Overnight Health Care: Trump officials block GOP governor from skirting ObamaCare rules | Abstinence-only education makes a comeback | Mississippi passes nation's most restrictive abortion law

Overnight Health Care: Trump officials block GOP governor from skirting ObamaCare rules | Abstinence-only education makes a comeback | Mississippi passes nation's most restrictive abortion law

Trump officials block GOP governor from skirting ObamaCare rules

The Trump administration on Thursday blocked Idaho's GOP governor from loosening ObamaCare rules, saying that the state appeared to be violating federal law.

The decision is politically complicated, given that it is a Republican administration blocking a Republican governor from loosening ObamaCare rules, but federal officials said they have a duty to enforce the law on the books.

"[The Affordable Care Act] remains the law and we have a duty to enforce and uphold the law," Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), wrote in a letter to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.

Verma added in a statement that "CMS has reason to believe that Idaho would be failing to substantially enforce the provisions" of the Affordable Care Act under its proposal.

Democrats had been pressuring the Trump administration to step in and block Idaho's move for weeks, and Health and Human Services officials had previously kept their decision on the issue under wraps.

But on Thursday, the administration stepped in to stop the plan.

Idaho's proposal would allow insurers to sell plans that charge people with pre-existing conditions more, which is barred by ObamaCare, and not cover all of the required health services under the health law.

Idaho officials argued the move was necessary to provide cheaper plans to younger, healthier people.

Read more here.


Abstinence-only education makes comeback under Trump

Abstinence-only education -- encouraging adolescents to wait until marriage for sex -- is making a comeback under President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE.

In a marked departure from the previous administration, conservatives at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are putting an emphasis on abstinence to reduce teen pregnancy rates.

"We definitely are seeing a shift," said Kelly Marcum, a government affairs legislative assistant at the Family Research Council in Washington, which supports abstinence-only education.

"We're really excited to see that the administration is giving some tools back to us to keep pushing that fight."

So far, the administration has encouraged organizations applying for Title X federal family planning funds to include in their programs a "meaningful emphasis" on "the benefits of avoiding sex" when communicating with adolescents and to use programs that don't "normalize sexual risk behaviors."

The Trump administration also plans to release its first report early this summer as part of a $10 million research project looking at ways to improve sex education programs, with a focus on the impact of "sexual delay."

And HHS officials last year cut short federal grants for organizations participating in former President Obama's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which supporters of abstinence-only education have said is ineffective.

Read more here.


Study: ObamaCare premiums could increase 90 percent over three years for some states

 Some states could see ObamaCare premiums increase by 90 percent over the next three years, according to a new study released Wednesday.

Every state could see premium increases because of changes the GOP Congress and Trump administration have made to the law, with states in the South and Midwest facing the highest jumps between 2019 and 2021.

Beginning in 2019, premiums increases could range from 12 to 32 percent in the U.S.

Cumulatively, states could see increases ranging from 35 to 90 percent from 2019 to 2021.

The report, released by California's insurance marketplace, estimates that states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas could see cumulative increases of 90 percent by 2021.

Read more here.


Mississippi passes nation's most restrictive abortion law

Mississippi lawmakers have passed a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a measure the governor is expected to sign.

The Mississippi House on Thursday approved the measure in a 75-34 vote, according to The Associated Press.

The bill, which if signed into law would be the nation's most restrictive abortion law, changes the state's current law prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy to 15 weeks. It includes exceptions if the woman's life or a "major bodily function" is threatened or if the fetus has a health problem that would mean it likely wouldn't survive outside the womb. It doesn't include exemptions in cases of rape or incest, according to the AP.

Read more here.


GOP lawmaker meets Ryan to push for drug pricing bill

Rep. Tom MarinoThomas (Tom) Anthony MarinoWhy US creators urgently need Congress to support the CASE Act 'Paws for Celebration' event brings rescue animals to the Capitol In the shadow of another epidemic, we must protect our children MORE (R-Pa.) says he met with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Paul Ryan to campaign for 25 vulnerable House Republicans GOP super PAC pushes back on report it skipped ad buys for California's Rohrabacher, Walters MORE (R-Wis.) on Wednesday to push for the inclusion of a measure to fight high drug prices in a coming government funding bill.

The bill, called the Creates Act, has support from members of both parties but has faced strong lobbying opposition from the powerful pharmaceutical industry.

"I'm pushing for it," said Marino, the lead sponsor of the bill. "We had a meeting and there are a couple of issues we need to work on."

The measure is one of the few areas of possible action on high drug prices this year, an issue that both parties are increasingly highlighting, including President Trump.

The bill is intended to allow more generic drugs, which are cheaper, onto the market by cracking down on delay tactics that pharmaceutical companies use to deter competition from generics.

Read more here.


Key Republican: GOP won't add protection for Planned Parenthood in funding bill

A key Republican on the health-care spending subcommittee said the GOP is rejecting Democratic attempts to add protections for Planned Parenthood funding in the government spending bill.

Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeGOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters Both sides digging in for post-midterm shutdown fight Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills MORE (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Appropriations health subcommittee, said Thursday that Democrats are trying to add language grandfathering in family planning grants to Planned Parenthood, essentially preventing the Trump administration from discretion over the grants and the ability to cut off the funds.

"They don't want the Trump administration to be able to make the decision on these grants," Cole told reporters. "They're trying to grandfather in people that have gotten grants in the past."

"We can't have Republicans voting, effectively, to fund Planned Parenthood," Cole added.

Read more here.


House Dems warn against Medicaid lifetime limits

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee warned the Trump administration not to approve requests from states that want to put a lifetime cap on how long people can be enrolled in the Medicaid program.

In a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the lawmakers said lifetime limits would harm patients and the agency doesn't even have the statutory authority to approve them.

"Lifetime limits or caps on coverage would be an unspeakably cruel attack on Americans struggling to make ends meet," the Democrats, led by Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyHouse lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her Ex-GOP donor urges support for Dems in midterms: 'Democracy is at stake' MORE III (Mass.), wrote. "We ask that you swiftly make clear that any such proposals will be rejected."

No state has ever put a limit on how long a person can receive Medicaid benefits. But given that the Trump administration has already shown a willingness to approve conservative policies like work requirements, premiums and lockout periods for Medicaid, many experts and advocates think lifetime limits could also win approval.

Read more here.


Cigna to buy Express Scripts in $67B deal

Health insurer Cigna on Thursday announced it was acquiring pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts in a $67 billion cash and stock deal.

Express Scripts is the largest independent drug middleman in the country. The acquisition is the latest to shake up the health industry as it looks to lower the rising cost of care. The move follows a similar merger of insurer Aetna and the drug store chain CVS in December.

The deal also comes a year after Cigna's bid to purchase Anthem was blocked by federal regulators

Cigna is aiming to lower costs by putting health insurance and pharmacy claims under the same umbrella company and to give themselves more leverage in price negotiations with drugmakers.

Read more here.


What we're reading:

The health care gap between red and blue America (The Atlantic)

After addiction comes families' second blow: crushing cost of rehab (Wall Street Journal)

What merger mania means for health care (CNN Money)


State by state

At impasse over Medicaid, Virginia's legislature to miss budget deadline (The Washington Post)

Health care revamped at L.A. County jails (Kaiser Health News)

Doctor-assisted suicide measure advances in Hawaii (Associated Press)


From The Hill's opinions pages

Targeting the evolving opioid threat requires tireless work to save lives - Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

Texas deserves credit for running health care the right way