Health Care

Overnight Health Care: Trump restores funding for Texas program that bars Planned Parenthood | Trump to attend March for Life | PhRMA spent record on 2019 lobbying


Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care.

The Trump administration will allow Texas to exclude Planned Parenthood from federal family planning funds, a novel virus that originated in China is spreading, and vaping executives will testify in the House next month.

We’ll start with the news on Texas…


Trump restores funding for Texas program that excludes Planned Parenthood

The Trump administration on Wednesday approved federal family planning funding for a Texas program that excludes providers who perform or promote abortions.

Texas lost that funding under the Obama administration, which argued the state’s exclusion of some providers violates federal law.

But the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday approved Texas’s funding request for a state-run family planning program that excludes providers like Planned Parenthood.

“The Lone Star State is once again in partnership with the federal government to provide meaningful family planning and health services while fostering a culture of life,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Why it matters: The long-awaited decision from HHS could pave the way for other conservative states to exclude abortion providers from their federally-funded family planning programs. This could mean low-income women have fewer providers to choose from. 

The waiver “discriminates against trusted, high-quality family planning providers relied upon by countless poor and low-income Texans,” said Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.

South Carolina and Tennessee have applied for similar waivers. 

Read more here


In related news…

Trump to attend March for Life rally

President Trump on Friday will become the first president to attend in-person the March for Life.

Trump quote-tweeted a video of last year’s pro-life event, adding “See you on Friday…Big Crowd!”

The president addressed the gathering in 2018 via video stream, and Vice President Pence attended in 2019.

March for Life has been held every year since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the landmark case Roe v. Wade 47 years ago.

Trump has appealed to evangelical and conservative voters by cutting off funding for services and organizations that provide abortions and touting the appointment of pro-life judges.

Read more here.


But polls show the public wants to keep abortion legal…

A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found the public is still divided on abortion, but a majority want to keep the right: nearly 7 in 10 Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Nearly 60 percent said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 41 percent said it should be illegal in all or most cases. 


PhRMA spent record-high $29 million on lobbying in 2019

The powerful trade group representing the prescription drug industry spent a record-high $29 million lobbying Congress in 2019, according to disclosure reports released Tuesday. 

That is a 5 percent increase over what the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) spent in 2018, marking the most it has spent on lobbying in a single year. 

Why it matters: Despite anger from lawmakers and the Trump administration over rising prescription drug costs, the industry ended 2019 mostly unscathed as Congress failed to pass any legislation to lower prices for consumers. 

It is not clear if 2020 will be any different as it tends to be harder for Congress to pass major legislation in an election year. 

Read more here


Vaping company executives set to testify in House investigation

Five of the country’s largest e-cigarette manufacturers are slated to testify before a House subcommittee about their role in allegedly promoting the youth vaping epidemic.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said executives from Juul, Logic, NJOY, Fontem (blu) and Reynolds American Inc. are scheduled to testify on Feb. 5. The companies represent 97 percent of the total U.S. e-cigarette market.

Reynolds and Logic told The Hill they were sending their CEOs, while the other companies did not immediately respond.

Read more here.


Chinese government quarantines city of Wuhan over coronavirus outbreak

China is imposing some drastic measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Chinese officials announced Wednesday they will quarantine the city of Wuhan, the epicenter. 

The announcement, shared on Chinese state media, indicated the city will cancel planes and trains leaving the city beginning Thursday and suspend buses, subways and ferries. 

“Public #transportation such as bus, subway, ferry and long-distance bus in Wuhan will be temporarily closed since 10am Thursday. All flights and trains departed from #Wuhan will be temporarily cancelled to reduce risk of spread of the new virus, local govt says. #coronavirus,” state media outlet China Daily reported. 

The quarantine of the city, which is home to over 11 million people, comes just before the Lunar New Year, which is widely celebrated across China and sparks the largest annual migration of people.

Read more here.


Coalition of conservative groups to air ads against bipartisan proposal to end ‘surprise’ medical bills

Conservative groups launched a new coalition on Wednesday to sink a bipartisan proposal in Congress to end the “surprise” medical bills some patients get. 

The Coalition Against Rate-Setting will air ads against the proposal, which would ban providers from sending surprise bills and instead require insurers to pay them.

Patients are subject to surprise bills when they go to a hospital or emergency room that is in-network but are treated by an out-of-network doctor.

The conservative coalition, which includes fiscally conservative groups like the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) and Heritage Action for America, calls the proposal “rate-setting” that meddles in private health care decisions.

The coalition will air digital and video ads through May but has not decided on a final ad budget.

Why it matters: Conservatives are joining a high dollar fight that’s looking to sink the surprise billing fix offered by Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) The effort was already complicated by a rival proposal that was introduced by the leaders of the Ways & Means Committee in December. 

Read more here


Pelosi, Democrats urge court to keep blocking ‘public charge’ rule 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and House Democrats want a federal appeals court to uphold a nationwide injunction blocking the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule linking immigrants’ legal status to their use of public benefits.

In an amicus brief filed with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, the Democrats said the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have the authority to completely redefine who is considered a “public charge.”

According to the Democrats, the rule “would be impossible to apply rationally or fairly” and would give immigration officers “essentially unchecked authority to exclude prospective immigrants” based on the likelihood of participating in initiatives like Medicaid.

Under the rule, any immigrant who receives at least one designated public benefit– including Medicaid, food stamps, welfare or public housing vouchers — for more than 12 months within any three-year period will be considered a “public charge” and will be more likely to be denied a green card by immigration officials.

Judges in the 4th Circuit have already lifted a nationwide injunction while it moves through the courts. A similar injunction was also lifted in California. An injunction from a New York-based federal court continues to apply across the country, but President Trump last week asked the Supreme Court to lift it


What we’re reading

‘Medicare for All’ has real trade-offs. So does the public option. (HuffPost)

Trump appears open to overhauling Social Security and Medicare, in break from 2016 campaign pledge (The Washington Post)

WHO postpones decision on whether to declare China outbreak a global public health emergency (Stat News


State by state

The answer to America’s health care cost problem might be in Maryland (

GOP right looks to put own mark on Kansas Medicaid expansion (Associated Press)

Vermont latest state to see a spike in hepatitis A (Keene Sentinel)

Tags Diana DeGette Donald Trump Lamar Alexander Nancy Pelosi

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