Viewpoints: Be Careful What You Pray For; Health Law 'Freakouts;' Concerns About Imported Drugs

Los Angeles Times: Hobby Lobby Case: Defenders Of Religious Freedom Should Be Careful What They Pray For
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will consider a proposition that will strike many Americans as bizarre: that large, for-profit businesses can refuse on religious grounds to comply with a federal mandate that they include contraception in their employee health plans (3/25). 

The Washington Post: The Government's 'Compelling' Interest In Protecting Contraceptive Coverage
The Supreme Court on Tuesday will devote a double session to hear arguments on one of the most contentious pieces of the Affordable Care Act: the rule that companies providing health-care insurance to their employees include coverage for a range of contraception services. Two firms — Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood — contend that complying with the law would violate their owners' religious principles, so the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) demands that the government grant the companies an exception from the rule. We think the firms are wrong (3/24).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Confronts Sex, Religion And Free Speech
Every few years a U.S. Supreme Court case comes along that seems magically to involve every important issue of the day. Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, which will be argued tomorrow, does the trifecta one better: It involves the Affordable Care Act, religious liberty, contraception and the question of whether a corporation is a person with fundamental rights. It would be the professor’s all-time dream question for a final exam in constitutional law -- except that even the best students couldn’t possibly have time to address all the issues (Noah Feldman, 3/24).

Reuters: Why Corporations Don't Deserve Religious Freedom
The cases challenge a provision of the ACA that requires employer-provided insurance plans to include contraception coverage. The rulings' importance extends beyond the ACA, however. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, its companion case, are also about Citizens United — which established that corporate personhood includes freedom of speech, exercised, in part, by giving money to political causes. Now the court will decide whether corporations have freedom of religion as well, and whether on the basis of those rights, corporations can deprive services to others (Jay Michaelson, 3/24).

USA Today: Hobby Lobby Case Fuels Bigotry
Today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments by Hobby Lobby, a nationwide chain of craft stores, asking the court for the right to discriminate against their employees who are entitled to reproductive health care under the Affordable Care Act. I know that Hobby Lobby's owner family, the Greens, are deeply religious people, and I respect their beliefs. They object to certain forms of birth control, claiming they constitute abortion (a "fact" disputed by much of the medical community). The Greens claim that corporations, through their owners, have freedom of religion — a very slippery slope. But should the entire company and its 14,000 employees be held hostage by the beliefs of its owners? (Rev. Gene Robinson, 3/24). 

Los Angeles Times: Today's Obamacare Freakout: 'But How Many Have Paid???'
Affordable Care Act ill-wishers -- who take a curiously gleeful view of suggestions that the act isn't working, as if failing to bring health insurance to millions of people is something to celebrate -- have trolled a succession of "concerns" suggesting that even if you think Obamacare is working, it's really not, because... So we've had the "Yes, millions have signed up, but most of those already had insurance" freakout. And the "Yes, millions have signed up, but not enough of them are young" freakout. Related to the latter is the "Bad demographics will cause an insurance death spiral" freakout. These were icing on a cake whose original ingredients included the "death panel" and "government-controlled healthcare" freakouts (Michael Hiltzik, 3/24). 

The Washington Post's The Plum Line: What We Should Demand From Coverage Of The Affordable Care Act
Next Monday is March 31, the deadline for people in the individual market to sign up for health insurance without incurring the fine they'll have to pay when they file their taxes a year from now. There's going to be a wave of stories in the news about the Affordable Care Act as this deadline approaches, and if the pattern we've seen over the last few years holds, there will be some informed and informative coverage, mixed in with a whole lot of crappy coverage written by journalists who don’t know very much about the law and what its effects are (Paul Waldman, 3/24). 

The Washington Post’s The Plum Line: Where Does Scott Brown Stand On New Hampshire's Medicaid Expansion
Now that Scott Brown looks all but certain to run for Senate in New Hampshire, sooner or later he'll be asked: Do you support or oppose the Medicaid expansion that's currently moving forward in the state you want to represent? The question goes beyond just New Hampshire and is a reminder that the politics of Obamacare are not quite as clear cut for Republicans as they like to claim (Greg Sargent, 3/24).

Politico: The Affordable Care Act Is Working
It is now four years since the Affordable Care Act was enacted. And in more than 30 years in government, I've never seen a law get so little recognition for doing so much good so quickly. The right measure of the ACA isn't whether it avoids political controversy; it's whether it makes America better by achieving its five most fundamental goals: expanding health-insurance coverage, lowering costs and promoting fiscal responsibility, increasing quality through innovation, protecting seniors and delivering peace of mind to American families by guaranteeing essential rights in dealing with insurance companies. By that standard the law is already a success (Phil Schiliro, 3/24).

McClatchy: Health-Care Law Is A Winner For All, Especially Women
It's not much of a stretch for us to say the Affordable Care Act is one of the most significant pieces of legislation for women in our lifetimes. Not because of the battles we fought to get it to the president's desk or because of the size or scope of the law. But because of the tangible and positive impact it has had, and will continue to have, on the health and well-being of American women and their families. On Sunday, this law celebrated its fourth anniversary, serving as a stark reminder of where our nation's health-care system was four short years ago. Just four years ago, the insurance companies had all the leverage, and, too often, women paid the price (Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., 3/24).

Fox News: Democrats Will Never Be Able To Turn ObamaCare Lemon Into Lemonade
Here is a newsflash for Democrats trying to make lemonade out of ObamaCare: It's never going to happen. President Obama’s failed health care experiment has left a bad taste in Americans' mouths and they will reject candidates who support this atrocity come November. Those arguing for Democrats to take an aggressive stance defending ObamaCare will regret it (L. Brent Bozell III, 3/24).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Demand For Health Insurance
Obamacare isn't perfect — and the rollout was anything but perfect. It was downright awful. But to have 5 million people signed up despite these frustrations says something about what people need and want. Obamacare remains a reasonable way for them to get it (3/24).

On other health care issues -

The New York Times: Scare Tactics Over Foreign Drugs
About five million Americans buy medication internationally each year because of high costs in the United States. These drugs are considered "foreign unapproved drugs" by the Food and Drug Administration, and federal law makes it illegal to buy them. ... For almost 15 years big drug companies have vigorously lobbied Congress and the federal government to stop Americans from buying foreign medicines. As part of that lobbying, they have made it seem as if all medications purchased from Canada and other international sources are the same as those that come from websites that sell counterfeit drugs. ... That assertion is just not true and will scare lawmakers and consumers into believing that all imported drugs bought online are dangerous (Gabriel Levitt, 3/24). 

Los Angeles Times: Feeling Ill-Effects Of Private Long-Term Care Insurance
Critics of safety-net programs such as Social Security and Medicare are fond of saying that the private sector would do a much better job of protecting people thanks to the magic of the marketplace. Mike and Judy Holtzman of Laguna Woods are now experiencing the magic of the marketplace for long-term care insurance. And it stings (David Lazarus, 3/24). 

Reuters: Combatting TB 2.0
Earlier this month, health officials in Los Angeles confirmed they are treating a patient for extensively drug resistant tuberculosis — a deadly form that does not respond to most of the antibiotics. The United States is one of 100 countries that have reported cases of “XDR-TB” since it was discovered in South Africa less than a decade ago. Congress is holding public briefings Tuesday and Wednesday to look into the threat posed by tuberculosis, seeking expert recommendations to help develop a U.S. response. To be effective, public health efforts must adapt to the ways TB is evolving (Jose Luis Castro, 3/24).

The Boston Globe: Code Book Changes Put Hospitals In Bureaucratic Bind
Your doctor is about to get a serious headache. The medical establishment in Boston and beyond is howling over new government rules that dramatically alter one of the most important documents in health care, the code book hospitals must use to describe an injury, the essential element in all medical record-keeping and billing. Exactly how detailed are all these new medical descriptions? (Syre, 3/25).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.