Health Care — Justice Department dives into abortion lawsuits

In pop culture news, Monica Lewinsky would prefer that Beyoncé not reference her in one of her songs.  

In health news, the Justice Department filed its first lawsuit against a state law in the wake of a Supreme Court decision allowing states to ban or severely restrict abortion. 

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Peter SullivanNathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

US sues Idaho over six-week abortion ban 

The Justice Department (DOJ) filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging Idaho’s six-week abortion ban. 

The department argued that Idaho’s law conflicts with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a law that requires providers to offer medically stabilizing treatment in an emergency, even if that care is an abortion.  

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent enforcement of the law in situations where an abortion is necessary for stabilizing treatment for an emergency medical condition.  

The DOJ said the law will likely force providers to withhold care based on a “well-founded fear of criminal prosecution.”  

The law would subject doctors to arrest and criminal prosecution for performing an abortion, even if a patient is suffering from a medical emergency like ectopic pregnancy, complications of miscarriage or severe preeclampsia. 

  • “We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. 

Trigger law: The Idaho “trigger” law is one of dozens of complete or near-total abortion bans that are taking effect in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that granted a constitutional right to abortion. 

Significance: The lawsuit marks the first major litigation against a state abortion ban since the Supreme Court overturned Roe. 

  • It’s not clear if the case is a harbinger of future action. Garland indicated this case is straightforward and narrowly focused on EMTALA preemption.  

Read more here.

White House picks monkeypox response coordinator

The White House on Tuesday named a Federal Emergency Management Agency official as coordinator for the monkeypox response, as the virus spreads in the United States.   

The naming of a national coordinator for the monkeypox response, Robert Fenton, comes as the Biden administration looks to step up its response to the virus.   

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official, Demetre Daskalakis, will serve as the deputy coordinator. Fenton brings operational experience and Daskalakis public health expertise.   

Move comes amid criticism: The move to better coordinate response efforts comes as the administration has faced some criticism for not moving fast enough in its response to monkeypox, with the first U.S. case confirmed in May.  

“Our country’s response to monkeypox has been plagued by the same shortcomings we had with Covid-19,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in The New York Times this week, pointing for example to a slow rollout of testing.   

  • Fenton previously worked on setting up mass vaccination sites in the COVID-19 response.   
  • The White House said Daskalakis is “widely known as a national expert on health issues affecting the LGBGQIA+ communities,” which have been hit particularly hard by the monkeypox outbreak. 

Read more here.

US UNINSURED RATE HITS RECORD LOW: REPORT

The U.S. uninsured rate fell to a record low of 8 percent in the first quarter of 2022, according to a new report from the Biden administration.  

President Biden touted the number on Tuesday, saying it showed the success of his efforts to build on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).   

“This progress did not happen by accident,” Biden said in a statement. “More than
35 million Americans are enrolled in Affordable Care Act related coverage – the highest total on record.” 

Two contributing factors: 

  • The American Rescue Plan that Biden signed in early 2021 included increased financial assistance to help ACA enrollees afford their premiums.   
  • A provision put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic prevented most people from being disenrolled from Medicaid. That freeze will end whenever the Biden administration ends the public health emergency for COVID-19.   

The report released Tuesday from the Department of Health and Human Services finds that 5.2 million people gained health coverage since 2020.   

However, there were still 26.4 million uninsured people at the start of 2022, the report found. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other progressives have pointed to the millions who remain uninsured as fuel to call for “Medicare for All.” 

Read more here.

GOP AGREES TO DEAL ON VETERANS BILL

Senate Republicans have reached an agreement to pass legislation expanding benefits for veterans who are suffering illnesses due to toxic exposures, after they blocked the bill last week and sparked outrage from the veteran community and comedian Jon Stewart. 

“We expect to have an agreement on the PACT Act with amendments,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “I believe it will pass and pass this evening. So, that’s very good news.” 

The agreement comes as Republicans have been trying to find a way to end a standoff over the bill after blocking the measure by a vote of 55-42 last Wednesday. 

Twenty-five Republicans who initially voted to advance the bill in June changed their votes. 

Republicans have said they are not opposed the original substance of the bill, but rather a “budgetary gimmick” that would designate $400 billion spent by the Department of Veterans Affairs as mandatory spending. This spending would not be subject to the annual appropriations process like discretionary spending. 

Veterans have been camped outside the Capitol since last Thursday in a bid to pressure senators to change their minds on the measure. 

Read more here.

Dems unveil legislation protecting abortion providers

A group of Senate Democrats on Tuesday introduced legislation that would protect physicians who provide abortion services in states where they are still legal from what one of the lawmakers referred to as “non-stop attacks from Republicans.” 

Democratic Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), Alex Padilla (Calif.) and Jacky Rosen (Nev.) said in a statement that they will be seeking unanimous consent this week to pass the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act. 

  • The bill would protect health care providers in states where abortion is still legal from being subject to laws that would prevent them from providing reproductive health care services or make them liable for providing such services to patients from other states. 
  • It would additionally prevent federal funding from being used to take legal action against such doctors and establish federal grants to support reproductive health care service providers. 

“Doctors shouldn’t be punished for providing their patients with legal abortion care—full stop. The legal threats, the intimidation, and the non-stop attacks from Republicans against abortion providers are unacceptable, and Democrats are fighting back,” Murray said. 

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Cities are lobbying to host the ARPA-H headquarters. Experts don’t understand why (Stat)  
  • More students will likely become pregnant post-Roe. Who will support them? (The 19th
  • In towns plagued by raw sewage, EPA promises relief (Associated Press)

STATE BY STATE

  • Abortion issue has nation’s eyes on Kansas ahead of Aug. 2 primary (KWCH
  • They lost Medicaid when paperwork was sent to a pasture, signaling the mess to come (NPR
  • Pregnant? Georgia says that fetus counts as a dependent on your taxes (NPR
  • Stark disparities persist in Missouri’s maternal mortality rate, state board finds (Missouri Independent)

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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