Good morning. Today's word count is 792 words, or ~3 minutes.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Although the surprise billing debate is often framed as a battle between insurers and doctors, hospitals also have a huge financial stake in the issue and are fighting tooth and nail to make sure they get their way.
Why it matters: Congress' effort to rein in surprise medical bills is on the rocks, thanks largely to industry opposition, and its failure would leave patients at risk.
How it works: Their leading solution would set a benchmark rate that insurers would pay the doctors and hospitals who are outside their coverage networks. It would only apply in certain circumstances.
What they're saying: Hospitals "don't have a dog in the fight — they have an elephant in the fight," USC health economist Glenn Melnick said.
The big picture: On its face, this approach to surprise billing is more relevant to individual doctors than to hospitals.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
The most interesting part of the Democrats' health care debate was probably the back-to-back ads taking opposing sides of the surprise billing debate that ran before the candidates' closing statements in the D.C. market.
My thought bubble: There wasn't any health care news made last night, despite its prominence as a 2020 campaign issue.
It's not the fact that we have private insurance that makes us different from other wealthy countries. It's also not just how much our health care costs. It's how much we pay for it out-of-pocket through deductibles and co-pays, the LA Times reports.
Between the lines: The U.S. doesn't regulate the prices paid by private insurers to providers or drug companies, and a large portion of these prices are passed onto patients via their out-of-pocket requirements. That's not how it works in other wealthy countries.
The bottom line: "The experiences of other wealthy nations suggest that strict limits on how much patients must pay and tight regulation of prices are more consequential than whether health coverage is provided directly by the government or through private insurers," the Times' Noam Levey writes.
The FDA is inspecting fewer overseas drugmakers as it simultaneously increases the number of generic drug approvals, contributing to concerns about the safety of our generic drug supply, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.
"Where the FDA's drug approval process is founded on testing and more testing, the regulatory system for generics is built on trust, specifically trust in manufacturers," Bloomberg writes.
At the same time as Juul is facing a regulatory crackdown and damaging headlines in America, it's also entering the Chinese market — the world's largest market of smokers, Reuters reports.
Related: The New York Times reports that the Trump administration's Wednesday announcement that it plans to ban all e-cigarette flavors would have "a chilling effect" on the entire vaping industry, and would "severely dent" Juul's sales.