Overnight Health Care: Trump tapping Azar for HHS chief | Justices to hear challenge to Calif. abortion law | Group seeks $45B to fight opioid crisis

Overnight Health Care: Trump tapping Azar for HHS chief | Justices to hear challenge to Calif. abortion law | Group seeks $45B to fight opioid crisis
© Getty Images

President Trump on Monday tapped Alex Azar for secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), a role vacated by Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PricePolitical appointees led cancelation of teen pregnancy prevention program Cost of Pruitt's Italy trip rises above ,000 Mnuchin spent million on military flights, says watchdog MORE in late September amid revelations that Price took repeated trips on government and private jets that cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

"Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary," Trump tweeted. "He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!"

Azar has a deep knowledge of the regulatory process, those who worked with him said, but Democrats are likely to raise red flags on how he'll handle ObamaCare and drug prices.

The role is high-profile, tasked with overseeing various facets of health care, from Medicare and Medicaid to drug approvals and disease control -- and most controversially, the implementation of the health-care law Republicans want to tear down.

The GOP controls 52 seats, and Azar only needs 51 votes to win Senate confirmation.

Azar is a former executive at the drug company Eli Lilly, and previously served as HHS deputy secretary under George W. Bush.

Nominating someone familiar with the regulatory process could be important for Trump, who is examining ways to unwind ObamaCare that wouldn't need approval from Congress after Republicans' months-long effort to repeal and replace the health law failed.

Read more here.


Sanders vows to 'vigorously' oppose Trump's health nominee

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersModerates see vindication in Lipinski’s primary win Sanders: Fox News 'couldn't handle' town hall on economic inequality Mississippi woman appointed to Senate, making Vermont only state to never have female lawmaker MORE (I-Vt.) said Monday that he would oppose President Trump's nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, denouncing his ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

The nominee, Alex Azar, is a former executive at the drug company Eli Lilly and also served in the Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.

"At a time when the United States pays, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, the last thing we need is to put a pharmaceutical executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services," Sanders said in a statement.

Sanders said the nomination shows Trump is not living up to his attacks on the pharmaceutical industry and stated desire to bring down prices.

The former presidential candidate said the nomination shows Trump was "never serious about his promise to stop the pharmaceutical industry from 'getting away with murder.'"

Read more here.


Top Dem: Trump HHS pick like 'fox guarding hen house' 

A top House Democrat also slammed President Trump's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services for being too close to the drug industry, calling the selection a "slap in the face" to American waiting for lower drug prices.

Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Health Care: What to expect in omnibus | HIV expert to head CDC | Sessions issues memo on death penalty for drug cases Coherent strategy needed beyond limited sanctions to counter Russian aggression House Oversight Dems: GOP blocking request for Trump admin records MORE (D-Md.) on Monday questioned Trump's decision to nominate Alex Azar, a former executive at Eli Lilly and their top lobbyist, to run HHS. Cummings is the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.

"POTUS said PHRMA has been 'getting away with murder,' so why is he nominating a former #EliLilly drug exec to lead HHS?" Cummings tweeted.

Read more here.


Trump calls for repeal of ObamaCare mandate, cuts to top tax rate

President Trump on Monday said the final GOP tax bill should include language repealing ObamaCare's individual mandate and cutting the top individual tax rate to 35 percent.

"I am proud of the Rep. House & Senate for working so hard on cutting taxes {& reform.} We're getting close!" Trump tweeted.

"Now, how about ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further? Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?"

Trump, who is currently in the Philippines for the last leg of his 12-day tour of Asia, has repeatedly called for the tax legislation to include a repeal of the individual mandate in recent weeks. Repeal of the mandate is not in either the House or Senate bills, but GOP lawmakers say the issue is still under discussion.

Read more here.


Supreme Court to hear free speech challenge to Calif. abortion disclosure law

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case challenging a California law that requires licensed pregnancy centers run by religious nonprofits to post notices informing women how to get information on state-funded abortions and birth control.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) claims California's Reproductive FACT Act forces the centers to send a message that directly contradicts their anti-abortion message, violating the First Amendment's right to free speech.

California argues the law, which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block, is the most effective way to ensure that women quickly obtain the information and services they need.

Read more here.


Bill Gates invest $100 million in Alzheimer's research

Bill Gates will invest $100 million toward fighting Alzheimer's, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder announced Monday.

Half of the $100 million, from Gates's personal fund, will go toward the Dementia Discovery Fund and the rest will go toward start-up ventures working in Alzheimer's research.

"We've seen scientific innovation turn once-guaranteed killers like HIV into chronic illnesses that can be held in check with medication. I believe we can do the same (or better) with Alzheimer's," Gates said in a blog post on his website.

Read more here.


Trump finalizes opioid testing rule for transportation workers

The Trump administration has finalized a rule requiring opioid testing for certain transportation workers.

The new regulation, issued Monday, will apply to railroad engineers, pilots, air traffic controllers, truck drivers and any other employees who are subject to federal drug and alcohol testing regulations.

"The opioid crisis is a threat to public safety when it involves safety-sensitive employees involved in the operation of any kind of vehicle or transport," said Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoGateway rail project could get 1M in omnibus despite Trump's objections Overnight Regulation: FTC to probe Facebook over user data | FDA takes step to regulating flavors in tobacco products | Congress may include background check measure in funding bill Chao calls for inspector general probe into Florida bridge collapse MORE in a statement.

Up until now, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has only administered a five-panel drug test, which includes marijuana, cocaine and PCP, for safety-sensitive transportation workers.

The agency's decades-old drug testing panel does not include prescription painkillers and opioids, misuse of which has skyrocketed in the country in recent years.

Two maintenance workers who were struck and killed by an Amtrak train last year while working on the track tested positive for cocaine and oxycodone.

Read more here.


New group advocates for $45B to fight opioid epidemic

Advocates from around the country are working to pressure lawmakers to provide billions of dollars in funding to address the opioid epidemic.

The funding aspect of the opioid epidemic has particularly frustrated Democratic lawmakers and some advocates. Last month, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, but the move didn't unlock millions of dollars, and Trump did not include a funding request to Congress.

The newly formed Opioid Network has a number of requests aimed at curbing the opioid crisis, such as $45 billion over 10 years, the passage of a bipartisan insurance market stabilization bill and no cuts to Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans.

Read more here.


The Hill event

Join The Hill on Thursday, November 16, for Preparing for a Treatment: Managing and Delivering an Alzheimer's Breakthrough featuring LEAD Coalition Executive Director Ian Kremer and Daisy Duarte, caregiver and clinical trial participant with UsAgainstAlzheimer's. Our conversation will explore the latest developments in Alzheimer's research and how ready the American health industry might be for a major medical breakthrough. RSVP Here


Op-eds in The Hill

Elderly Americans shouldn't expect a friend in Trump's HHS pick

Paying monthly for insurance but never getting to 'use' it is the ideal situation


What we're reading

Trump health agency challenges consensus on reducing costs (The New York Times)

GOP senators seek to 'gut' ACA via state waivers (Modern Healthcare)

This insurer doesn't play by the ACA's rules. The GOP sees it as the future (Stat)


State by state

The healthiest state in the country has some of the steepest premiums (FiveThirtyEight.com)

Illinois officials overhaul health care enrollment (The Pantagraph)

Here's why states struggle to enroll people in ObamaCare this year (Stateline)