Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Trump official declines to detail plans if ObamaCare struck down | DEA unveils rule for opioid manufacturers | Republican tells Zuckerberg to allow anti-vax content

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Trump official declines to detail plans if ObamaCare struck down | DEA unveils rule for opioid manufacturers | Republican tells Zuckerberg to allow anti-vax content
© Aaron Schwartz

Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care. 

Seema Verma faced House Democrats today and was pressed on ObamaCare "sabotage" as well as Medicaid work requirements. Meanwhile, a GOP congressman expressed anti-vaccine views during Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Michigan governor urges Zuckerberg to enforce community guidelines after hate speech, threats surface Smaller companies testify against Big Tech's 'monopoly power' MORE's hearing before Congress and the DEA has a new opioid policy.

We'll start with Verma...



Trump health chief declines to detail ObamaCare replacement plan  

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma testified before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Wednesday, the first time she faced a grilling by House Democrats since they took the majority. 

During the contentious hearing, Verma defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE's health care agenda, and argued ObamaCare premiums are lower and that people have more choices of health plans than they ever did under the previous administration. 

But one thing Verma did not have: President Trump's plan to cover the tens of millions of people who would lose health insurance if an administration-backed lawsuit succeeds, and a federal appeals court strikes down the law. 

"The president has made clear that we will have a plan in action to make sure Americans have access to affordable coverage," Verma said.

But when pressed by House Democrats to produce a copy, or even provide some details, she declined to be more specific. 


"I'm not going to get into specifics about the plan," Verma said. "We have planned for a number of different scenarios, but we need to hear from the courts."

Reminder: The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals could rule in the coming days or weeks. The lawsuit was originally brought by a coalition of conservative state attorneys general and is backed by the administration. The administration has argued the entire law, including its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, should be struck down.

If the court agrees that the law is unconstitutional, an appeal to the Supreme Court in the heart of election season would be likely. To date, administration officials have said the law would remain in place, no matter what the court rules, as the legal process plays out.

Read more on Verma's comments here.



Dem presses Verma on Medicaid work requirements

In another tense exchange at the hearing, Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyAyanna Pressley's 'squad' of congresswomen offers support after she opens up about alopecia Lawmakers press Trump officials to change federal marijuana rules Trump and Pelosi clash over Iran, impeachment MORE III (D-Mass.) pressed Verma on coverage losses from Medicaid work requirements approved in Arkansas. 

Kennedy asked Verma to point to any study that backs up the administration's argument that work requirements make people healthier.

"Healthier people might work, work doesn't necessarily make people healthier," Kennedy, who is running a primary campaign to unseat Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyParnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (D-Mass.), said. "You are imposing policies on millions of people across this country. Can you show me one study that says that is a good policy?"

Kennedy asked Verma if she considers it a "success" that so many people have lost their health care.

"I think it's premature to draw conclusions about Arkansas's program. The program was in effect for 10 months," Verma said. 

Bigger picture: Medicaid work requirements can fall somewhat under the radar given all the news going on, but they are one of the most concrete ways that the Trump administration has changed the health care system. 


In Arkansas, 18,000 people lost Medicaid coverage as a result of the state's work requirements before they were struck down by a federal judge. 

Read more here


Republican lawmaker tells Zuckerberg Facebook should allow anti-vaccine content

It was a long day for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as he faced a grilling from lawmakers in both parties. Zuckerberg testified before the House Financial Services Committee on Facebook's plans for a new cryptocurrency, but lawmakers used the opportunity to hammer away that the tech executive on a number of Facebook controversies.

One notable exchange on an unexpected topic came from Rep. Bill PoseyWilliam (Bill) Joseph PoseyScientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Trump official declines to detail plans if ObamaCare struck down | DEA unveils rule for opioid manufacturers | Republican tells Zuckerberg to allow anti-vax content Poll: Women more likely to say social media has negative effect on society MORE (R-Fla.), who pressed Zuckerberg over the social media platform's efforts to reduce the spread of anti-vaccine material.

Posey used his five minutes during Zuckerberg's appearance before the House Financial Services Committee to ask why Facebook cracks down on anti-vaccine content if believes in freedom of expression. 


Zuckerberg pushed back, saying that the company cares about freedom of speech but does want to stop the spread of misinformation. 

"We do care deeply about giving people a voice and freedom of expression," Zuckerberg said. "At the same time, we also hear consistently from our community that people want us to stop the spread of misinformation. What we do is we try to focus on misinformation that has the potential to lead to physical harm or imminent harm, and that can include especially misleading health advice."

Posey also raised debunked concerns about the "risks of vaccinations," and Zuckerberg replied that Facebook allows people to participate in groups and conversations about such topics but does not direct users to those discussions. 

Read more about the exchange here


FLOTUS visits Capitol Hill

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump beefs up impeachment defense with Dershowitz, Starr Trump welcomes LSU to the White House: 'Go Tigers' The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE visited the Capitol on Wednesday to commemorate the one-year anniversary of her husband signing the Support Act, a law passed by Congress that aimed to make addiction treatment more accessible while cracking down on illicit drugs. 


"I have traveled to some of the areas hardest hit by drug abuse and I have seen the devastating effects that this crisis has on families and children," she said, according to pool reports. 

"This is why the Support Act is so important.  It provides the necessary tools to fight this crisis. 

Also attending the event were several Republican members of Congress, including Reps. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (N.C.) and Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxCourt ruling reignites ObamaCare fight for 2020 Democratic lawmaker tears into DeVos: You're 'out to destroy public education' House GOP unveils alternative drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote MORE (N.C.).  


DEA unveils new rule on opioid manufacturers after criticism

A new policy from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) aims to improve the agency's quotas of controlled substances, with the intent of preventing manufacturers from overproducing opioids.

A proposed rule published Wednesday would further limit excess quantities of medications that might be vulnerable to diversion for illicit distribution and use, the agency said in a statement.

Every year, the DEA sets a quota for how many opioid pills drugmakers are allowed to produce in the U.S. The quotas are set by the DEA with input from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and drug manufacturers. 

DEA is charged with keeping controlled substances from being diverted for abuse. The proposed rule would require that appropriate quota reductions be made after estimating the potential for pills to be sold illegally. 

The proposal comes after an internal watchdog report showed the agency allowed drugmakers to increase production of opioids even as overdose deaths were skyrocketing.

Read more on the new policy here.


Sponsored Content - Partnership for America's Health Care Future

A new study shows that "Medicare for America," a proposed new government-run health insurance system, could force one-third of American workers off of their current employer provided coverage. Learn more.


What we're reading

Sheriffs' ads slammed drug imports, and big pharma helped pay the tab (Bloomberg)

Teva's proposed opioid settlement could cost drugmaker pennies on the dollar (Reuters

Nearly 900 clinics have lost federal funding after Trump administration abortion rule, report says (USA Today)


State by state

As Iowans scrutinize 'Medicare for All,' Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina Sanders says gender 'still an obstacle' for female politicians Sanders v. Warren is just for insiders MORE sees an opening (Des Moines Register

Warren is Massachusetts Democrats' top choice. Her health plan isn't (WBUR)

Pennsylvania lawmakers want to ban abortion before many people know they're pregnant (Vox.com


From The Hill's opinion page

We should scrap Medicare site neutrality