OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Dems hammer GOP on abortion vote

The GOP's latest vote to scale back abortion coverage will alienate women and haunt Republicans at the polls, House Democratic leaders charged Wednesday.

The Democrats said the House proposal to cement the ban on federal abortion funding — which passed the lower chamber Tuesday on largely partisan lines — is just the most recent example of the Republicans' "war on women."

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And they didn't mince words in drawing gender lines between the parties.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) characterized the GOP's effort as a "fake front issue" revealing the Republicans' "disrespect for the judgment of women." Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called it an "extreme" proposal revealing that Republicans are living in another century. And Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) described the vote as a "spectacle ... of men in blue suits and red ties deciding what the women in the country are going to be able to do."

Mike Lillis at The Hill reports.

Vapor: The Senate's top Democrat on public health issues promised a crackdown on  electronic cigarettes Wednesday as part of his final agenda before retirement. Retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (R-Iowa) has led the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee since 2009. He said that the rise in e-cigarette smoking is something regulators must "nip in the bud" before negative health consequences take effect. Elise Viebeck at The Hill reports.

Plunge: One of the nation’s largest insurers on Wednesday said ObamaCare was partly to blame for the company’s 68 percent drop in profits for the fourth quarter. Wellpoint said consumers wary of losing their healthcare plans flocked to doctors before the end of the year, resulting in “higher utilization” costs than the company expected.

Still, it was optimistic about its future prospects under ObamaCare, saying it expected to add more than 1 million new customers in 2014. The company didn’t break down how many of those would come through its private plans, rather than federal and state exchanges.

Jonathan Easley at The Hill reports.

SOTU: President Obama used the State of the Union address on Tuesday to urge people to enroll in a health plan through ObamaCare by the March 31 deadline. Speaking in front of House and Senate Republicans who have sought to defund and repeal the law, the president asked parents to get their kids to sign up. 

Obama stayed on the offensive Tuesday and didn’t address or apologize for any of the myriad issues that have materialized since the rollout. In addition to the website problems, the president encountered a stiff backlash over his broken promise that people could keep healthcare plans they liked, and Republicans have raised concerns about potential security flaws with the federal ObamaCare website.

Instead, the president focused on the personal stories of people who have benefited under the law. He singled out Amanda Shelley, a physicians assistant sitting in the first lady’s box as a guest of the Obamas, who couldn’t get health insurance because of a pre-existing condition until Jan. 1, when she got an emergency medical procedure with her new ObamaCare plan. Jonathan Easley at The Hill reports.

Birth control: Scores of House Democrats entered the legal fight over ObamaCare's birth-control mandate Tuesday, filing an amicus brief before the Supreme Court in defense of the contentious coverage requirement. Behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the lawmakers say the provision — which requires most employers to cover birth control for their workers — does not infringe on religious freedoms, as Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned retail chain, contends in its lawsuit. In all, 91 House Democrats endorsed the brief. Mike Lillis at The Hill reports.

State by State:

Alaska Dems plan Medicaid proposal.

Report criticizes California health plans.

Iowa bill would limit shackles on inmates giving birth.

Reading List:

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