Overnight Health Care: Trump officials want Supreme Court to delay ObamaCare case | Medicaid expansion linked to decline in opioid deaths | Drug price outrage threatens to be liability for GOP

Overnight Health Care: Trump officials want Supreme Court to delay ObamaCare case | Medicaid expansion linked to decline in opioid deaths | Drug price outrage threatens to be liability for GOP
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care. 

The Trump administration has responded to Democrats' request for an expedited decision in the ObamaCare lawsuit. A study links Medicaid expansion to a decline in opioid deaths, and high drug prices threaten to be a political liability for Republicans in 2020.

Let's start with an update in the ObamaCare lawsuit...



Trump administration wants Supreme Court to delay hearing ObamaCare case 

In a move that surprises nobody, the Trump administration is arguing that it would be premature if the Supreme Court decided to expedite a review of a lawsuit seeking to overturn ObamaCare. 

The Democratic-led House and a group of blue states argue that speed is necessary to remove the uncertainty hanging over the health care system and the millions of people who get health insurance from ObamaCare by resolving the case soon.

The administration, however, argued that since the appellate court declined to rule on the rest of the law, there is no urgency or immediate threat that needs to be resolved. 

"The Fifth Circuit's decision itself does not warrant immediate review because it did not definitively resolve any question of practical consequence," Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote.

"The prospect that the parties challenging the law may prevail does not justify intervening before the district court has ruled."


Red states respond: In a separate filing, the coalition of Republican attorneys general-- led by Texas AG Ken Paxton-- who brought the initial lawsuit echoed the administration's arguments.

"There may come a day when this Court's review is appropriate, but it is after the issue of severability is decided," they wrote. "There is no emergency justifying that departure from the ordinary course. The district court has stayed its judgment, and that stay remains in place today. If this were really an emergency, petitioners would not have waited 16 days to bring it to this Court's attention."

What's next: It takes only four votes at the Supreme Court to grant review and five to expedite an appeal, but legal experts aren't sure if the court will defy its usual precedence and take up a case that isn't final.

Most experts say the case will not be decided until after the 2020 election.

Read more here.


Study: Medicaid expansion linked to 6 percent decline in opioid overdose deaths

Medicaid expansion was linked to a 6 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths, according to a new study. 

The study in an online version of the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that counties in states that accepted the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) had a 6 percent lower rate of opioid overdose deaths compared to counties in states that did not expand Medicaid. 

The study finds the data indicates that Medicaid expansion may have prevented between 1,678 and 8,132 deaths from opioid overdoses between 2015 and 2017. For comparison, there were 82,228 total opioid overdose deaths in that time period, the study states.  

Big picture: The study could provide fodder for Democrats who are pushing for more states to accept the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. 

There has been some momentum on that front, including a deal announced Thursday by bipartisan leaders in Kansas to allow the state to expand Medicaid. 

Read more here.



Drug price outrage threatens to be liability for GOP

The GOP's reluctance to challenge rising prescription drug costs could be a political liability for the party in 2020. 

Outrage over increasing prices has propelled the issue to the top of voters' minds heading into the November elections when Republicans hope to keep control of the Senate and retake the House. 

But proposals that would limit what drug companies can charge for their products face opposition from Republicans, presenting an obstacle to congressional passage. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Democrats file brief against Trump, 'the Framers' worst nightmare' Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner MORE (R-Ky.) has said he won't hold a vote on a House-passed bill supported by Democrats that would require the federal government to negotiate lower prices for some drugs covered by Medicare. 

He is also reluctant to hold a vote on a separate bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate begins preparations for Trump trial Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat Appeals court skeptical of Trump rule on TV drug ads MORE (R-Iowa), that would limit the price increases drug companies typically make every year.

But as Republicans fight to keep control of the Senate, doing nothing on an issue of vast importance to voters is also a gamble. 


"I made it very clear, just strictly from a political standpoint, that every one of these senators is hearing the same thing I am in Iowa: People are fed up with big increases in drug prices," said Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. 

Why it matters: Once again, Republicans find themselves divided on a health care issue. House Democrats have already passed their drug pricing bill and plan to run on it in 2020, giving them the upper hand on this issue. Meanwhile, Republicans are divided on Grassley's bill and will put themselves at risk if they do nothing on drug prices before November. 

Read more here


And, as if on cue, the attack ads have already started.


Democratic groups launch ad campaign attacking Trump, GOP on drug pricing


A new advertising campaign spearheaded by Democratic strategists aims to excoriate congressional Republicans and the Trump administration for opposing Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiREAD: House impeachment managers' trial brief Desperate Democrats badmouth economy even as it booms Pelosi offers message to Trump on Bill Maher show: 'You are impeached forever' MORE's (D-Calif.) drug pricing legislation.

The Patients Over Pharma campaign is run by Accountable.US, an umbrella organization of progressive watchdog groups that attacks the Trump administration's apparent conflicts of interest and ties to industry groups.

Lowering drug prices polls consistently as one of the top issues for voters, and the ad campaign is an example of how Democrats and progressive groups plan to spotlight Pelosi's sweeping bill as the central piece to their health messaging in 2020.

The group declined to say how large the budget was for the project, which will include running ads throughout the election season. 

The new campaign "will focus on exposing the deep ties between the Trump administration and the pharmaceutical industry, the revolving door between Big Pharma and the federal government, and how this corruption is hurting patients and preventing any meaningful progress toward reducing the cost of prescription drugs," Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, said in a statement.

Read more here.


What we're reading

The ghosts of JPMs past: How 20 years of deals, scandal, and science have shaped health care (Stat News)

High-Deductible Plans Jeopardize Financial Health Of Patients And Rural Hospitals (Kaiser Health News

Unusual flu virus is hitting children hard, and this season's vaccine is a poor match (The Washington Post)


State by state

A Cheaper Alternative to ObamaCare Is a Hit in Idaho (Bloomberg)

Texas Surprise Billing Law now in effect: What you should know (News4 San Antonio)   

New Jersey bill to remove religion as reason not to vaccinate kids has enough support to pass (NJ.com)