OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Contraception debate headed to the courts

"It is unbelievable that in the year 2012 we have to fight for access to birth control," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Yet this lawsuit would make it harder for millions of women to get birth control."

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David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama’s reelection campaign, also stood firm behind the policy.

“These institutions don’t have to pay for it, they don’t have to sponsor it and I think most people agree that’s an appropriate compromise,” Axelrod said in an appearance on MSNBC. 

Religious-affiliated institutions like Catholic universities don’t have to directly provide contraception coverage in their employees’ healthcare plans, but their insurance companies still have to make birth control available to female workers without charging a co-pay or deductible.

Our story on Planned Parenthood’s reaction is here, and we also have the video from Axelrod’s TV appearance.

When it rains, it pours: The lawsuits come on the heels of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s commencement address at Georgetown University. Some Catholic groups had protested the choice of Sebelius, citing her role in formulating the contraception mandate. She largely avoided the subject in her speech, though she did take the opportunity to plug the Affordable Care Act.

In case you missed it, here’s our report from Friday’s ceremony.

Tax breaks too small: Small businesses aren’t especially interested in new healthcare tax credits because the credits are too small, businesses and insurance officials told the Government Accountability Office. The low take-up has undermined the White House’s argument that small businesses will benefit from the Affordable Care Act, and several groups have tried to explain the “meh” response from business owners. According to GAO, the problem isn’t just awareness, but also the size of the credit. Most small businesses don’t offer health insurance, and this tax break isn’t big enough to get them to start, according to GAO’s report.

Healthwatch has more.

The lawmakers who requested the GAO study — House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) — said the report shows that the credits are “grossly ineffective” and that the health law will still hurt small employers.

“The health care reform law is simply bad policy that is holding small businesses back, and therefore should be repealed,” Graves said in a statement. “The data shows that a miniscule tax credit won't change this dynamic.”


State by state

Officials in Minnesota are preparing for this week’s federal review of their exchange planning.

Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health Systems is taking a close look at the health risks from fracking.

Kentucky is seeing a record number of HPV-related cancers.


Lobbying registrations

Jacobs Scolz & Associates / HealthSpot
Drinker Biddle & Reath / Are You Dense Advocacy
A&G Group / self-registration
Mercury/Clark & Weinstock / National Quality Forum
Bay Bridge Strategies / OSIsoft


Reading list

A Supreme Court decision striking down the Affordable Care Act would rile up young voters, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that individual doctors are being removed from malpractice suits, which could complicate efforts to track errors.

In an interview with The New York Times, health economist Dana Goldman makes the case for investing in prevention.



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

Elise Viebeck: eviebeck@thehill.com / 202-628-8523

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