OPIOID SERIES:

Overnight Health Care: House panel unveils eight bills on opioids | Dem presses health chief on gun violence research | Liberal think tank releases universal coverage plan

Overnight Health Care: House panel unveils eight bills on opioids | Dem presses health chief on gun violence research | Liberal think tank releases universal coverage plan
© Greg Nash

House panel announces opioid enforcement bills ahead of hearing

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Thursday unveiled eight bills it will examine during a hearing next week on enforcement-related measures to help combat the opioid crisis.

Specifically, the hearing Wednesday will delve into how to help communities balance enforcement with patient safety; it's the first of three hearings the panel will convene on opioid legislation.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHouse panel advances bills to guard energy grid from cyberattacks Overnight Tech: Dem FCC commish stepping down | Lawmakers clash over internet 'fast lanes' | Tech giants vow not to help government cyberattacks | Tax filers to get extension after IRS tech troubles House Dems, GOP clash over internet 'fast lanes' MORE (R-Ore.) hopes for legislation to pass the House by Memorial Day weekend in an effort to staunch the opioid epidemic now killing more Americans per year than car accidents.

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The policies lawmakers will examine include updating scheduling guidelines to help clamp down on powerful synthetic opioids, letting hospice workers dispose of unused opioids, expanding access to behavioral health telemedicine in rural areas, making it harder to traffic synthetic drugs and more.

"As we continue our efforts to tackle this epidemic, it's imperative we strike the right balance between necessary enforcement and patient safety," Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessHouse passes 'right to try' drug bill Overnight Health Care: What to expect in omnibus | HIV expert to head CDC | Sessions issues memo on death penalty for drug cases Overnight Regulation: Senate passes Dodd-Frank rollback | SEC charges Theranos CEO with 'massive fraud' | Former Equifax exec charged with insider trading | FEC proposes changing digital ad rules MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, said in a statement.

Read more here.

 

Study: Not enough providers to address opioid epidemic in 11 states

States in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic don't have enough doctors to address the opioid epidemic, according to a new study released this week.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia lack an adequate number of providers to prescribe buprenorphine, a medicine used to prevent relapse in people with opioid addictions, according to research from Avalere Health, a health consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

Allowing more nurses and physicians' assistants to prescribe buprenorphine could help curb the epidemic, Avalere concluded.

Under current federal law, nurse practitioners and physcian assistants can seek a federal waiver to prescribe buprenorphine, but can only treat a maximum of 30 patients per year.

Read more here.

 

Dem asks health chief for timeline on gun research

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySenatorial attack on the First Amendment Senators demand info on unusual surveillance activity in DC Overnight Tech: Dem FCC commish stepping down | Lawmakers clash over internet 'fast lanes' | Tech giants vow not to help government cyberattacks | Tax filers to get extension after IRS tech troubles MORE (D-Mass.) is asking Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar what his next steps are on gun violence research after he expressed support for the idea last week.

In an unexpected move, Azar told a congressional hearing last week that he backs research on gun violence at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which he oversees. Starting that research is a top goal for Democrats on gun issues, and Markey said he was "heartened" by Azar's comments in a letter to Azar on Thursday.

Markey asks when research will begin, whether Congress needs to appropriate more money for the research, and whether the White House has had any contact with Azar about his support for the research.

Many Democrats have called for repealing a provision that many believe restricts CDC gun violence research, which states, "None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control."

Read more here.

 

Top Dems press Idaho on plan to get around ObamaCare rules

Top congressional Democrats are pressing Idaho on its controversial plan to circumvent certain ObamaCare requirements.

The top four Democrats on the congressional committees overseeing health care wrote to Idaho insurance commissioner Dean Cameron on Thursday asking if his moves comply with federal law and requesting a staff briefing on the state's plans.

"We strongly oppose efforts that result in higher costs and undermine consumer protections that are guaranteed by federal law that protect women, people with pre-existing conditions, and others facing discrimination in access to health care, and therefore request an explanation of how the Idaho Department of Insurance will regulate insurance plans being sold in the individual market that are not compliant with federal law," the letter reads.

The letter is signed by Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenators press administration on mental health parity Top House, Senate Dems warn administration on short-term insurance Overnight Health Care: Opioid distributors summoned before Congress | Judge sets trial date in massive opioid lawsuit | Senators press DOJ to stop blocking medical marijuana MORE (D-Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting Dem senators call on FCC to protect against robocalls Senators demand info on unusual surveillance activity in DC MORE (D-Ore.), and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Tech: Dem FCC commish stepping down | Lawmakers clash over internet 'fast lanes' | Tech giants vow not to help government cyberattacks | Tax filers to get extension after IRS tech troubles House Dems, GOP clash over internet 'fast lanes' Top House, Senate Dems warn administration on short-term insurance MORE (D-N.J.) and Richard NealRichard Edmund NealIRS experiences technical difficulties on last day to file taxes Top House, Senate Dems warn administration on short-term insurance House panel approves bipartisan bills aimed at improving the IRS MORE (D-Mass.).

At issue is the Republican governor of Idaho's move to allow insurers in the state to sell plans that do not meet ObamaCare requirements in an effort to encourage cheaper plans.

The new plans could charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions, which is not allowed under ObamaCare, and would not cover all of the health services required for ObamaCare plans.

Democrats say the proposal violates federal law and want Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to step in.

Read more here.

 

Liberal think tank releases universal coverage plan

The Center for American Progress (CAP) on Thursday released a universal health-care plan aimed at building on the coverage expansion from ObamaCare.

The leading center-left think tank enters a debate that has been accelerating among Democrats about how far to go in expanding on the Affordable Care Act with government-run insurance.  

The CAP plan, called Medicare Extra, would provide government-run health insurance modeled on Medicare for people currently on Medicare or Medicaid or in the individual ObamaCare market. Notably, it would preserve employer-sponsored health insurance, which is popular among many middle-class Americans, although it would give employers and employees the option of joining the government-run, Medicare Extra option.

By leaving employer-sponsored insurance as an option, the plan does not go as far as Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSenators push HHS to negotiate lower prices on opioid overdose reversal drug New Zealand's female prime minister 'extremely angry' at Trump comparisons Dem senators unveil expanded public option for health insurance MORE's (I-Vt.) "Medicare for All" proposal. It could also make the CAP plan at least somewhat more politically feasible.

But the CAP plan goes farther than other Democratic ideas such as "Medicare X" from Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting Mattis wanted approval from Congress before Syria strikes but was overruled: report Overnight Defense: Lawmakers worry over Syria strategy | Trump's base critical of strikes | Flake undecided on Pompeo | Coast Guard plans to keep allowing transgender members | GOP chair wants to cut B from Pentagon agencies MORE (D-Va.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetLawmakers discuss Latino education gap The Hill's Morning Report: Hannity drawn into Cohen legal fight Overnight Energy: Dems release docs questioning Pruitt's security | GOP pushes back on calls to investigate Pruitt | Pruitt's chief takes responsibility for controversial raises MORE (D-Colo.), which would add a government-run option on ObamaCare's marketplaces but leave the rest of the current options in place.

The plans could lay the groundwork for Democratic efforts if they win the presidency in 2020 as well as control of both chambers of Congress.

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

Couple makes millions off Medicaid Managed Care as oversight lags (Kaiser Health News)

Black lung disease comes storming back in Coal Country (The New York Times)

Pharma's $50 billion tax windfall for investors (Axios)

 

State by state

Nebraska legislator seeks more state oversight of health care facilities (Omaha World Herald)

Va. Senate rejects bid to expand Medicaid (Daily Press)

Health care company faces criminal charges after man dies from dehydration in jail (Associated Press)

 

From The Hill's opinion pages

Emergency reform: It's time for change in our health care system

Police need more mental health training

On ObamaCare, Republicans in Congress should follow Trump

Undercutting the immunization program puts both lives and dollars at risk