Overnight Health Care: What's next in search for VA chief | Romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak expands | Dem floats automatic ObamaCare enrollment | Lawsuit targets cuts to teen pregnancy program

Overnight Health Care: What's next in search for VA chief | Romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak expands | Dem floats automatic ObamaCare enrollment | Lawsuit targets cuts to teen pregnancy program
© UPI Photo

Happy Friday! And welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we're crossing our fingers for no rain, less allergies and warm spring weather.

We're also heeding the CDC's call not to eat romaine lettuce from certain areas. Don't eat romaine lettuce unless you know for sure it's not from the Yuma Arizona growing region!

Next week, Congress is on recess. Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? Former Ryan aide moves to K street Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices MORE, meanwhile, is returning to the conference circuit, less than a year after he resigned as HHS Secretary. He's slated to speak at the World Health Care Congress at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday.

  • Also on tap: Seema Verma, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 1:20 p.m. Monday .
  • Alex Azar, Health and Human Services secretary, 7:35 a.m. Wednesday.



This week's the spotlight was on Ronny Jackson, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE's doctor and his pick to lead the vast Department of Veterans Affairs. Jackson started the week facing questions about his qualifications to the lead the VA, a massive and troubled bureaucracy. He ended the week by withdrawing his name from consideration following more than three days of controversy that included allegations of being drunk on the job, dispensing prescription medication too freely and creating a hostile work environment.

The latest: The Secret Service pushed back against one of the most detailed allegations involving Jackson; that during a trip abroad in 2015 he was allegedly drunkenly banging on the door of a female employee so loudly that the Secret Service had to intervene to prevent him from disturbing a sleeping President Obama.

"The Secret Service has no such record of any incident," the agency said in a statement.

The allegation was first reported by CNN; it did not appear in the report released by Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterHow the border deal came together GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Border talks stall as another shutdown looms MORE (Mont.), the top Democrat on the Senate VA Committee.  Tester's report detailed many of the allegations against Jackson by 23 of his current and former colleagues. However, the committee has yet to corroborate any of them.

Read more on that here.

Next up: In the wake of Jackson's decision to withdraw from consideration, senators from both parties expressed hope that Trump's next pick would be less controversial. The VA has typically been an agency that rises above partisanship, but there's concern that Trump could react to Jackson's failed nomination by nominating someone who brings political baggage to the job.

Why the worry? Trump called into Fox News's "Fox & Friends" morning show on Thursday shortly after Jackson dropped out, blaming Democrats for sinking the nomination. He said his next nominee will have more "political capability" than Jackson.

On Friday, during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump said he has "many people who want the position" of VA secretary including "some very political people."

Read more here.

Trial balloons: Trump indicated that many of the names floated before he tapped Jackson would be given new consideration. One name that's come up, according to the Washington Examiner: former House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff MillerJefferson (Jeff) Bingham MillerTrump should focus on veterans during his address Presumptive benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans are a major win It’s time to stop stereotyping veterans MORE.

Miller is a conservative Republican from Florida who served as a Trump advisor during the 2016 campaign. While in Congress, he helped design the controversial VA Choice program, which allowed veterans who face significant wait times for medical appointments at the VA to seek private-sector care at the VA's expense.

Current House VA Committee Chairman Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: State of the Union takeaways | Sights and sounds from the night | Virginia attorney general admits he wore blackface Activist who met with GOP lawmakers also promotes ‘black violence’ gene: report GOP lawmaker to be challenged by Dem he delivered as a newborn MORE (R-Tenn.) was effusive in his praise: Miller would be "an excellent choice," he told The Hill. Roe said Miller has a track record of working for veterans, and unlike Jackson, his management style and views about the agency are well known. "He'd be easy to confirm."


E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce expands

You should still be on guard against eating romaine lettuce, unless you know it's not from the Yuma, Ariz., growing region.

The latest stats: 98 people are sick, across 22 states. 53 percent of people have been hospitalized, a higher than usual percentage with E. coli.

Officials say they can't be certain the outbreak is over and they expect more reports of illnesses because there is a 2-3 week delay in verifying that an illness was caused by E. coli.

Read more here.


Dem proposes testing automatic ObamaCare enrollment

Last time we heard about automatic health insurance enrollment it was from Republican Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyCongress must step up to protect Medicare home health care Ivanka Trump to meet with GOP senators to discuss paid family leave legislation Bipartisan senators ask industry for information on surprise medical bills MORE (La.). Now Democratic Rep. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraThe Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days Trump tells FEMA not to send more money to California for forest fires U.S. foreign aid empowers women and girls worldwide MORE (Calif.) is floating the idea.

The proposal: Bera's bill would give grants of $200 million to states to pilot automatically enrolling people in ObamaCare or Medicaid, and giving them 60 days to decide whether they want to opt out.

Why it matters: Bera thinks this idea can cut the uninsured rate, by making people have to actively opt out of insurance, and signing them up by default. Many uninsured people could qualify for plans with $0 premiums after financial assistance, he points out.

Read more here.


A class-action lawsuit is targeting Trump's cuts to teen pregnancy prevention.

Filed Friday morning, the lawsuit argues the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) illegally ended grants to 81 organizations participating in a federal teen pregnancy prevention program. 

HHS last summer sent notices to groups participating in the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program informing them their grants would end two years earlier than originally planned, arguing that there efforts to cut teen pregnancy rates were ineffective.

Federal judges have since ruled against the Trump administration in three separate cases representing eight grantees. 

Read more here.


What we're reading

CMS extension of transitional health plans could ding ACA market (Modern Healthcare)

With cash and a call for new ideas, Bill Gates tries to boost the campaign for a universal flu vaccine (Stat)

Dissecting the rhetoric vs. reality of Trump's tough talk on drug prices (Kaiser Health News)


State by state   

Battle over medication abortion rages on in challenge to new Missouri law (The Kansas City Star)

He was caught on video, but Georgia doctor kept his medical license (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Why a city at the center of the opioid crisis gave up a tool to fight it (The New York Times)