Overnight Health Care: Trump health chief backs CDC research on gun violence | GOP negotiators meet on ObamaCare market fix | Groups sue over cuts to teen pregnancy program
Trump health chief supports CDC research on gun violence
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said Thursday that he would allow his department to conduct research into the causes of gun violence, a major Democratic priority.
Democrats on Thursday pushed for lifting a provision that restricts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conducting research into gun violence as part of their response to the mass shooting at a Florida school on Wednesday.
Azar, appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he thought the CDC already has the ability to conduct gun violence research and indicated that this research will occur.
“We believe we’ve got a very important mission with our work with serious mental illness as well as our ability to do research on the causes of violence and the causes behind tragedies like this so that is a priority for us especially at the Centers for Disease Control,” Azar said.
GOP chairman wants Congress to rethink CDC gun research
Congress should reexamine a policy that bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from studying gun violence as a public health issue, the GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Thursday.
“If it relates to mental health, that certainly should be done,” Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), a staunch Second Amendment advocate, said Thursday during an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.”
Goodlatte clarified that the issue likely falls under the jurisdiction of another committee, perhaps the Energy and Commerce or Appropriations panels. But he added that it would be OK for lawmakers to review the policy, especially given that the late Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), the author of the ban, later came to regret that his amendment was used to restrict funding for research on gun violence.
“I don’t think it’s inappropriate — particularly if the original author of that says it should be examined — to take a look at it,” Goodlatte said, “to see if there is a way to do that, to promote the cause, the core pursuit of the Centers for Disease Control, which is to prevent disease, not to address issues related to things that happen because someone has a disease like mental illness.”
GOP negotiators meet on ObamaCare market fix
Top Republican negotiators on a bill to stabilize ObamaCare markets met on Thursday to discuss a way to bridge the gap between House and Senate measures.
GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Susan Collins (Maine) met with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to discuss an effort to get ObamaCare stability measures included in a coming long-term government funding bill due in March, known as an omnibus.
“We actually think we’re very close,” Alexander told reporters. “We hope it will be part of the omnibus.”
“We’re comparing notes on the bills,” he added.
Walden discussed a bill from Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) which seeks to stabilize markets and bring down premiums by providing funding known as reinsurance.
That measure is similar to a bill backed by Collins in the Senate, but there are some differences that need to be bridged.
House Republicans were a major impediment to passing the stabilization bills in December, when Collins secured a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to support them in exchange for her vote for tax reform.
But GOP lawmakers have been warming to the proposal recently, particularly the reinsurance funding.
House votes to add requirements for Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits
The House on Thursday passed legislation that would create additional requirements for filing lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The legislation, which passed 225-192 largely along party lines, would prevent people from filing lawsuits alleging violations of the ADA unless business owners are given written notice and fail to offer a written response describing improvements or to make substantial progress in removing the barrier by the end of a six-month period.
The measure would also require the Justice Department to establish a program for educating governments and property owners on how to enhance accommodations for people with disabilities.
Proponents of the bill, titled the ADA Education and Reform Act, said the changes would protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits and give them a chance to address any lack of access for people with disabilities.
But the bill faced fierce opposition from disability rights advocates, who staged protests in the House chamber during the vote.
Groups sue over Trump cuts to teen pregnancy prevention program
Nine local government, health care and oversight organizations sued the Trump administration Thursday after it abruptly cut short grants aimed at ending teen pregnancy last year.
The groups filed four lawsuits in federal courts in Washington state, Maryland and the District of Columbia challenging the administration for ending grants under the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program two years sooner than planned.
The groups are represented by lawyers at Planned Parenthood, Democracy Forward, Public Citizen and Arnold & Porter.
ACLU sues to block Ohio law banning Down syndrome abortions
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, along with the ACLU Foundation, is suing to block a recently passed law that will ban abortions in the state on the basis of a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome.
The ACLU on Thursday filed the lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order, calling the law “unconstitutional.”
“Banning a woman from having an abortion because of a fetal diagnosis is not only unconstitutional, it also does absolutely nothing to address discrimination against people with disabilities,” said Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed the bill late last year. Slated to take effect March 22, the law will prohibit doctors from performing abortions in cases where the fetus has or likely has Down syndrome.
HHS chief: No decision yet on lifetime limits for Medicaid
Under fire from Democrats, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday said the department has not yet taken a position on whether it will allow states to put lifetime caps on how long people can be enrolled in Medicaid.
At least five states have asked HHS to approve proposals that would put a cap on how long beneficiaries of Medicaid — the health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans — can receive coverage.
Lifetime limits would be the second substantial change in Medicaid policy under the Trump administration.
Top Dems seeks answers from HHS on ethics lapses
A top House Democrat wants answers from the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about how he plans to combat repeated ethical lapses throughout the agency.
In a letter, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) asked HHS Secretary Alex Azar to commit to “performing a top-down review of HHS and each of its operating divisions to determine the extent to which the Department is abiding by all applicable federal ethical regulations and policies.”
Pallone is the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Over the course of the past year, two senior HHS officials have been forced to resign due to ethics violations and conflicts of interest.
What we’re reading
Walmart steps up and into the health care fray (Houston Chronicle)
FDA opens new path for Alzheimer’s treatments (Bloomberg News)
How a police chief, a governor and a sociologist would spend $100 billion to solve the opioid crisis (The New York Times)
State by state
Soda on children’s menus could fizz out in New Hampshire (Associated Press)
New York will investigate reports of gay men denied insurance (The New York Times)
Wisconsin lawmakers vote to make it harder for public workers to get abortions (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Rural legislator from southwest Virginia breaks the ‘Republican Dam’ for Medicaid expansion (The Washington Post)
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.