Overnight Health Care: HHS pushes back on lawmaker visits to detention centers | Abortion rights group targets Susan Collins over Supreme Court | Judge blocks anti-abortion law in Arkansas

Overnight Health Care: HHS pushes back on lawmaker visits to detention centers | Abortion rights group targets Susan Collins over Supreme Court | Judge blocks anti-abortion law in Arkansas
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Overnight Health Care. We'll be off tomorrow for the Fourth of July holiday, but will be back Thursday and Friday to bring you the important health stories of the day.

Today, abortion rights groups are targeting Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGrassley panel scraps Kavanaugh hearing, warns committee will vote without deal Collins 'appalled' by Trump tweet about Kavanaugh accuser Poll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it MORE, a federal judge blocked Arkansas's anti-abortion law, and HHS officials are scrambling over the fallout from Trump's immigration orders.  

We'll start with immigration:

 

HHS pushes back on lawmaker visits to detention centers

The Department of Health and Human Services is urging lawmakers to pre-arrange visits to detention centers housing migrant children, rather than showing up at the facilities unannounced.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley extends deadline for Kavanaugh accuser to decide on testifying Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Kavanaugh accuser seeks additional day to decide on testimony MORE (R-Iowa) and Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Goodlatte: Administration undercut law, Congress by setting refugee cap Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence MORE (R-Va.), the leaders of Congress' Judiciary committees, HHS asked the lawmakers to help coordinate congressional visits to HHS-funded detention facilities.

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The facilities, which are located across the country, house children who have separated from their parents after illegally crossing the southern border.

HHS has come under fire in recent weeks after several Democratic lawmakers were denied access to families at some of the detention centers. The agency said it was because the lawmakers did not give the required two weeks' notice.  

Stat of the day: According to HHS, nearly 500 work hours have been spent facilitating congressional visits for more than 70 lawmakers. There were 50 lawmakers who visited in June alone.

Shade from HHS: "Many of these hours would otherwise have been spent ... verifying parental relationships to prevent child trafficking, facilitating check-in calls between parents and children, facilitating and reviewing foster family home studies, coordinating the delivery of food and medical supplies, and many other duties vital to the health and welfare of the children."

Read the rest of the story here.

 

More on the immigration front...

HHS is in damage control mode. President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE's "zero tolerance" immigration policy has left the agency scrambling to contain what's quickly becoming a public relations nightmare.

While HHS didn't write the policy, the agency is responsible for implementing the most controversial aspect: housing the children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Democrats are trying to make HHS Secretary Alex Azar the face of the administration's confusing retreat from Trump's divisive policy, intended to prevent unlawful border crossings. And they're hoping the public will make the same connection.

Read more on that fight here.

 

Abortion rights group targets Susan Collins in first Supreme Court ad buy

The pressure is increasing on Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) over her potentially pivotal vote on a Supreme Court nominee, who could go on to overturn Roe v. Wade.

NARAL Pro-Choice America announced full-page print ads and "homepage takeovers" of four Maine newspapers and websites: the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel, Bangor Daily News and Lewiston Sun Journal. The ads begin Wednesday.

The campaign will also include digital ads on Twitter and Google Search.

The print and online ads state: "Trump has been loud and clear in saying he'd pick Supreme Court Justices to end Roe v. Wade. We believe him. Don't you, Senator Collins?"

Collins said Sunday on CNN that she would not support a nominee who has demonstrated "hostility" to Roe v. Wade "because that would mean to me that their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law."

Read more here.

Don't forget: Collins earlier this week also voiced skepticism that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe. More on those remarks here.

 

CVS Health pushes back on Azar claims they are blocking drug price cuts

HHS Secretary Alex Azar has blamed pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) like CVS Health for discouraging drug companies from cutting their prices. Azar's theory is that PBMs want to keep prices high so that they can negotiate bigger discounts and take a bigger cut of them.

But CVS Health, a leading PBM, says that's not true.

"I want to assure you that this is not the case for CVS Health," Merlo wrote Azar in a letter dated Friday.

"We do not instruct manufacturers on how they price their products," Merlo wrote.

"Consistent with that practice, we have not as part of the current dialogue or in any other circumstance, instructed manufacturers not to lower list prices."

He added: "To be clear, we support the administration's efforts to address high drug costs."

The bigger picture: This is all part of a long-running exercise in finger-pointing between insurers, PBMs, drug companies, the government, etc. over who is really to blame for drug prices. Everyone says something needs to change, but they don't agree on what.

Read more here.

 

Federal judge blocks enforcement of anti-abortion law in Arkansas

A federal judge temporarily blocked a law that critics say would make Arkansas the first state to ban abortion pills.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction Monday evening in favor of Planned Parenthood.

The 2015 law requires that doctors who provide medical abortions have a contract with a second doctor who has admitting privileges at a hospital. The injunction prevents the state from enforcing the law, but abortion clinics must continue trying to contract with physicians.

The state is temporarily banned from imposing any civil or criminal penalties on providers who continue to perform medication abortions while they look for physicians to contract with.

Read more here.

 

What we're reading

ObamaCare to be central to Democrats' fight against Trump's Supreme Court pick (Huffington Post)

When health insurance prices rose last year, around a million Americans dropped coverage (The New York Times)

Dead of AIDS and forgotten in potter's field (The New York Times)

 

State by state

Maine governor vetoes 23 bills, including funds for Medicaid expansion, 'direct care' workers (Portland Press Herald)

Michigan state lawmaker introduces single-payer health care plan (mlive.com)