OVERNIGHT HEALTH: 'War on women' label starts to stick to GOP

Republicans are taking hits in Congress and on the campaign trail as the birth-control mandate issue continues to dominate the health policy conversation.

While the GOP had the upper hand politically as late as last week, there are clear signs that Democrats' strategy of constantly portraying Republican efforts as a "war on women" is paying dividends. House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) walked squarely into the line of fire Thursday by failing to invite a single woman to sit on the first panel of his hearing on whether the healthcare law mandate violates religious freedoms.

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Women's health groups responded with outrage, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) leading the charge on Capitol Hill. "Imagine they're having a panel on women's health, and they don't have any women on the panel — duh!," she said at a press briefing.

The Hill's Sam Baker and Mike Lillis have the story

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would outlaw abortions on the basis of race or sex. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksFreedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights Eric Schneiderman and #MeToo pose challenges for both parties The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ariz.), says "most Americans believe it's wrong to abort a little baby because the little baby is black or Hispanic instead of white." The National Partnership for Women & Families called the bill a "sham" that's "nothing more than an attempt to make it more difficult for women of color to seek abortion care and imprison doctors who provide that care."

And on the campaign trail, Rick Santorum benefactor Foster Friess made unwanted headlines for the candidate when he told MSNBC that birth control is cheap. 

"You know back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception," the Red White and Blue Fund super-PAC donor said. "The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn't that costly." The Hill has more on that here.

Medicare reform re-redux: Sens. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnMr. President, let markets help save Medicare Pension insolvency crisis only grows as Congress sits on its hands Paul Ryan should realize that federal earmarks are the currency of cronyism MORE (R-Okla.) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: New FTC chief eyes shake up of tech regulation | Lawmakers target Google, Huawei partnership | Microsoft employees voice anger over ICE contract On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senate Intel requests more testimony from Comey, McCabe MORE (R-N.C.) unveiled a bill Thursday that would give seniors a choice between traditional Medicare and "premium support" to buy private coverage. They said it would reduce Medicare spending between $300 billion and $1 trillion over 10 years. Healthwatch's Julian Pecquet has the story.

Meanwhile, Diane Archer and Theodore Marmor have a timely post on the Health Affairs Blog arguing that the arguments over Medicare's future often fail to differentiate between the federal program's social function — absorbing risk and serving individuals who have or may have costly and complex medical needs — versus commercial insurance's business interest in avoiding those most likely to use medical care.

Done deal: The payroll tax conference committee signed off on a 10-month doc fix on Thursday. The House and Senate could vote on the package as early as Friday. Here's a detailed summary of the health provisions.

SCOTUS preview: SCOTUSblog and Bloomberg Law co-hosted a briefing on the oral arguments the Supreme Court will hear next month in the challenge to the healthcare reform law's individual mandate. 

The crux: The administration's lawyers will argue that the penalty for not getting insurance is within Congress's taxing powers; the 26 state plaintiffs will focus on the mandate itself, arguing that, unlike a tax, it makes it near impossible to hold lawmakers accountable.

Congress "doesn't want you to pay the penalty, they really want you to pay the premium [for insurance] and get healthcare. And when you do that, you're not going to write a check to the IRS, you're not going to do it on April 15th, you're going to write a check to an insurance company," said Paul Clement, the counsel to the states. "And to the extent that that's really a tax, then it's really pernicious."

SCOTUSblog live-blogged the whole debate here.

The parties also disagree about whether the reform law can hold up without the mandate and the insurance reforms it seeks to make possible, which plaintiffs called the law's "heart and lungs." But a new RAND Health analysis finds that premiums in the individual market would rise by only 2.4 percent without the mandate.

In other SCOTUS news, the liberal groups Health Care for America Now and The Other 98% announced that they have collected more than 100,000 signatures on a petition asking that Justice Clarence Thomas recuse himself from the case. The groups plan to submit the signatures to the court Friday morning. Neither Thomas nor any other justices have given any indication they will recuse themselves.

What's in the beef: Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to more than 60 food companies asking them to disclose their policies on antibiotic use in meat and poultry production.

"The US is facing a growing public health crisis in the form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," Slaughter said in a statement, "and information about how these companies are contributing to its rise or resolution should be available to consumers."


Lobbying registrations

Brown Rudnick / Prime Therapeutics (Regulation of Pharmacy Benefit Managers)

Duane Morris Government Strategies / Conemaugh Health System

Duane Morris Government Strategies / The Mario Lemieux Foundation (playrooms in hospitals)

Duane Morris Government Strategies / Mound Laser and Photonics Center (medical device manufacturer)

Ryan MacKinnon Vasapoli and Berzok / American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians

Ryan MacKinnon Vasapoli and Berzok / AmerisourceBergen Corporation (issues pertaining to drug pedigree, prompt pay legislation and drug shortages)


Reading list

The home health industry is fighting proposals that it pay its workers minimum wage, USA Today reports.

Dan Rather defends Don Berwick in the Huffington Post.

A man had a heart attack while eating at the Heart Attack Grill, NPR reports.


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Comments / complaints / suggestions? Please let us know:

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

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

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