Health Care — Wyden floats longer extension of health subsidies

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RIP to the Choco Taco. Klondike announced Monday it was discontinuing the iconic ice cream treat, taking a bit of our childhoods with it.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Finance Committee chairman wants a longer extension of ObamaCare subsidies in Democrats’ health bill— but it’s not clear if Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will agree.

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Peter SullivanNathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Senator suggests longer ObamaCare extension

A key Democratic senator is floating a way to get more into Democrats’ big health care bill.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Tuesday said he is calling for a longer extension of enhanced ObamaCare financial assistance, and floated increased IRS tax enforcement as a potential way to pay for it.

Wyden told reporters that he is pushing for “the longest possible premium relief for people.”

  • The party-line health care measure that Democrats are preparing was recently expected to have just a two-year extension of the enhanced subsidies, which give people extra help in affording their premiums for Affordable Care Act plans. The extra subsidies are currently slated to expire at the end of this year.  

  • But there has been increasing talk of trying for a longer extension, which would also avoid setting up a cliff before the 2024 presidential election.

Wyden, while stopping short of explicitly saying he was pushing to link the ideas, noted that additional funding for the IRS to increase enforcement against “wealthy tax cheats” could raise $120 billion.

The big question: It remains unclear if Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) would agree to include the IRS enforcement proposal in the bill, or to provide longer ObamaCare subsidies. A Manchin spokesperson declined to comment.

Read more here.

Top FDA tobacco official leaving post for Philip Morris job

A top official in the Food and Drug Administration’s office of tobacco policy is leaving to join Philip Morris International, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, according to an internal agency memo.

Matt Holman, director of the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) Office of Science, will be leaving the agency effective immediately, according to the memo from CTP director Brian King.

Holman has been director of the science office since 2017.

The FDA is facing a series of major tobacco-related decisions in the coming weeks and months, including a potential ban on menthol cigarettes, lowering nicotine levels, as well as the next step in its ongoing attempt to regulate Juul and other electronic cigarettes.

Recused: According to the memo, Holman has been on leave and has recused himself from all CTP/FDA work while exploring career opportunities outside of government.

In a statement to The Hill, the FDA would not say when Holman’s recusal began.

  • “We can say that in this instance, once the agency was made aware by Dr. Holman of his intention to explore new career opportunities, consistent with government ethics rules, he was recused from all tobacco-related regulatory decision making at the agency,” an FDA spokeswoman said.

Read more here.

FAUCI: MONKEYPOX DECLARATION UNDER ‘ACTIVE CONSIDERATION’ 

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci told CNN “New Day” on Tuesday that making an emergency declaration around monkeypox is under “active consideration.”

“That’s something that’s obviously under active consideration,” Fauci, also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said when “New Day” anchor John Berman asked him about an emergency declaration for the virus.

His assessment: Fauci said of the response to monkeypox overall: “We’re doing well, but we’ve got to do much better.”

Monkeypox primarily affects men who have sex with men, according to Fauci, but can be more concerning in those already diagnosed with viral infections such as HIV.

“There’s an entire layered group of people who are at risk,” Fauci said, emphasizing that vaccination against monkeypox should spread beyond the group of people who have already been exposed to the virus.

Read more here.

NYC MONKEYPOX INFECTIONS SURPASS 1,000

More than 1,000 cases of monkeypox were reported in New York City with cases still rising as the city continues to manage the outbreak.

The New York City Health Department said as of Monday, 1,040 people have been infected with monkeypox, with more cases likely not diagnosed. The department noted that cases are still rising.

  • The city has ramped up testing since the outbreak as the department urges anyone with possible symptoms see a health care provider for testing. Residents without a health care provider can also call 311. 

  • While health experts are recommending a two-dose vaccine to protect against the virus, appointments in New York City are filled as the vaccine supply is low.

As of Monday, the state of New York had the most reported cases of monkeypox in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We’re grateful for the World Health Organization’s recognition that monkeypox is a global emergency. In New York City, the outbreak has been a local emergency for weeks and we are putting every resource we have to stopping the spread,” NYC Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan tweeted Monday.

Read more here.

Biden illness shows importance of vaccines, boosters

Just four days after testing positive for COVID-19, President Biden met virtually with administration officials, labor leaders and business executives on legislation to boost the domestic semiconductor industry on Monday afternoon.

His voice a bit raspy, Biden told reporters he is feeling “great” and hoped to be back to work in person by the end of the week.

Biden is at risk for serious illness due to his age, but that is counteracted by the fact he is up-to-date with his vaccinations — he received his second booster dose in March — and is taking an antiviral treatment known as Paxlovid.

Biden’s public appearance — his second since testing positive last Thursday — sent a signal to Americans that a 79-year-old person who contracts the virus can weather the sickness relatively easily because of vaccines and booster doses.

“They can use the president as a case,” said Anand Parekh, chief medical adviser at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “He’s using all these tools.”

A sign of the times: Biden’s case has been a sober reminder that the pandemic is not over. But at the same time, it’s also a sign of the progress the world has made since the first known case of COVID-19 in 2019. 

When former President Trump contracted the virus almost two years ago, there were no approved vaccines. The antiviral pill Paxlovid was more than a year from being authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • How polio crept back into the U.S. (ProPublica)

  • Encouraged by right-wing doctor groups, desperate patients turn to ivermectin for long Covid (Stat)

  • Reformulated COVID vaccine boosters may be available earlier than expected (NPR)

STATE BY STATE

  • NC Medicaid expansion deal still at impasse between Republican legislative chambers (News & Observer)

  • As monkeypox spread in New York, 300,000 vaccine doses sat in Denmark (New York Times)

  • No cases of monkeypox in Alaska yet, but health officials are readying for the disease’s arrival (Alaska 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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