Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care, where we hope you had a restful Thanksgiving break from health policy. But now we are diving back in! 

We have news on Medicare for All lobbying and Medicaid work requirements, but we'll start with an update in Louisiana's abortion case.



House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law

A majority of House and Senate Democrats are urging the Supreme Court to block a Louisiana abortion law.

A group of 161 House Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Trump is betting big on the suburbs, but his strategy is failing 'bigly' Trump orders flags at half-staff to honor 'trailblazer' Ginsburg MORE (Calif.), and 36 Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerVideo of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral Graham signals support for confirming a Supreme Court nominee this year Pelosi orders Capitol flags at half-staff to honor Ginsburg MORE (N.Y.), filed an amicus brief in support of the law's challengers, June Medical Services.

The law would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a requirement that critics say is designed to force abortion clinics to close.

According to the lawmakers, admitting privilege requirements "serve no medical benefit, while imposing undue burdens on access to abortion through increased costs and reduced availability of care. These burdens cause unnecessary delays and impose health risks to women."

Flashback: The Supreme Court in 2016 struck down an almost identical law in Texas because it resulted in the closure of half of the state's abortion clinics, which would place an "undue burden" on women seeking a legal abortion.

The Democrats said the Court has a duty to block the law, just as it did in Texas. Upholding Louisiana's law would allow states to effectively eliminate abortion by imposing severe restrictions. "The true, and often overt, intent of legislators behind pretextual laws like [Louisiana's], which have no demonstrable medical benefit, is to severely restrict, and ultimately eliminate, access to legal abortion under the guise of patient welfare," the Democrats wrote.


Next step: Oral arguments are March 4 

Read more here.



Michigan governor calls for pause in Medicaid work requirements

A lot of Medicaid work requirements have been blocked or paused, but not in Michigan. 

Now the governor is trying to change that. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is calling for a pause in the state's Medicaid work requirements to avoid coverage losses on Jan. 1, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

Whitmer's call for a pause, however, would have to be agreed to by the Republican-controlled legislature, raising doubts about whether it will occur. 

Whitmer said a pause is "the most reasonable thing to do" to prevent people from losing coverage, the AP reported. 

Big picture: Medicaid work requirements have been one of the signature health care policies of the Trump administration, with officials arguing they help lift people out of poverty, but they have faced setbacks in the courts. 

More than 18,000 people lost coverage in Arkansas before a court blocked the work requirements earlier this year.  

Read more here



There's also another Medicaid fight brewing, this time over block grants...


Tennessee is becoming a new front in fight to overhaul Medicaid

The Trump administration is currently reviewing a plan from Tennessee to convert Medicaid into a block grant, a proposal that, if approved, could be the first in the nation. 

Big picture: While some red states have begun pushing back from imposing work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries in the face of lawsuits, Tennessee is forging ahead with an even more controversial proposal.

Imposing block grants in Medicaid has long been a major conservative goal, and with time running down in President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE's first term, the administration is facing pressure to approve a plan advocates argue may not be legal without congressional approval.  


Congress already rejected block grants when the GOP's ObamaCare repeal bill failed in 2017. Allowing states to impose those same changes by statutory waiver would be extremely controversial and have widespread implications about the use of executive power.

In a recent speech, CMS Administrator Seema Verma hinted that the administration was ready to begin approving proposals like the one in Tennessee.

Read more here.


Lobbyists guided op-eds against 'Medicare for All' by state lawmakers: Report

Lobbyists were heavily involved in the writing of opinion columns critical of "Medicare for All" by state lawmakers, according to The Washington Post, which cited emails obtained by the newspaper.

Montana state Rep. Kathy Kelker (D) and state Sen. Jen Gross (D) both acknowledged in interviews that lobbyist and consultant John MacDonald provided proposed language for their respective columns, according to the Post.


Gross told the newspaper that MacDonald reached out to her on behalf of the industry group Partnership for America's Health Care Future, which is funded by hospital groups, drugmakers and private health insurers, among others.

The advocacy group Medicare for All Now obtained industry emails detailing messaging against the proposal through a Freedom of Information Act request and provided them to the Post.

Read more here.



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Trump's drug importation plan faces resistance in US, Canada

President Trump's proposal to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada faces significant headwinds from U.S. pharmaceutical companies and the Canadian government.

Canadian officials warn their country is too small to supply their neighbors to the south with prescription drugs, an argument that American drugmakers quickly seized on after years of aggressively opposing all drug importation efforts.

But Trump wants a win on drug prices amid the impeachment inquiry and heading into 2020, and he is showing no signs of backing off.

State and federal lawmakers have looked for solutions to high drug costs as prices soar and patients increasingly struggle to pay for their medications. But it's not clear that Canada is a willing partner. U.S. pharmaceutical company lobbying is also a major obstacle.

For example, at an event in Washington, D.C., last month organized by Partnership for Safe Medicines-- a group funded by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) -- patient advocates from Canada were invited to attend meetings with staffers for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Trump expects to nominate woman to replace Ginsburg next week Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral MORE (R-Ky.), where they argued that drug importation would hurt the country's drug supply.

Read more on the fight here.


What we're reading

ObamaCare numbers fall behind as outreach dwindles, jobs improve (Bloomberg Law

'Black hole' of medical records contributes to deaths, mistreatment at the border (Politico

Medicaid covers sick or dying children. But it takes 'going to battle' to get it (Stat News


State by state

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer supports Medicare for All 'in concept' (MLive

Experts warn of rising health costs in Missouri despite lower ACA premiums (St. Louis Public Radio