he wouldn’t have to wait to get into heaven. “We’ve probably saved millions of lives, and certainly we’ll save tens of millions of lives going forward.”

Smoking rates dramatically fell under Bloomberg, but his other initiatives were less successful; city residents gave the mayor a mixed grade on his ambitious agenda.

Bloomberg has also put a stamp on health initiatives beyond New York, whether funding Johns Hopkins University’s public health school or becoming a “global ambassador” for the World Health Organization. Some of his efforts in New York City also were swiftly copied elsewhere.

He’s long argued for rethinking health care financing, saying that the U.S. health industry’s incentives have created a “disease care system.”

“We must fundamentally reorder our priorities — and start rewarding the primary and preventive care that keeps people out of hospitals in the first place,” the then-mayor said in 2007, arguing that investments in prevention and health IT would defray the high costs of health care.

He’s been critical of “Medicare for All” even as Democrats push the idea of single-payer coverage, telling reporters in January that the nation “could never afford that.”

— Bloomberg’s gone after Trump’s health care record, saying that the president has focused on priorities like building his border wall rather than spending political energy to make health care affordable. He’s also accused Trump of worsening public health by failing to address climate change or rolling back regulations on industry pollution.

“The president goes and talks about saving coal miners jobs and then we walk away from the health problems that the coal miners have,” Bloomberg said in remarks in New Hampshire in January, referencing Trump administration efforts to review protections against black lung disease.

VAPING-RELATED ILLNESS UP NEARLY 9 PERCENT — The CDC reported Thursday that there are now 2,051 confirmed and probable lung illnesses associated with the use of vaping products, as of Tuesday, up from the 1,888 reported last week. Cases have been reported in all states except Alaska.

SECOND JUDGE AXES PROVIDER CONSCIENCE RULE Judge Stanley Bastian of the Eastern District Court of Washington on Thursday scrapped a Trump administration rule expanding health care workers’ ability to refuse services like abortion on moral or religious grounds, POLITICO’s Susannah Luthi reports.

Bastian, an Obama appointee, issued his ruling from the bench after considering arguments. He quickly agreed with the State of Washington that the Trump administration had exceeded its authority with the rule. A New York judge on Wednesday also threw out the rule.

A third lawsuit is also pending a decision in California over the regulation, which was slated to take effect Nov. 22. HHS officials haven’t signaled how they’ll proceed with an appeal.

BRETT GIROIR‘s FDA ROLE PROVOKES CONCERN OVER WOMEN’s HEALTH TRACK RECORD — Giroir, the HHS assistant secretary for health who’s serving as acting FDA commissioner, has played key roles in the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back fetal tissue research and limit access to abortion. That’s led to concerns among Democrats and women’s groups, POLITICO’s Darius Tahir reports.

“He clearly doesn’t prioritize either science- [and] evidence-based policies or ensuring the best public health outcomes for women,” said Susan Wood, who previously served as FDA’s director of the office of women’s health and is now a professor at George Washington. Wood also said she’s worried that Giroir could inject politics into the FDA’s operations.

Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, said last Friday that she was “alarmed” by Giroir’s record of “letting ideology drive decisions and the expense of women and families.”

NEW MEDICAID DATA NOW AVAILABLE TO RESEARCHERS — The Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System, which has been under development for years, is expected to provide granular data about what’s going on in the Medicaid program, Darius writes. CMS administrator Seema Verma touted the news on Thursday.

“T-MSIS has been a long time coming, and while there may be some data issues still to work through, having access to timely data for analysis will be extremely valuable to understanding post-ACA coverage and spending patterns in Medicaid,” Kaiser Family Foundation’s Rachel Garfield told Darius.

What’s still unclear: the data’s quality, which has previously drawn scrutiny from the Government Accountability Office, HHS’s Office of Inspector General and other watchdogs.

AIR AMBULANCE PRICES ARE HIGH AND RISING — That’s according to a new analysis from the Health Cost Institute, which reviewed its database of employer-sponsored health insurance data and found that the average price of an air ambulance trip by helicopter rose from $11,414 in 2008 to $27,894 in 2017, or a 144 percent hike. The price of an air ambulance trip by plane rose from $15,684 in 2008 to $41,674 in 2017, a 166 percent jump.

With Alice Miranda Ollstein

A lawsuit alleges that Walgreens handed out nearly 1 in 5 of the most addictive opioids at the height of the crisis, the Washington Post reports.

Insurance companies are profitable, but climbing medical-loss ratios have alarmed Wall Street, Bob Herman reports for Axios.

Hillary Clinton is among the prominent Democrats insisting that Medicare for All can’t pass in Congress, but said that “the goal [of single-payer] is the right goal,” the NYT’s Alex Burns reports.

A former surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital won a $13 million settlement after he was fired for speaking out against the practice of double-booking surgeries, Jonathan Saltzman reports for the Boston Globe.

“Self-managed” medication abortions are becoming more common as states make it harder for women to access the procedure, but the overall abortion rate is still declining, Rachel Jones and Megan Donovan report for Health Affairs.

In-person and online scammers are taking full advantage of consumer confusion during open enrollment, Susan Tompor reports for the Detroit Free Press.


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