OVERNIGHT HEALTH: House panel targets abortion rights

Abortion politics will remain front and center on Capitol Hill this week as the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday marks up legislation that would prohibit abortions based on sex and race.

Republicans will argue that "abortion is the leading cause of death in the black community" to defend the bill from Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), according to a memo obtained by Mother Jones. Democrats and abortion-rights advocates for their part have expressed outrage that Republicans are using civil-rights arguments to try to restrict abortion.

ADVERTISEMENT
The markup comes as the fallout continues over the Obama administration's birth-control mandate and Susan G. Komen's decision to defund Planned Parenthood (the decision was later reversed following public outcry).

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stepped into the fray Monday by launching an online petition against the mandate, calling it part of the administration's "attacks on religious liberty." Healthwatch has the story.

The mandate requires religiously affiliated health plans to cover birth control without co-pays or deductibles. It could cost Obama the vote of his former ambassador to Malta, Healthwatch has learned.

Meanwhile, the Alliance Defense Fund and the Susan B. Anthony List will hold a press conference demanding that Congress hold a public hearing on allegations of fraud at Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider.

SCOTUS filings: The critics of President Obama’s healthcare reform law took their turn with the Supreme Court on Monday. Twenty-six states and the National Federation of Independent Business filed reply briefs with the court, answering the Justice Department’s arguments in favor of the mandate. And they definitely didn’t pull any punches — upholding the mandate, the states said, would amount to “a revolution in the relationship between the central government and the governed.”

The Justice Department says the mandate is constitutional because Congress has the power to regulate economic activity. But in the states’ view, the mandate compels activity, rather than regulating it. Congress could require just about anything if the court decides it has the power to enforce the insurance mandate, the states said.

Healthwatch has more on the briefs. You can also read NFIB’s brief here, and the states’ brief is here.

Who writes the laws around here, anyway? The Obama administration risks giving insurers too much power to determine Americans' healthcare benefits if it turns that decision over to the states, House Democrats wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has more.

We want answers: Republicans have questions for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after an independent audit found "weaknesses" in the agency's accounting. Healthwatch has more.


Tuesday's agenda

The Ways and Means Health panel holds a hearing to explore how private-sector payers are rewarding physicians who deliver high quality and efficient care. Count on Democrats to retort that that's exactly what their healthcare law seeks to promote.

Administration officials — HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee — announce new steps the administration is taking to reduce the burden of Alzheimer's on patients, families and the healthcare system. That's at 10 a.m. at the National Press Club.


State by state

HHS has rejected California's request to impose co-pays on Medicaid beneficiaries.

Lawmakers in Illinois must act boldly to prevent the state's Medicaid budget from becoming a "crisis," a top health official warns.

Vermont is making some concessions to employers as a potential shift to single-payer awaits.


Revolving door

Veteran-disability-rights advocate Connie Garner is joining United Cerebral Palsy to be its new executive vice president for Public Policy. Garner, a former health aide to Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), will continue to try to build private-sector support for the healthcare law's frozen CLASS Act as executive director of Advance CLASS.

The Bockorny Group has poached Tyler Thompson, the former lead health staffer to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). Healtwatch has more.


Reading list

The Federal Trade Commission is leaning toward rejecting the proposed MedCo/Express Scripts merger but wants to ensure it can win a legal challenge, Reuters reports.

Susan G. Komen's recent troubles come as a scathing new documentary delves into the nonprofit's activities, writes MovieFone.

Mandatory birth control is a solution disproportional to the problem, John Goodman blogs at the National Center for Policy Analysis.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Romney campaign slams Santorum on healthcare

Lawmaker duped by The Onion's Planned Parenthood satire

GAO report spurs calls for medical device price transparency

Gov. O’Malley: 'Too much hyperventilating' over birth control order

Democrats' campaign leader confident Medicare issue will make Pelosi Speaker

Cancer charity's effort to defund Planned Parenthood backfires


Comments / complaints / suggestions? Please let us know:

Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com / 202-628-8527

Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351

Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch