KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

House GOP Votes To Expand Health Law Religious Exemptions

If approved, the bill would expand who doesn't have to buy health insurance because of their religious beliefs. Its prospects in the Democratic-controlled Senate are unknown.

The Wall Street Journal: House Votes To Widen Religious Insurance Exemption
The House on Tuesday approved three bills that would modify the Affordable Care Act including one that would expand religious exemption requirements in the law. The measures were all approved with broad bipartisan support, marking a departure from most prior measures brought up in the House that would have either partly or fully repealed the 2010 federal health law. The measures would have to clear the Democratic-controlled Senate before becoming law, and prospects for action there weren't clear, according to senior Democratic aides (Corbett Dooren, 3/11). 

CQ HealthBeat: Health Care Law's Religious Exemption Would Expand Under House Measure
The House is poised to take up bipartisan legislation Tuesday that would expand the religious exemption from the health care law requirement that most individuals buy health coverage or pay a penalty. The bill (HR 1814), sponsored by Illinois Republican Aaron Schock, comes to the House floor just weeks before the March 31 deadline for open enrollment in the new insurance exchanges and for individuals to sign up for coverage before they would be responsible for the penalty payment (Attias, 3/11).

CBS News: As Obamacare Reaches Crunch Time, Kathleen Sebelius Faces Congress
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday heads to Capitol Hill to make the case for her agency's proposed 2015 budget -- including the millions it is asking for to continue implementing the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius' appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee comes at a critical juncture for the health care law -- Americans have fewer than 20 days left to enroll in a health insurance plan on the new Obamacare marketplaces. The secretary announced Tuesday that about 4.2 million Americans had signed up for an Obamacare plan by the end of February. While the administration says it's satisfied with the pace of enrollment, the early, significant technical problems with and other Obamacare sites clearly slowed down the process (Condon, 3/12).

Also, lawmakers in both chambers agreed to a measure to use political convention money for health research --

The Washington Post: In Rare Bipartisan Effort, Congress Votes To Shift Convention Money To Health Research
In a rare instance of Senate Democrats and House Republicans working together, Congress agreed Tuesday to shift funding formerly allocated to presidential conventions to programs focused on pediatric medical research (Costa, 3/11). 

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Bill On Pediatric Medical Research, Inspired By Va. Girl, Heads To Obama
Legislation named for a young girl from Virginia that would boost funding for pediatric medical research is headed to President Barack Obama’s desk. The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, a measure that was championed in the Senate by Sens. Mark R. Warner and Timothy M. Kaine, both Democrats, and in the House by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th. The legislation, which would expand pediatric research with money currently spent on taxpayer financing of presidential elections, passed the Senate by unanimous consent. It seeks to save more than $100 million over 10 years from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and spend more on research of pediatric diseases and disorders at the National Institutes of Health (Meola, 3/11).

And a payment fix to how Medicare pays doctors looks increasingly unlikely --

CQ HealthBeat: Hatch Says Nine-Month ‘Doc Fix’ Patch May Be Needed
With just 20 days to go before a scheduled 24 percent Medicare reimbursement cut to physicians, it doesn’t appear Congress will strike a grand bargain to replace the formula responsible for the draconian reduction. The major stumbling block is the $138.4 billion in offsets required over 11 years to eliminate the sustainable growth rate formula, or SGR (Reichard, 3/11).

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