Senators Investigate Juul Marketing, Deal With Altria

On April 8, 2018, nearly a dozen Democratic senators announced they would investigate the marketing practices of e-cigarette giant Juul along with a new deal to sell a minority stake of the company to Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes. Not long ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Juul—along with others in the smoking cessation community—supported efforts to use electronic tobacco mechanisms to help 60 million Americans quit smoking. However, along the way, the U.S. surgeon general and FDA discovered that youth smoking and vaping have seen a dramatic increase from the advertising, marketing, and distribution of e-cigarettes.

Smoking, whether through traditional or e-cigarettes, is still a leading cause of cancer in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. Congress seems to want some real answers on Juul’s business practices. Oversight and stronger agency regulations are likely to come after some damning public congressional testimony from the tobacco industry.

No Clear Consensus for Democratic Drug Price Plan

Although addressing high drug costs for patients has bipartisan support, policymakers are struggling to come to a consensus for how to create legislation that makes affordability possible for patients while encouraging the private pharmaceutical sector to continue to invest in discoveries to maintain profitability. This sticking point has floundered any real progress on the issue.

This week, U.S. Representative Diane DeGette (D-CO), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and one member of Congress who will likely review such a plan, was open to the idea of a compromise with the Trump administration and her Republican colleagues. Many on Capitol Hill believe that 2019 will be the best year for a possible solution. As 2020 approaches, presidential politics will overshadow any real legislative progress.

Sanders Unveils Revamped Medicare for All Plan

On April 10, 2019, when Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled his new Medicare for All plan, a line was draw in the presidential sand. Along with three of his Senate colleagues and fellow presidential contenders, Sanders promoted his plan that would provide healthcare coverage for all Americans through expanded Medicare.

Ten years ago, the idea would’ve been laughable, but since 2016, the public’s opinion has changed. Medicare for All has had a large contingency of moderate Democrats join the cause. However, House Democratic leadership didn’t publicly question the costs associated with the plan until 2019. That said, much of the Democratic base is thrilled with the idea. That may be enough to make it a party platform in 2020, regardless of the nominee.