Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders welcomes fight with Trump over 'Medicare for all' | DOJ attorney in ObamaCare case leaving | NYC mayor defends vaccination mandate | Ohio gov signs 'heartbeat' abortion bill

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

The House and Senate have officially left the Capitol for the next two weeks for an extended recess. But in the meantime, Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersAndrew Cuomo: Biden has best chance at 'main goal' of beating Trump Poll: Buttigieg tops Harris, O'Rourke as momentum builds Buttigieg responds to accusation of pushing a 'hate hoax' about Pence MORE is telling the White House he would relish a fight over Medicare for all, and a top attorney representing the Trump administration in the ObamaCare lawsuit is leaving the Justice Department.

We'll start with Bernie...


Sanders campaign to Trump: 'We welcome this fight' on 'Medicare for all'

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is not backing down from the fight over Medicare for all, a day after the White House attacked him for it.

"This campaign's message to Trump is simple: we welcome this fight because we are going to defeat you in the election and guarantee health care as a right to all people," Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement.

The takeaway: Health care will be center stage in 2020. Republicans think attacking Medicare for all is a winning message, but Sanders thinks touting it is a good strategy. And many other Democratic candidates are on board with his bill too, including Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisJulián Castro: Trump should be impeached for trying to obstruct justice 'in very concrete ways' Poll: Buttigieg tops Harris, O'Rourke as momentum builds Trump Jr. slams 2020 Dems as 'more concerned' about rights of murderers than legal gun owners MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerHarris adds another to her list of endorsements in South Carolina The Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics 2020 Dems rebuke Trump on Iran, say they'd put US back in nuclear deal MORE (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJulián Castro: Trump should be impeached for trying to obstruct justice 'in very concrete ways' Poll: Biden tops Sanders nationally Pete Buttigieg: 'God doesn't have a political party' MORE (D-Mass.), though some of them have also touted more incremental solutions.

"Self-proclaimed socialist Senator Bernie Sanders is proposing a total government takeover of healthcare that would actually hurt seniors, eliminate private health insurance for 180 million Americans, and cripple our economy and future generations with unprecedented debt," the White House said on Wednesday, in response to Sanders introducing his updated bill.

Another health care divide: Democrats have also attacked Trump for backing a lawsuit seeking to overturn ObamaCare.

Trump has countered that he wants to come up with a better plan than the Affordable Care Act. The president has stated that Republicans will be the "party of health care," but has not yet offered any specific.

Read more here on how the fight is heating up.



Top attorney representing DOJ in Texas ObamaCare case leaving the agency

Brett Shumate, the DOJ's deputy assistant attorney general and a lead attorney in the ObamaCare lawsuit, withdrew from the lawsuit Thursday because he is leaving the agency, he wrote in a court filing.

The U.S. will continue to be represented by another DOJ attorney, he wrote in the filing.

Shumate, a political appointee, had worked at the DOJ for two years, defended some of President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE's most ambitious policies, including the decision to add a citizenship question to the census.

The DOJ announced last month that it would defend a lower court's ruling that ObamaCare is unconstitutional and should be overturned.


Schumer: No 'fig leaf' on drug prices

Asked if he is optimistic Democrats can get a deal with Republicans to lower drug prices this year, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage MORE (N.Y.) cautioned against a "fig leaf."

"It's high on our agenda, whether we can reach agreement with Republicans... we're not going to pass just a fig leaf that does nothing, it has to be real and it has to really reduce drug prices in a significant way," Schumer told reporters on Thursday. "We would like to do that, if we can get it done in a bipartisan way, great."

His comments come as Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The 7 most interesting nuggets from the Mueller report Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy MORE (R-Iowa) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy Hillicon 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 MORE (D-Ore.), the top senators on the Senate Finance Committee, have begun discussions on drug pricing legislation.  


Dem presses FCC on mental health hotline

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should establish a three-digit hotline for suicide prevention and mental health crises "as soon as possible," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Wednesday.

"Suicide rates in Oregon and across the country have steadily increased since 2000. From 2000 to 2017, Oregon's suicide rates increased 35 percent," Wyden said in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. It's clear this public health crisis is not going away, and, to put it in stark terms, the current system of help is nowhere near adequate."

Wyden said Pai had cited progress over the hotline initiative in a December letter. In the letter, Pai said the commission was in the process of implementing the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018, which creates a three-digit code.

More here.


Ohio governor signs 'heartbeat' abortion bill

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Thursday signed into law one of the country's most stringent abortion restrictions.

The bill bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which doctors say can be as early as five or six weeks into pregnancy.

"The government's role should be protect life from the beginning to the end … the signing of this bill today is consistent with that respect for life," DeWine said at the signing ceremony.

DeWine's approval breaks with his predecessor Gov. John Kasich (R), who vetoed similar bills twice while in office.

What's next: Opponents are already vowing to sue over the restrictions.

More here.


NYC mayor defends vaccination mandate

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) vowed Thursday that the city would defeat a lawsuit challenging his order for people in a Brooklyn neighborhood experiencing a measles outbreak to get vaccinated or pay a $1,000 fine.

In an interview with WCBS news radio, the mayor blamed the lawsuit on efforts by anti-vaccination activists to mislead people about the supposed dangers of inoculation.

"We will beat them," de Blasio said.

A majority Hasidic Jewish community in the Williamsburg neighborhood is suing the city over de Blasio's order. The mayor announced the order on Tuesday, declaring a public health emergency in the neighborhood.

More on the controversy here.



PBMs serve as the check against drugmakers' pricing strategies by negotiating for consumers and clients to ensure prescription drugs are affordable. Learn how PBMs advocate for patients and payers at OnYourRxSide.org.


What we're reading

Supreme Court may get to decide fate of ObamaCare before 2020 election (CNN.com)

Chuck Grassley: Supreme Court unlikely to overturn ObamaCare, so no need to create replacement (Des Moines Register)

Bernie Sanders's plan to blow up the filibuster and pass Medicare for all explained (Vox.com)


State by state

Pharma lobbyists flooded Maryland to block a drug-pricing bill. Opponents pushed back -- and won. (Stat News)

Florida state lawmakers weigh Medicaid work requirements (News Service of Florida)


From The Hill's op-ed page

Potential discrimination in NYC's measles public health emergency order