Back To SCOTUS
SUPREMES WEIGH CONTRACEPTION: Obamacare is back at the Supreme Court today, almost exactly two years after the historic arguments over the law's individual mandate. This time, the justices will be weighing the law's birth-control mandate. It's a part of the law Democrats are actually happy to campaign on, and a ruling against the mandate could energize Democratic advocacy groups ahead of the midterms. There's a lot on the line in terms of broader legal questions surrounding the freedom of religion and corporations' personal rights. Get up to speed with our guide to what each side needs to prove, and check NationalJournal.com for updates once the arguments wrap up.
Top Health Care News
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN THE SCOTUS CASES TODAY: "The cases before the Court on Tuesday clearly threaten the birth-control mandate, but they also have the potential to dramatically reshape the Court's approach to religion and the rights of corporations. And it will be difficult for the Court to reach the ostensibly smaller question of contraception coverage without tackling broader issues of religious liberty. Both sides warn that a ruling against them would have long-lasting repercussions." (Sam Baker, National Journal)
Everything you need to know about the contraception cases. (Sophie Novack and Clara Ritger, National Journal)
Three ways the Supreme Court could rule. (Sam Baker, National Journal)
Kaiser Brief on the contraception cases. (Laurie Sobel and Alina Salganicoff, Kaiser Family Foundation)
D.C. COURT OF APPEALS CONSIDERS LEGALITY OF SUBSIDIES ON FEDERAL EXCHANGE TODAY: The Halbig v. Sebelius case argues that the ACA as written only includes subsidies for low-income individuals on the state exchanges, and not in the 36 states participating in the federal exchange. The lawsuit has not gained traction in the courts thus far, but would be devastating to the health care law if successful. (Andrew Zajac, Bloomberg News)
INSURERS PUSH TO ENROLL CONSUMERS AHEAD OF MARCH 31 DEADLINE: "Many are concentrating on hard-to-reach groups, sponsoring community events to attract people who had trouble enrolling on their own or need a nudge to take the time to sign up. Some are offering policies inside highly trafficked venues like drugstores or local Y's; Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield even had sign-up stations in Goodwill stores." (Reed Abelson and Katie Thomas, New York Times)
LATINOS LARGELY ABSENT FROM ACA ENROLLMENT: Hispanics make up about one-third of the uninsured population in the U.S., but are refraining from enrolling in coverage through the Affordable Care Act. (Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press)
THE OBAMACARE BENEFIT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT: "Obamacare's goal isn't simply helping the uninsured. It's also supposed to help the "underinsured"—people with policies that are so expensive to maintain, or leave such large gaps in coverage, that paying for health care is still a devastating burden. This problem hasn't gotten nearly the attention it deserves. A new report, just out from the Commonwealth Fund, seeks to change that." (Jonathan Cohn, New Republic)
THE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE IS MUCH SMALLER THAN YOU THINK: "The White House needs the mandate to make its policies work, as it creates new insurance markets operating under new rules. It needs the exemptions to make the politics work — or at least to take the edge off some of the sharpest political backlash, like the outcry over the canceled plans that people had been told they could keep." (Brett Norman, Politico)
THE THREE RED STATES WHERE OBAMACARE IS WORKING THE BEST: Idaho, North Carolina and Kentucky. (Ryan Teague Beckwith, Digital First Media)
NO MEDICAID EXPANSION DEAL ON FIRST DAY OF VIRGINIA SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION: "I am disappointed that House Republicans voted today to continue Washington-style gridlock instead of accepting a budget that includes a responsible proposal to bring billions of federal dollars back to Virginia to close the health care coverage gap and invest in core priorities like education and mental health," Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. (Gary Robertson, Reuters)
MISSOURI GOP SENATORS VOW TO BLOCK MEDICAID EXPANSION: The state House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee will hear testimony today on legislation to expand Medicaid coverage through a premium assistance model. (David A. Lieb, Associated Press)
INSURANCE AGENTS KEY TO ASIAN AMERICAN ENROLLMENT IN CALIFORNIA: "While Latino enrollment has lagged in California's insurance marketplace, Asians have signed up in numbers outstripping their representation in the pool of eligible people. According to new Covered California data, the overwhelming majority of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese enrollees are buying plans through certified insurance agents, as opposed to community groups or the Covered California website." (Lisa Aliferis, KQED/Kaiser Health News)
HOW OBAMA PLANS TO SPEND $25 BILLION ON THE WAR ON DRUGS: "Obama's vision for attacking illegal drugs hinged on a change in the way the government thinks about the drug "problem": Instead of treating drugs like a criminal epidemic to be stamped out, the president is pushing his administration to address drugs as a health epidemic to be treated. But since the White House launched its National Drug Control Strategy in 2010, the government's spending record shows incremental—not dramatic—changes in how the U.S. goes after the use of illegal drugs." (Sophie Novack and Patrick Reis, National Journal)
DOCTORS PAID TO ADVISE AND PROMOTE DRUG COMPANIES THAT FUND THEIR RESEARCH: "A ProPublica analysis shows that more than 1,300 practitioners nationwide received both research money and speaking or consulting fees from the same drug maker in 2012. All told, they received more than $90 million in research grants — plus nearly $13 million for speaking engagements and another $4 million for consulting." (Charles Ornstein and Ryann Grochowski Jones, ProPublica)
Studies and Research
GROWING GAP IN SMOKING RATES BETWEEN RICH AND POOR: "A new analysis of federal smoking data released on Monday shows that the disparity is increasing. The national smoking rate has declined steadily, but there is a deep geographic divide. In the affluent suburbs of Washington, only about one in 10 people smoke, according to the analysis, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. But in impoverished places like this — Clay County, in eastern Kentucky — nearly four in 10 do." (Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff, New York Times)
CAN WHAT YOU EAT AFFECT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH? "'Traditional diets — the kinds of foods your grandmother would have recognized — have been associated with a lower risk of mental health issues,' [Michael Berk, a professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University School of Medicine in Australia] said. Interestingly, that traditional diet may vary widely across cultures, including wheat for some people but not for others; the common element seems to be whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods." (Gisela Telis, Washington Post)
HEALTH INSURANCE BASICS STUMP MANY OBAMACARE SHOPPERS: "A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 42% of people surveyed could not describe a deductible and 39% didn't understand the relationship between a premium and deductible. Sixty-two percent didn't know that an HMO is more restrictive on choosing doctors than a PPO, or preferred-provider organization plan." (Soumya Karlamangla, Los Angeles Times)
NEW BATTERY-POWERED DEVICE EASES EPILEPSY: "Just approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the long-awaited device, called the RNS System, aims to reduce seizures and to improve the lives of an estimated 400,000 Americans whose epilepsy cannot be treated with drugs or brain surgery." (Catherine Saint Louis, New York Times)
DO E-CIGARETTES HELP PEOPLE QUIT SMOKING? "Researchers writing in JAMA Internal Medicine found that use of e-cigarettes was not associated with 'greater rates of quitting cigarettes or reduced cigarette consumption' after one year. The authors reached the conclusion based on self-reported data from 949 smokers, which included 88 who used e-cigarettes. Still, they're the first to admit that their findings should be viewed with some caution." (Jason Millman, Washington Post)
WHEN MOTHERS GET MOVING, CHILDREN ARE MORE ACTIVE TOO: According to the researchers, "It's not entirely clear whether it's the mother's activity that influences her child's, or if mothers are more active because they're busy keeping up with a playful child." (Linda Poon, National Public Radio)
THE USE AND MISUSE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN HEALTH CARE: More doctors weigh in on electronic medical record adoption. (James Fallows, The Atlantic)
OBESITY: BUILDING AN EVIDENCE BASE FOR ACTION: The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American College of Endocrinology concludes its Consensus Conference on Obesity at 9:30 a.m. at the National Press Club.
SUPREME COURT TO HEAR CASES CHALLENGING THE CONTRACEPTION MANDATE: Opening arguments will be 90 minutes in the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius cases challenging the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate. The court will convene at 10 a.m.
D.C. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS HEARING ON ACA SUBSIDIES: The court will hear arguments at 10 a.m.
HOUSE HEARING ON FY 2015 BUDGET FOR HHS: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies meets at 10:00 a.m. in Rayburn to hear from the public and outside witnesses.
DEVELOPMENT AID PROGRAMS TO BOLSTER HEALTH AND NUTRITION: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations meets at 1:30 p.m.