Latest Morning Briefing Stories
During the height of the opioid epidemic, Walmart kept filling suspicious prescriptions despite protests from its own pharmacists. Justice Department prosecutors were prepared to file criminal indictments against the company, ProPublica found in its investigation. Walmart executives escalated concerns to political appointees at the agency though, who then ordered attorneys to stand down. In other news, PBS NewsHour reports on the difficulties of pain management in the coronavirus era.
The organizations argue eliminating the procedures will free up medical equipment and spaces and request emergency funds not be directed to providers. In Texas, abortion providers filed a lawsuit over a recently enacted ban on abortions.
As the coronavirus outbreak disrupts and delays most court proceedings, federal and state judicial and prison officials take steps to institute solutions and technological workarounds to try to restart criminal and civil cases.
Prisons in at least 16 states are sending home low-level offenders or inmates who are older or sickly home early due to coronavirus fears. Other steps taken by prison officials include banning visitors and restricting prisoners’ activities.
“The new normal is complete chaos right now,” said Steven Halpert, juvenile division chief for the public defender’s office in Harris County, Texas. Meanwhile, advocates ask for the release of inmates amid fears that the outbreak could spread like wildfire in the nation’s jails.
Lawyers for the Saudi man, who has been held at the prison for 18 years, say he has suffered from mental health disorders since childhood and should be sent to his country for treatment.
The Aug. 31 trial date serves as a deadline for the proposed settlement, the nation’s first as businesses consider thousands of other lawsuits. Other news on the epidemic comes from Missouri, Vermont and Kansas.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg cited a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit throwing out HHS’ approval of Arkansas’ similar waiver. The appellate panel’s unanimous opinion said the waiver approval was not consistent with the primary objective of the Medicaid statute, which is furnishing medical coverage.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the two votes to watch in the highly anticipated abortion case, focused on whether the benefits from the legislation–which requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges–would be the same in all states. The question hearkens back to the Texas measure that was knocked down by the Supreme Court in 2016. Meanwhile, Roberts took the unusual step of chastising Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for saying that the Supreme Court justices will pay the price for their decisions.
The realigned Supreme Court could erode Roe v. Wade with a decision on a law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges to nearby hospitals. Opponents say complications are extremely rare. News on the health issue is from Mississippi and Ohio, as well.
The payment has come in response to an investigation that has been exploring alleged schemes in which one generic company would decide to raise prices on a particular drug and others would follow suit.
This would be the first deal among about 3,000 lawsuits that exist nationwide. Details must still be resolved on payments to local, state groups as well as hospitals and others. The plan also does not apply to two key drugmakers, Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt. News on the national drug epidemic is from California, as well.
The case is being closely watched as the first major abortion arguments to take place in front of a Supreme Court since conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were added to the bench.
The Trump administration said it was premature for the Supreme Court to get involved in the case, but the justices agreed to add it to their docket. While the decision itself isn’t likely to come before the November elections, Democrats are excited that the issue — something these see as a winning topic for themselves — will be kept front of mind voters.
The Louisiana admitting privileges law is similar to a Texas bill that was knocked down by the Supreme Court only a few years ago. But with the addition of conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, the outcome may be different. The case is being closely watched by both sides of the abortion debate.
Among the costs abortion clinics have to carry: security to protect staff and patients; airfare to get doctors to areas lacking trained physicians willing to perform abortions; higher rates for contractors concerned about protesters and boycotts; more stringent loan terms; insurance that can be canceled unexpectedly; and for some clinic owners, legal fees for defending the constitutionality of the procedure.
“I will not prejudge where this investigation will lead,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement, “but we will follow every fact and are prepared to take strong action in conjunction with states across the nation to protect public health.”
The Trump administration rolled out a rule on Monday that advocates say will have a chilling effect on immigrants seeking needed help through programs like Medicaid and food stamps. “It’s sending a message that says, ‘you’re not welcome,’” said Marty Martinez, Boston’s chief of health and human services.
Monday’s majority opinion noted that since Title X began in 1970, its rules regarding abortion referrals have seesawed back and forth, depending on the political party of the administration in power, and that the Trump administration’s rule is slightly less restrictive than a 1988 version upheld by the Supreme Court. Lower courts have deemed the rule “an arrogant assumption that the government is better suited to direct women’s health care than their providers.”
The Supreme Court on Friday lifted a lower court injunction against the rule, which will allow immigration officials to consider whether a green card applicant would ever make even temporary use of public safety nets like Medicaid. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent in which she said the Trump administration has abused its ability to seek the Supreme Court’s decision when a lower court issues a stay against one of its policies.