Overnight Health Care: Senate panel to hold hearing on US coronavirus response | Dems demand Trump withdraw religious provider rule | Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan backlash

Overnight Health Care: Senate panel to hold hearing on US coronavirus response | Dems demand Trump withdraw religious provider rule | Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan backlash
© Getty Images

Welcome to Wednesday's Overnight Health Care.

It's another Democratic debate tonight, as candidates jockey just ahead of Saturday's Nevada caucuses. 

Back in Washington, Senate Democrats want the Trump administration to withdraw a rule governing religious providers and HHS officials will testify in the Senate on the coronavirus next week.


We'll start with debate night...


What we are watching for tonight

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will join the field tonight, beginning at 9 p.m. ET. Bloomberg has been taking fire from all sides since his late entry into the race, and expect him to be on the hot seat tonight defending his past remarks about health care.

Bloomberg, a former Democrat-turned Republican-turned Independent-turned Democrat, has spoken about the need for entitlement reform as a way to cut the deficit, a position that puts him at odds with others in the Democratic primary. 

Bloomberg has also criticized ObamaCare, which former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims The Memo: Scale of economic crisis sends shudders through nation The Hill's Campaign Report: Coronavirus forces Democrats to postpone convention MORE mentioned in a new ad on Wednesday.

"He passed a health care bill that does absolutely nothing to fix the big health care problems in this country," Bloomberg says in a resurfaced clip from 2010. "It's just a disgrace."


Also on the hot seat: Bernie SandersBernie SandersHuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Schumer: Administration 'must move heaven and earth' to implement new unemployment benefits Biden associates reach out to Holder about VP search MORE. Sanders is likely to continue facing criticism for his "Medicare for All" plan. The policy came under fire in Nevada last week after the state's powerful Culinary Union warned that it would "end culinary health care" by replacing private plans with government-run insurance.

Don't forget medical records: Sanders had promised to release comprehensive records after having a heart attack last year. But on Tuesday, he told CNN he would not be sharing any more information. "I don't think so, no," Sanders said. On Wednesday, Sanders' national press secretary said questions about his medical records and his overall health were equivalent to a "smear" campaign. She also had to retract a claim that Bloomberg had a heart attack.


Be sure to check in at TheHill.com tonight for the latest from the Las Vegas debate.


Senate Health Committee announces hearing on U.S. coronavirus response

Mark your calendars: The Senate Health Committee will hold a hearing March 3 featuring officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health, and Food and Drug Administration. 

The hearing will focus on how to "prevent the potential spread of disease in the United States," the committee said, referring to the coronovirus.

Also on the calendar: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will also hold a hearing with HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Feb. 26. The first part will focus on the department's budget request, followed by a panel with Azar and other health officials discussing the coronavirus response.   

Read more here.


CDC issues 'Level 1' warning for travel to Hong Kong

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel advisory for people traveling to Hong Kong due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The mild Level 1 warning advises travelers to Hong Kong to avoid contact with sick people and clean their hands often by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


The agency did not tell people to cancel or postpone travel to Hong Kong, which just recorded its second death due to the coronavirus. Instead, the CDC said people who have traveled to Hong Kong in the past 14 days should seek medical attention if they are displaying symptoms of the virus.  

Read more on the advisory here.


25 Democratic senators urge Trump administration to request emergency coronavirus funding 

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner MORE (D-Conn.), along with 23 other Democratic senators, are urging the Trump administration to request emergency funding from Congress to respond to the coronavirus. 

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMeadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House Meadows set to resign from Congress as he moves to White House MORE, Democrats said they have heard concerns from state and local public health departments that are facing additional costs from responding to the outbreak. 

While there are only 15 confirmed cases in the U.S., hundreds of Americans have been quarantined after being evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. More than 74,000 cases have been confirmed in China, while 924 cases have been confirmed in 25 other countries. 


"Based on the global escalation of cases and the increasing demands on federal, state and local public health agencies, we are concerned that HHS has not requested additional resources," the senators wrote. 

Why it matters: State and local health departments have been tasked with carrying out federal quarantine orders, as well as isolating confirmed cases and assisting with the screening of travelers. But it's not clear if those departments will be reimbursed for their work, the senators said. We've written before about how outbreaks can strain the public health system, which experts argue is underfunded as is.

"We strongly urge the Administration to transmit an emergency supplemental request that ensures it can and will fully reimburse states for the costs they are incurring as part of this response – including costs associated with the enactment of travel screening and quarantine policies laid out by the Federal government," the senators said. 

Read more here


Democrats demand Trump administration withdraw religious provider rule

Senate Democrats are demanding the Trump administration withdraw a proposed rule that would expand religious exemptions for federally funded faith-based social service providers.


Led by Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayTrump administration issues guidance scaling back paid leave requirement for small business employees Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday Senate Democrats propose canceling student loan payments during coronavirus MORE (D-Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Zoom CEO says company reached 200 million daily users in March MORE (D-Ore.), the senators said in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar that the proposal is "both an attack on religious freedom and yet another step taken by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders MORE to greenlight federally-funded discrimination."

The proposal seeks to remove a mandate that the faith-based health and social service providers tell patients about services they do not provide for religious reasons, referring those patients to other providers.

It would also eliminate a provision requiring federally funded faith-based organizations to give written notice to beneficiaries to ensure they are aware of the religious nature of the organization.

Read more here.


Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan warnings 

Republicans and Democrats alike are warning that a recent proposal from the Trump administration could lead to billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid, forcing states to eliminate benefits, reduce enrollment or cut payments to health providers.

In a rare sign of unity, hospitals, insurers, patient advocates and members of both political parties are on the same page in their opposition to the Trump administration's plan, and most have urged the administration to withdraw a proposal they say would "cripple" Medicaid, the federal-state partnership that provides health care for the poor.

The proposal hasn't received as much attention as the administration's other efforts to reform Medicaid, such as implementing work requirements, but it could have the most damaging effect because of how far-reaching it is, experts argue.

"This is high stakes," said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, whose board urged the administration to completely withdraw the proposal.

Read more here


Wednesday, February 26: America's Opioid Epidemic: Lessons Learned & A Way Forward 

Join The Hill on Wednesday, February 26th in downtown Washington, D.C. as we host a conversation about expanding access to treatment and helping those battling opioid addiction begin the journey toward long-term recovery. We will be speaking with Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rep. David JoyceDavid Patrick JoyceBoeing suspends Washington production, GE Aviation lays off thousands Mnuchin details IRS challenges with cash-only marijuana businesses Democrat: Lawmakers need to approach opioid crisis as 'a chronic situation' MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoBottom Line Trump administration expected to roll back Obama-era mileage standards As we face coronavirus battle, we must ensure critical supplies of respirators for health care workers MORE (D-N.Y.). RSVP today!


What we're reading

The Democrats' surest path to victory is clear--defend the ACA from Trump's attacks (Daily Beast)

My $145,000 surprise medical bill (New York Times opinion)

Trump's next health care move: Giving Silicon Valley your medical data (Politico)   

How the drug lobby lost its mojo in Washington (Wall Street Journal)


State by state 

Minnesota task force recommends 14 ways to lower prescription drug prices (Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Missouri lawmakers confirm up to 60,000 children wrongfully removed from Medicaid (News Tribune)

Justice Department says Maine violated disabled man's rights by limiting Medicaid services (Portland Press Herald)


The Hill op-eds

Public trust in data could have helped China contain the coronavirus

Flavor prohibitions will leave bad taste in states' mouths

Global response to a growing epidemic: The UN at work on coronavirus