Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — House passes opioid bill | Planned Parenthood sues over teen pregnancy program | Azar to face Senate next week


Welcome to Overnight Health Care, and happy summer Friday!

Today, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gave a powerful speech on the House floor, detailing how his press secretary’s brother hurt his back and began taking opioids for his pain. He switched to heroin because it was cheaper, McCarthy said, and he died of an overdose on June 8, 2016.


Some bipartisanship in the House — opioid bill passes.

The House took a break from its immigration fight on Friday to pass a bipartisan bill to fight the opioid crisis in a 396 to 14 vote.

Some of the big provisions:

  • Lifting some limits on prescribing buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction.
  • Requiring health-care professionals to write prescriptions for Medicare beneficiaries electronically in order to better track prescriptions.
  • Lifting some limits on Medicaid paying for opioid and cocaine treatment at some facilities
  • Cracking down on imports of illicit opioids through the mail

Dem response: The overwhelming majority of Democrats voted yes, but said the measures don’t go far enough.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce committee, said the bill makes “incremental changes to support those affected by the opioid crisis” but that it “does not adequately deal with the magnitude of the crisis that this country is facing.”

From advocates: A good step, but more needed.

“These bills are a good step forward, but we need additional focus and resources and investment to really turn the tide of the opioid epidemic,” Rebecca Farley David, vice president of policy and advocacy at the National Council for Behavioral Health, told The Hill last week.  

What’s next: The Senate is also working on opioid legislation, but it’s unclear when that chamber will take it up.

Read more here.



Multiple Planned Parenthood affiliates are suing the Trump administration over changes to a federal grant program geared toward cutting teen pregnancy rates.

The changes, issued through a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in April, emphasize abstinence education and programs that have not been rigorously tested.

Planned Parenthood argues in its lawsuit that the FOA goes against congressional intent for the program because it does not require the use of programs that have been “proven effective through rigorous evaluation.”

Why it matters: Planned Parenthood said the lawsuit seeks to protect the future of the program.

“If successful, the lawsuit will ensure that the TPP program maintains its evidence-based principles and that new grantees are not forced to push dangerous [abstinence only until marriage] curriculums,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement.

We have more here.


States are rethinking their approach to parental drug addiction, creating programs that keep parents with their children during treatment.

The opioid crisis gripping states and communities across the country has spawned a new focus on the way child and family welfare agencies think about addiction, and whether mothers and fathers should be allowed to keep custody of their children as they undergo treatment.

Many states have seen a surge in the number of children entering foster care systems, an increase likely tied to the prevalence of opioids. In the past, those states considered substance abuse a form of neglect, sufficient to remove children from dangerous homes.

The new strategy: Some states are creating programs aimed at keeping children with their parents during treatment. They hope that approach will encourage parents to seek the help they need, without adding the trauma caused by removing children from their homes.

Read more here.


Next week, Azar faces senators amid child migrant crisis:

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar will face the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.

The hearing is supposed to be about drug prices, but Azar is sure to also be pressed on the fate of over 2,000 migrant children in his department’s care who the government separated from their parents.


It remains unclear when and how the children will be reunited with their parents.

President Trump’s drug pricing plan, the scheduled topic of the hearing, could also provide some fireworks. Democrats have consistently said that the plan is far too soft on drug companies.

Azar has been trying to defend the plan, arguing that he is serious about bringing down prices.

Many details remain to be filled in on the plan, though.

Azar could be pressed again about President Trump’s claim at the end of May that drug companies would be announcing “massive drops in prices” that would come “in two weeks.”

More than two weeks have passed without any such price drops.


Other events next week

Tuesday at 2:30 pm: The Senate Health Committee will mark up a bill aimed at addressing high maternal mortality rates in the U.S.

Tuesday at 3:30 pm: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will speak at the Heritage Foundation about the importance of free-market principles in health care.

The Senate health committee will also hold a hearing Wednesday at 10 am on “how to reduce health care costs: understanding the cost of health care in America.”



Sponsored Content –Association of American Medical Colleges

While all doctors are trained to treat pain and addiction, specialists in these fields are critical to address this issue in urban and rural communities alike. The bipartisan “Opioid Workforce Act of 2018” would provide federal support to train more doctors in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, and pain management. We urge Congress to include this legislation in any final package to combat the opioid epidemic. www.aamc.org/opioidresponse



What we’re reading

More doctors embrace membership fees, shunning health insurance  (Chicago Tribune)

HUD is failing to protect children from lead paint poisoning, audits find  (The Southern Illinoisan and ProPublica)
Could genetic testing help reunite separated immigrant families? It’s complicated  (Stat)


State by state

7 years after Joplin tornado, Mercy health systems builds hospitals with disaster in mind (St. Louis Public Radio)

  1. House bill cuts thousands from Connecticut’s free school lunch program (The Connecticut Mirror)

New contracts shake up KanCare: One insurance company out and a new one in (The Kansas City Star)


The Hill event

Join us Tuesday, June 26 for “Mergers and Innovation: Measuring Performance and Patient Care,” featuring HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas). Topics of discussion include how the landscape of health care delivery in the United States is undergoing a dramatic shift, its implications for health care industry stakeholders and patients and also the role of Congress in ensuring all Americans have access to quality care. RSVP Here.

Tags Bill Cassidy Donald Trump Frank Pallone Jr. Gene Green Kevin McCarthy

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.

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