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Overnight Health Care: Supreme Court to hear ObamaCare arguments 1 week after election | NYC positive COVID-19 tests hit record low

Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care. 

The Supreme Court set the date for arguments in the latest ObamaCare case; New York City has hit a record low test positivity rate; and House Democrats are seeking a federal probe of HHS’ decision to shift COVID-19 data reporting from the CDC to a third-party.

We’ll start with ObamaCare:

Supreme Court to hear ObamaCare arguments one week after November election

Oral arguments for the Trump administration-backed lawsuit to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be heard at the Supreme Court on Nov. 10, just one week after the presidential election.

If successful, the lawsuit would result in 20 million people losing health insurance while the country is in the middle of a pandemic. President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Democrats pitch Biden as the back-to-normal candidate Obama congratulates Biden on formal nomination Jill Biden gives personal portrait of husband Joe MORE and congressional Republicans have no replacement plan.

Democrats have been hammering Trump over his position on health care, and the lawsuit is hanging over GOP campaigns across the country. That’s likely to continue.

Vulnerable Republican lawmakers up for reelection have largely dodged questions about their position on the lawsuit, given the law’s popularity and how Democrats’ defense of the ACA helped them win back the House in 2018.

Why it matters: Since arguments won’t be heard until after the election, the administration has some political cover. A decision likely won’t come until the spring. 

Read more here.


Positive COVID-19 tests hit record low in New York City

The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has reached a record low in New York City, Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioOvernight Health Care: With Biden, advocates sense momentum for lifting abortion funding ban | Battle looms over Biden health care plan if Democrats win big | Dozens of public health officials are quitting during pandemic Dozens of public health officials are quitting during pandemic Trump touts NYC police union endorsement: ‘Pro-cop all the way’ MORE (D) said Wednesday, a sign that enough people are being tested and that the city has control of the virus.

“This is extraordinary,” de Blasio said during a press conference.

“Now we all know every day can vary. We all know there is no single perfect measure, but the fact that with expanded testing and more and more outreach all the time, you now see a number as low as 0.24 percent for the New York City infection rate, this is striking,” he said.

The World Health Organization recommends a test positivity rate of 5 percent or less before communities safely reopen. Rates in New York city and New York state are among the lowest in the nation.

“This should be a … call for all of us to double down and go further because the more we can do to beat down this virus, the more we can bring back this city,” de Blasio said.

Context: According to Johns Hopkins University, 18 states and the District of Columbia have test positivity rates of 5 percent or lower, while 32 states and Puerto Rico are higher. New York, which has taken aggressive measures to slow the spread of COVID, has been upheld as the gold standard by some experts.

Read more here.


A grim milestone: Florida passes 10,000 coronavirus deaths

Florida on Wednesday surpassed 10,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to state figures, almost six months since the first case was identified in the state.

The state reported 174 new deaths Wednesday, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 10,067. Half of all COVID-19 deaths in the state have occurred in just the last month.

Florida joins New York, New Jersey, California and Texas as a state where COVID-19 fatalities have reached five digits.

According to state officials, Florida has now gone a full week with daily positivity rates below 10 percent. But the state health department reportedly does not count positive retests, only the initial negative test, leading to an inaccurate lower rate.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the state’s seven-day rolling average positivity rate is 16.4 percent.

Read more here.


House Dems call for probe into transfer of COVID data

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Chairman Frank Pallone  Jr. (N.J.), asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Wednesday to review changes made by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) COVID-19 data collection protocols.

Hospitals were ordered by HHS to stop sending data on capacity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and instead send it to a new third-party platform developed by a private company.

The data is used to determine what hospitals get shipments of Remdesivir — one of the only proven COVID-19 treatments — but hospital administrators have said they were given no notice about the new requirements and they have had challenges with the new platform. 

“Not only have HHS’s actions seemingly sidelined the nation’s top public health officials, but they have also reportedly led to unnecessary confusion, additional burden on critical COVID-19 response professionals, and the loss of timely and reliable data, all in the midst of the pandemic when people’s lives are at stake,” Pallone, Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooTwo Democrats call for criminal inquiry of postmaster general Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation House Democrat calls on Facebook to take down doctored Pelosi video MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the health subcommittee, and Rep. Diana Degette (D-Colo.), chairwoman of the Oversight subcommittee, wrote in a letter to GAO Comptroller Gene Dodaro. 

“We are concerned that these reporting changes undermine the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts, and therefore request that the Government Accountability Office review the process and impacts of these changes.”

The CDC and the Trump administration have maintained that the agency still has access to the data but “the new reporting processes raise transparency concerns around how the data may be reviewed and its vulnerability to manipulation to hide the severity of the pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote. 

Read the letter here.


Poll: Disapproval of Trump’s handling of the pandemic hits record high

The percentage of Americans who say they disapprove of President Trump‘s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has hit an all-time-high in a new CNN poll.

In the survey released Wednesday, 58 percent of Americans say they don’t approve of the way Trump has responded to the outbreak. Just over half — 55 percent — predict that the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.

More Americans also report feeling angry about the state of affairs in the U.S. than ever before in a CNN poll, with 51 percent of respondents saying they are “very angry” about the current state of the country.

A majority, 52 percent, also say they are not comfortable returning to their normal pre-pandemic lives with the current levels of new infections in the country, and 57 percent say schools in their area should not open for in-person learning. The divide is narrower among parents, but more than half — 52 percent — say schools should remain remote for the fall.

Read more here.


What we’re reading

When surgeons fail their trans patients (Jezebel)

Local officials in China hid coronavirus dangers from Beijing, U.S. agencies find (The New York Times

FDA’s emergency approval of blood plasma is now on hold (The New York Times


State by state

As Georgia reopened, officials knew of severe shortage of PPE for health workers (Kaiser Health News)

‘Unusable’ coronavirus tests results plague Test Iowa (The Gazette)

As Maine confronts spending cuts, advocates hope for federal aid to spare Medicaid (Bangor Daily News


Op-eds in The Hill

Essential workers are in critical condition 

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