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 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.) 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.


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 BurgessOvernight Health Care: Official defends suspending insurer payments | What Kavanaugh's nomination means for ObamaCare | Panel approves bill to halt employer mandate House panel advances bill that would temporarily halt ObamaCare's employer mandate Trump signs 'right to try' drug bill 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 MarkeyDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Hillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns 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 MurrayDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families MORE (D-Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenNovartis pulls back on planned drug price increases The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting Meet the woman who is Trump's new emissary to Capitol Hill MORE (D-Ore.), and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneTop Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments FCC passes controversial rule changing how it handles consumer complaints 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 (D-N.J.) and Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTop 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 Feehery: Crowley lost because he’s Irish 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) SandersElection Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas House Dems launching Medicare for All Caucus Let's remove the legal shield from hackers who rob us of our civil rights 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 KaineDem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Election Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race Green Day's 'American Idiot' climbs UK charts ahead of Trump visit MORE (D-Va.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHarley stunner spikes tension with Trump over trade policy Races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor 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