OVERNIGHT HEALTH: High court to weigh limits of religious liberty in ObamaCare case

President Obama’s signature healthcare law is headed back to the Supreme Court in a high-stakes case that could redefine the limits of religious freedom in the United States.

The high court on Tuesday will hear challenges to ObamaCare’s contentious birth control mandate, which requires companies to offer contraceptive services to workers as part of their insurance coverage.  

If successful, the challenge could peel away a significant portion of the mandate, potentially affecting preventive healthcare coverage for millions of women and striking a major blow to the law itself.

But the court’s ruling could also have far-reaching implications for religious liberty by allowing companies to claim First Amendment rights that the government says are reserved for individuals. Ben Goad at The Hill reports.

BREAKING - Speaker Boehner on Tuesday’s Supreme Court oral arguments:

“The question before the Court this week is not just about two businesses and one severely misguided law. This case concerns every American who cherishes that first line in the Bill of Rights where it states our government will never come between us and our faith. Religious freedom is not for some people under some circumstances; it is for one and all. In that spirit, I join with those who are standing up for what’s right and what’s sacred. I hope that, after due consideration, the Court will reverse this attack on religious liberty and reaffirm our founding principles.”

Read more at HealthWatch.

Waiting: Democrats have been waiting for ObamaCare to become popular for four years — and counting. Congressional leaders and senior White House advisers have been saying since 2010 that public opinion will turn their way sometime soon. Be patient, they have told anxious members of their party again and again. Democrats now face the prospect of a second midterm drubbing in 2014, and the healthcare law is even more unpopular than it was last time around. Jonathan Easley at The Hill reports.

Survey: A poll conducted last fall and released Monday reveals widespread unfamiliarity with the healthcare law before enrollment began on Oct. 1. The survey, published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, underscores the serious challenge that faced the Obama administration as it began to promote ObamaCare to the public.

Half of respondents in the September 2013 survey did not recognize ObamaCare's system for connecting the uninsured with private health plans. The law's marketplaces, or "exchanges," are its central feature. Familiarity with the exchanges was even smaller among the uninsured, with only about one in three professing to know about the new system one month before its rollout. Elise Viebeck at The Hill reports.

Appointee: The White House on Monday announced the appointment of Douglas Brooks as the new director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. The White House said in a statement that Brooks is a “person living with HIV.” Brooks most recently served as senior vice president for community, health and public policy at the Justice Resource Institute. Jonathan Easley at The Hill reports.

Rx: ObamaCare participants are twice as likely to face administrative barriers to using certain prescription drugs as people who receive health coverage through an employer, according to a new analysis. The research from consulting firm Avalere Health points to a little-known facet of policies on the ObamaCare exchanges known as "utilization management controls." The controls allow insurance companies to limit access to certain medications to try and control costs and prevent abuse. People who enroll in ObamaCare plans are likely to encounter the hurdles if they're prescribed brand-name cancer or mental health drugs, Avalere found. Elise Viebeck at The Hill reports.

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