Overnight Health Care: Dem states take first step to appeal ObamaCare ruling | Pelosi backs hearings on 'Medicare for all' | Maine governor signs order for Medicaid expansion

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, and the first day of the 116th Congress.

House Democrats are using their new majority to put the spotlight on the Trump administration's ObamaCare decisions, and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNews media's sausage-making obsession helps no one Klobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-Calif.) said she supports holding hearings on Medicare for all.


We'll start with an update on the GOP's ObamaCare lawsuit:

A coalition of Democratic states defending ObamaCare filed notice Thursday to appeal a recent federal court ruling that struck down the health-care law as unconstitutional, sparking what's likely to be a lengthy legal fight that could reach the Supreme Court and influence the 2020 elections.

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraButtigieg has high name recognition, favorability rating in Biden Cabinet: survey Overnight Health Care — Presented by Emergent Biosolutions — Boosters for all The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay MORE (D) led 17 states in filing the notice, which is one of the first steps to appealing District Judge Reed O'Connor's decision.

What's next: The parties still have to get instructions from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Then the Democrats will file their formal appeal, making their argument for why O'Connor's decision should be blocked.


Becerra, on a press call with reporters Thursday, declined to speculate on the timeline for the decision.

"We're ready to go. We're going to continue to fight, and we're going to make our case for the American people," he said.

Read more here.


The House will vote to intervene in the lawsuit Wednesday

Pelosi promised that the House would vote to intervene in the lawsuit and defend ObamaCare in court.

It's more of a political move that will force Republicans to go on the record yet again on the issue of ObamaCare and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Democrats largely credit the lawsuit, and the Trump administration's decision not to defend ObamaCare in court, as the reason they won back the House majority.

From Pelosi's office: "The new Democratic House of Representatives will be relentless in defending protections for people with pre-existing conditions and affordable health care for every American," Pelosi said. "Republicans should end their assault on health care and join us to do the right thing for the American people."

The resolution will be introduced by new Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), with floor debate and a vote slated for Wednesday.


Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) also said his committee's earliest hearings would focus on the lawsuit.

The hearing, to be held later this month, will focus on the impacts of the decision. There's not a set date yet, but it will be the committee's second hearing, Pallone said. The first will be on climate change.

From the committee: "This decision, if it is upheld, will endanger the lives of millions of Americans who could lose their health coverage. It would also allow insurance companies to once again discriminate against more than 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions." 

What's next: Keep an eye out for announcements about who will be called to testify. It's highly unusual for the Department of Justice not to defend a federal law, and Democrats have previously demanded answers about what went into that decision.


Pelosi supports holding hearings on 'Medicare for all'

In addition to getting sworn in as Speaker on Thursday, Nancy Pelosi gave a big boost to Medicare for all advocates, saying she supports holding hearings on the issue.

Compare to last year: Pelosi said then only that Medicare for all would "have to be evaluated" and is "on the table."

But not the main committees? Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season 91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos MORE (D-Wash.), the main sponsor of Medicare for all in the House, said Thursday that hearings would likely start in the Rules and Budget Committees.

That would leave out the main committees with jurisdiction over the issue: Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means. The chairmen of those committees have not given their backing to Medicare for all, while the chairmen of Rules and Budget have.

No details on one of the big political questions: Jayapal said that the bill she is working on will not spell out how the measure would be paid for or which taxes will increase.

"This is really going to be a bill on what the system looks like," she said.

Read more here.


Maine governor signs order to begin Medicaid expansion

Maine's new Democratic Gov. Janet Mills ordered the state to move ahead on Medicaid expansion with her first executive order on Thursday, more than a year after voters approved the measure.

The order fulfills a campaign promise for Mills, who vowed to implement expansion on "day one."

The order calls for state health officials to make the necessary changes and work with the Trump administration to "swiftly and efficiently" implement Medicaid expansion.

It also directs the state Department of Health and Human Services to work with lawmakers to provide "sustainable" funding for Maine's share of Medicaid expansion.

In 2017, Maine became the first state to approve a Medicaid expansion ballot referendum; it passed by a 59 to 41 percent margin, but former GOP Gov. Paul LePage refused to implement it at every turn. A state judge forced LePage to move ahead with expansion, but he dragged out the process as long as possible.

The expansion is likely to cover an additional 70,000 people.

More on the order here


CMS announces another drop in ObamaCare enrollment numbers

The final snapshot shows 8.4 million people signed up for plans during open enrollment, a drop of about 43,000 people from numbers released last month.


CMS will release more information in March, including enrollment numbers from states that don't use healthcare.gov.


New committee assignments

Newly sworn-in Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead China draws scrutiny over case of tennis star Peng Shuai MORE (R-Utah) and Mike BraunMichael BraunRepublicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama Cruz, Braun slam Library of Congress for forgoing term 'illegal aliens' to suit 'progressive preference' MORE (R-Ill.) will serve on the Senate health committee. They join Sen. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenSenators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall America's clean energy future cannot stop at state lines Hillicon Valley — Immigrants being put in surveillance programs MORE (D-Nev.) as new lawmakers on the committee. The health committee has a history of working in a bipartisan manner, and it will be interesting to see how Romney's health experience influences his committee work. Before he ran for president in 2012, Romney was a centrist Republican who created the Massachusetts' health law. Parts of the law served as a template for ObamaCare.


What we're reading

Big Pharma is caught between Wall Street and Trump on drug prices (Bloomberg)

Drug makers resist pressure from Washington on prices (CNN.com)

A shattering breach of trust: What happens to patients when their doctor is not who he claimed to be? (Stat)


State by state

Idaho Governor-elect commits to Medicaid expansion (Associated Press)

Montana GOP lawmakers considering new anti-abortion bills (Great Falls Tribune)


From The Hill's opinion page

This EPA appointee could impact the health of all Americans for decades