GOP front-runner Mitt Romeny said he expects the White House to back down from the mandate.
"They are going to have to retreat or suffer enormous consequences," he said.
Meanwhile, the split among congressional Democrats grew a bit wider, as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told a home-state newspaper that he wants the White House to revise its policy and provide a broader exemption to religious institutions. He is, by the Senate GOP’s count, the fifth Senate Democrat to oppose the way the administration handled the policy.
Still, Democrats who support the mandate aren't backing down. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said Thursday that House Republicans are exploiting a women’s health issue to gin up their base, and some of her fellow Catholic Democrats said they feel just as free to practice their faith as they were before the contraception order was released.
Healthwatch has more on Thursday's developments in Congress.
How far is far enough? Supporters of the policy also seized on comments in which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops suggested that an exemption for Catholic hospitals and universities wouldn’t go far enough. The group’s general counsel said in an interview that a mandate on employers, period, would cause problems for any Catholic person who runs a business — including a Taco Bell franchise.
As liberal groups noted, expanding the religious exemption even beyond church-affiliated institutions would let just about any company decide not to provide contraceptive coverage for its employees, severely weakening the mandate.
You can do it: Former Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who helped bring around enough anti-abortion-rights Democrats to pass the healthcare reform law, also wants the White House to revisit its policy. He chalked the policy up to the inevitable “stumbles and fumbles” of implementing major legislation and said the administration should roll it back independently. Read the Healthwatch post.
Video evidence: The birth control controversy has been picked up by the Taiwanese animators at Next Media Animation Limited, famous for its video recreations poking fun at U.S. political news. You can watch the video here.
Keep it simple: HHS finalized new rules Thursday requiring insurance plans to provide a simplified four-page summary of their benefits, as well as a glossary of commonly used insurance terms. HHS says the summaries will help consumers understand what they’re getting — for example, by comparing how each plan would cover common services such as diabetes management or pregnancy. Healthwatch has the details about the new policy and changes from earlier versions.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry’s trade group, said the Health Department made some improvements over earlier proposals but still isn’t giving plans enough time to adapt to the new benefit summaries. The requirements could also bury consumers in a mountain of redundant paperwork, AHIP said.
Cameras in the courtroom: The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared a bipartisan bill requiring TV coverage of Supreme Court proceedings, 11-7. The issue is heating up because of the high court's decision to hear challenges to the healthcare reform law, but the bill isn't expected to become law in time for oral arguments in the case, which start March 26.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and C-SPAN have been pushing hard for the court to allow cameras. Critics of the idea include the Judicial Conference of the United States and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, as well as former Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has more about Thursday's vote here.
Pay up: House lawmakers have introduced legislation to reduce the backlog of 2,000 generic-drug applications that have piled up at the Food and Drug Administration.
The Generic Drug and Biosimilars User Fee Act calls on generic-drug makers to pay about $1.5 billion over the next five years to help fund the federal regulators who review and approve new drugs. It would also enable the FDA to implement a pathway for approving generic versions of complex biologic drugs, which was made possible for the first time by the 2010 healthcare reform law.
Healthwatch has the story.
Separately, the FDA issued guidance on the new pathway for approval of generic versions of complex biologic drugs, which was made possible by the healthcare reform law.
Probing Planned Parenthood: Rep. Marsha Backburn is taking the lead in asking Congress to double down in its investigation of the nation's largest abortion provider.
The Tennessee Republican wants the House to conduct a "full-scale series of congressional hearings to expose the damage Planned Parenthood has caused to our nation." The request follows an anti-abortion-rights' group's report alleging "waste, abuse and potential fraud" at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country.
Healthwatch has more here.
Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation extending the provisions of the Pediatric Medical Device Safety and Improvement Act. (H.R. 3975).
The bill would reauthorize the lawmakers' 2007 law creating a grant program to bring scientists and innovators together to develop pediatric devices. It would also incentivizes the development of devices that serve children with rare conditions
Here's the announcement.
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) introduced legislation prohibiting the Secretary of Health and Human Services from implementing certain rules relating to the health insurance coverage of sterilization and contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration (H.R. 3982).
State by state
The Virginia Senate takes up health exchange legislation.
Oregon is moving fast on Gov. John Kitzhaber's healthcare reforms.
Massachusetts is saving money on healthcare through the use of "global payments."
Washington Post blogger Sarah Kliff asks whether an election-season fight over contraception might be a good move for the Obama administration.
Reuters probes Susan G. Komen's finances.
Mental health experts are slamming a new international diagnostic manual that risks painting scores of misbehaving children and grieving adults as mentally ill, Reuters reports.
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