Overnight Health Care: New allegations against VA nominee | Dems worry House moving too fast on opioid bills | HHS chief back in DC | FDA reexamines safety of controversial Parkinson's drug

Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care. Today, House Energy and Commerce Democrats are complaining that Republicans are moving too quickly to approve opioid legislation and Washington is grappling with a federal judge's ruling that the administration illegally ended grants to Planned Parenthood.

But first some good news...

 

Alex Azar update:

HHS Secretary Azar is back in D.C. after experiencing health issues while visiting Indiana two weekends ago. He had been in and out of the hospital there to treat an intestinal condition, but is back in the capital working a "modified schedule to ensure a full recovery," an HHS spokesperson said. Azar has had to postpone events because of his illness, and he will not have any public events the rest of the week, the spokesperson said. The Overnight Health Care team wishes him a speedy recovery.

 

Opioid update:

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is voting on a slew of bills, over 60, aimed at combating the crisis.

The hearing began with some fireworks.

Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee voiced concerns over the speed at which the Republican chairman is aiming to put opioid legislation on the House floor (by Memorial Day weekend).

-- Ranking member, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.): "This complex public health crisis facing our nation requires thoughtful, measured solutions. While I support a bipartisan process to address this crisis, I am troubled by the unprecedented number of bills, 63 in total, and the chairman's extremely hasty time frame to pass opioid legislation."

-- Health subcommittee ranking member, Rep. Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenLatina Leaders to Watch 2018 Overnight Health Care: Big win at Supreme Court for anti-abortion centers | HHS chief grilled on migrant children | Boom time for ObamaCare insurers? The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Washington grapples with civility, protests in charged political times MORE (D-Texas): "I'm concerned we're putting quantity over quality," Green said, noting the committee is considering some bills that are still in discussion draft form during the markup. "The fact is many of these discussion drafts have not been fully vetted by the staffs, stakeholders, nor received technical assistance from the appropriate agencies," he said.

Top Republicans pushed back.

--Subcommittee Chairman Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessOvernight Health Care: Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare plans | GOP fails to block DC individual mandate | Ebola returns to Congo Republican chairman wants FTC to review mergers of drug price negotiators Overnight Health Care: Official defends suspending insurer payments | What Kavanaugh's nomination means for ObamaCare | Panel approves bill to halt employer mandate MORE (R-Texas): Burgess said some of the bills were intentionally left in discussion draft form, "signaling our intent to continue working with members and stakeholders, and get the technical details right so that our agencies can implement these promising solutions in a timely manner."  

-- Full Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenTop Republicans concerned over impact of potential Trump drug rule Apple jabs ‘other companies’ in defending customer data policies to lawmakers Right ramps up battle with Facebook after Jones, Infowars pages are struck down MORE (R-Ore.): Walden called the bills "really thoughtful, well-considered pieces of legislation" and noted the committee has held legislative hearings on the measures, as well as roundtables and a Member Day hearing on the opioid epidemic. "I think it's the height of irresponsibility to drag and delay, and that's why we are moving forward," Walden said.

Read more here.

 

New allegations against VA nominee Ronny Jackson:

Democrats on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee released a document with startling allegations about Jackson on Wednesday afternoon, with his nomination looking increasingly in trouble.

From the report: Jackson allegedly had "reckless" prescribing practices and once gave out a large supply of the opioid painkiller Percocet to a White House military staff member.

The White House medical staff was "thrown into a panic" when it could not account for a missing supply of the drug.

It later discovered Jackson had supplied a large amount to a staffer and had private stocks of controlled substances, according to the report of allegations compiled by staff for Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterMontana GOP Senate hopeful touts Trump's support in new ad Vulnerable Dems side with Warren in battle over consumer bureau The Memo: Trump roars into rally season MORE (D-Mont.), the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Read more here.

 

Those allegations, coming as lawmakers are working to address the opioid epidemic, are only raising the heat on Jackson.

For his part, the nominee is denying some of the accusations, including that he once drunkenly wrecked a car. Jackson said his nomination is "moving ahead."

The White House is also defending Jackson as "impeccable."

 

A federal judge ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood in a case involving the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program and the Trump administration.

The administration ended grants two years earlier than planned for 81 projects last summer, sparking lawsuits from Planned Parenthood and other grantees.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rice ruled Tuesday that the administration would have to accept and process Planned Parenthood's grant applications for the remainder of the original agreement, which ends in 2020.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention program (TPP) became the target of the administration after the hire of Valerie Huber, the former head of a national abstinence education group.

Before joining HHS, Huber criticised the TPP program for its emphasis on comprehensive sex ed, which can include teachings about contraception, safe sex and abstinence.

Huber's office recently announced changes to the program that make it more abstinence-focused.

Read more here.

 

California ObamaCare official urges restoration of outreach funding

Peter Lee, the head of the California ObamaCare marketplace, wrote a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Wednesday urging him  to restore outreach funding to encourage people to sign up.

"The reality is clear: If the federal government maintains the current cuts in marketing and outreach, premiums will be higher than necessary, consumers will be hurt as a result and taxpayers will pay the price by supporting higher [than] necessary subsidies," Lee writes. "This does not need to happen and can easily be avoided."

Why it matters: Lee warns premiums will rise without the outreach funds, given that fewer new enrollees means a sicker and costlier group of people remain enrolled.

Read more here.

 

Also on The Hill

Health insurer Anthem experienced a profit boost in the first quarter of 2018 after scaling back its participation in the ObamaCare markets. The company announced that profits went up 30 percent to $1.3 billion compared with the first quarter of last year.

The Food and Drug Administration is re-examining the safety of a new Parkinson's drug after reports that it has potentially caused serious side effects and numerous deaths.

And House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteHouse GOP prepares to grill DOJ official linked to Steele dossier Goodlatte's son 'embarrassed' his father's 'grandstanding' got Strzok fired Top GOP lawmaker’s son gives maximum donation to Dem running for his seat MORE (R-Va.) is signing on to co-sponsor bipartisan legislation to make it easier to conduct research on medical marijuana.

 

What we're reading

Mother, wife, million dollar patient (The Washington Post)

The true cost of cheap health insurance (The Atlantic)

Medicaid won't look the same next year (Roll Call)

 

State by state

The winners of Florida's new Medicaid contracts (Axios)

Tennessee Senate passes a bill to erect a memorial to 'victims of abortion' (HuffPost)

 

From The Hill's opinion pages

Primary care is a home run for both sides of the aisle