Daily on Healthcare: Judge blocks Trump birth control rules…5th Circuit pauses Obamacare case due to government shutdown

By | January 14, 2019

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Judge blocks Trump birth control rules A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s loosened birth control rules from going into effect in 13 states and the District of Columbia on Monday as scheduled. The Department of Health and Human Services created rules allowing employers to opt out of birth control coverage due to religious or moral objections. Employers otherwise have to offer health insurance that covers a range of birth control options, from the pill to intrauterine devices to emergency contraception, at no cost to patients. The decision to block the rules from taking effect was issued Sunday by Judge Haywood Gilliam, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama and previously blocked an interim version of the exemptions. The decision in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California was issued Sunday in response to a lawsuit filed by Democratic attorneys general. The injunction only applies to D.C. and the 13 states that filed the lawsuit, even though the attorneys general had asked for the injunction to be applied nationwide.

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5th Circuit pauses Obamacare case due to government shutdown. A federal appeals court granted the Department of Justice’s request to pause a case that could undo Obamacare as the government’s partial shutdown headed.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans on Friday temporarily paused the case, Texas v. U.S., following a DOJ request that came earlier this week. Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt told the court that DOJ lawyers “are unable to prepare their opposition at this time due to the lapse in appropriations.” The government’s partial shutdown is over a disagreement between President Trump and Democrats over how to fund border security, with Trump demanding $ 5.7 billion to fund a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. The latest order on holding the Obamacare lawsuit was signed by Judge Leslie Southwick, a George W. Bush appointee. A federal judge in December ruled that the healthcare law was unconstitutional and the ruling is being stayed as Democratic attorneys general appeal the case.

Seven million sickened as flu season worsens. Flu season has picked up in recent weeks, and officials estimate that between 6.2 and 7.3 million people have gotten sick since October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday. The agency’s data, which encompasses Oct. 1, 2018 to Jan. 5, 2019, shows half of those who got sick went to see the doctor, and that between 69,300 to 83,500 people have been hospitalized. Officials are still evaluating how severe this year’s flu season will be compared to other years’. It was off to a slow start but has accelerated in recent weeks, with local reports of deaths. Roughly 200,000 people are hospitalized on average with the flu every year, and the season can last as late as May.

Democrats raise concerns about FDA food inspections under shutdown. Thirty-four Democratic senators sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration last week requesting information on how the agency was reducing oversight of food facilities, how the approval of medical devices might be hindered, and whether the agency is taking steps to address financial issues furloughed employees face. “While we appreciate the efforts of the agency and the tireless work of your staff to help mitigate the impact of the shutdown on the public health, we remain deeply concerned about the halt of vital regulatory and compliance activities at FDA,” they wrote.

Anti-abortion polling finds support for abortion limits among Millennials. A poll from Students for Life of America’s Institute for Pro-Life Advancement found that only 7 percent of those polled supported both allowing abortion without any exceptions and using government funding to pay for them. People identifying as “pro-life” and “pro-choice” were equally divided, at 39 percent, but 17 percent supported abortion without exceptions while 12 percent said abortion should be illegal in all cases. Twenty-eight percent of those polled support limits through policies such as parental notification, 20-week bans, and opposing government funding of abortion. Other polling has found that roughly two-thirds of the public doesn’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade, but when the Students for Life poll asked respondents about returning the question of the legality of abortion to the states, 41 percent said they would support that while 33 percent opposed. The rest were undecided. The poll was conducted in the first week of January by the Polling Company, Inc./WomanTrend among 18-34 year olds.

UK doctors to be polled on medically assisted suicide. The Royal College of Physicians, the UK’s doctor group, will be polling its 35,000 members and fellows next month about whether they think the laws should change on medically assisted suicide, and whether they would be willing to participate in the practice if it did become legal. Under current law, passed in 1961, medically assisted suicide is illegal and doctors could face up to 14 years in jail if they take part in it. The Royal College of physicians is taking a neutral stance on the issue for now but will reconsider if at least two-thirds are for or against the practice.

Ginsburg shows no remaining signs of cancer, Supreme Court says. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recovery from cancer surgery is “on track,” though she will remain off the bench for the second week in a row, the Supreme Court said Friday. “Justice Ginsburg will continue to work from home next week and will participate in the consideration and decision of the cases on the basis of the briefs and the transcripts of oral arguments,” Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in a statement. Arberg said that Ginsburg’s post-surgery evaluation showed no signs of remaining cancer and that no additional treatment is needed. Ginsburg underwent surgery Dec. 21 to remove two cancerous nodules from her left lung. She was discharged from the hospital on Christmas Day and has since been recuperating at home.


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MONDAY | Jan. 14

Senate and House in session.

Trump administration’s Obamacare birth control exemptions to take effect in most states.

Noon. National Press Club. 529 14th St. NW. CVS CEO Larry Merlo to address Aetna acquisition, healthcare challenges. Details.

TUESDAY | Jan. 15

7:30 a.m. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and members of Congress to speak at “The Price of Good Health” event. Details.

8:45 a.m. UnitedHealth Group fourth quarter earnings. Details.

Midnight. Open enrollment ends for California exchange, Covered California.


8:15 a.m. 1099 14th St NW. Politico event on “Healthcare Innovators: New Players Meet Long-Established Regulations.” Details.

9:30 a.m. Dirksen 562. Senate Special Committee on Aging Hearing on “Fighting Elder Fraud: Progress Made, Work to Be Done.” Details.

THURSDAY | Jan. 17

Jan. 17-18. Ronald Reagan Building. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. Medicare Payment Advisory Commission meeting. Details.

Jan. 17-21. National African American MSM Leadership Conference on Health Disparities and Social Justice. Details.

FRIDAY | Jan. 18

March for Life.

SATURDAY | Jan. 19

Women’s March.