Overnight Health Care: Top HHS official accuses scientists of plotting against Trump | House Democrats launch investigation of political interference in CDC science publications | Trump administration seeks to extend Mexico City policy on abortion

Overnight Health Care: Top HHS official accuses scientists of plotting against Trump | House Democrats launch investigation of political interference in CDC science publications | Trump administration seeks to extend Mexico City policy on abortion

Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care.

President TrumpDonald TrumpClyburn says he's worried about losing House, 'losing this democracy' Sinema reignites 2024 primary chatter amid filibuster fight  Why not a Manchin-DeSantis ticket for 2024? MORE finally released the text of a drug pricing executive order, the administration is looking to expand its global "gag rule" on abortion, House Democrats are launching an investigation into political interference at the CDC, and the top HHS spokesman told his Facebook followers the CDC is plotting against Trump.

We'll start with HHS:


Top HHS official accuses scientists of plotting against Trump, tells supporters to buy ammunition

The top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services accused career government scientists of plotting against President Trump, and told Trump supporters to arm themselves ahead of the November presidential election.

During a Facebook Live event on Sunday, Michael Caputo said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was harboring a “resistance unit" to Trump, The New York Times reported

The career scientists "haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump,” Caputo said, according to the Times. “There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Democrats' struggle for voting rights bill comes to a head David Weil: Wrong man, wrong place, wrong time  Biden's voting rights gamble prompts second-guessing MORE is president.”

Aside from CDC issues: Caputo reportedly warned Trump's followers to be prepared for an armed insurrection, predicting the president would win but that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would refuse to concede the election.

"When Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” Caputo said. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”

It's been a busy few days: Caputo's comments came after Politico first reported on Friday that top political HHS appointees have been interfering with the publication of CDC's reports on the coronavirus pandemic. That report came on the heels of separate reporting that found the same HHS communications appointees were trying to tell Anthony FauciAnthony FauciDeSantis says he disagreed with Trump's decision to shut down economy at start of pandemic Child hospitalizations reach record high amid omicron surge: WSJ Overnight Health Care — White House: Testing website coming soon MORE what to say.


What HHS said: "Mr. Caputo is a critical, integral part of the President’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic." 

Top Dem wants him gone:  Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCDC leader faces precarious political moment Schumer ramps up filibuster fight ahead of Jan. 6 anniversary Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health Committee, said Caputo should be fired.

"It is clear Secretary Azar cannot meet his basic responsibilities while allowing Michael A. Caputo, a yes-man for President Trump with no scientific expertise who publicly attacked CDC scientists and privately interfered with key CDC reports, to continue serving in such an influential role. If Secretary Azar believes his responsibility is to the American public and not to President Trump, he should demand Mr. Caputo’s resignation today.”

Read more here.

Related: House Democrats launch investigation of political interference in CDC science publications

House Democrats are launching an investigation into the Trump administration's political interference with the publication of scientific reports at the CDC.

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, led by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), cited reporting from Politico that showed administration appointees have repeatedly interfered with the CDC's reports on the pandemic, which are published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The lawmakers said they are investigating the scope of political interference with the CDC’s scientific reports and other efforts to combat the pandemic, the impact of the interference on the CDC’s mission, whether the interference is continuing and any "steps that Congress may need to take to stop it before more Americans die needlessly."

What they want: In a rare move, the lawmakers are seeking to conduct transcribed interviews with political and career CDC and HHS officials, including CDC Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, acting CDC chief of staff Nina Witkofsky, acting CDC deputy chief of staff Trey Moeller, acting CDC communications director Kate Galatas and MMWR editor-in-chief Charlotte Kent. They also want to interview Caputo and his senior adviser, Paul Alexander.

Read more here.

Drugmaker says anti-inflamatory medicine may shorten COVID-19 recovery time

A drugmaker announced Monday that its arthritis drug shortens the number of days in the hospital for COVID-19 patients when used in combination with Remdesivir, another drug already used widely to treat the disease. 

The use of Baricitinib, a rheumatoid arthritis drug from Eli Lilly, led to a one-day reduction in recovery time for patients when combined with Remdesivir compared to patients who only took Remdesivir, according to a trial. The trial involved more than 1,000 patients and was conducted by Eli Lilly, a drug company based in Indianapolis, and the National Institutes of Health.

The finding was statistically significant, Eli Lilly said in a statement


The company did not release the full results of the study but stated the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is expected to publish full results in peer-review studies and that additional analyses are ongoing to understand clinical outcome data, including safety and morbidity data. 

Read more here

In non-COVID news… Trump administration seeks to extend Mexico City policy on abortion

The Trump administration is looking to expand a ban on global health aid for foreign organizations that provide or promote abortions.

The proposed change from the State Department would require that foreign groups receiving global health aid through contracts from the U.S. government agree to not provide or promote abortions — even with funding from other sources.

The ban — called a "global gag rule" by opponents, already applies to grants and cooperative agreements between the U.S. government and foreign organizations, but the proposed rule, published Monday in the Federal Register, would apply the policy to contracts, which make up about 40 percent of global health aid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Why it matters: The proposal would be an expansion of current policy, and could lead to some organizations scaling back their services, said Jen Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.


Read more here. 

Woodward: Restricting travel from China wasn't Trump's idea

President Trump frequently touts his ban on travel from China, but according to Bob Woodward’s new book, it was not Trump’s idea. 

Host Savannah Guthrie noted on NBC's "Today" that Woodward’s book “Rage” claims that Trump implemented the restrictions on the advice of his administration’s health experts, including Anthony Fauci, the government's leading expert on infectious diseases, after a Jan. 28 meeting.

“It's not that President Trump banned travel, people coming from China to the United States. He restricted it, and as we now know, there were some problems and lots of people from China instead of coming to the United States went to Europe and then came into John F. Kennedy Airport in New York,” Woodward replied. “And that's why there was such a firestorm of a virus in New York City at that time.”

Woodward went on to suggest that the president had an opportunity to emphasize the threat of the pandemic days later at his State of the Union address in early February, rather than the passing mention it received.

Read more here


Federal judge rules Pennsylvania's coronavirus orders are unconstitutional

A federal judge ruled on Monday that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom WolfTom WolfEd Gainey sworn in as Pittsburgh's first Black mayor The COVID-19 endgame may be here Pennsylvania GOP Senate votes to bar school children from COVID-19 requirement MORE’s (D) coronavirus orders, which shut down the state, closed businesses and limited gatherings, were unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV, a Trump appointee, said in his opinion that COVID-19 orders from Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine violated and continue to violate the First Amendment right to freedom of assembly and the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.

The efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus “were undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” Stickman wrote.

“But even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered,” he added.

Context: Pennsylvania has since lifted most of the coronavirus restrictions but still limits indoor gatherings to 25 people, outdoor gatherings to 250 people and indoor dining to 25 percent occupancy. The indoor dining capacity is expected to rise to 50 percent on Sept. 21. 

Read more here.

Trump administration backs off Medicaid rule that states warned would lead to cuts

The Trump administration will not move forward with a proposed Medicaid rule that states, hospitals, insurers, patient advocates and members of both political parties warned could lead to massive cuts to the federal health care program for the poor. 

“The proposed Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule (MFAR) was designed to increase transparency in Medicaid financing and ensure that taxpayer resources support the health care needs of our beneficiaries,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement Monday. 

“We’ve listened closely to concerns that have been raised by our state and provider partners about potential unintended consequences of the proposed rule, which require further study.”

Verma said the rule is being withdrawn from the agency’s regulatory agenda, but it’s not clear if it will be added back in the future.

The rule was intended to overhaul the complex payment arrangements states use to raise money for their Medicaid programs — funding that is then matched by the federal government.

The administration argues some states use questionable methods of raising funds so they can leverage more money from Washington. One approach used by states consists of taxing providers who stand to benefit from more Medicaid funds flowing into the state.

But governors and state Medicaid directors argued those long-standing arrangements are both legal and necessary as states look for ways to keep up with escalating health care costs.

Dozens of states wrote public comments to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, urging her to withdraw the proposal, including conservative states that are typically supportive of her work.

Finalizing the rule during a pandemic, when more people are signing up for Medicaid after losing their jobs and states are facing massive budget shortfalls, experts said. 

What we’re reading

Pfizer coronavirus vaccine could be given to Americans before end of the year, CEO says (CNBC)

Army marshals resources to aid in race for coronavirus vaccine (NPR

Gilead CEO: We’re studying new ways to treat coronavirus with remdesivir outside of the hospital (CNBC

Scientists relieved as coronavirus vaccine trial restarts — but question lack of transparency (Nature

State by state

Ohio senator gets COVID, forcing chamber’s president to quarantine (Columbus Dispatch)

Hold on to those masks, Mississippi. You’ll need them until at least the end of the month (Sun Herald)

Politically connected firm earning millions in state COVID contract (Georgia Health News)

Op-eds in The Hill 

We have to stop the politicization of public health