Overnight Health Care: Judge pauses ObamaCare appeal amid shutdown | Trump officials consider Medicaid block grants for states | HHS closing tent city for migrant teens

Overnight Health Care: Judge pauses ObamaCare appeal amid shutdown | Trump officials consider Medicaid block grants for states | HHS closing tent city for migrant teens
© Getty

Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care. There's still no end in sight for the partial government shutdown which is set to become the longest in U.S. history on Saturday.

Let's start with how the shutdown is having an effect on the Texas ObamaCare lawsuit....


Judge pauses ObamaCare ruling appeal

The Democratic attorneys general defending ObamaCare against the Texas lawsuit filed an appeal last week with the 5th Circuit challenging a lower court's ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

But their appeal is now on hold after a judge with the Fifth Circuit of Court Appeals granted the Department of Justice's (DOJ) request that proceedings be temporarily halted because of the shutdown.


DOJ attorneys say they are prohibited from working during the shutdown and would miss an upcoming deadline unless the case were paused.

Context: Judge Reed O'Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, last month sided with the 20 Republican-led states that sued to overturn ObamaCare. He ruled that the 2010 law could not stand without the individual mandate penalty, which Congress repealed as part of the 2017 tax law.

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraHillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups Four more states join attorneys general lawsuit to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger Overnight Health Care: Court allows Trump abortion referral ban to take effect | GOP group launches M blitz against 'Medicare for All' | Star GOP lawyer raises constitutional concerns with surprise billing legislation MORE (D), who is leading the case to defend the health law, did not respond to comment Friday. But earlier this week, he tweeted that the DOJ's request for a stay is proof "that they don't care about Americans' healthcare." 
Read more on the court fight here.


Trump officials consider allowing Medicaid block grants for states

Get ready for another fight over Trump administration changes to Medicaid.

Officials are considering moving forward with a major conservative change to Medicaid by allowing states to get block grants for the program, sources say.

The proposal would issue guidance to states encouraging them to apply for caps on federal Medicaid spending in exchange for additional flexibility on how they run the program, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The administration's discussions on the issue were first reported by Politico on Friday.

Is this even legal? University of Michigan law professor Nick Bagley said: "The short answer is, I don't know."

"The waiver authority under section 1115 is broad, but it's never been used for anything nearly as ambitious as block granting Medicaid," he added. "The administration would certainly face lawsuits, and might run into the same sorts of legal problems that it's encountered in approving work requirements."

The politics: Democrats are sure to be outraged over the move, saying it is another attack on Medicaid. Protect Our Care, a pro-ObamaCare group, sent out an email to reporters about the news with the headline "Here We Go Again: Trump Tries To End Medicaid As We Know It."

Read more here


Like Overnight Health Care? You can subscribe here!

And as always, reach out to us with tips and feedback at jhellmann@thehill.compsullivan@thehill.com and nweixel@thehill.com.


Happening next week:


The House and Senate return Monday evening for votes.

CVS CEO Larry Merlo will speak at the National Press Club at noon about the Aetna merger.


HHS Secretary Alex Azar will speak at the Newseum for The Price of Good Health, organized by the Council for Affordable Health Coverage.


The March for Life rally will take place on the National Mall at 12 p.m.


Texas tent city for migrant teens to close

The U.S. government is closing a tent city in Texas that has been a flashpoint for the Trump administration's immigration policies.

A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official on Friday confirmed the planned closure of a facility in Tornillo, Texas, saying that as of this weekend "the last group of unaccompanied alien children will have been transferred or discharged."

Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary of the Administration for Children and Families at HHS, said in a statement that all unaccompanied minors "have been either released to an appropriate sponsor or transferred to other shelters throughout our network of care providers."

Read more on the closure here.


CDC: More than 6 million people had the flu this season

Between Oct. 1 and Jan. 5, the CDC estimates that between 6.2 million and 7.3 million people have been sick with the flu.

About half of those people have been to the doctor as a result, while between 69,300 and 83,500 people have been hospitalized.

According to the CDC, H1N1, or the swine flu, is the predominant strain this season.

More on the CDC numbers here.


What we're reading

As the 2020 campaign kicks off, Democrats scramble to prove their leadership on lowering drug costs (Stat News)

$3.4 million Medicaid fraud inquiry hovers over nursing home where comatose woman was raped and had baby (The New York Times)

Johnson & Johnson raises US prices on around two dozen drugs (Reuters)


State by state

Tennessee scientists weighed response to anti-vax politician (Associated Press)

Montana Democrats plan to introduce Medicaid expansion bill (KPAX)

Louisiana adopts 'Netflix' model to pay for hepatitis C drugs (The Washington Post)