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Overnight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day

Overnight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day
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The Trump administration on Tuesday made a controversial move to expand access to health insurance plans that do not meet the requirements under ObamaCare.

The proposed rules would allow people to buy short-term health insurance for up to 12 months, lifting restrictions from the Obama administration that limited the coverage to a maximum of three months.

It's the latest step taken by the Trump administration to open up cheaper, less-comprehensive insurance options as an alternative to people signing up for ObamaCare. Republicans say these options are needed to help people facing high costs under the health law.

The short-term plans announced Tuesday differ from ObamaCare in one key respect: people with pre-existing conditions can be charged more. In addition, the plans to do not have to comply with ObamaCare mandates for covering certain services, such as mental health treatment or prescription drugs.

"The status quo is failing too many Americans who face skyrocketing costs and fewer and fewer choices," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. "The Trump Administration is taking action so individuals and families have access to quality, affordable healthcare that works for them."

The change to the short-term plans was set in motion by an executive order President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE signed in October instructing agencies to ease the burdens placed upon people by ObamaCare.

Democrats say the latest action is part of a campaign to "sabotage" ObamaCare. They fear healthy people will leave ObamaCare markets to buy the short-term plans, damaging the health-care law's stability.

"Bottom line, this is a green light to discriminate against Americans with pre-existing conditions that's going to make quality health insurance more expensive and less accessible," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel US to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK MORE (D-Ore.) said.

Read more here.   

 

Dems hit back...

Three high-ranking Democrats blasted the Trump administration's move Tuesday to expand access to plans that don't meet ObamaCare's requirements, calling it the "latest step" in the White House's "effort to sabotage our nation's healthcare system."

"Today's action will leave families on the hook for thousands of dollars in uncovered healthcare costs and allow insurers to once again discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions," said the statement from Education and Workforce ranking member Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDems want to hold officials’ feet to the fire on ObamaCare Healthy business vs healthy people — how will this administration address the two? Washington turns focus to child nutrition MORE (Va.), Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneDems eye ambitious agenda if House flips Hillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence House Democrat questions big tech on possible foreign influence in Kavanaugh debate MORE (N.J.), and Ways and Means ranking member Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTrump makes new overtures to Democrats Key Democrat will ask for Trump tax returns if House flips Better health outcomes at lower costs is a win that everyone can get behind MORE (Mass.).

"Widespread marketing of these bare bones, junk plans will further destabilize health insurance markets, and will lead to higher premiums for everyone," the statement continues. "The American people want access to high quality, affordable health insurance, and it is time for the Trump Administration to stop its relentless and destructive campaign to sabotage the Affordable Care Act."

Read more here.

 

New HHS office on religious rights received 300 complaints in one month

More than 300 health workers have complained to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department over the last month, saying that their religious or conscience rights have been violated by their employer.

The complaints follow the creation of a new division within HHS that focuses on enforcing those rights and investigating complaints from employees who say their rights have been violated.

The new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division is located within the HHS Office of Civil Rights, and has received more than 300 complaints since launching Jan. 18.

That compares to the 34 complaints HHS received from November 2016, before President Trump won the election and before the division opened.

"We've announced to the world that we're open for business and the public is responding," Roger Severino, the director of the Office of Civil Rights, said in a statement to The Hill.   

Read more here.

 

Committee chairman aims for vote on opioid bills by Memorial Day

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenVulnerable Republicans throw ‘Hail Mary’ on pre-existing conditions GOP senator wants Apple, Amazon to give briefing on reported Super Micro hack Overnight Health Care: Bill banning 'gag clauses' on drugs heads to Trump's desk | Romney opposes Utah Medicaid expansion | GOP candidate under fire over ad on pre-existing conditions MORE (R-Ore.) is aiming to get a House vote on opioid epidemic legislation by Memorial Day.

The panel is gearing up to begin work Feb. 28 on bills aimed at curbing the prescription painkiller and heroin epidemic plaguing the country, as overdose deaths from opioid use jumped nearly 28 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Many advocates have been calling for more funding to combat the opioid epidemic, and in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Walden called combatting the crisis his "top priority," saying, "There's going to be money -- more money than has ever been spent."

Read more here.

 

Dems look to restore nursing home regs

A group of Democratic senators want the Trump administration to reverse its steady rollback of regulations on nursing homes.

In a letter sent to Alex Azar, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Democrats allege that the regulatory rollback "will inevitably weaken the safety of our nation's nursing homes and put patients, many of whom are elderly and wholly reliant on this care, at greater risk."

The letter, led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharIs there a difference between good and bad online election targeting? Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas Clusters of polio-like illness in the US not a cause for panic MORE (Minn.), was dated Feb. 14, but publicly released Tuesday.

The letter says that a series of CMS memos released in the last year makes it more difficult for federal regulators to fine or deny federal payments to nursing homes that don't meet certain quality and safety standards.

Read more here.

 

HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts

An official with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been placed on leave while the department looks into inflammatory social media posts, CNN reported Tuesday.

Jon Cordova, the principal deputy assistant secretary for administration at HHS, previously shared stories on his social media accounts that included false claims about Gold Star father Khizr Khan, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDemocrats slide in battle for Senate O'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue MORE (R-Texas) and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Gabbard considering 2020 run: report Claiming 'spousal privilege' to stonewall Congress MORE, CNN found.

Following the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Cordova shared a story that pushed the conspiracy theory that Khan, who spoke at the event, was a "Muslim plant working with the Hillary Clinton campaign."

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

The virus hunter: In a bygone era, C.J. Peters learned how to bend the rules (Stat)

As some got free health care, Gwen got squeezed: An Obamacare dilemma (New York Times)

What Trump's new Medicaid rules mean (NBC News)

 

State by state

The Trump administration is quietly helping states defund Planned Parenthood (Vox)

Should Medicaid come with work requirements? Ohio says yes (Dayton Daily News)

General Assembly weighs bill to require Marylanders to buy health insurance (Baltimore Sun)

 

Op-eds from The Hill

How Republicans can ensure great health care coverage 

Leadership in our government is failing to protect our health care