Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion groups see chance to overturn Roe v. Wade with Kennedy retirement | HHS watchdog to probe detention center conditions | VA pick vows to oppose privatization

Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion groups see chance to overturn Roe v. Wade with Kennedy retirement | HHS watchdog to probe detention center conditions | VA pick vows to oppose privatization
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Happy Wednesday, and welcome to Overnight Health Care. We hope you like Supreme Court fights, because that’s all you’re going to hear about for the next few months. Because, basically...


On that note, and because there is a health care angle to everything, anti-abortion groups see Justice Kennedy's retirement as an opening to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Anti-abortion groups have counted on President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE getting the opportunity to nominate at least one more Supreme Court justice. And with Justice Anthony Kennedy's announcement Wednesday that he is retiring, they have that chance.

Replacing Kennedy -- a swing vote who has supported abortions rights -- with a "pro-life" conservative gives those groups their best chance in a generation to overturn, or weaken, the decision in Roe.

From the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group in DC:

"Justice Kennedy's retirement from the Supreme Court marks a pivotal moment for the fight to ensure every unborn child is welcomed and protected under the law." 

From American's United for Life, the self-proclaimed legal arm of the "pro-life" movement:

"Now that Justice Anthony Kennedy -- a 25-year defender of abortion on the Supreme Court and the key vote to perpetuate Roe v. Wade -- is retiring, we urge President Trump to nominate a committed constitutionalist to the Supreme Court who will hew to the intended meaning of the nation's charter and refrain from employing it as a means of social engineering." 


The gravity of the situation isn't lost on abortion rights groups, which used the following words in their reactions: "terrifying," "dire," "deep crisis," "enormous and terrifying."

From Planned Parenthood:

"The significance of today's news cannot be overstated: The right to access abortion in this country is on the line. With this vacancy, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPatient advocates launch drug pricing ad campaign Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs War of words at the White House MORE hold the balance of the court in their hands -- and with it, the legal right to access abortion in this country. President Trump has promised to only appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. The idea of Trump having his choice to fill another vacancy is terrifying for not only abortion rights, but for our ability to live free from discrimination in this country." - Dawn Laguens, executive vice president.

From Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteA dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal FDA under pressure to move fast on vaping Lawmakers criticize EPA draft rule for curbing rights to challenge pollution permits MORE (D-Colo.) and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeDeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Lawmakers mourn death of 'Julia' star Diahann Carroll MORE (D-Calif.), co-chairs of the congressional Pro-Choice Caucus:

"For decades, Roe v. Wade has protected women's fundamental right to control our own bodies and make our own decisions.

"With Justice Kennedy's retirement, that essential freedom hangs in the balance. President Trump, Vice President Pence and Leader McConnell want to exploit this vacancy to impose their extreme, anti-choice vision on women across America.

"Make no mistake: they will use this as an opportunity to permanently erode our most cherished freedoms and civil rights. We cannot allow this to happen – the Senate must reject any and every nominee who refuses to respect the civil rights, privacy, and personal decisions of the American people."

Read more here on the brewing fight.


In case you need a refresher on Trump's SCOTUS short list, read here 

Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE is already pushing for colleague Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets Republican lawmaker proposes transferring drone authority to local governments A decade of policymaking failures is to blame for new Syria crisis MORE to get on the bench.


HHS Inspector General will review conditions at agency shelters for unaccompanied migrant children.

The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) inspector general is launching a review of the conditions at the agency's shelters for unaccompanied migrant children. 

"Specifically, this review will focus on a variety of safety- and health-related issues such as employee background screening, employees' clinical skills and training, identification and response to incidents of harm, and facility security," the inspector general's office said Wednesday.

The inspector general's office said it will review the efforts of HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) "to ensure the safety and health of children placed at ORR facilities, especially when the program experiences a sudden increase in the number of children placed in its care."

The federal watchdog said it will deploy teams of evaluators, auditors, investigators and lawyers on site-visits to ORR facilities across the country.

We've got more on the probe here


VA pick pledges opposition to privatization

President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday said he doesn't believe in privatizing the agency and pledged to oppose privatization efforts.

"My commitment to you is I will oppose efforts to privatize," even if it runs counter to the White House agenda, Robert Wilkie told a Senate panel.

Democrats and some veterans service organizations believe the White House is being influenced by Charles and David Koch, conservative billionaires who back the group Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), which is pushing to loosen current restrictions on veterans receiving private-sector care.

Trump has made reforming the VA a major political goal, and the ousting of former secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinVA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank Senior Trump administration official to leave post next week MORE in March stoked speculation that the White House wanted to drastically expand veterans' access to private-sector health-care providers.

On the whole, Wilkie breezed through his confirmation hearing without much opposition from Democrats.

We have more on his hearing here.


The Trump administration on Wednesday rejected a request from Massachusetts that state officials argued would have given them more flexibility over its Medicaid program and greater negotiating power over drug companies.

The proposal: Massachusetts wanted to pick and choose what drugs it would cover in its Medicaid program. Massachusetts, like other states, is facing fiscal difficulties as Medicaid continues to eat up larger shares of its budgets.

The state asked the administration if it could exclude coverage of drugs that aren't cost effective and have little evidence of actually working.

The verdict: No. Medicaid is required to cover (almost) all drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In exchange, drug manufacturers give states and the federal government deep discounts on drugs. If Massachusetts wants to pick and choose what drugs its Medicaid program will cover, it has to forego those rebates and negotiate directly with drug companies to see if they can get a better rebate, CMS said.

Why it matters: It's a fairly innovative proposal from Massachusetts -- one that would have led to lawsuits if the administration approved it. But it also would have paved the way for other states to do the same, as they look for ways to reduce spending on health care.

Read more on the decision here.


Poll: Pre-existing condition protections a top issue.

Democrats got more fodder on Wednesday for their efforts to highlight the Trump administration move to overturn ObamaCare's pre-existing condition protections in their midterm campaign.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest tracking poll, majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents surveyed said it is "very important" to them that ObamaCare's provisions protecting those with pre-existing conditions remain law.

More broadly, 65 percent of those polled said a candidate's support for continued protections for people with pre-existing health conditions is either the "single most important factor" or "very important" in their vote.

A candidate's support for pre-existing condition protections was the top issue among Democratic and independent voters, while it was the second-highest issue among Republicans.

But: The picture is of course different among Republicans: For them the top issue remains repealing ObamaCare.

Read more here.


Odds & Ends


What we're reading:

White House wants to cut this public health service corps by nearly 40 percent (The Washington Post)

California banning soda taxes? A new industry strategy is stunning some lawmakers (The New York Times)

Supreme Court ruling on union fees could shift health care politics (modernhealthcare.com)


State by state:

State's opioid crisis costing Medicaid dollars (ohio.com)

Medicaid must pay for drugs approved through FDA's 'accelerated' pathway, agency tells states (statnews.com)

Herring files lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, alleging lies about opioid risks (Richmond Times-Dispatch