Good morning ... If you're in D.C. this morning, don't forget to join us for a conversation about the future of pain management and the opioid crisis, featuring policymakers as well as front-line practitioners. RSVP here.
But before you head over, I have 1,013 words for you, which should take under 4 minutes.
Fewer Americans died from drug overdoses last year than the year before. It's the first time that number has gone down in almost 30 years.
"Lives are being saved, and we're beginning to win the fight against this crisis," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement yesterday.
Yes, but: This progress is both fragile and modest.
Between the lines: The decline in overall mortality appears to be driven mainly by a decline in the abuse of prescription painkillers. But overdoses involving fentanyl, cocaine and meth are all continuing to increase.
Go deeper: How to change treatment for opioid addiction
The IRS rolled out new rules yesterday to help people who have chronic diseases, but are also on the hook for thousands of dollars of their medical bills.
How it works: The new rules allow insurers to cover treatment for chronic conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure, before patients have met their deductibles.
My thought bubble: High-deductible plans and chronic disease are both pretty ubiquitous, and this will surely help sick people get the care they need.
But it's hard to look at this change without asking some more fundamental questions about the rise of deductibles.
Deductibles are a large and growing source of frustration for middle-class families, the L.A. Times' Noam Levey writes.
Go deeper: Workers' health care costs just keep rising
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The fact that "Medicare for All" would eliminate Medicaid hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as its elimination of private insurance. But it should, Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman writes in his latest Axios column.
Why it matters: State Medicaid programs are leaders in experimenting with delivery and payment reforms, efforts to control drug costs, and addressing social causes of ill health, such as poverty and poor housing.
Yes, but: Although states would lose a lot of their ability to shape and experiment with policy, they'd save a ton of money in the process.
The bottom line: For advocates of a single national plan, eliminating the patchwork of state Medicaid programs would be progress. For fans of a federal-state balance, it's a big problem.
There may only be one source of bipartisan agreement when it comes to the Affordable Care Act — opposition to its revenues and cost-control measures.
Driving the news: In an overwhelming 419-6 vote, the House signed off yesterday on repealing the tax on high-value health plans,
Real talk: This tax is one of those policies that economists absolutely love, and people who have to stand for election absolutely hate. And in those situations, politics usually wins.
What they're saying: "Unfortunately a lot of what Congress has been doing in recent years seems to be ignoring the budgetary consequences," Paul Van de Water, of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told The New York Times.
The World Health Organization has declared Congolese Ebola outbreak to be an international health emergency, now that the virus has spread to more populated areas.
By the numbers: More than 1,500 people have died in what's now the second-worst Ebola outbreak on record.
The bottom line: "The reality check is that a year into the epidemic, it’s still not under control, and we are not where we should be," Doctors Without Borders President Joanne Liu told the AP. "We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results."
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