Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Taxpayers Union — Incoming Dem chairman vows hearings on ObamaCare lawsuit | Sign-up period ends amid new uncertainty | Johnson & Johnson hits back over asbestos report

Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care.


A federal judge's ObamaCare ruling in Texas has Capitol Hill scrambling to deal with the fallout. Also today, Senate health Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTaylor Swift thanks Cory Booker for signing Equality Act petition Taylor Swift thanks Cory Booker for signing Equality Act petition Senate health panel to move forward on package to lower health costs next week MORE (R-Tenn.) said he won't seek re-election and more people in Arkansas have lost Medicaid coverage.

But first...


Incoming Dem chairman Frank Pallone is vowing to hold hearings on ObamaCare 'sabotage' as soon as possible after a court ruled the law unconstitutional.

Pallone, the next chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, said Democrats will "get to the bottom" of the administration's decision not to defend the health-care law against a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general.

"The problem is that the Republicans in the House, including the Republicans on my committee, have never had any serious oversight about what the Trump administration is doing to sabotage the [Affordable Care Act]," Pallone said.

Pallone also said Democrats would vote to intervene in the lawsuit and pass a bill that would stabilize the ACA and guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

"I think the most important thing to do right away is put in place legislation and send to the Senate...  legislation that would protect people with pre-existing conditions and make it clear they can't be discriminated against," Pallone said.

"That's something some of the Republicans said they would support."

Reality check: Democrats want to put Republicans on record when it comes to pre-existing conditions protections, a popular issue that helped Democrats win back the House. It's going to be a hard vote for Republicans to take as the 2020 presidential election draws nearer.

More on Pallone's plans here.



The judge's Friday night ruling came as a shock to many, both because of his finding that the entire ObamaCare law is invalid, but also because of the timing; federal open enrollment ended the next night.

Sign-ups for ObamaCare plans at healthcare.gov, the federal platform used by 39 states, had already lagged behind previous years, putting enrollment on track to drop for the second year in a row under the Trump administration.

As of Dec. 8, enrollment was down almost 12 percent compared to last year, but it will be hard to tell if the ruling had an impact on enrollment.  

The ruling has no immediate impact on the law, and the Trump administration made that clear. They put a banner on the top of healthcare.gov explaining that signups would continue as normal. And Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma tweeted on Friday "the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with open enrollment."

Verma's social media was much more vocal about signing up for coverage in the final days of open enrollment, as House Democrats have made clear they will investigate what they see as the administration's efforts to undercut the law.

There has almost always been a surge of last-minute signups, but even before the court decision, experts said it was unlikely the surge would be enough to make up the difference from last year.

More than 4 million people signed up for coverage in the last week of open enrollment last year -- nearly double the number of people who had signed up in the six weeks preceding. But more than 4.6 million people would need to sign up this week to match last year's healthcare.gov enrollment numbers.

Final numbers could be released as soon as this week.

More on the expectations here.


Senate health chairman Lamar Alexander says he won't seek re-election in 2020

"I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate in 2020. The people of Tennessee have been very generous, electing me to serve more combined years as Governor and Senator than anyone else from our state," Alexander said Monday.

Legacy: Alexander scored some major bipartisan wins over the years, from bills addressing the opioid epidemic to the 21st Century Cures Act.

He tried to bring Democrats and Republicans together on legislation intended to stabilize ObamaCare premiums, but with lukewarm support from the White House, the bill ultimately fell victim to partisan fighting.

Alexander, who has been in the Senate since 2003, will serve out the remainder of his term, which runs through the end of 2020.

More here.


Almost 17K Arkansans have lost Medicaid coverage due to work requirements

The number of people losing health coverage because of Arkansas' Medicaid work requirements keeps going up.

Nearly 17,000 people have lost coverage since August because they did not comply with the state's work requirements, according to new state data released Monday.

In just the past month, the state terminated the coverage of 4,655 people who either did not work the required 80 hours or failed to report their work to the state for three straight months.

There are also nearly 2,000 people with two strikes against them who are at risk for losing coverage next month.

Read more here.


Teen vaping sees unprecedented jump: study

A study released Monday found that high schoolers' use of e-cigarettes roughly doubled over the past year in what researchers determined was an unprecedented increase.

The survey found an increasing number of teenagers who are vaping or using nicotine-tinged electronic cigarettes. The survey found that 1 in 5 high school seniors said they vaped in the past month.

The survey, which is federally funded and conducted by the University of Michigan, found that vaping of marijuana has also increased, while teens smoke marijuana at roughly the same rate as last year.

The rapid rise in teen vaping has led to a Food and Drug Administration crackdown. The agency has tried to balance adult smokers who want to use e-cigarettes as a way to quit traditional cigarettes with restricting access to teens.

"The quick acceleration of teenage e-cig use is deeply concerning. While these products potentially offer adults an off-ramp from combustible cigarettes, we can't allow a new generation to get addicted," HHS Secretary Alex Azar tweeted Monday.

Next up: The Surgeon General is set to release an advisory tomorrow on e-cigarette use. According to HHS, the advisory will "alert parents, teachers and health professionals about new types of e-cigarettes and the negative health consequences of youth use of these products."

More on rise in teen vaping here.


Johnson & Johnson fights back on asbestos claims

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) on Monday launched a national ad campaign defending itself following a news report that said the company knew for decades its talc baby powder contained traces of asbestos.

The company took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to argue that the findings cited in a recent Reuters investigative piece are not backed by science.

"Our talc is safe," the company said in the ad. "If we had any reasons to believe our talc was unsafe it would be off our shelves."

J&J is facing a wave of lawsuits brought by thousands of plaintiffs who allege that talc in the company's baby powder products contained asbestos and caused mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and other diseases.

In a lengthy response posted on its website, the company said Reuters "misled its readers by printing inaccurate statements, withholding crucial information that otherwise undermines its thesis."

Read more here.



What we're reading

Opinion: What the lawless ObamaCare ruling means (The New York Times)

ACA ruling creates new anxieties for consumers and the health-care industry (The Washington Post)

Health law could be hard to knock down despite judge's ruling (The New York Times)


State by state

Gov. Abbott says Texas will prioritize ObamaCare replacement as health care lawsuit continues (dallasnews.com)

Covered California extends enrollment deadline after ObamaCare ruling (sfchronicle.com)

Access Health CT extends insurance sign-up deadline (NBC Connecticut)


From The Hill's opinion page

There's a shortage of psychiatrists for those most in need

Data proves that Medicaid needs work requirements