Overnight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day

Overnight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day
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The Trump administration on Tuesday made a controversial move to expand access to health insurance plans that do not meet the requirements under ObamaCare.

The proposed rules would allow people to buy short-term health insurance for up to 12 months, lifting restrictions from the Obama administration that limited the coverage to a maximum of three months.

It's the latest step taken by the Trump administration to open up cheaper, less-comprehensive insurance options as an alternative to people signing up for ObamaCare. Republicans say these options are needed to help people facing high costs under the health law.

The short-term plans announced Tuesday differ from ObamaCare in one key respect: people with pre-existing conditions can be charged more. In addition, the plans to do not have to comply with ObamaCare mandates for covering certain services, such as mental health treatment or prescription drugs.

"The status quo is failing too many Americans who face skyrocketing costs and fewer and fewer choices," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. "The Trump Administration is taking action so individuals and families have access to quality, affordable healthcare that works for them."

The change to the short-term plans was set in motion by an executive order President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE signed in October instructing agencies to ease the burdens placed upon people by ObamaCare.

Democrats say the latest action is part of a campaign to "sabotage" ObamaCare. They fear healthy people will leave ObamaCare markets to buy the short-term plans, damaging the health-care law's stability.

"Bottom line, this is a green light to discriminate against Americans with pre-existing conditions that's going to make quality health insurance more expensive and less accessible," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse passes measure blocking IRS from revoking churches' tax-exempt status over political activity Senators introduce bipartisan bill to improve IRS Senate panel advances Trump IRS nominee MORE (D-Ore.) said.

Read more here.   

 

Dems hit back...

Three high-ranking Democrats blasted the Trump administration's move Tuesday to expand access to plans that don't meet ObamaCare's requirements, calling it the "latest step" in the White House's "effort to sabotage our nation's healthcare system."

"Today's action will leave families on the hook for thousands of dollars in uncovered healthcare costs and allow insurers to once again discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions," said the statement from Education and Workforce ranking member Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottTop Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Overnight Health Care: Judge blocks Kentucky Medicaid work requirements | Trump officials consider cuts to ObamaCare outreach | House probes HHS office in charge of migrant children Top House Dems request broad investigations into Trump immigration policy MORE (Va.), Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices House Dems want answers on cuts to ObamaCare outreach groups Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments MORE (N.J.), and Ways and Means ranking member Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHouse votes to disavow carbon tax Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Overnight Health Care: Dem demands details on Trump-Pfizer pricing deal | Why both sides agree nominee could shift high court to right on abortion | DEA gets more powers to limit opioid production MORE (Mass.).

"Widespread marketing of these bare bones, junk plans will further destabilize health insurance markets, and will lead to higher premiums for everyone," the statement continues. "The American people want access to high quality, affordable health insurance, and it is time for the Trump Administration to stop its relentless and destructive campaign to sabotage the Affordable Care Act."

Read more here.

 

New HHS office on religious rights received 300 complaints in one month

More than 300 health workers have complained to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department over the last month, saying that their religious or conscience rights have been violated by their employer.

The complaints follow the creation of a new division within HHS that focuses on enforcing those rights and investigating complaints from employees who say their rights have been violated.

The new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division is located within the HHS Office of Civil Rights, and has received more than 300 complaints since launching Jan. 18.

That compares to the 34 complaints HHS received from November 2016, before President Trump won the election and before the division opened.

"We've announced to the world that we're open for business and the public is responding," Roger Severino, the director of the Office of Civil Rights, said in a statement to The Hill.   

Read more here.

 

Committee chairman aims for vote on opioid bills by Memorial Day

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenDominant internet platforms must disrupt themselves Hammond pardons raise fears of emboldened anti-government extremists Oregon ranchers pardoned by Trump fly home on Pence donor's private jet MORE (R-Ore.) is aiming to get a House vote on opioid epidemic legislation by Memorial Day.

The panel is gearing up to begin work Feb. 28 on bills aimed at curbing the prescription painkiller and heroin epidemic plaguing the country, as overdose deaths from opioid use jumped nearly 28 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Many advocates have been calling for more funding to combat the opioid epidemic, and in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Walden called combatting the crisis his "top priority," saying, "There's going to be money -- more money than has ever been spent."

Read more here.

 

Dems look to restore nursing home regs

A group of Democratic senators want the Trump administration to reverse its steady rollback of regulations on nursing homes.

In a letter sent to Alex Azar, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Democrats allege that the regulatory rollback "will inevitably weaken the safety of our nation's nursing homes and put patients, many of whom are elderly and wholly reliant on this care, at greater risk."

The letter, led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharGOP seeks separation from Trump on Russia Hillicon Valley: EU hits Google with record B fine | Trump tries to clarify Russia remarks | Sinclair changing deal to win over FCC | Election security bill gets traction | Robocall firm exposed voter data Election security bill picks up new support in Senate MORE (Minn.), was dated Feb. 14, but publicly released Tuesday.

The letter says that a series of CMS memos released in the last year makes it more difficult for federal regulators to fine or deny federal payments to nursing homes that don't meet certain quality and safety standards.

Read more here.

 

HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts

An official with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been placed on leave while the department looks into inflammatory social media posts, CNN reported Tuesday.

Jon Cordova, the principal deputy assistant secretary for administration at HHS, previously shared stories on his social media accounts that included false claims about Gold Star father Khizr Khan, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits Russia raises problems for GOP candidates Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate MORE (R-Texas) and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonProminent Putin critic: If Trump turns me over, I'm dead Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia Trump tweets old video of Clinton talking up 'a strong Russia' MORE, CNN found.

Following the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Cordova shared a story that pushed the conspiracy theory that Khan, who spoke at the event, was a "Muslim plant working with the Hillary Clinton campaign."

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

The virus hunter: In a bygone era, C.J. Peters learned how to bend the rules (Stat)

As some got free health care, Gwen got squeezed: An Obamacare dilemma (New York Times)

What Trump's new Medicaid rules mean (NBC News)

 

State by state

The Trump administration is quietly helping states defund Planned Parenthood (Vox)

Should Medicaid come with work requirements? Ohio says yes (Dayton Daily News)

General Assembly weighs bill to require Marylanders to buy health insurance (Baltimore Sun)

 

Op-eds from The Hill

How Republicans can ensure great health care coverage 

Leadership in our government is failing to protect our health care