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

Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care. If you’re looking for Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE news, check out today's developments at TheHill.com. If you're looking for news on ObamaCare enrollment numbers, surprise medical bills or taxing sugary drinks... you've come to the right place. Let’s dive in:


ObamaCare enrollment declines slightly to 11.4M signups for 2019

Two big findings from new ObamaCare data released Monday:

  • 11.4 million people signed up in 2019, down from 11.8 million last year.
  • Premiums declined by an average of 1.5 percent, the first time since the law began that premiums declined.

Trump officials downplay the enrollment decline: They called it a “minimal decline” in the number of people signing up for health insurance under the law.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees ObamaCare, also said in a news release that there is “stability on the Exchanges,” a departure from arguments long made by other Republicans, including President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE, that ObamaCare is collapsing.  

What’s causing the enrollment decline? Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation said it could be outreach funding cuts on federally-run marketplaces. In the past three years, enrollment in state-run marketplaces has remained steady at three million people, while enrollment on the federally-run marketplaces declined from 9.2 million to 8.4 million.

Read more here.



House to hold hearing on preventing surprise medical bills

The House Education and Labor Committee will convene a hearing next week about preventing surprise medical bills.

A congressional aide told The Hill the hearing will be scheduled April 2 in front of the healthcare subcommittee. Witnesses have not yet been confirmed. The hearing would mark the first substantial action on surprise bills from the House this year.

Background: Calls for action against surprise medical bills have been growing, and legislation to protect patients from such unexpected expenses is seen as one of the most likely areas for bipartisan action on health care this year. The debate is over how to determine how much an insurer will pay to a doctor or hospital.

Over in the Senate: Members of the Senate Health Committee have primarily been taking the lead, and committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar Alexander Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Five things to know about the measles outbreak MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (Wash.), the panel's top Democrat, recently asked the Congressional Budget Office to analyze possible policy options.

Read more on the House move here.


Dem support grows for allowing public funds to pay for abortions

Democrats are becoming more vocal about a politically divisive issue: public funding of abortions.

House Democrats, who say they have a “pro-choice majority” for the first time in history, are vowing to end a long-standing ban of abortion coverage in Medicaid called the Hyde Amendment.

They also want to ensure that future government health care plans mandate abortion coverage.

Why this matters: Public funding of abortions used to be a taboo topic. Now it’s becoming a mainstream idea in the Democratic party. They argue restrictions on abortion funding in public health programs ultimately hurts low-income women, particularly people of color.

The big picture: Repealing Hyde won’t happen while Republicans control the Senate, or Trump is in the White House, but it shows the path the party hopes to take if it wins control of the White House and the Senate in 2020 or beyond.

Read more here.


Oklahoma high court rejects request to delay opioid trial

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday denied a request by drugmakers to delay the start of an upcoming trial against them in the state for allegedly helping to fuel the opioid epidemic.

The drugmakers had asked for a 100 day delay, arguing they needed more time to examine evidence from the state attorney general.

In a statement, Attorney General Mike Hunter said the court date will remain on schedule.

The case: Hunter in 2017 sued four drugmakers, claiming the effects of deceptive marketing campaigns over the last decade have fueled the state’s opioid epidemic.

High stakes: Oklahoma’s case is expected to be the first state lawsuit against opioid manufacturers to go to trial.

More on the court fight here.


Health groups back proposals taxing sugary drinks, limiting marketing to kids

Two major health groups are backing policies intended to keep kids from drinking soda and other sugary beverages that can contribute to health problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association on Monday endorsed proposals that would tax sugary drinks and limit the marketing of the beverages to children.

“For children, the biggest source of added sugars often is not what they eat, it’s what they drink,” said Natalie Muth, a physician and lead author of the policy statement.

Why it matters: The groups say sugary drinks pose preventable risks to childrens’ health, including tooth decay, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Read more here.


ICYMI: Ebola outbreak tops 1,000 cases.

More than a thousand people have been infected with the deadly Ebola virus in two eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in an outbreak that has claimed hundreds of lives and flummoxed public health officials.

The Congolese health ministry said Sunday the virus has killed at least 629 people and infected 1,009 people, making it by far the worst Ebola outbreak in Congo's modern history, and the second-worst outbreak in the world, behind an epidemic that struck three West African countries beginning in 2014.

Health officials say the rising case count comes as they struggle to make inroads with communities that are not used to dealing with Ebola, or even with aid workers hoping to help.

The Hill's Reid Wilson has more here.


What we’re reading

Holdout states tiptoe toward Medicaid expansion under Obamacare (CNN.com)

Eli Lilly sheds light on confidential drug pricing, discloses charges for popular diabetes medicine Humalog (CNBC.com)

'Medicare for All' stirs up divisive issues for 2020 Dems (Associated Press)


State by state  

Georgia House to vote on controversial heartbeat abortion bill (WSB-TV)

Georgia lawmakers approve governor's plan for Medicaid, ObamaCare waivers (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Texas needs to ensure better care for medically fragile children, audit says (San Antonio Express-News