Dems Prepare Contraceptives Bill
MANDATE 2: SON OF MANDATE: Senate Democrats say they've put together a bill that would overturn the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling by saying that companies still have to provide contraception coverage, even though the court said some of them don't have to. The bill reportedly would not amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- not that it really matters, as this is purely for show. The GOP-controlled House is not going to help Democrats strengthen the contraception mandate.
Another thing the GOP-controlled House isn't going to do: Release an Obamacare "replacement" plan. The Republican health care plan has reportedly been delayed until the fall, the latest in a string of "delays" that has now lasted more than four years. Maybe don't hold your breath for the fall, either.
Top Health Care News
DEM CONTRACEPTION BILL: The House is working on a companion bill, though it is unlikely to pass. The Senate bill could be on the floor as early as next week. (Robert Pear, New York Times)
GOP REPLACEMENT: Majority Leader Eric Cantor had planned a three-state bus tour this month to promote the Republican agenda and focus on Obamacare replacement plans. But with his defeat in the Virginia primary, the tour is off and so are plans for a GOP health care alternative (at least before summer recess). (David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner)
SCIENTISTS JUST FOUND STRAY VIALS OF SMALLPOX FROM THE 1950'S: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement Tuesday saying that researchers from the National Institutes of Health found vials labeled "variola" in a storage room in a Food and Drug Administration laboratory on the NIH's Bethesda campus in Maryland. (Marina Koren, National Journal)
STATE ABORTION RESTRICTIONS DECLINED THIS YEAR: Thirteen states have passed a total of 21 abortion restrictions so far this year, according to new data from the Guttmacher Institute -- about half the number passed by this time last year, and one-quarter of the number passed by this time in 2011. States have passed a total of 226 abortion restrictions since 2011. (Sophie Novack, National Journal)
LGBT GROUPS STEP BACK SUPPORT OF ENDA IN LIGHT OF HOBBY LOBBY DECISION: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund announced Tuesday that it is ending its years-long support for the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act because it includes religious exemptions that are too broad, and could enable religious employers to refuse to hire LGBT people by claiming religious liberty protections. (German Lopez, Vox)
PLANNED PARENTHOOD WANTS YOU TO KNOW WHERE CANDIDATES STAND ON CONTRACEPTION: The organization has launched the Women are Watching campaign to track where every election candidate -- particularly in key races -- stands on the Hobby Lobby decision, and make sure women voters know.
"For candidates who would turn back the clock on reproductive rights, this isn't just an empty threat," Dawn Laguens of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Votes wrote in a statement.
"Senator Patty Murray and Senate Democrats have already announced plans to seek a legislative remedy to this ruling. We look forward to supporting Sen. Murray and other members of the House and Senate who are working to protect America's women, while also educating voters about the candidates and Senators who stand in the way of this basic preventive care for women."
Drugs and Devices
ONE INSURER'S RESPONSE TO SKYROCKETING CANCER COSTS: The U.S. spends up to $127 billion on cancer care each year, and that is projected to grow to at least $158 billion and as much as $210 billion by the end of this decade. United Healthcare, the nation's largest insurer, created a pilot program to stop the financial incentive for doctors to prescribe expensive drugs, which had mixed results: up-front payments to doctors yielded significant savings, but spending on chemotherapy drugs increased more than expected. (Jason Millman, Washington Post)
THE COST OF SOME GENERIC DRUGS IS SOARING: The three companies selling digoxin in the U.S. increased the cost for pharmacies by at least twice as much since late last year, resulting in prices at pharmacies tripling for many patients between last October and June, according to some companies that track drug prices. (Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times)
A CASE FOR FOCUSING ATTENTION ON FIGHTING TUBERCULOSIS IN THE US: There are about half a million new drug-resistant tuberculosis cases each year, according to the World Health Organization. Rates in the U.S. are declining -- there were around 10,000 cases in 2012, and only 83 were resistant to all of the most commonly used drugs -- but those numbers could give a false sense of security. (Polly J. Price, New York Times)
CANCER RISK OF MEDICAL DEVICE RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT FDA OVERSIGHT: A U.S. Food and Drug Administration database on medical-device problems has thousands of entries on laparoscopic power morcellators, but none linking the tool to a risk of worsening a rare uterine cancer, which medical research has highlighted since the device was introduced in the 1990s. The FDA did not begin to take a close look at the danger until the end of last year. (Jon Kamp, Wall Street Journal)
GOP SENATORS TO BOEHNER: SUE OBAMA (FOR OBAMACARE): Republicans expressed their support for Boehner's plan to sue the president for executive overreach, citing in particular the delays and changes to the health care law both before and after the failed rollout. (Sahil Kapur, Talking Points Memo)
IS POLITICAL HEAT ON OBAMACARE COOLING?: "When the ACA was being lambasted by Republicans during the 2012 presidential primaries, its standing fell. When the rollout made headlines last fall, it fell again. But when the ACA is not in the news its standing improves." (Drew Altman, Wall Street Journal)
THE OBAMACARE FACTOR IN THE RNC'S CHOICE OF CLEVELAND FOR 2016: Holding the 2016 national convention in Ohio puts it right in the middle of a tense Obamacare controversy that Republicans would probably rather avoid: GOP Gov. John Kasich's commitment to expanding Medicaid under the ACA despite strong opposition from the GOP legislature. (Jonathan Cohn, New Republic)
BUDGET BATTLES ARE HOLDING UP VA HEALTH REFORMS: The House and Senate conference committee are trying to reach agreement on legislation to address delays in care through VA health facilities, which has bipartisan support but has raised financial concerns. Veterans service organizations are attempting to persuade lawmakers to prioritize reforms, help convince the Congressional Budget Office to lower its cost estimates, and guarantee a funding stream is established. Lawmakers failed to send legislation to the president's desk before the July 4 recess, and are now under pressure to do so before Congress breaks for August. (Stacy Kaper, National Journal)
VA APOLOGIZES TO WHISTLEBLOWERS: In a congressional hearing Tuesday night, James Tuchschmidt, a top official at the Veterans Health Administration, apologized on behalf of the department to employees who said they faced retaliation after reporting inadequate and delayed patient care. (Matthew Daly, Associated Press)
OBAMA'S BORDER FUNDING REQUEST INCLUDES HEALTH CARE: Obama's $3.7 billion request from Congress to address the rise in border crossings of unaccompanied Central American children includes $1.8 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services for their care, including shelter and medical care. Concerns have grown recently that the children could be passing along contagious diseases. (Associated Press)
Rep. Phil Gingrey sent a letter to the director of the CDC requesting that the agency inform the public of the specific steps being taken to address the influx of unaccompanied minors, and what he says could become a "public health crisis."
Studies and Reports
A new study led by a University of Pennsylvania research team identifies ways to improve HealthCare.gov to make the experience better and clearer for young adults that the exchanges are aiming to enroll. (Annals of Internal Medicine)
A new project from the Robin Wood Johnson Foundation, called the Hospital ACA Monitoring Project, will collaborate with 24 state hospital associations to track data on the impact of health care reform on various areas of hospital utilization. (RWJF)
A new report from Pew Charitable Trusts finds that state spending on prisoner health care increased overall between 2007 and 2011, but began to declining from its peak in 2009. An aging prison population is a main concern that could drive costs back up. (Pew)
The new issue of Health Affairs journal focuses on the use of big data in health care.
An interactive graphic from the California Healthcare Foundation breaks down who pays for U.S. health care spending each year between 1960 and 2012.
We're monitoring the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for a decision on Halbig v. Sebelius, which could come any day now. The lawsuit challenges the legality of government subsidies for ACA plans on the federal marketplace, and if successful, could have a devastating effect on the health care law.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will continue its "21st Century Cures" initiative with a hearing on how to modernize clinical trials to more quickly find cures and treatments, at 10 a.m.