Overnight Health Care: What to expect in omnibus | HIV expert to head CDC | Sessions issues memo on death penalty for drug cases

Overnight Health Care: What to expect in omnibus | HIV expert to head CDC | Sessions issues memo on death penalty for drug cases
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Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we're waiting for the omnibus...

The $1.3 trillion funding bill will contain modest measures addressing gun violence, but isn't likely to include funds to shore up ObamaCare's insurance markets.

But first, some other health care news…


HIV expert Robert Redfield will assume his new post Monday as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Redfield succeeds Brenda FitzgeraldBrenda FitzgeraldOvernight Health Care: Drug company under scrutiny for Michael Cohen payments | New Ebola outbreak | FDA addresses EpiPen shortage CDC director to take pay cut of more than 5k CDC director asks for salary reduction after questions raised MORE, who resigned from the job in January following reports that she purchased tobacco stock.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the pick Wednesday afternoon, ignoring objections from Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayJane Fonda: Kavanaugh confirmation would be a 'catastrophe' Dems rip Trump DOJ nominee who represented Russian bank Dems grasp for way to stop Trump's Supreme Court pick MORE (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate's health committee. The CDC director doesn't need Senate confirmation.

Outside HIV/AIDS groups that have been critical of the administration and believe it has neglected the issue are likely to be pleased by the decision.

"I had the opportunity to serve on the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS with Dr. Robert Redfield, and while we did not agree on every single issue, I know he is extremely dedicated to fighting HIV both here in the United States and around the world," Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of The AIDS Institute, told The Hill.

"Having a person with his knowledge, experience, commitment, and passion at the helm of the CDC would be a benefit to our efforts to prevent HIV and other infectious diseases, such as viral hepatitis. We welcome the opportunity to work with him."


Other reactions:

"Although I seldom agree with the Trump administration, I am in complete agreement that Dr. Bob Redfield is the best choice to lead the CDC. Bob has devoted his life to improving the public health, including leading PEPFAR efforts around the world and as the clinical head of the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore fighting the HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics in this region." – Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Energy: House to vote on anti-carbon tax measure | Dem says EPA obstructed 'politically charged' FOIA requests | GOP looks to overhaul endangered species law Top Dem: EPA slowed ‘politically charged’ FOIA requests Top Dem displays posters of ‘guilty’ subjects in Mueller probe MORE (D-Md.)

"Dr. Redfield has a strong background to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-- he has spent his career researching public health threats such as HIV/AIDS and drug addiction. I am looking forward to discussing the work we have ahead of us to help states and communities fight the opioid crisis." -- Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSens introduce bipartisan bill matching Zinke proposed maintenance backlog fix Supreme Court vacancy throws Senate battle into chaos Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion groups see chance to overturn Roe v. Wade with Kennedy retirement | HHS watchdog to probe detention center conditions | VA pick vows to oppose privatization MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate's health committee.

"There are no shortage of public health issues on the horizon, and we look forward to having a new partner in our efforts to deliver for the American people. In particular, we are at a critical juncture when it comes to combating the opioid crisis. Working with Dr. Redfield, we aim to advance meaningful reforms that can help stem the tide and provide the necessary resources to those struggling with addiction." -- Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHammond pardons raise fears of emboldened anti-government extremists Oregon ranchers pardoned by Trump fly home on Pence donor's private jet Overnight Energy: Trump pardons ranchers whose case sparked standoff | EPA takes step to replace Obama climate rule | Pruitt's lead spokesman out at EPA MORE (R-Ore.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and 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 health subcommittee.



There's about five inches of snow on the ground in D.C. (and counting) and Congress is about to gift us all a $1.3 trillion spending deal. Here's what's in, out and what we're keeping an eye on...


IN: Gun measures

Some relatively modest gun-related measures are coming in the omnibus, including the loosening of restrictions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researching gun violence, a Democratic priority.

Republican leaders have agreed to include a provision in the government funding package clarifying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not barred from conducting gun violence research under a 1996 amendment.

The omnibus will not repeal the so-called Dickey Amendment altogether, as Democrats had pushed for, according to a senior GOP source. That Amendment prevents the CDC from advocating for gun control, but Democrats long warned it had a chilling effect even on research.

Read more here.


OUT: ObamaCare fix

An ObamaCare fix is not slate to be included in a government funding bill this week--and the blame game has begun.

Republicans on Wednesday held a press conference to blast Democrats for opposing the measure over an abortion dispute.

Republicans say the Hyde Amendment language preventing funding of abortion services must be applied to the new ObamaCare funding, which is aimed at lowering ObamaCare premiums. They argue the language is a standard restriction used for decades.

Democrats say that applying the Hyde Amendment is a dealbreaker, noting it would prevent federal funds from going to any insurer that offered abortion coverage.

With neither side moving, it looks like no legislation will pass to mitigate premium increases coming this fall, shortly before the election.

Read more here.


LIKELY OUT: Drug pricing measures

Lobbyists said it does not appear likely that two drug-pricing relateds measure will be included. On the one hand, drug companies are unlikely to get a change they pushed for to lower the share of costs they have to pick up -- part of an effort to close a gap in Medicare coverage known as the "donut hole."

But a new measure to fight high drug prices also appears to be out. That measure, known as the CREATES Act, would have cracked down on drug companies using delay tactics to fend off competition from cheaper generic drugs.


UNCLEAR: Women's health measures
Anti-abortion groups and conservatives have pushed for a slew of policy riders that may or may not be included in the bill such as defunding Planned Parenthood (unlikely) and protections for healthcare workers with religious or conscience objections to abortions.

It's also not clear how the bill will treat the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP), which the administration wants to end. The program, though, has strong support in Congress.

Democrats also pushed for the spending bill to include language protecting the Title X family planning program from changes, but that's unlikely.


Meanwhile, over at the Justice Department...

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsConservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report Senators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ MORE outlined how U.S. attorneys can seek the death penalty for drug traffickers, which President TrumpDonald John TrumpReporters defend CNN's Acosta after White House says he 'disrespected' Trump with question Security costs of Trump visit to Scotland sparks outrage among Scottish citizens Ex-CIA officer: Prosecution of Russians indicted for DNC hack 'ain't ever going to happen' MORE has been pushing for weeks.

Sessions issued a memo to U.S. attorneys Wednesday, saying "I strongly encourage federal prosecutors to use these statutes, when appropriate, to aid in our continuing fight against drug trafficking and the destruction it causes in our nation."

The memo points to statutes where the death penalty can be used, including certain racketeering activities, the use of a gun that resulted in a death during a drug trafficking crime, murder in advancing a criminal enterprise and dealing in "extremely large" quantities of drugs.

The death penalty has never been sought before for those dealing large quantities of drugs, according to a Justice Department official.

Read more here.


HHS watchdogs pointed out that information about bisexual and lesbian health have been removed from womenshealth.gov.

An HHS spokesperson told The Hill the information was sent elsewhere as part of making the website mobile-ready.

"As OWH [HHS Office of Women's Health] updates its site, the outdated lesbian and bisexual health pages were removed and the health content was integrated into the relevant health topics pages across the website," the spokesperson said. "You can now find lesbian and bisexual health content by searching for relevant health topics on the womenshealth.gov website."

Read more here.


And later tonight... The House could vote again on "Right to Try" legislation.

What is right to try? The legislation lets terminally ill patients request access to drugs the FDA hasn't yet approved -- and to do so without going through the agency. Patients can request the drugs from manufacturers if the medicine has gone through a small-scale clinical trial and is still under the FDA's consideration.

Background: President Trump wants the bill on his desk, a message he sent Congress in his State of the Union and as recently as a press conference on opioids Monday.

The Senate already passed a version of right to try in August by unanimous consent. Top House Republicans in the Energy and Commerce Committee released a revised version of the bill earlier this month.

House Democrats -- as well as more than 75 patient organizations -- objected to the measure, citing patient safety concerns. The measure failed last week, as House GOP leaders brought the bill up under suspension of the rules, meaning it needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

They plan to try again tonight.

Supporters of the bill say that a terminally ill patient should have every tool at their disposal to try a medicine that could potentially save them. One lawmaker even said he'd "take any risk, including injecting monkey urine if that meant I could spend a few more days, months or years with my children."


What we're reading

White House: Health insurers are doing just fine (Axios)

Obamacare's fate hinges on a bipartisan vote that may never come (Washington Post editorial)


State by state

Idaho Bill to Provide Health Insurance for Poor Stalls Again (Associated Press)

Opinion: Why health care probably didn't decide the Pennsylvania election (Axios)
Federal regulators say University of Maryland hospital violated rules in patient dumping case (The Baltimore Sun)


From The Hill's opinion pages

Fix 340B drug discount program if we want to improve care for those who need It most

How to provide relief from ObamaCare while Congress dithers

How technology can change the future of health in America