Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group

Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group
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Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

Today, federal law enforcement officials announced a takedown of dozens of medical professionals allegedly involved in illegal opioid prescribing. On the campaign trail, presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries The hidden connection between immigration and health care: Our long-term care crisis Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll MORE is courting GOP voters with 'Medicare for All." And House Democrats are examining the administration's funding of an anti-abortion group.

We'll start with the news from law enforcement:

 

DOJ charges doctors across multiple states with illegally prescribing millions of narcotics

The Justice Department on Wednesday charged more than 50 medical professionals across five states with illegally prescribing and distributing more than 32 million pain pills.

The takedown resulted in the arrests of 60 people, including 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners and seven other licensed medical professionals.

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The DOJ said the action was the largest-ever prescription opioid law enforcement operation. More than 24,000 patients in the region received prescriptions from these medical professionals over the past two years, DOJ said.

The accusations are striking:

  • In one case in Tennessee, the DOJ described a doctor who branded himself the "Rock Doc," who allegedly prescribed dangerous combinations of opioids and anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) like Valium, sometimes in exchange for sex. Over a three-year period this doctor prescribed approximately 500,000 hydrocodone pills, 300,000 oxycodone pills, 1,500 fentanyl patches, and more than 600,000 benzodiazepine pills.
  • In Alabama, a doctor allegedly recruited prostitutes and other young women with whom he had sexual relationships to become patients at his clinic, while simultaneously allowing them to take illicit drugs at his house.
  • A dentist was charged for allegedly pulling teeth for no medical reason as an excuse to prescribe opioids, writing prescriptions for opioids that had no legitimate medical purpose, and billing inappropriately for services, among other charges.

Read more on the crackdown here.

 

Cummings accuses Oversight Republicans of obstructing drug price probe

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens House poised to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer MORE (D-Md.) on Wednesday accused ranking member Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation Kellyanne Conway defies congressional subpoena at Trump's direction Social media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech MORE (R-Ohio) of deliberately trying to undermine the committee's investigation into rising drug prices.

In a letter sent to Jordan, Cummings condemned what he claimed were the ranking member's efforts to "actively obstruct" the committee's investigation into prescription drug pricing.

"You personally may have no interest in bringing down drug prices for your constituents, you honestly may believe it is more important to protect drug company profits and stock prices than the budgets of American families, and you may even disagree with President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE ... but your efforts to interfere with this investigation represent a new low for a Member of this Committee," Cummings wrote.

Cummings was responding to letters sent by Jordan and Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-N.C.) earlier this month, warning a dozen different drug company executives that Cummings was conducting a partisan investigation, essentially telling them not to participate.

Why all the fighting? Politics. The response from Cummings marks an escalation in his ongoing political battle with Jordan over the committee's handling of sensitive information. Jordan and Cummings have butted heads on most of the committee's actions to date, as Jordan has essentially accused Cummings of carrying out a partisan vendetta against President Trump.

Read more on their feud here.

 

House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group

House Democrats are launching a probe of the Trump administration's decision to fund an anti-abortion group through a federal family planning program while cutting government support for Planned Parenthood.  

Democrats, led by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneNRC eyes reducing inspections of nuclear reactors Democratic chair: Medicare negotiating drug prices not moving before August Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid MORE (N.J.), wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that the changes don't meet the goals of the program, which is to fund clinics that provide low-income women access to reproductive care.

Context: The Trump administration announced last month that four Planned Parenthood affiliates would not be awarded Title X family planning grants this year, despite receiving them in the past. The administration also announced that, for the first time, it would fund Obria, a chain of anti-abortion clinics that don't provide contraception.

What they're asking for: Democrats want HHS to provide all documents and communications between HHS and Obria regarding the Title X program over the past two years and its applications for funding.

"The shift of funding toward [crisis pregnancy centers] that will not offer patients direct access to a broad range of contraceptive care and counseling is alarming," the Democrats wrote.

More on the investigation here.

 

Sanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is trying to use "Medicare for All" to win over white working-class voters, many of whom supported President Trump in 2016.

The 2020 candidate went on Fox News, Trump's turf, on Monday night for a town hall, where audience members cheered when asked if they would support Medicare for All. Sanders shared the clip on social media several times the following day.

"I understand why some had concerns about @BernieSanders going on Fox," Sanders's campaign manager Faiz Shakir tweeted after the event. "But if you watched that home run performance for the last hour, you also realized this is the ticket to beating Trump."

Why it matters: The future of health care reform is a key issue in the 2020 presidential elections. Sanders' plan is the most ambitious plan out there, and he says it's not just appealing to progressives.

Republicans say they think Medicare for All is a winning issue for their side as well.

"Bernie Sanders is not going to win over President Trump's voters with his promise of higher taxes and more government control over their lives," Republican National Committee spokesman Steve Guest wrote in an email.

Read more on Sanders here.

 

Abortion rights group asks Supreme Court to hear case

The Center for Reproductive Rights asked the Supreme Court Wednesday to strike down a law that they say is aimed at shutting down abortion clinics in Louisiana.

The law would require that doctors who perform abortions have the authority to admit patients at a nearby hospital.

The Fifth Circuit of appeals last year upheld the law after a lower court overturned it. The Supreme Court in February granted a temporary stay before the law was slated to take effect.

The Center for Reproductive Rights argued in its petition that the appeals court ruling violates precedent set by the Supreme Court in 2016.

"In 2016, the Court was crystal clear that states may not use medically unjustified restrictions to shut down abortion clinics," said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"If states are allowed to disregard Supreme Court decisions, the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade are in peril."

Read more on the case here.

 

What we're reading

Gun research is suddenly hot (The New York Times)

Health stocks crumble as fears of 'Medicare for All' snowball (Bloomberg)

Google has warned some employees about a Measles case on its campus (BuzzFeed News)

A powerful lobbying tool in the Trump era: the president's ear (The Wall Street Journal)

Most people pay less than $5 per month for a drug. But some pay $11,002 (Stat)

 

State by state

'Lies into laws': Texas House passes 'Born Alive' anti-abortion bill despite protest (Texas Observer)

Bacteria that causes Legionnaire's disease found to be widespread in California prison's water (Sacramento Bee)

Colorado legislature moves closer to creating public health insurance option (The Denver Post)

Delaware governor signs law raising state smoking age to 21. Here's what else it does (News Journal)

 

From The Hill's opinion page

Price transparency is key to a functional health care market