Overnight Health Care — Judge deals setback for surprise billing rules

AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: 

There’s a lot going on in the world, so as a pick-me-up, here’s a Good Boy 

A Texas judge gave a win to doctors in a lawsuit in the latest twist in the battle over surprise medical billing.  

For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan (, Nathaniel Weixel (, and Joseph Choi ( Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4 @NateWeixel and @JosefChoi 

Let’s get started. 


Judge strikes part of surprise billing rules

The surprise billing saga continues.  

A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday struck down part of the Biden administration’s regulations protecting patients from getting stuck with “surprise” medical bills when they see the doctor, in a win for doctors who sued to block part of the rules. 

The ruling leaves in place the protections for patients against getting bills for thousands of dollars in situations such as going to the emergency room and later finding out one of the doctors was not covered by their insurance.  

But it strikes down part of the regulations that govern how much insurers will pay doctors once the patient is taken out of the middle. 

The ruling, from Judge Jeremy Kernodle, an appointee of former President Trump, is the latest in a long-running fight over the details of the rules. 

The Texas Medical Association, which brought the case in question, is one of several doctor and hospital groups that have sued, arguing the details of the rules would lead to damaging cuts to their payments and benefit insurance companies. 

Many experts and consumer groups have defended the Biden administration’s rules, arguing that doctors are simply seeking to protect inflated payments. 

Experts warn that if doctors groups get their way, it could lead to higher premiums for consumers once the higher prices are passed on to them. 

Kernodle ruled that the Biden administration had departed from the text of the law passed by Congress in 2020 in issuing its regulations. 

Read more here 

LA relaxing indoor mask rules 

People wears masks or go maskless in Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles County is relaxing its indoor mask requirements as the spread of COVID-19 reduces in the area. 

Beginning Friday, various establishments, businesses and venues are permitted to make masking optional for individuals that are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a statement on Wednesday from the county’s public health department. The scaled-back regulations will also apply to fully vaccinated employees. 

What the new rules say: Establishments must verify that all customers ages five and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before they enter the indoor space, according to the county. 

Customers who present proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test will also be allowed to enter without a mask. If individuals present a PCR test it must be from within two days of entry, and within one day of entry for antigen tests. 

Those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and do not have proof of a recent negative test must continue to wear a mask indoors. 

Read more here. 



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Rare Disease Treatments: Regulatory and Policy Reform–Monday, Feb. 28; 12:00 PM ET/9:00 AM PT

Scientific advances are making new treatments possible for some of the more than 7,000 rare diseases that currently impact one in ten Americans. Yet, some advocates say current regulatory measures are holding back further progress and lack engagement with rare disease patients and experts. On World Rare Disease Day, join The Hill for a discussion on the nuances of regulatory reforms and the policy implications for Americans living with rare diseases. FDA’s Dr. Janet Woodcock, Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and more sit down with The Hill’s Steve Clemons.



The Florida State Senate on Wednesday approved Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s (R-Fla.) nominee to be the state’s Surgeon General who has publicly opposed federal health policies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including masking and vaccine mandates. 

Joseph Ladapo was approved to be Florida Surgeon General by the state’s Republican-controlled Senate amid continued scrutiny from Florida Democrats on how he plans on handling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“People have opinions, I know that things have been pretty politically charged, but I want to assure everyone that I’m really passionate about health, good health,” Ladapo said after his confirmation, according to The Associated Press. 

“I’ve been consistently talking good health from the beginning of the pandemic, holistically and not in one particular lane, so that’s what I’ll continue doing as the surgeon general,” he added. 

Ladapo, who was nominated by DeSantis in September, has garnered controversy due to his apparent relaxed approach to COVID-19 policies. Earlier this month, Ladapo declined to disclose his vaccination status when pressed by Democrats. 

Read more here. 



Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) lashed out on Thursday against national Democrats, COVID-19 restrictions and other perceived attacks on “freedom” in a speech that is likely to fuel speculation about a potential 2024 presidential bid. 

The roughly 20-minute speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was, in essence, a rundown of the grievances and political victories that have helped make DeSantis a conservative superstar, both in Florida and nationally. 

He boasted that under his leadership, Florida had rejected the “biomedical security state” amid the COVID-19 pandemic and had prohibited the use of public health measures like vaccine mandates. At several points in his speech, DeSantis received standing ovations, including after he said that his state had banned the teaching of critical race theory in schools. 

“Florida led when it counted. We led early on when the weight of the world was bearing down on our shoulders,” DeSantis said. “We understand what it means to be a leader. Not just be a politician that twists in the wind but be willing to make tough decisions.” 

He took aim at Canada and Australia for imposing stricter measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I really believe had Florida not led the way, this country could look like Canada or Australia,” he said. “We sometimes take freedom for granted. You should not do that over the last two years.” 

Read more here 

Officers sue over religious exemption denials  

A group of Air Force officers is suing the service in an Ohio federal court after being denied religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

The lawsuit, which names Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall as a defendant, alleges that the service employs a double standard when approving exemption requests that favors medical and administrative exemptions.  

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the mandate unconstitutional, and bar the Air Force from taking “enforcement/punitive action” against them while the case is underway. 

Why they’re suing: “The Department of the Air Force has failed to approve all but a small handful of religious accommodation requests, and those requests, upon information and belief, are for airmen who are close to the terminal end of their service,” reads the complaint.  

“While at the same time, the Department of the Air Force has approved thousands of administrative or medical exemptions to the same requirements,” it continues. 

Read more here. 



  • Looks like non-mRNA vaccines can be as good as Pfizer and Moderna in certain scenarios (NPR) 
  • CDC scientist says new metrics to guide Covid-19 restrictions could come as early as Friday (CNN) 
  • Over half of U.S. abortions now done with pills, not surgery (AP) 



  • Alabama bill seeks to ban hormone treatments for trans youth (AP) 
  • Oregon moves mask mandate end date up to March 19 (KGW) 
  • Medicaid expansion budget amendment ruled unconstitutional (Wyoming Tribune Eagle) 



The most important COVID metric was never cases, but hospitalizations 


That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you Thursday.


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