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Tom Howell Jr.

Tom Howell Jr.

Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected].

Articles by Tom Howell Jr.

In this Feb. 14, 2018 photo, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar attends a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the FY19 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Trump administration is clearing the way for a lower-cost alternative to comprehensive medical insurance plans sold under former President Barack Obama's health care law.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

HHS looking to courts to settle illegal immigrant abortion rights

Health Secretary Alex M. Azar II said Tuesday that his department has a difficult balancing act when it comes to illegal immigrant girls seeking abortions, saying he has to balance their rights versus "as well as the interests of their unborn children." Published February 20, 2018

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar attends a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the FY19 budget, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Extended short-term insurance deals latest blow to Obamacare

The Trump administration said Tuesday it wants to let insurers sell "short-term" insurance policies that last up to year, expanding the range of cheaper options for people left behind by Obamacare while dealing a potential blow to the 2010 law's markets. Published February 20, 2018

FILE- In this Jan. 19, 2018, file photo, Del. Terry G. Kilgore, R-Scott, chairman of the House Commerce and Labor committee, listens during the floor session of the House at the state Capitol in Richmond, Va. Kilgore said Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, on the John Fredericks Show that he'd changed his mind after years of opposition to Medicaid expansion and now supports it. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP, File)

Medicaid expansion getting second look after work rule

GOP-led states that had been reluctant to expand Medicaid under President Obama are suddenly giving it another look after the Trump administration said last month they can require those on the program to also hold down jobs. Published February 19, 2018

"We're in the science business and the evidence-generating business, and so I will have our agency certainly be working in this field as they do across the whole broad spectrum of disease control and prevention," Trump health secretary Alex Azar told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Associated Press)

Trump administration stakes out bipartisan ground in gun debate

The Trump administration's health secretary said he is open to having the government study the roots of gun violence in the wake of the latest mass shooting at a high school, breaking with a long-held interpretation of federal law. Published February 15, 2018

Health officials encourage people to get flu shots, even though the vaccine has been shown to be about only 30 percent effective against the H3N2 strain. Health experts are struggling to determine why flu-like illness in increasing among younger people. (Associated Press)

Federal officials implore Americans to get flu vaccine

Adults who get the flu shot this year are 36 percent less likely to get the illness, federal scientists said Thursday, imploring Americans to get vaccinated even though it is late in a "scary" flu season. Published February 15, 2018

A Broward County sheriff's deputy escorts a protestor away from the door of the courtroom where a hearing was held for school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, at Broward County Court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.  Cruz is accused of opening fire Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing more than a dozen people and injuring several.   (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald via AP, Pool)

HHS secretary signals he's open to gun violence research

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar signaled Thursday he is open to researching gun violence, despite a legislative add-on that bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from promoting gun control. Published February 15, 2018

In this Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, file photo, a nurse prepares a flu shot at the Salvation Army in Atlanta. The U.S. government's Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, flu report showed the flu has further tightened its grip on the U.S. This season is now as intense as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Senate Democrats call for $1B to develop a universal flu vaccine

Senate Democrats urged Congress Thursday to approve $1 billion over five years to develop a universal flu vaccine, saying the U.S. spends billions per year, anyway, to combat various strains that kill thousands of people each year. Published February 15, 2018

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar attends a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the FY19 budget, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

HHS secretary: Stance on Idaho plan 'just a matter of timing'

President Trump's health secretary said his stance on an Idaho's insurer's plan to skirt the letter of Obamacare is "just a question of timing" and that he will probably wade in once state regulators vet the push to sell non-compliant plans. Published February 15, 2018

In this Jan. 5, 2018, file photo, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter speaks to reporters about the 2018 legislative session at the State Capitol in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger, File)

Idaho insurer to offer plans that ignore Obamacare

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declined Wednesday to commit to protecting Obamacare from companies that are testing the bounds of the law by floating cheaper plans that flout federal requirements. Published February 14, 2018

Senate Finance Committee member Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., questions Alex Azar during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, to consider Azar's nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) ** FILE **

Senate report alleges link between opioid maker donations, lobbying efforts

Five opioid makers paid nearly $9 million to 14 outside groups who then "echoed and amplified messages favorable to increased opioid use" between 2012 to 2017, according to a new report by Sen. Claire McCaskill that alleges a link between donations and industry-friendly messaging. Published February 13, 2018

This Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. (Associated Press) **FILE**

Opioids crisis costs estimated $1 trillion from 2001-2017

The U.S. opioids crisis cost more than $1 trillion from 2001 to 2017 and will cost another $500 billion in the following three years unless "concerted and sustained action" is taken to stem prescription painkiller and heroin abuse, a nonprofit consultancy estimated Tuesday. Published February 13, 2018

In this Nov. 8, 2017, file photo, Steph Gaspar, a volunteer outreach worker with The Hand Up Project, an addiction and homeless advocacy group, cleans up needles used for drug injection that were found at a homeless encampment in Everett, Wash. The U.S. Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention says 42,000 people died of overdoses in 2016 from opioids, a class of drug that includes powerful prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin; illegal heroin; and fentanyl, a strong synthetic drug sold both through prescriptions and on the street. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Trump seeks billions for opioids fight

Moving to prove he's serious about the opioids fight, President Trump requested $10 billion in new money Monday to combat the "deadly scourge" of prescription painkiller and heroin abuse in 2019. Published February 12, 2018

This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison) ** FILE **

Lawmakers hail $6B in opioids money as 'next step' in bigger fight

Lawmakers from states with high rates of opioid abuse cheered a budget deal Friday that includes $6 billion to combat addiction, yet said the money is just the "next step" in a massive fight, must be spent wisely and should be funneled toward places that need it the most. Published February 9, 2018