OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Justices appear split on clinic buffer zones

The Supreme Court appeared split Wednesday during arguments over whether buffer zones around abortion clinics in Massachusetts violate free speech rights. The case centers on anti-abortion-rights activists who desire to speak to women as they enter reproductive healthcare clinics in the state. A 2007 law created a buffer zone around clinics in Massachusetts, mandating that protesters and would-be sidewalk counselors remain 35 feet away from entrances.

The law was enacted in part because of violence directed at abortion providers in Massachusetts. Two clinic workers were killed outside a facility in 1994, prompting a public outcry. Elise Viebeck at The Hill reports.

Regs: The Obama administration is busy drafting more than 50 additional regulations required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a new government report finds. The Congressional Research Service identified some 43 proposed and final rules related to the landmark healthcare law that are now under construction at various agencies and are on track to be issued within the next 12 months. An additional 13 long-term rules are making their way through the regulatory pipeline but will not be finalized in 2014, according to the report.

Ben Goad at The Hill reports.

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ObamaCare Variety Show: Covered California and Enroll America are hosting a variety hour on Thursday streamed live at www.tellafriendgetcovered.com. Participants include MTV host Karli Henriquez, actor Quddus Philippe, singers Ryan Beatty and Taryn Southern and the Extremely Decent comedy troupe, among others. The administration, insurers and outside groups are pushing ahead on a public relations blitz aimed at enrolling young adults in ObamaCare.

Courts: A federal judge has rejected a key lawsuit against ObamaCare, ruling that the reform's insurance subsidies are lawful in states that did not create their own marketplaces.

The decision deals a blow to critics of the Affordable Care Act, who saw the long-shot case as a final way to undercut the law after the Supreme Court largely upheld it in 2012.  If successful, plaintiffs in Halbig v. Sebelius would have blocked premium tax credits in 36 states where the federal government is running an ObamaCare marketplace. Elise Viebeck at The Hill reports.

Protest: Democratic lawmakers mounted a protest alongside abortion-rights activists Wednesday over a GOP bill to impose tax penalties on health plans that cover abortion. Nearly 100 people, including Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), descended on a Capitol Hill hallway to register their complaints ahead of the bill's markup Wednesday.

Many women criticized the GOP-led subcommittee for bringing up the bill, noting that the panel has no women members on the Republican side. Several protesters carried cards reading, "Where are the women?" The question echoed a longstanding Democratic charge that Republicans who oppose abortion rights are waging a "war on women," a claim the GOP rejects.

Read more at HealthWatch.

Two ObamaCare hearings on tap for Thursday: The House Oversight Committee will have representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) on hand to discuss “the internal concerns of information security experts” ahead of the HealthCare.gov launch. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hear testimony from CMS director Gary Cohen.

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