Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House lawmakers offer measure on surprise medical bills | Top Dems press DOJ on ObamaCare document requests | Pennsylvania AG sues Purdue Pharma over opioid epidemic

Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.

Bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have draft legislation on surprise medical bills, House Democrats want answers from the administration on the ObamaCare lawsuit, and another state is suing Purdue Pharma.

We'll start with surprise billing...


Pallone, Walden release legislation to end surprise medical bills

Bipartisanship alert!

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the panel's top Republican, on Tuesday released draft legislation to end surprise medical bills.

Momentum growing: In addition to the Pallone-Walden bill, President Trump also called for action on the issue last week, and the Senate is working on a bipartisan plan.

What's in the House bill?: The measure protects patients from getting massive bills when they get emergency care from a doctor who is outside of their insurance network, with the idea being that, in an emergency, patients should not be expected to ask doctors giving them care whether they are in-network or not.

What to watch: Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) are expected to release their own plan soon. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Health Committee, are also in talks about including surprise medical billing legislation in the larger package they are negotiating on lowering health care costs. 

Provider opposition: The draft bill is not what doctors or hospitals want. It does not rely on independent arbitration to determine payment rates. Instead, it bases the payment on the usual in-network rates in that geographic area. Providers and insurers are heading towards a showdown, and legislation hasn't even been introduced. It's also not clear that the Cassidy/Hassan and Alexander/Murray bills will be similar, so watch for clashes between the groups of lawmakers (perhaps as a proxy for the differences between industry interests) if and when the bills emerge.   

Read more on the legislation here.



Top Dems threaten Trump officials with 'alternative means of obtaining compliance' on ObamaCare documents

Top Democratic lawmakers are escalating a standoff with the White House over the administration's decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act in court.

Several committee chairmen, led by Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), have warned the attorney general and White House counsel that they will seek "alternative" measures of obtaining documents related to the Trump administration's decision to not defend ObamaCare in court if the two top Trump officials do not comply with their requests.

The Democrats said they will "consider alternative means of obtaining compliance" if they don't get responses by May 24. It is not clear what actions the House Democrats might take, but in separate conflicts with the White House over documents and testimony the House Oversight and Reform Committee has issued subpoenas.

Why it matters: Much of the attention has been focused on the Mueller report and the fight over Trump's tax returns, but Cummings is still investigating the administration's decision not to defend ObamaCare in court. The White House has stonewalled other investigations, so it's not clear if--or why-- they would choose to cooperate with this one. 

Read more on the fight here.


Pennsylvania attorney general sues Purdue Pharma over opioid epidemic

Pennsylvania on Tuesday became the latest state to file a lawsuit against OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, accusing the drugmaker of fueling the opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit announced by Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) says the company made more sales visits in Pennsylvania than any other state except California. The Connecticut-based firm has sold more than 2.9 million opioid prescriptions in Pennsylvania since May 2007, according to Shapiro.

"Purdue accomplished these massive sales in part by directing its highly trained and highly incentivized in-state opioid sales force to make more than half a million sales calls on Pennsylvania prescribers since 2007," the lawsuit reads.

There are thousands of ongoing lawsuits from states, tribes, counties, hospitals against the major players in the opioid epidemic, including Purdue.

The backstory: Purdue is widely blamed for helping to start the opioid epidemic after it introduced OxyContin to the market in 1996 and is facing a host of lawsuits for allegedly convincing doctors to overprescribe the powerful narcotic. Purdue has denied the allegations contained in the lawsuits and is mounting a vigorous defense.

As the lawsuits have mounted, Purdue has threatened to declare bankruptcy.

In March, Purdue and Oklahoma agreed to a $270 million settlement in a lawsuit over claims that the illegal marketing of OxyContin helped lead to the opioid crisis.

Read more here.


Twitter has launched a new tool to combat vaccine misinformation

When Twitter users search "vaccines" or related terms, they will now receive a message with a link to the Department of Health and Human Services's (HHS) website about vaccines.

"To make sure you get the best information on vaccinations, resources are available from the US Department of Health & Human Services," the pop-up says with a link to vaccines.gov and the HHS Twitter handle.

Twitter and other social media websites have been criticized by public health experts for not doing enough about the spread of vaccine misinformation online.

Why it matters: The CDC has confirmed 839 measles cases across 23 states.  The current outbreak is still the largest since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000. Health officials have partially blamed the outbreaks on a seemingly uncontrollable spread of misinformation about vaccine safety on the internet.

Read more here.



The Trump administration is quietly giving away millions of dollars intended for family planning services to a religious organization that refuses to provide contraception. Learn more.


What we're reading

Wary of Medicare for All, Democrats seek easier paths to universal coverage (Los Angeles Times)

Anti-abortion advocates come out against Medicare for All (Washington Examiner)

Fact checker: Kamala Harris's claim that Medicare-for-All 'doesn't get rid of all insurance' (The Washington Post)

A new study sparks a war of words over the drug industry's commitment to research (Stat)


State by state

Florida Medicaid expansion plan tops 63,000 signatures (Fox 35)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan faces pressure on bills about drug prices (Baltimore Sun)

Opponents dubious of science, but 'abortion reversal' bill to surface at Ohio Statehouse (Columbus Dispatch)