Daily on Healthcare: Soda taxes get a big boost from pediatricians

By | March 25, 2019

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PEDIATRICIANS, HEART HEALTH ADVOCATES COME OUT IN SUPPORT OF SODA TAXES: For the first time, the nation’s leading pediatrics and heart health advocates have endorsed soda taxes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association released a policy statement on Monday pushing for local, state, and federal governments to place limits on sugary beverages through advertising restrictions, warning labels, and limitations on what children can have to drink in restaurants. Many of the suggestions mirror laws passed to successfully reduce tobacco use, and the organizations said they are meant to reduce obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

“This is kind of the low hanging fruit,” said Dr. Sheela Magge, co-author of the policy document. “There is no nutritional value in drinking soda … We have already said we don’t recommend them, but this is actually recommending public policy in terms of trying to reduce children’s consumption of sugary drinks.”

The organizations support water and milk as the default drinks for children and teens. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children consume 17 percent of their calories from added sugars, nearly half of which are from sugary drinks. Government dietary guidelines recommend people consume no more than 10 percent of their calories from added sugars.

A growing number of cities have passed soda taxes, though the beverage industry has been effective at pushing back.

“America’s beverage companies believe there’s a better way to help reduce the amount of sugar consumers get from beverages and it includes putting parents in the driver’s seat to decide what’s best for their children,” said William Dermody, spokesman for the American Beverage Association.

The industry has made several changes to its products, including voluntarily reducing calories and sugar, displaying nutritional information more prominently, and reducing the size of their drinks. It has encouraged restaurants, including fast food chains, to make water, milk, and 100 percent juice the default choices for children’s meals.

“It’s not enough,” said Magge. “We are still having really high rates of obesity in the country. We are having increases in Type 2 diabetes … They disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our communities. It’s good that they are coming up with smaller quantities and trying to make some effort, but that shouldn’t prevent us from trying to do the best we can to advocate for our kids.”

Good morning and welcome to the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Healthcare! This newsletter is written by senior healthcare reporter Kimberly Leonard (@LeonardKL) and healthcare reporter Cassidy Morrison (@CassMorrison94). You can reach us with tips, calendar items, or suggestions at dailyonhealthcare@washingtonexaminer.com. If someone forwarded you this email and you’d like to receive it regularly, you can subscribe here.


HOUSE DEMOCRATS PREPARE TO UNVEIL LEGISLATION TO SHORE UP OBAMACARE: Democratic leaders on Tuesday will introduce a bill aimed at funneling more funds into Obamacare and restoring parts of the law that were undone by the Trump administration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., and freshmen House Democrats will hold a press event about the bill at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The bill is expected to allow more Obamacare customers to get subsidies, to include more money for advertising the law and for navigators who help people sign up, and to restore a reinsurance fund, among other proposals that have received a hearing in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

TO REACH HIV GOAL, TRUMP WILL NEED TO GAIN THE SUPPORT OF GROUPS THAT DON’T LIKE HIM: To achieve his goal of ending HIV transmission, President Trump will have to emulate the success that Washington, D.C. has had. That, in turn, will mean gaining the trust of groups that are skeptical of the Trump administration because of its record on LGBT issues and proposals to cut Medicaid.

Washington has extensive on-the-ground programs that have driven down the rate of HIV-positive residents by more than 50 percent over the past decade. Part of the city’s success is attributable to health and advocacy groups like HIPS that work very closely and build trust with people who are engaged in sex work and drug use, are homeless, or are transgender.

The Trump administration will have to expand some of the lessons from D.C. to other city neighborhoods to have success, despite the cultural and political differences.

“We need to earn people’s trust, I understand that,” assistant secretary for health Dr. Brett Giroir told Kimberly. “We are prepared to do that.”

Read more of Kimberly’s piece here.

NEW JERSEY TO BUILD ITS OWN OBAMACARE EXCHANGE: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey announced a proposal Friday to have the state build its own health insurance exchange by 2021. The state is currently using the federally run healthcare.gov site, and the plan would need support from the legislature to move forward. If it does, New Jersey would join 11 other states and the District of Columbia that run their own exchanges.

PUERTO RICO LAWMAKERS SEEK VETO OVERRIDE FOR ANTI-ABORTION BILL: Anti-abortion lawmakers in Puerto Rico are seeking the votes to undo a veto by Gov. Ricardo Rossello of a bill that would obligate medical providers to care for babies who are born alive after a failed abortion, similar to a measure that Democrats recently blocked in the U.S. Senate. The bill, the Law for the Protection of Women and the Preservation of Life, would also require minors to get parental consent for abortions and would place requirements on clinics.

AS MANY AS 33 MILLION HAVE HAD THE FLU THIS SEASON: From October 2018 to March 2019, between 28.5 million to 32.8 million people in the U.S. reported flu illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 375,000 and 454,000 people were hospitalized to treat their illness — already more than the total for the season in some recent past years.

ACLU SUES TO BLOCK TITLE X RULES: The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, on Friday filed a motion requesting a judge to block the Trump administration’s Title X rules from taking effect. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra also filed requesting an injunction, hoping to put on hold the rules that will prohibit doctors from referring for abortions and that will block facilities from housing abortion and other family planning services in the same building. The motions were on top of lawsuits filed earlier this month challenging the legality of the rules.

NEW GROUP: COALITION FOR FAIR DRUG PRICES: Families USA and 11 other organizations launched the Coalition for Fair Drug Prices last week to urge policymakers to lower prescription drug prices. The coalition released a list of principles that includes lowering list prices, demanding accountability for public funds spent on research and development, and requiring full transparency from pharmaceutical companies and the whole supply chain.

SECOND PARKLAND SURVIVOR DIES IN APPARENT SUICIDE: A survivor of last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School died by suicide on Saturday, about a week after another survivor is believed to have done the same. Although a name has not been released, police are calling the death an “apparent suicide.” It was reported Friday that Sydney Aiello, 19, also killed herself the prior weekend.

The Rundown

The New York Times Medicare for All would abolish private insurance. ‘There’s no precedent in American history.’

The Associated Press Medicare for all legislation has thorny issues

McClatchy Disappointed Democrats shrug: 2020 election about health care, economy

POLITICO The most powerful activist in America is dying

Modern Healthcare CMS clears up home and community-based care requirements


MONDAY | March 25

House and Senate in session.

TUESDAY | March 26

March 26-29. St. Louis. National Association of County and City Health Officials preparedness summit. Details.

10 a.m. 430 Dirksen. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on “Implementing the 21st Century Cures Act: Making Electronic Health Information Available to Patients and Providers.” Details.

10 a.m. 210 Cannon. House Budget Committee hearing on the Department of Health and Human Services budget. Details.

11 a.m. 1225 I St. NW. Bipartisan Policy Center event on “Tracking Federal Funding to Combat the Opioid Crisis.” Details.

2:30 p.m. Rayburn H-207. House Democrats to hold press event to “Protect People with Pre-Existing Conditions and Lower Health Costs.” Watch Live.

WEDNESDAY | March 27

March 27-28. Washington Hilton. Health Datapalooza. Agenda.

THURSDAY | March 28

8 a.m. The Willard. Politico event on “Opioid Misuse, Hepatitis C and HIV: An Emerging Crisis.” Details.