Overnight Health Care: NJ gets its own health insurance mandate | Pushback over Trump pick for family planning program | GOP senator pushes FDA on implementing 'right to try' | Opioid prescriptions fall for fifth year

Overnight Health Care: NJ gets its own health insurance mandate | Pushback over Trump pick for family planning program | GOP senator pushes FDA on implementing 'right to try' | Opioid prescriptions fall for fifth year
© Getty

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Overnight Health Care, where we're happy to talk about pretty much anything other than Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee or Dinesh D'Souza.


Democrats and abortion rights groups are sounding the alarm on the Trump administration's pick to oversee the Title X Family Planning Program.

The Department of Health and Human Services quietly announced earlier this week that Diane Foley has been named deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, which oversees Title X, the only federal program solely dedicated to funding family planning services for low-income women and men.

She replaces Teresa Manning, who abruptly resigned in January.

Foley, a gynecologist, was most recently the CEO and president of Life Network, which runs two anti-abortion pregnancy resource centers in Colorado Springs.

From the House Pro Choice Caucus:

From Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Crucial for Congress to fund life-saving diabetes research Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — White House withdraws controversial rule to eliminate drug rebates | Grassley says deal on drug prices moving 'very soon' | Appeals court declines to halt Trump abortion referral ban MORE (D-Colo.):

"A person with a record of running religiously-motivated centers that take advantage of young women with unwanted pregnancies, often feeding them false information, will bring this bias to the program that funds reproductive health care centers that treat the medically underserved nationwide. This is an outrage, and yet another sign of the Trump Administration's contempt for the reproductive rights of women – especially the underprivileged."

From NARAL Pro-Choice America:

"The fact that Donald Trump appointed Diane Foley, the former president of a fake health clinic in Colorado, to a key position that oversees our nation's family planning program is just further proof that he and his Administration will stop at nothing to harm women and limit our access to vital healthcare."

From the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.:

"SIECUS is shocked but not surprised by the Trump administration's latest anti-science, pro-abstinence appointee within HHS. Dr. Foley, who now oversees Title X--the nation's only federally funded family planning program--has a track record of ignoring and distorting facts in the name of religion."

From Equity Forward, a reproductive rights watchdog group:

"Like so many of her peers in the Trump administration, Diane Foley fundamentally opposes the programs she is tasked with overseeing. Title X at its core is a program to provide birth control. Yet notably, Foley, like her predecessors Valerie Huber and Teresa Manning, rejects the importance of contraception and holds beliefs about reproductive health that have been widely and resoundingly disproved by the medical community."


New Jersey gets its own individual mandate

ObamaCare's individual mandate may be repealed on the federal level, but New Jersey is stepping in with its own. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed legislation Wednesday instituting a health insurance mandate in the state.

Democrats hope this is a sign of things to come for other states to protect against what they see as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE's "sabotage" of insurance markets. Democrats are attacking the GOP for the premium increases stemming from the repeal of the mandate in the tax law last year.

The governor also signed a bill providing funding aimed at lowering premiums, known as "reinsurance." Those funds help cover the costs of especially sick and costly patients, which helps keep costs down for everyone else.

The state previously banned cheaper, skimpier plans that the Trump administration is seeking to expand, but that Democrats call "junk plans."

"NJ took a big step today to protect its residents from Trump's health care sabotage, passing an individual mandate and taking steps to establish a reinsurance program," Sam Berger, a senior advisor at the liberal Center for American Progress wrote on Twitter. "The state previously banned junk plans. Other states should follow suit."

We have more here.


The author of the right to try law wants to make sure the FDA is on board.  

In a letter sent Thursday to the FDA, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation FBI Agents Association calls on Congress to make 'domestic terrorism' a federal crime Senators renew request for domestic threats documents from FBI, DOJ after shootings MORE (R-Wis.) took issue with recent comments made by agency commissioner Scott Gottlieb about right to try, which will ease access to experimental drugs. Trump signed right to try legislation into law on Wednesday.

What did Gottlieb say? On Wednesday, Gottlieb in a statement said the agency stands ready to implement the legislation "in a way that achieves Congress' intent to promote access and protect patients."

Johnson also pointed to a recent news article where Gottlieb was quoted as saying the agency may first need to write guidance or regulation in order to best achieve the goals of right to try.

Johnson's view: The right to try law "intends to diminish the FDA's power over people's lives, not increase it," Johnson said. "It is not meant to grant FDA more power or enable the FDA to write new guidance, rules, or regulations that would limit the ability of an individual facing a life-threatening disease from accessing treatments."

Context: Opponents of right to try have argued that it's just the beginning of a libertarian assault on the FDA. While the law is intended to allow people access to experimental drugs, they think it will put patients in danger from unsafe drugs.

We have more on the controversy and what's next here.


Opioid prescriptions dropped for the fifth straight year

There were several interesting stats in a new report from the American Medical Association showing progress in fighting the opioid epidemic:

  • The big one: The number of opioid prescriptions dropped 22 percent from 2013-17.
  • There was a 121 percent increase in doctors accessing monitoring databases from 2016 to 2017.
  • There was a 42 percent increase in doctors certified to use the drug buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction in the last 12 months.

"While this progress report shows physician leadership and action to help reverse the epidemic, such progress is tempered by the fact that every day, more than 115 people in the United States die from an opioid-related overdose," said Dr. Patrice Harris, chairwoman of the AMA's Opioid Task Force.

"What is needed now is a concerted effort to greatly expand access to high-quality care for pain and for substance use disorders. Unless and until we do that, this epidemic will not end," she added.

We break down the numbers here.


Also today...

A progressive PAC is targeting a Democratic congressional candidate for not campaigning on "Medicare for all." The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) launched digital ads targeting Dave Min, who is running against Katie Porter, an Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Manufacturing shrinks, raising questions for Trump Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties MORE-backed candidate, for the Democratic nomination in California's 45th District.

The nation's 14 Democratic governors are threatening to sue the Trump administration if it follows through on a proposal that would partially defund Planned Parenthood. In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the Democratic Governors Association said that if the "reckless policy is finalized as written, we will have no choice but to explore all possible avenues, including legal options."


What we're reading

Virginia is giving ObamaCare a huge -- if belated -- win (New York Magazine)

It's health care, stupid! Democrats dig in as midterms ramp up (CNN)


State by state

What Virginia's vote means for the future of Medicaid expansion (The Atlantic)

New Mexico governor candidate profited from high-risk insurance plans (Politico)


From the Hill's opinion page:

American health-care workers are committing suicide in unprecedented numbers