OVERNIGHT HEALTH: GOP asks high court to rule on O-Care board

Twenty-five Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to take up another case against ObamaCare, this time challenging a controversial medical board that the party has labeled “a death panel.” 

Lawmakers led by Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnCongress must protect federal watchdogs Tom Coburn's annual gift to taxpayers Joe Biden still doesn't have a campaign theme MORE (R-Okla.) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) are urging the high court to reconsider a lawsuit against the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is charged with cutting Medicare spending if it exceeds a certain level.

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“As a physician with more than 30 years of experience, I find the ability of this board to intervene in the relationship doctors have with their patients alarming,” Roe said at a press conference Thursday. “I have serious concerns that this unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy could have a devastating impact on seniors’ access to care, and I hope the court will hear this case.”

The case, Coons v. Lew, argues that the advisory board violates separation of powers. The lawsuit was previously dismissed by an appeals court.

Roe, whose bills to repeal the board have already passed the House, said he also hopes to revive the battle in Congress as well as the Supreme Court.

“I feel very confident that this [bill] will make it to the president’s desk,” Roe said.

The board does not yet have members and has drafted no policy, but it has reentered the spotlight as the GOP plots ways to take down the health law after they take control of the Senate next month. Read more here.

ObamaCare costs rise: Most people with ObamaCare plans will save money if they shop around this fall, but those who don’t could face rate hikes of nearly 10 percent, federal health officials said Thursday.

About 65 percent of existing customers can get coverage for $100 or less next year if they browse their options on the marketplace, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). But if they choose to automatically re-enroll on the marketplace, it’s less likely they will receive a deal on premiums.

“For the vast majority of people, if they stay in the same plan, they’ll see rate increases in high single digits,” Kevin Counihan, CEO of the federal marketplace, said in a conference call. Read more here.

Flu shots may not help: Federal health officials are warning that this year's flu vaccine will do little to stop about half of the influenza cases in the United States. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) alerted doctors Wednesday night that the predominant strain of flu this year — H3N2 — has mutated substantially enough not to match the vaccine. CDC Director Tom Frieden said Thursday that it is too late to manufacture vaccines that could beat the mutations. Read more here.

Dems reflect on O-Care vote: Influential Democrats who have strongly defended ObamaCare for years are now publicly questioning whether the law was worth the political fallout. Passage of the Affordable Care Act marked the start of a political unraveling for the Democratic Party, which lost huge majorities in Congress and control of a majority of state governorships in the last four and a half years.

Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerA renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Trump may be DACA participants' best hope, but will Democrats play ball? MORE (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, said last week that ObamaCare was not worth the political cost. And he’s not alone.

Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinErnst challenges Greenfield to six debates in Iowa Senate race Biden unveils disability rights plan: 'Your voices must be heard' Bottom line MORE (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, told The Hill that Democrats should have enacted a single-payer healthcare system or a public option. In retrospect, Harkin said, Democrats should have not passed the bill they did. While he says the ACA enacted some good reforms, he bemoans its daunting complexity.

Schumer’s and Harkin’s recent remarks are quite different than in prior years. Read more here.

Blood donation ban under debate: Members of an advisory panel on blood safety are arguing it would be risky to lift a 1980s-era ban on blood donations by gay men. The experts who advise the Food and Drug Administration are pushing back, as the agency reviews whether to lift the ban.

“There’s too many questions in science that aren’t answerable,” said Corey Dubin, a member of the committee and founder of an HIV/AIDS advocacy organization called Committee of Ten Thousand. “With the science so far, it’s a leap of faith,” he said.

The group’s skepticism contrasts with a Health and Human Services Department panel, which voted nearly unanimously to ease the policy earlier this fall. The FDA panel was not asked to take a vote, a spokeswoman for the agency said. But if they had, one source said the group would have likely said no — just like they did during their last vote on the issue in 2010. Read more here.


Friday’s schedule


The Alliance for Health Reform will hold a briefing with top health policy staff members from both parties.


State by state

Minnesota trims 2015 enrollment target by one-third

Judge rules Indiana abortion clinic law unconstitutional 

Va. Board of Health backs move to amend abortion clinic rules

Health insurers owed $20 million, warn of ‘very low’ enrollment in Colorado


Reading list
 

Big changes in fine print of some 2015 ObamaCare plans 

U.S. birthrate declines as American women wait 

Advocates urge swift Senate vote on disability aid 


What you might have missed at The Hill


Lott: Fix ObamaCare to avoid court case 

Defense bill lights up cigarette debate 

Appropriators to unveil spending package Monday

 

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