Overnight Healthcare: Justices split on ObamaCare contraception case

BACK IN COURT: Congressional Democrats celebrated the sixth anniversary of ObamaCare on the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday morning. Across the street, the Supreme Court heard its latest challenge to the law.

This time it was a challenge to an "accommodation" for religious nonprofits regarding the health law's contraceptive mandate.

Swing Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed to side with conservatives on important points, possibly setting up a 4-4 split.

ADVERTISEMENT

Kennedy seemed to accept the view of the challengers that they face a "substantial burden" in opting out of the mandate to provide contraception coverage in their health plans.

"The analysis has to be whether or not there are less restrictive alternatives," Kennedy said.

Some of the conservative justices raised the possibility of a separate plan to cover only contraception that could be sold on the ObamaCare exchanges, giving employees at religious nonprofits the ability to get contraceptive coverage elsewhere.

"Why can't they get it through another plan?" Kennedy said.

The four liberal justices warned against the precedent of opening up the floodgates to new religious objections to laws. "How will we ever have a government that functions?" asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Read more here. http://bit.ly/1RlIe2k

MEDICARE COULD SOON COVER DIABETES PREVENTION SERVICES: The Obama administration is eying an expansion of Medicare to cover diabetes prevention programs, which health officials say could improve the health of millions of people while lowering spending nationwide.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell made the announcement on Wednesday during a speech marking the sixth anniversary of ObamaCare.

"If we can invest in preventing diabetes before it develops, we can improve people's health, quality of life, and save money," Burwell said.

The benefit would be modeled after a program created by the National Council of YMCAs in 2012, using grants from the healthcare law. More than a dozen YMCA centers split up $12 million to offer prevention programs to people at high risk of developing diabetes. Four years later, federal health officials have completed "rigorous evaluations" of the program and found that patients lost about 5 percent of their body weight.

Those improvements in personal health saved Medicare about $2,650 per person, compared to people with similar health outside the program, HHS said. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1pz55jE

GOP SPONSOR DIDN'T SEE CRITICISM COMING: The Republican author of a popular medical malpractice bill that was derailed in committee on Tuesday said conservative opposition caught him unaware.

Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ariz.) said he was surprised when two fellow Republicans -- Texas Reps. Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column MORE and Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertLouie Gohmert's exchange with Robert Mueller revealed an uneasy relationship Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess Mueller will be remembered for his weak testimony, not his shocking report MORE -- voiced opposition during the House Judiciary Committee markup, forcing the panel to temporarily abandon the bill.

"To be quite honest with you, no. I hate to admit that, but I didn't know," Franks told The Hill on Wednesday.

The tort reform bill is a high priority for the Judiciary Committee and for GOP leadership. The bill is part of a budget savings package that each House committee was asked to create by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Soaring deficits could put Trump in a corner if there's a recession Paul Ryan moving family to Washington MORE (R-Wis.). It is estimated to save about $40 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Read more here. http://bit.ly/1PrVPmD

HOUSE GOP RAMPS UP 'REINSURANCE' FIGHT: A pair of GOP chairmen are accusing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of illegally diverting "as much as $3.5 billion" to pay health insurers through ObamaCare's reinsurance program, instead of making payments to the Treasury.

The chairman are taking aim at the reinsurance program, about two weeks after Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China MORE (R-Fla.) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah) wrote to the administration blasting it as a "bailout" for insurers. The program is designed to protect insurers against high costs for sicker enrollees in the early years of the law, but Republicans argue federal health officials have prioritized giving money to insurers over the Treasury.

Read our story on the controversy from earlier this month here: http://bit.ly/1MmugjZ

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

The Congressional Budget Office will release updated estimates of the budgetary effects of the Affordable Care Act.

 

WHAT WE'RE READING:

More than 2,500 birth defects linked to Zika in Brazil, WHO predicts (Washington Post)

Congress adjourns without voting on Zika funding (Stat)

How to stop the bouncing between insurance plans under ObamaCare (New York Times)

Public's Views on ObamaCare have stayed about the same (Washington Post)

 

IN THE STATES:

Montana Medicaid expansion numbers exceed expectations (Montana Public Radio)

Targeted interventions might cut Ohio fentanyl deaths, CDC suggests (Columbus Dispatch)

Planned Parenthood now offering abortions in Wichita (AP)

 

ICYMI FROM THE HILL:

Flint lawmaker: No recess until Congress passes aid http://bit.ly/1S6Z58Q

Watchdog: HealthCare.gov faced 316 cyber incidents http://bit.ly/1MCWdyG

Obama touts ObamaCare as a success on law's anniversary http://bit.ly/1RlPnjh

 

Send tips and comments to Sarah Ferris, sferris@thehill.com, and Peter Sullivan, psullivan@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@sarahnferris@PeterSullivan4