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Overnight Health Care: Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit | White House puts off action on surprise medical bills | Rising coronavirus cases spark fears of harsh winter

Overnight Health Care: Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit | White House puts off action on surprise medical bills | Rising coronavirus cases spark fears of harsh winter
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Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE signed an executive order seeking to protect coverage for preexisting conditions, while his Department of Justice is supporting a lawsuit that would overturn the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, the White House put off action on surprise medical bills, and rising coronavirus cases are sparking fear of a tough winter to come. 

Let’s start with Trump’s big health care speech in North Carolina today: 

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President Trump on Thursday signed a largely symbolic executive order aimed at protecting people with pre-existing conditions as he takes fire for a lawsuit seeking to overturn ObamaCare, which enacted those protections. 

The caveats: The White House did not immediately release the text of the order, but from Trump and other officials’ descriptions it simply states that protecting people with pre-existing conditions is the policy of the government, something that does not have the force of law on its own. 

The Trump administration is currently backing a GOP-led lawsuit seeking to overturn all of ObamaCare, including the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. If the Supreme Court does strike down the health law, a new law would still be required to replace the protections, despite Trump’s executive order. 

Trump also did not lay out the details of how he would protect people with pre-existing conditions. 

Read more here

On another front from the speech: White House puts off action on surprise medical bills, punts to Congress

The White House is putting off executive action to crack down on surprise medical bills, instead calling on Congress to act on the issue.  

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The Trump administration had been working on a potentially far-reaching proposal to protect patients from getting stuck with massive “surprise” medical bills when they get care from a doctor who happened to be outside their insurance network, according to people familiar with the plans. 

But after pushback from health care provider groups, GOP lawmakers, and debate within the administration, the White House is instead issuing a much more limited executive order simply calling on Congress to act on the issue. 

Why it matters: Reining in surprise medical bills has been a priority for both parties for months, and is seen as a key patient protection.  But Congress has struggled to find consensus on the issue and is unlikely to before the election. 

The order released Thursday calls on the administration to take executive action if Congress does not act by Jan. 1, but it does not specify what that action would be, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on a press call. 

Read more here.

HHS spokesman Caputo diagnosed with cancer

Michael Caputo, the top spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who recently went on medical leave following an uproar, has been diagnosed with cancer.

According to New York Assemblyman David DiPietro (R), who is acting as the Caputo family spokesman, the HHS official has been diagnosed with "squamous cell carcinoma, a metastatic head and neck cancer which originated in his throat."

"He is now home in Western New York, resting in the loving arms of his family, under the watchful eye of Jesus Christ," DiPietro said in a statement first shared with the Buffalo News.

Caputo, who had been in charge of the administration's coronavirus communications strategy, began a 60-day medical leave last week to focus on "his health and the well-being of his family," according to an HHS statement at the time.

Read more here.

Young adults account for more COVID-19 cases than any other age group, CDC says

People in their 20s now account for more COVID-19 infections than any other age group, according to a new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The median age of people infected with COVID-19 declined from June through August across all states, regardless of whether overall cases increased, the CDC found.

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Nationwide, the median age of COVID-19 cases declined from 46 years old in May to 37 years old in July and 38 years old in August. 

While older Americans were the ones disproportionately affected early in the pandemic, young adults aged 20 to 29 now account for 20 percent of all cases. 

Why it matters: The findings suggest that young people are not as immune to the virus as some previously thought, and that young adults are contributing to the community spread of the virus, including to people at high risk for more severe illness. 

Read more here.

Rising coronavirus cases spark fears of harsh winter

After surpassing another grim milestone — 200,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths — the U.S. is bracing for an increase in lives lost this fall and winter as the pandemic collides with flu season.

Temperatures are beginning to dip across the country and case counts are subsequently starting to rise again, putting the country on the wrong path as colder weather approaches.

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Anthony FauciAnthony FauciScott Atlas: Fauci 'just one person on the task force' Budowsky: Trump's COVID-19 death toll dominates election Wisconsin COVID-19 cases climb ahead of Election Day MORE, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, had hoped daily new cases would be around 10,000 by the fall, but the seven-day average is 42,000 and heading upward.

“It’s incredibly high levels of transmission, which puts us in a very difficult situation going into the winter,” said Joshua Michaud, an infectious disease epidemiologist and associate director for global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“That’s because if we haven’t been able to reduce transmission to much lower levels than we have right now, it provides the seeds for further transmission as winter sets in.”

Why it matters: Respiratory viruses like the flu and common cold tend to spread more easily in colder, dryer climates, leading experts to believe it will be the same for COVID-19. That’s why experts say it’s especially important this year to get vaccinated for the flu, to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by flu and coronavirus patients at the same time.

Fauci has warned that if the U.S. does not bring case numbers down this month, it will become much harder to control COVID-19 when winter forces people back indoors, aiding the virus’s spread.

Read more here.

NY health officials to review any vaccine approved by Trump

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New York health officials will review any COVID-19 vaccine approved by the Trump administration, Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoState officials plead for more info on vaccine distribution plans Overnight Health Care: NIH chief: Trump has not met with task force in 'quite some time' | CDC reports 300,000 more deaths than expected this year | UK to start challenge trials for vaccine Cuomo: Travel within Tri-State area should be avoided due to COVID-19 spike MORE (D) said Thursday, citing his distrust of the federal government. 

“Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion, and I wouldn’t recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government’s opinion,” Cuomo said at a press conference. 

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA), a part of the federal government, reviews vaccines for safety and efficacy, but its independence has come into question after a series of decisions made by the agency, in addition to remarks made by President Trump that have fed fears that the development of a vaccine could be politicized. 

No drug manufacturer has asked the FDA yet to approve a potential COVID-19 vaccine, but several candidates are in the final stages of clinical trials. 

Read more here.

What we’re reading: 

Trump says he will ‘always’ protect those with preexisting conditions. He hasn’t. (The New York Times

What STDs can tell us about how to fight COVID (Politico

Hidden immune weakness found in 14 percent of gravely ill COVID-19 patients (Science

State by state: 

California expands privacy protection to public health workers amid threats (Kaiser Health News

Colorado’s splintered mental health system has had tragic failures. The state is taking the first step to fix it. (Colorado Sun

Op-eds in The Hill 

The ongoing collapse of US health care