Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Overnight Health Care.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMia Love pulls ahead in Utah race as judge dismisses her lawsuit Trump administration denies exploring extradition of Erdoğan foe for Turkey Trump congratulates Kemp, says Abrams will have 'terrific political future' MORE and Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAs Democrats gear up to challenge Trump in 2020, the key political divide will be metropolitan versus rural McConnell: Criminal justice bill unlikely this year On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report MORE both weighed in on health care today. Trump tweeted about protecting rules on pre-existing conditions, while McConnell in a newly released interview said he thinks the administration's involvement in a lawsuit that would end those protections is a good idea. We'll start with the president's remarks.

 

Trump: All Republicans will support people with pre-existing conditions 'after I speak to them'

President Trump is seeking to show Republicans' support for pre-existing condition protections as his party comes under fire on the issue in races across the country.

"All Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don't, they will after I speak to them. I am in total support. Also, Democrats will destroy your Medicare, and I will keep it healthy and well!" he tweeted Thursday.

The problemTrump's administration, however, is currently arguing in court that ObamaCare's pre-existing condition protections should be struck down. The president hasn't proposed or endorsed any specific policy to protect people with pre-existing conditions.

Trump also supported ObamaCare repeal bills in the House and Senate last year that would allow states to get waivers to allow insurers to spike premiums for people with pre-existing conditions.

Dems respond: Democrats were quick to seize on those points. "Did he drop his lawsuit to eliminate protections for those with pre-existing conditions and just not tell anybody?" tweeted Matt House, a spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFacebook reeling after damning NYT report Schumer warns Trump to stay out of government funding negotiations Schumer predicts Nelson will 'continue being senator' if 'every vote counted' MORE (N.Y.).

Read more here.

 

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McConnell defends Trump-backed ObamaCare lawsuit

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defended the administration's decision to join a lawsuit that would overturn ObamaCare-- and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

In a newly published interview with Bloomberg, McConnell said the lawsuit would give Congress an opportunity to replace ObamaCare.

"It's no secret that we preferred to start over" to repeal and replace ObamaCare, McConnell said in the interview. "So no, I don't fault the administration for trying to give us an opportunity to do this differently and to go in a different direction."

The lawsuit was filed by state leaders in Texas, along with 19 other Republican state attorneys general, and calls for all of ObamaCare to be overturned as unconstitutional. The Justice Department is supporting the states in court, arguing specifically that the sections of the law protecting people with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage or charged more should be overturned.

Read more here.

 

Democrats question 'misleading' HHS statements about separated children policy

Two Democratic senators wrote to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar seeking answers on whether the agency misled Congress and the public about the implementation of President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy and the agency's ability to track separated parents and children.

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenElection Countdown: Abrams ends fight in Georgia governor's race | Latest on Florida recount | Booker, Harris head to campaign in Mississippi Senate runoff | Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority Entrepreneur touts big solutions, endorsements in discussing presidential bid Warren, 2020 Dems target private immigration detention center operators MORE (D-Mass.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Russian-linked hackers may have impersonated US officials | Trump signs DHS cyber bill | Prosecutors inadvertently reveal charges against Assange | Accenture workers protest border enforcement work | App mines crypto for bail bonds Dems demand answers from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint on internet throttling claims Warren, 2020 Dems target private immigration detention center operators MORE (D-Ore.) raised questions about Azar's testimony before the Senate Finance Committee in June, where he said HHS had a "portal" that could easily locate any child in the care of HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement.  

However, a Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report found "no evidence" that such a database existed. The report concluded that the administration "was not fully prepared" to implement the "zero-tolerance" policy and struggled to deal with its aftermath. The report also revealed that administration officials may have provided inaccurate or misleading information about how DHS and HHS kept track of separated families and children, and their ability to reunite them.

Warren and Wyden asked for a response by Nov 2.

Significance: It's not certain that the senators will get a response from HHS. Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate have been trying to find out more information about the policy of family separations for months, including how much it's cost. But HHS doesn't have any real incentive to respond because Democrats aren't in power.

Watch this spaceIf the House flips to Democratic control after the midterm elections, this will change. Expect hearings with top HHS and DHS officials, as well as subpoenas.

Read a copy of the letter here.

 

Virginia to begin accepting applications for newly expanded Medicaid on Nov. 1

Virginia is taking another step towards implementing its Medicaid expansion, which took years to enact.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Thursday announced that the state will begin accepting applications for its newly expanded Medicaid program on Nov. 1, with coverage set to begin on Jan. 1.

The state legislature passed Medicaid expansion in May after a years-long battle and is the result of Democratic gains made in last year's state elections and enough Republican state legislators getting on board with expansion for it to pass.

The Medicaid expansion is estimated to provide coverage to up to 400,000 people.

"It is exciting and fulfilling to share in the joy that so many of our citizens express as they look forward to realizing their hope for better health," Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey said in a statement on Thursday.

Read more here.

 

Poll shows importance of health care to voters in midterms

Health care is "very important" for 71 percent of voters nationally when deciding which Congressional candidate to vote for in the midterms, according to a poll released Thursday.

Health care was more important than other issues like economy and jobs which was seen as "very important" by 64 percent of voters, gun policy at 60 percent or immigration at 55 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll.

But there was a partisan difference. Democrats are much more likely to see health care as their top issue in deciding who to vote for in November, while Republican voters surveyed in the poll tended to say immigration and the economy are the most important issues.

Nationally, forty percent of Democratic voters and 31 percent of independent voters said health care is the "most important" issue when deciding who to vote for, compared to 17 percent of Republicans who said the same.

Read more on the poll here.

 

HHS will pay for medication lost or damaged in Hurricane Michael

HHS has activated a program that will allow thousands of uninsured Floridians to access no-cost replacements of critical medications lost or damaged by Hurricane Michael. The program pays for prescription medications for people without health insurance who are affected by disasters. More than 4,900 Florida pharmacies participate in the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program, and more than 72,000 pharmacies participate nationwide, HHS said.

Those needing certain prescription medications during an emergency can obtain a 30-day supply at any EPAP participating pharmacy through Nov. 15, HHS said. Uninsured patients also may use the program to replace specific medical supplies, vaccines or medical equipment, such as canes and walkers, damaged or lost as a direct result of Hurricane Michael or as a secondary result of loss or damage caused while in transit from the emergency site to an emergency shelter.

 

What we're reading

Private Medicaid plans receive billions in tax dollars, with little oversight (NPR)

GOP senator pushed VA to use unproven "brainwave frequency" treatment (Pro Publica)

"Vast majority" of NIH chimps to be moved to retirement sanctuary, agency says (Stat)

 

State by state

Pennsylvania ObamaCare rates to decline slightly in 2019 (Washington Examiner)

Idaho lieutenant governor candidates differ on Medicaid (Associated Press)

Black moms in Illinois 6 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related conditions (Chicago Tribune)

 

From The Hill's opinion page:

When my former colleagues in Congress attack health care, they attack me

We should give long-term care residents the quality care they need and deserve