health law


Health Law Deja Vu: Bush v. Gore And Politics On The High Court

Lady Justice (Scott*/Flickr)

Lady Justice (Scott*/Flickr)

In the fall of 2000, my reporter buddies and I would gather every evening at various bars or people’s apartments, fixated and anguished by the political theatre of Bush v. Gore before the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday’s partisan grilling by the justices on the health law’s individual mandate slammed me right back to that time. Once again, politics seemed to dominate the high court in so many ways.

As I followed all the analysis yesterday — CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin says the mandate is dead, the government’s case is deemed a “train wreck,” the anti-health-law faction’s broccoli-obsession, etc. — I wondered if the justices truly came at the case with open minds or if political orientation is the main driver here. We may never know. But if you want comprehensive coverage of the drama that continues today with arguments on Medicaid and “severability,” here’s Kaiser Health News’ Health Law March Madness, which examines pretty much every angle of the case and its broad implications.

Here’s one piece looking at ways to salvage the health law should the individual mandate be found unconstitutional:

There are ways that Obama—if he’s re-elected — might be able to salvage the law even if the court strikes down the individual mandate but leaves the rest intact, health policy experts say.

These fixes would create financial incentives for people to not delay enrolling in insurance. Continue reading

Why Historic SCOTUS Case Doesn’t Really Matter For Massachusetts

The health care battle that begins this morning at the U.S. Supreme Court is one of the most important of our lifetime. But the direct effect on Massachusetts, which created the framework for the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), is minimal, at best.

“The real bottom line is that consequences for Massachusetts are not that great, except the extent to which we care about the uninsured in the rest of the country,” says Harvard School of Public Health professor John McDonough.

Here are the main issues before the high court as they pertain to the Commonwealth:

1) The Individual Mandate — The question for the high court is whether the requirement that residents have health insurance is constitutional. But either way, it is already part of state law in Massachusetts and would stand regardless of what the Supreme Court decides. A related provision, that says residents can’t be denied insurance if they have a pre-existing condition, is also already in state law.

2) Can the ACA stand without the Individual Mandate? – Again, this doesn’t matter for Massachusetts. Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Tribe says: “There are no legal issues before the Court in which a decision would either trump the Massachusetts law or compel a review of that law.” Continue reading

Berwick Says He Thinks Health Law Will Stand

Wishful thinking? Maybe.

But Donald Berwick, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tells Kaiser Health News that despite “messaging problems,” he believes the national health law will stand. “I expect the law will be upheld,” he says.

(Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on the law’s constitutionality; a decision is expected in June.)


Politico: Obama Targeting Supreme Court Conservatives On Health Law

The U.S. Supreme Court considers the health law this month. (OZinOH/flickr)

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the national health law signed by President Obama in 2010.

Politico reports on the administration’s strategy targeting conservative justices on the high court, hoping that at least one of them will rule in favor of the law. Here’s a run-down of the government’s approach, including a play for Scalia:

Administration lawyers have peppered their briefs with citations to opinions written by Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, they’ve seized on the arguments made by one of Scalia’s most beloved former clerks and their allies in legal circles have talked up how a decision upholding the Affordable Care Act would play into John Roberts’s legacy as chief justice.

A long shot? Maybe, but it’s the only shot the administration has on a court dominated 5-4 by conservatives… Continue reading

Poll: Americans Believe Justices’ Ideology Will Drive Health Law Decision

Unlike members of Congress, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t stand or clap during President Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday. This, presumably, is a measure of their objectivity, a visible demonstration of the notion that “justice is blind,” delivered fairly, without “fear or favor.”

Well, apparently the American public doesn’t buy it — at least when it comes to determining the constitutionality of the national health law.

Just two months before the court is to hear the case, nearly 60 percent of the public “expect the justices to depend more on personal ideology than a legal analysis of the individual mandate,” the core of the law that requires most people to buy health insurance, according to a just-released Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll. A story on the poll in Kaiser Health News explains:

Just 28 percent of those surveyed believe the justices will base their decision on the mandate without regard to politics and ideology, according to the survey. Continue reading

Dr. Berwick Exits Washington, Optimistic About Health Reform Law

Dr. Donald Berwick served as Medicare chief for 17 months

Despite his messy, politically-tinged ouster as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Dr. Donald Berwick remains persistently optimistic about the future of health reform.

This morning, Berwick spoke to WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook and continually brought the conversation back to the huge potential of the nation’s health reform law, which he called “majestic.”

Berwick said the reason he lost his job in Washington boils down to this: “An absence of authentic dialogue on what’s needed in health care.”

Still, he said: “It’s a thrilling time in health care…major improvements are possible if we can buckle down in this country and get health care to perform how we want it to…We have to cross the bridge from fear to optimism.” Continue reading

A Snapshot Of Dr. Berwick’s Successor

Kaiser Health News offers this mini-profile of Mary Tavenner, a former nurse, hospital executive and HHS deputy slated to replace Don Berwick as administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Berwick, who resigned due to GOP opposition, will step down later this week. (Here’s a copy of the memo from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announcing Tavenner’s appointment.)

Before coming to CMS, Tavenner served as secretary of Virginia’s Health and Human Services where she oversaw 12 agencies that employed 18,000 people. Her career also included 25 years working for the Hospital Corporation of America where she started as a staff nurse and became president of outpatient services, according to an alumni profile posted on the Virginia Commonwealth University’s web site. She has also previously served as acting CMS administrator.

Continue reading

Why We Need Cameras In The Supreme Court During Health Law Arguments

Should the Supreme Court allow live television coverage during health law proceedings?

CBS News reports that lawmakers and others have requested that cameras be allowed in the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health law.

The court this week agreed to hear the case, with oral arguments by March 2012.

In a Nov. 15 letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts asking for live television coverage of the proceedings, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley writes that “the decision in this case has the potential to reach every American,” and will “reverberate throughout the American economy.” Continue reading

Cain On Health Care: ‘We Have A Cost Problem.’

If GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain makes it through his current travails involving allegations of sexual harassment, and if he gets elected (many ifs…) he’s got a lot to say about health care. “We do not have a health care problem in America,” Cain says on a video posted today on Kaiser Health News. “We have a health care cost problem in America. And that’s different.”

Here’s his prescription to fix things:

Is A 2012 Supreme Court Decision On The Health Law Bad For Romney?

President Obama has always performed well when things are bleak — but things haven’t looked this bleak for a long, long time.

David Brooks, in The New York Times this week, wrote of “settling into the idea that Romney might well be president.” A Gallup poll out yesterday found half of Americans say Obama and Congress are doing a worse job than their predecessors.

But wait, might the national health law save the day for the president by sinking the GOP frontrunner?

Here’s The Wall Street Journal politics blog suggesting that the White House is going all out to evoke Romney’s fraught connection with the health law whenever possible. (This issue, overall, is bad for Romney, who has a love-hate relationship with its central tenet: He supports the individual mandate at the core of the Massachusetts health law, but says the national health law, which is modeled on the state law, should be repealed.)

Here’s the WSJ, citing an example of the administration’s gentle reminder to health-law hating Republicans that Romney supported an earlier version of a similar law: Continue reading