#parents | #teensvaping | State of the Union to Offer a Health-Care Checkup

Welcome to Capsule, where we’ll give you your weekly dose of what to watch out for in the health-care space. Each week reporters Ayanna Alexander and Jacquie Lee get you prepped for the week’s hottest health-care topics.

Jacquie: We’re all watching out for the State of the Union on Tuesday where President Donald Trump will talk up the administration‘s successes and next steps. Health care will be a large part of that because it remains a top issue for most voters. Lower overdose rates and overall higher life expectancy will be among the issues Trump will likely highlight. Drug prices will be a stickier topic for the president to comment on.

Substantial drug price reform has eluded this administration so far, but for now pharmaceuticals companies aren’t raising the prices on their products as much as they have in the past. One GOP aide told our former Capsule-queen Madison Alder that Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is helping the president craft his State of the Union drug pricing comments. Remember, Grassley’s legislation with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden is considered the most likely to make it past the finish line.

The president also will likely highlight what health officials are doing to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency late last week. If you’re having trouble keeping up with the latest virus news, I suggest following our colleague Jeannie Baumann who is tracking every new update.

Ayanna: We’ll also be listening closely to the rebuttal from the Democrat side. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar will give their responses in both English and Spanish.

Neither lawmaker is a stranger to health care—especially Whitmer, who recently signed an amendment to a bill (S.B. 340) allowing automated systems to dispense prescriptions if a remote pharmacist supervises the process in the Wolverine state. The provision intends to increase patient access to tele-pharmacy services.

Whitmer was also targeted in a 2019 federal court challenge by Michigan vaping company, Mister E-Liquid LLC. The company contested the state’s flavored vaping product ban. The federal case has since been dropped.

Escobar, who is the first woman to represent El Paso, sponsored an amendment last year to a measure (H.R. 987) that addressed two issues—lowering drug prices and improving health-care coverage.

Jacquie: And we’ll be watching for the testimony from e-cigarette executives who are headed to Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Teen vaping, a mysterious lung disease, and the administration’s recent flavor restriction policy are all on the table for discussion. From what I’ve heard from industry groups, the actual executive testimonies are likely to be rife with finger pointing.

What Else We’re Watching

Yet another hearing on drug prices and patient affordability. This one is coming to us through the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee and will look at federal policies meant to encourage research for drugs and assistance for cash-strapped patients.

Lawmakers and the health-care industry continue to deliberate over the development of the coronavirus that’s building in China and popping up in the U.S. Congress will host its first hearing Wednesday, giving panelists a chance to tell the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation about the lengths they’re taking to limit the spread of the virus.

The panel will feature witnesses from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of State, and other global health-care representatives.

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