Overnight Health Care — Presented by the American Conservative Union — ObamaCare enrollment dips slightly to 11.4M signups for 2019 | Dem support grows for allowing public funds to pay for abortions | House to hold hearing on surprise medical bills
Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — House passes bill to stop drug companies overcharging Medicaid | Incoming Dem chairman open to 'Medicare For All' hearings | Bill to reduce maternal mortality rates passes House
Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.
A new study shows 4.2 million people who are uninsured are eligible for free ObamaCare coverage. A federal judge also sided with religious groups Tuesday in a case against the health law's birth control mandate. But first...
The House approved a proposal Tuesday cracking down on the tactics drug companies use to overcharge Medicaid.
The bipartisan bill, from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), comes after the Department of Health and Human Services last year accused Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, of overcharging the Medicaid program by as much as $1.27 billion over ten years by misclassifying the drug as a generic.
Myland paid a $465 million settlement in 2017 for misclassifying the EpiPen.
The bill would give the Department of Health and Human Services new authority to reclassify a drug and recoup rebates when a manufacturer deliberately misclassifies a drug in order to pay lower rebates.
The bill was included as a payfor in the ACE Kids Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at improving care for children with complex medical needs. The CBO estimates that bill will cost $63 million over 10 years, with the rebates bill saving the government $52 million in the same time frame.
Also passing the House Tuesday: a bipartisan bill aimed at preventing maternal deaths.
The bill from Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) would support state-level efforts to track and investigate pregnancy-related deaths, and then look for ways to prevent future deaths from occurring.
The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality among developed countries, at a rate of 26.4 deaths per 100,000 births. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable.
The bill allows the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to states to establish Maternal Mortality Review Committees that review every pregnancy-related or pregnancy-associated death.
Herrera Beutler and DeGette, in a joint statement, called the bill's House passage the "strongest step Congress has taken to date" to reverse the maternal mortality crisis.
"By providing states with resources to investigate every maternal death, we can begin to tackle this troubling trend and take appropriate steps to prevent such tragedies in the future," they said.
Incoming Dem chairman open to hearing on 'Medicare for all'
The incoming chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), said Tuesday that he is open to holding hearings on "Medicare for all" next year.
"The first thing we're going to try to do is to address the issue of pre-existing conditions," Neal told reporters when asked about "Medicare for all." "But I don't see how we can't evolve into a hearing on many of these other proposals and discussions. I think they deserve a conversation."
Why the remarks attracted attention: The comments, while not a firm commitment, are some of the most encouraging toward "Medicare for all" supporters from a top House Democrat to date. Democratic leaders and key committee chairmen have so far not given support to "Medicare for all," despite a push from the progressive wing of the party.
Neal said the details of a hearing are not yet clear, and there are also other health care issues he wants to explore.
But he said of "Medicare for all," "I'm not going to ignore it, that's for sure."
Judge sides with religious groups in ObamaCare birth control fight
A federal judge this week sided with three religious colleges and three Christian organizations in their challenge to the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate.
Judge Philip Brimmer, a George W. Bush appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, issued an order that permanently blocks the federal government from forcing the plaintiffs to cover sterilization drugs or contraception drugs devices, procedures, and related education and counseling in their health care plans.
He said the groups have sincerely held religious objections and the provisions in ObamaCare violate their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
A lot of people can get ObamaCare coverage for free.
That's according to a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The study finds that 4.2 million uninsured people are eligible for ObamaCare coverage at no cost at all.
They can get premiums for $0 due to the financial assistance under the health-care law being high enough to completely cover the cost of the cheapest ObamaCare options, known as bronze plans.
The big question: Will enough people know about this opportunity? "The question is, will they find out about that and sign up before the December 15 deadline in most states?" Larry Levitt, one of the authors of the study, wrote on Twitter.
And in other ObamaCare news- Signups on Healthcare.gov spiked on the same day Obama tweeted his support.
The ObamaCare signup website healthcare.gov received its highest traffic of open enrollment on Monday, the same day former President Obama recorded a message urging people to sign up.
A spokesperson from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not say what drove the spike, but noted the website always sees spikes closer to the Dec. 15 deadline to sign up for insurance coverage.
Some users reported Monday that they were placed into a "waiting room," which holds website users until the site adjusts to higher traffic. But aside from that incident, the agency spokesperson said the website "has performed well" and "consumers have been able to easily access enrollment tools to compare plans and prices." Before the spike, enrollment in ObamaCare plans was down by 11 percent compared to last year, according to the most recent numbers released by the Trump administration.
The year ahead: health care to take center stage
A new Democratic majority is taking over in the House next year with a number of health issues taking center stage.
Democrats will use their new power to try to shore up the Affordable Care Act and rein in high health-care and prescription drug costs. But the party will also face its own internal debate, while insurgents on the left keep up their push to implement "Medicare for all."
The Republican majority in the Senate could get in the way of Democrats hoping to accomplish any of their major policy proposals, but there could be room for bipartisanship on smaller bills.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced two appointments to the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA).
Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of The AIDS Institute, and John Wiesman, secretary of health for Washington state, were chosen by Azar to serve as PACHA co-chairs.
Context: PACHA has been vacant for nearly a year after Trump terminated the members of the council last December. The council will meet in March after not meeting since December 2017.
Azar made the announcement while speaking at the National Ryan White Conference on HIV Care and Treatment.
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What we're reading
'We're fighting for our lives': Patients protest sky-high insulin prices (NPR)
UnitedHealthcare, Envision renew contract after ED billing dispute (Modern Healthcare)
Gottlieb blasts high insulin prices (STAT)
State by state
Enrollment in Arizona 'ObamaCare' plans is lagging. Here are possible reasons why (Arizona Republic)
From Arkansas, a warning to Michigan on Medicaid work rules (bridgemi.com)
In Florida, top All Children's executives resign following Times report on heart surgeries (Tampa Bay Times)