Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement

House passes 20-week abortion ban

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

The measure passed heavily along party lines, 237-189.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), would make it a crime to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with the possibility of a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

The bill allows exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman and wouldn't penalize women for seeking to get abortions after 20 weeks.

The legislation is likely to face a tough sell in the Senate. A similar bill passed the House in 2015 but was blocked by Senate Democrats.

With only a 52-seat majority it would be unlikely Senate Republicans could gather the 60 votes needed to move the legislation to President Trump's desk.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday he would reintroduce a companion bill in the Senate soon.

The White House said Monday that it "strongly supports" the bill and "applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections."

The bill is a top priority of anti-abortion groups, which argue a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation and later.

Abortion rights groups, however, have condemned the bill.

Read more here.

GOP gives ground on ObamaCare stabilization talks

Republicans are willing to provide insurers with two years of ObamaCare subsidies under a bipartisan market stabilization bill, according to the Senate Health Committee chairman.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said continuing cost-sharing reduction subsidies for two years is a key part of the stabilization package he is trying to negotiate with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Alexander and Murray are trying to rally Republicans and Democrats around a short-term plan to lower ObamaCare premiums in 2018 and 2019.

Republicans pulled the plug on the bipartisan talks when it appeared their last-ditch ObamaCare repeal bill was gaining momentum, but the change in Alexander's position could be a sign that he and Murray are closing in on an agreement.

Read more here.

Health industry pressures Congress to stabilize individual market

The Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC) is urging Congress to take several bipartisan steps to help stabilize the individual insurance markets.

In a letter to Democratic and Republican leaders in both chambers, the coalition of drugmakers, insurers and others in the health sector is seeking a federal reinsurance program or a grant program to provide money for state-led reinsurance programs.

Reinsurance programs help cover the costs of sicker customers.

The letter comes a week after Republicans abandoned their effort to repeal ObamaCare for the time being.

Read more here.

Price resignation sets off speculation over replacement

The resignation of embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for using private jets for government travel is setting off a frenzy of speculation about who will replace him.

While it's still early, health policy insiders see two current officials as perhaps the most likely candidates: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

Hard-line conservatives, meanwhile, have floated national figures like former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R)

Read more here.

Top Dem demands answers: did Price pay back private travel costs?

A top Democratic senator is demanding to know if former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has reimbursed taxpayers for using charter flights on official government business.

In a letter obtained by The Hill, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to confirm whether Price has in fact sent a check to the U.S. Treasury, and for how much.

"While Price may no longer be Secretary of HHS, he still has the responsibility to follow through on his commitment to repay the American public," Murray wrote. "Anything less is a clear indication that Price was not in fact sorry for his abuse of taxpayer dollars, but was just sorry that he was caught."

Read more here.

GOP bill would direct extra Medicaid funds to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico would receive an extra $1 billion for its Medicaid program under Republican legislation to extend the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another five years.

The legislation is the first Republican request to direct extra Medicaid money to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The island is still trying to deal with the severe damage it received from the storm.

The legislation from the House Energy and Commerce Committee mirrors a bipartisan proposal in the Senate Finance Committee, but it also includes some potentially controversial offsets.

For example, the House bill would repeal ObamaCare's public health prevention fund and raise Medicare rates for wealthy seniors.

Read more here.

ACLU sues FDA over abortion pill restriction

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the FDA challenging federal restrictions they argue "significantly" limit access to abortion pills.

Currently, a prescription for the abortion pill Mifeprex cannot be filled at a retail pharmacy. Instead, the pill must be obtained from a clinic, medical office or hospital from a health care provider that has pre-registered with the drug manufacturer.

These providers must also stock the pill on site and patients must sign a form to get it.

"The abortion pill is safe, effective, and legal. So why is the FDA keeping it locked away from women who need it?" said Julia Kaye, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

Read more here.

Leading doctors group calls for automatic weapons ban after Las Vegas shooting

The American College of Physicians issued a statement late Monday labeling mass shootings a "serious public health issue" and calling for a ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

"We must acknowledge that lack of a U.S. policy to address gun violence is the reason we have much higher rates of injuries and deaths from firearms violence than other countries," the group said in a statement. "Specifically, we call for a ban on the sale and ownership of automatic and semiautomatic weapons."

Read more here.

Obama HHS chief could testify at Menendez trial

A 2012 meeting with former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is becoming a focus of the ongoing federal corruption trial of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

An indictment charges that Menendez met with the Obama administration health official about an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute on behalf of Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, according to The Associated Press. The AP added that the indictment charges that Melgen bribed Menendez with trips on private jets and luxury hotel stays.

Menendez, however, claims he wanted to meet with Sebelius about inconsistencies in Medicare billing practices.

Sebelius could testify this week, the AP reported.

Read more here.

What we're reading

Republicans pessimistic on ObamaCare fix (Washington Examiner)

Rep. Tim Murphy, popular with pro-life movement, urged abortion in affair, texts suggest (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

With Affordable Care Act's future cloudy, costs for many seem sure to soar (The New York Times)

State by state

Lapse in federal funding imperils children's health funding (NPR)

Nevada ObamaCare rates expected to rise nearly 37 percent (Washington Examiner)

States search for stopgaps as Congress misses CHIP deadline (Modern Healthcare)

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