Overnight Health Care: Dem Senate candidate opposes Medicare for All | HHS official compared abortion to Holocaust as a student | Sessions moves to block two doctors from prescribing opioids

Overnight Health Care: Dem Senate candidate opposes Medicare for All | HHS official compared abortion to Holocaust as a student | Sessions moves to block two doctors from prescribing opioids
© Greg Nash

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of Overnight Health Care.

The Senate is nearing the end of debate on the massive funding bill for Defense, Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Education and a final vote could come as soon as tomorrow. For today, we'll start in Arizona:

 

Dem Arizona Senate candidate opposes Medicare for All.

Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic candidate in the key Arizona Senate race, is continuing to try to stake out ground as a centrist.

The latest evidence is her opposition to Medicare for All.

"I do not support Medicare for All," Sinema told reporters in video posted by NBC reporter Vaughn Hillyard on Wednesday. "I'm really focused on solutions that are realistic and pragmatic and we can get done."

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Sinema has taken other steps to position herself as centrist, including saying that she would not vote for Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) as Democratic leader.

The Arizona race is one of a handful of pivotal races that will determine control of the Senate next year.

Mark your calendar for next Tuesday: The Republican primary on Tuesday will determine who Sinema faces, Republican establishment favorite Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — GOP again has momentum on Kavanaugh rollercoaster Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R-Ariz.), or candidates Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio, who are further to the right.

Read more here.  

 

Official compared abortion to the Holocaust in law school paper

A health official in the Trump administration compared abortion to the Holocaust while in law school, Mother Jones reports.

Scott Lloyd, who has come under fire recently for blocking unaccompanied minors in government custody from getting abortions, wrote in an essay 15 years ago that the similarities between abortion and the Holocaust are "crystal clear."

"The Jews who died in the Holocaust had a chance to laugh, play, sing, dance, learn and love each other. The victims of abortion do not, simply because people have decided this is the way it should be, not through any proper discernment of their humanity" Lloyd reportedly wrote in an essay in 2004 when he was a first-year law student at Catholic University.

He is now the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

HHS responds: "Mr. Lloyd has testified publicly to his personal and religious beliefs regarding abortion, and explained he does not let his religion guide his job as ORR director," said an HHS spokesperson in a statement to The Hill.

"Mr. Lloyd is committed to the mission of the agency, and his concern and compassion for those who come into the care of ORR."

Why it matters: Lloyd has attracted criticism from Congressional Democrats and abortion rights groups for his involvement in blocking unaccompanied minors in HHS custody from getting abortions. Between March and Dec. 19 of last year, Lloyd denied seven requests for abortions, according to depositions of Lloyd released by the ACLU in February.

Read more here.

 

Sessions moves to block two Ohio doctors from prescribing opioids

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions House Judiciary on NY Times article: I intend to subpoena 'McCabe Memos' MORE says he has a new way to fight the opioid crisis.

The Department of Justice is moving to block two Ohio doctors from writing prescriptions because it alleges they dispensed opioids without a legitimate medical purpose.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement in a speech in Ohio on Wednesday. He said the action was the first of its kind and a sign of how serious the administration is about fighting the opioid epidemic.

The DOJ said the doctors had been served this week with temporary restraining orders preventing them from prescribing.

"These injunctions – a temporary restraining order - will stop immediately these doctors from prescribing--without waiting for a criminal prosecution," Sessions said.

Sessions said the move is part of a "series of dramatic announcements that reveal the determination of this administration and this Department of Justice to take strong action to combat the grip of death and destruction that has taken hold of our country."

Read more here

 

Department of Justice charges two Chinese nationals in synthetic opioids conspiracy

The Justice Department has indicted two Chinese nationals for allegedly manufacturing and selling deadly drugs around the world that resulted in the deaths of two Americans.

According to the indictment, Fujing Zheng, 35, and his father, Guanghua, 62, operated a global opioid and drug manufacturing conspiracy that involved shipping drugs to 25 countries and 37 states.

Drugs sold by the men allegedly led to the fatal overdoses of two men in Akron, Ohio, the Justice Department said.

The men, who live in Shanghai, China, have been charged with a litany of crimes, including conspiracy to import controlled substances into the U.S

Why it matters: Congressional Republicans and Democrats have pushed for action to stop the flow of opioids into the U.S. A bill addressing the issue has already passed the House, but has not been taken up by the Senate.

In 2016, synthetic opioids were involved in 50 percent of opioid-related deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Read more here.

 

Maryland gets green light from Trump administration to shore up ObamaCare

A proposal from Maryland to help insurers cover the costs of expensive claims was approved by the Trump administration.

Maryland officials said the approval of the program--called reinsurance-- will prevent premium increases of up to 30 percent in the state's individual insurance market.

"With our innovative new reinsurance program, the health insurance market in Maryland will finally have the chance to be competitive and dynamic," Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Wednesday in a statement.

The Trump administration has approved similar programs in six other states, but Maryland's will be the largest and is valued at $462 million.

The program will become active this year and run through 2020, Hogan's office said.

Read more on the program here.

 

Patient groups want association health plans removed from farm bill

An overlooked aspect of the House-passed farm bill was the inclusion of $65 million intended to help establish association health plans (AHPs).

On Wednesday, patient and public health groups sent a letter to the bill's House and Senate conferees urging them to omit that language from the final conference report.

"Given the history of fraud and insolvency in AHPs, using federal funds to establish AHPs would put consumers and providers at risk of unpaid bills and taxpayers at risk of defaulted loans. We are extremely concerned that new agriculture AHPs will once again leave consumers with insufficient coverage, unpaid medical bills, and lifelong health implications - just as many plans did before the Affordable Care Act was enacted," the groups said.

Reminder: Association health plans allow small businesses and other groups to band together to buy health insurance. The Trump administration earlier this summer released a regulation loosening restrictions on association plans, in an effort to offer more affordable coverage options.  

Read the letter here

 

What we're reading:

Foster parents often struggle to find doctors to treat the kids in their care (Kaiser Health News)

The dogs were supposed to be experts at sniffing out C. diff. Then they smelled breakfast (Stat)

Religious conservatives' ties to trump officials pay off in AIDS policies, funding (Kaiser Health News)

 

State by state

Health care at forefront of North Dakota Senate race (Associated Press)

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signs expansive mental health care laws (Associated Press)

Florida toxic algae a long-term health concern, according to scientists, researchers (Naples Daily News)  

 

From The Hill's opinion page:

The Trump administration is saving millions of Americans from ObamaCare

 

Join The Hill Wednesday, Sept. 12 for "A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition," featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottHealthy business vs healthy people — how will this administration address the two? Washington turns focus to child nutrition The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — McConnell warns of GOP `knife fight’ to keep Senate control MORE (D-Va.), and Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service Brandon Lipps. Editor in Chief Bob Cusack will sit down with the headliners to discuss maternal, infant, and early childhood nutrition, and what steps can be taken to establish healthier eating patterns across all communities. RSVP here.