What The Hobby Lobby Ruling Means For Obamacare
WILL IT BE TODAY? Washington is still waiting on the Supreme Court to issue its last few decisions of the year -- including its ruling in Hobby Lobby's challenge to the contraception mandate in Obamacare. A ruling in Hobby Lobby's favor wouldn't have huge ramifications for the Affordable Care Act; the court isn't being asked to ax the policy completely, and it's not one that sits at the heart of the law. But a loss for the White House would still jeopardize contraception coverage for a significant number of female workers.
Top Health Care News
HOBBY LOBBY: Justices could give a sweeping First Amendment ruling, a narrower decision limited to closely held corporations, or determine that the mandate is completely legal and leave it unchanged. (Sam Baker, National Journal)
- Many Republicans say the Supreme Court ruling is their last, best chance to overturn the contraception mandate. (Kate Nocera, Buzzfeed)
- Sixty-nine percent of respondents supported mandated birth control coverage in health plans, according to a survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Michelle H. Moniz, Matthew M. Davis, and Tammy Chang, JAMA)
REPORT: HEALTH CARE COSTS TO RISE IN 2015: After five years of slower growth, health care spending is projected to pick up again modestly, according to a new report from the PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute. The medical cost trend is expected to increase from 6.5 percent in 2014 to 6.8 percent next year if health plans are unchanged, though the company says this is minimal compared to double digit increases in the 1990s and 2000s. (Jason Millman,Washington Post)
- However, in a separate survey, PwC projects that employers and insurers will continue to raise deductibles and give other incentives for consumers to be cost-conscious. Those changes could slow growth in total cost of care from 6.8 to 4.8 percent solely as a result of changes in consumer behavior. (Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News)
HIGHER RATES OF SERIOUS CONDITIONS IN ACA PLANS: Around 27 percent of new marketplace enrollees who have seen a doctor in the first quarter of this year have significant health issues including diabetes, cancer, heart problems, asthma, or psychiatric conditions, according to data from Inovalon Inc., a health-technology firm that receives medical claims from insurer clients. This is compared to 16 percent for last year's individual market during the same time period, and 12 percent for those who kept their existing policies. The split between sicker patients in ACA plans and healthier individuals on existing grandfathered coverage could raise premiums for new health-law plans next year, as the White House recently said grandfathered plans could continue into 2016 if states and insurers choose. (Anna Wilde Mathews and Christopher Weaver, Wall Street Journal)
NO, FLORIDA IS NOT WITHOUT RATE INCREASES IN 2015: Information posted on a state website indicating that all insurers in the Florida individual market would keep premiums the same or lower next year sent reporters and health wonks into a frenzy Tuesday, but it turns out the report was incorrect. Some insurers had listed "zero" as their requested rate increase simply to hide their true plan; the Office of Insurance Regulation will not make the actual rate requests available to the public for several weeks. (Carol Gentry, Health News Florida)
GAO STUDY ON AVERAGE PREMIUMS IN THE SMALL GROUP MARKET: The Government Accountability Office reported the range of average premiums for each of the 50 states and D.C. during the first quarter of 2013, using data submitted by insurers to CMS's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.
AETNA CONSIDERS SELLING COVENTRY HEALTH CARE ASSETS: Aetna Inc, the third largest U.S. health insurer, is looking into selling some of Coventry Health Care Inc's assets worth as much as $1.5 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter. (Greg Roumeliotis and Olivia Oran, Reuters)
ABORTION FUNDING FOR PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS ADVANCES IN CONGRESS: For the first time, the House Appropriations Committee voted to cover emergency abortion funding for Peace Corps members in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, opening the possibility the funding may actually be approved this year. Other federal employees and individuals with government-sponsored insurance have access to coverage in those three cases, but it has been banned for Peace Corps volunteers since 1979. (Sophie Novack, National Journal)
DEBATE ON 'GLOBAL GAG RULE' CONTINUES: The House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to eliminate language that would reinstate the "Global Gag Rule" from the FY 2015 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs bill, during a full committee markup of the legislation Tuesday. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee introduced the amendment, which failed 19 – 26.
Also called the "Mexico City Policy," the rule prohibits any overseas organization receiving U.S. aid from discussing or performing abortions, even if they are only supported by non-U.S. funds, and rescinds U.S. funding for family planning programs if violated. It is an ongoing flashpoint for debate, with Republicans administrations implementing the rule and Democrats eliminating it. President Obama rescinded the policy in January 2009, but it could be reinstated by the next president.
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the SFOPS bill last week that would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule.
HOUSE REAUTHORIZES HEALTH PROGRAMS: The House passed legislation by a voice vote Tuesday to reauthorize trauma care programs and to reauthorize federal autism research and assistance programs. (Cristina Marcos, The Hill)
Treatment and Prevention
STUDY: 3-D IMAGING MAY IMPROVE BREAST CANCER SCREENING: Using the 3-D technology, tomosynthesis, in addition to traditional digital mammography found 41 percent more invasive cancers than the traditional method alone, and reduced the need to recall women for additional testing, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Lenny Bernstein, Washington Post)
COMPROMISE TALKS BEGIN ON VA LEGISLATION: Negotiators from the House and Senate began talks Tuesday to reach a compromise bill to address the problems of delayed care at VA health facilities. Several aides said the goal is to pass a compromise by the end of July, but House VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller declined to state a deadline. (David Espo, Associated Press)
THE LAST HURDLE TO PASS A VA REFORM BILL: The House and Senate agree on VA legislation, but now they need to figure out how to pay for it. The Senate authorized emergency funding for whatever resources necessary to carry out the reforms, and 75 senators voted to waive budget offsetting pay-as-you-go rules. The House bill would require the reforms be funded by Congress in the appropriations process. (Stacy Kaper, National Journal)
- House Appropriations full committee markup of the FY 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, which maintains a prohibition on federal and local funds from being used for abortion, as well as prohibitions on federal funds from being used for medical marijuana and needle exchange programs in D.C. The District is the only region currently unable to use local dollars to fund abortions through the state Medicaid program. The markup will be at 10 a.m.
- House VA Committee hearing titled "Veteran Benefits Administration and Veterans Health Administration Interactions: Ordering and Conducting Medical Examinations" at 10 a.m.