Obama Health Care Law Reaches Supreme Court, With Over Five Hours Of Oral Argument Planned
WASHINGTON -- In an order released on Monday morning, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear more than five hours of oral argument in the challenges to the Affordable Care Act brought by 26 states and several private parties.
The order indicates the gravity with which the justices view the health care cases, as the Court rarely allots more than an hour to for argument in each case it hears.
Within those five-plus hours, the justices divided the time into four separate arguments to address the various questions raised in petitions from the Department of Justice, the 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business.
The longest argument, set for two hours, will consider whether Congress had the power under Article 1 of the Constitution to enact the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Article 1 outlines the types of laws Congress may pass, such as those that regulate interstate commerce. The Justice Department has argued in the lower courts and in its petition to the Supreme Court that the health care law's "individual mandate," which requires virtually all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty on their tax returns, falls within Congress' power under the commerce clause of Article 1.
The cases granted Monday come up from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which struck down the individual mandate by a 2-1 vote, holding that the provision exceeds the scope of the commerce clause.
Majorities on the 6th Circuit and the D.C. Circuit have disagreed, siding with the Obama administration that the law falls within the clause's broad boundaries as articulated by the Supreme Court over the past seven decades.
The justices will also hear 90 minutes of oral argument on whether the entire health care law must fall should they find that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. The 11th Circuit found the mandate could be severed from the rest of the law and therefore refused to throw out the whole law. That ruling reversed Judge Roger Vinson's decision at the district court level that the mandate was not severable. The National Federation of Independent Business urged the Court to reinstate Vinson's decision, which remains the only one in the country to strike down the health care law in its entirety.
The justices will hear an hour of oral argument on whether they should avoid ruling on the merits at all because the individual mandate does not go into effect until 2014. Specifically, the justices will be asked to determine if the penalty that must be paid under the mandate constitutes a tax, which would trigger a federal statute called the Anti-Injunction Act. That law requires individuals to have actually paid the taxes required by a law before they can challenge the law's constitutional merits in court. A 2-1 majority on the 4th Circuit, composed of Democrat-appointed judges, tossed a suit against the health care law on these grounds several months ago.
The Justice Department urged the Court to rule on the merits and downplayed the 4th Circuit's decision in its brief. But last week, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a prominent and influential conservative judge, dissented for that very reason from the D.C. Circuit's decision to uphold the mandate. Kavanaugh wrote that the penalty constituted a tax, which would bar the courts from considering the law's constitutionality until after the first penalties have been paid in 2015. That the justices asked for a full hour of argument on this issue after all parties petitioning the Court urged a ruling on the merits may signal that the Court is open to avoiding a politically charged constitutional decision during the heart of the 2012 campaign season.
The Court will hear one final hour on the constitutionality of Congress' pinning federal funding to the states on their participation in the law's health care reforms. No court has yet accepted the argument, put forward by the 26 states in this suit, that the health care law coerces and commandeers the states to act in violation of basic federalism principles.
Oral arguments will likely be scheduled for the third or fourth week of March, with a decision coming down at the end of June before the Court recesses for the summer.
Obama Administration Cuts Major Part Of Health Care Reform Law: CLASS Long-Term Insurance Program Canceled
Barack Obama Health Care Reform
RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR 10/14/11 11:40 PM ET AP
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration Friday pulled the plug on a major program in the president's signature health overhaul law – a long-term care insurance plan dogged from the beginning by doubts over its financial solvency.
Targeted by congressional Republicans for repeal, the program became the first casualty in the political and policy wars over the health care law. It had been expected to launch in 2013.
"This is a victory for the American taxpayer and future generations," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., spearheading opposition in the Senate. "The administration is finally admitting (the long-term care plan) is unsustainable and cannot be implemented."
Proponents, including many groups that fought to pass the health care law, have vowed a vigorous effort to rescue the program, insisting that Congress gave the administration broad authority to make changes. Long-term care includes not only nursing homes, but such services as home health aides for disabled people.
Known as CLASS, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program was a long-standing priority of the late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Although sponsored by the government, it was supposed to function as a self-sustaining voluntary insurance plan, open to working adults regardless of age or health. Workers would pay an affordable monthly premium during their careers and could collect a modest daily cash benefit of at least $50 if they became disabled later in life. The money could go for services at home or to help with nursing home bills.
But a central design flaw dogged CLASS. Unless large numbers of healthy people willingly sign up during their working years, soaring premiums driven by the needs of disabled beneficiaries would destabilize it, eventually requiring a taxpayer bailout.
After months insisting that could be fixed, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finally acknowledged Friday she doesn't see how.
"Despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time," Sebelius said in a letter to congressional leaders.
The law required the administration to certify that CLASS would remain financially solvent for 75 years before it could be put into place.
But officials said they discovered they could not make CLASS both affordable and financially solvent while keeping it a voluntary program open to virtually all workers, as the law also required.
Monthly premiums would have ranged from $235 to $391, even as high as $3,000 under some scenarios, the administration said. At those prices, healthy people were unlikely to sign up. Suggested changes aimed at discouraging enrollment by people in poor health could have opened the program to court challenges, officials said.
"If healthy purchasers are not attracted ... then premiums will increase, which will make it even more unattractive to purchasers who could also obtain policies in the private market," Kathy Greenlee, the lead official on CLASS, said in a memo to Sebelius. That "would cause the program to quickly collapse."
That's the same conclusion a top government expert reached in 2009. Nearly a year before the health care law passed, Richard Foster, head of long-range economic forecasts for Medicare warned administration and congressional officials that CLASS would be unworkable. His warnings were disregarded, as Obama declared his support for adding the long-term care plan to his health care bill.
The demise of CLASS immediately touched off speculation about its impact on the federal budget. Although no premiums are likely to be collected, the program still counts as reducing the federal deficit by about $80 billion over the next 10 years. That's because of a rule that would have required workers to pay in for at least five years before they could collect any benefits.
"The CLASS Act was a budget gimmick that might enhance the numbers on a Washington bureaucrat's spreadsheet but was destined to fail in the real world," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Administration officials said Obama's next budget would reflect the decision not to go forward. Even without CLASS premiums, they said the health care law will still reduce the deficit by more than $120 billion over 10 years.
Kennedy's original idea was to give families some financial breathing room. Most families cannot afford to hire a home health aide for a frail elder, let alone pay nursing home bills. Care is usually provided by family members, often a spouse who may also have health problems.
"We're disappointed that (Sebelius) has prematurely stated she does not see a path forward," AARP, the seniors lobby, said in a statement. "The need for long-term care will only continue to grow."
Sebelius said the administration wants to work with Congress and supporters of the program to find a solution. But in a polarized political climate, it appears unlikely that CLASS can be salvaged. Congressional Republicans remain committed to its repeal.
Multi-State Plans May Wreak Havoc on State Health Insurance Markets
Obamacare requires the Office of Personnel Management to create at least two Multi-State health insurance plans to compete with health insurance plans offered in state Health Insurance Exchanges. But state insurance commissioners are now warning the Obama Administration of the adverse effects the Multi-State plans may have on state health insurance markets.
Obamacare requires the Office of Personnel Management to create at least two Multi-State health insurance plans to compete with health insurance plans offered in state Health Insurance Exchanges. Some conservative health policy experts have opined that Obamacare’s Multi-State health insurance plans may lead to a public (or government) plan.1 That remains to be seen. In the mean time, state insurance commissioners are warning the Obama Administration of the adverse effects a Multi-State Plan might have on state health insurance markets.
On July 18, 2011, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, wrote to OPM to express their “serious concerns about the potential for market disruption and adverse selection, and the resulting negative impact on consumers and health insurance markets, which would arise if Multi-State Plans are allowed to operate under different rules than their competitors.”2
The concerns arise from a loop hole which Obamacare created for Multi-State Plans. Even though Obamacare requires the insurance company offering a Multi-State Plan to be licensed in each state in which the plan is offered,3 the loop hole would allows the insurance company’s plans to be “deemed” qualified to be sold in state Exchanges.4 This loop hole may have the effect of exempting Multi-State Plans offered in the Exchanges from state control.
The NAIC has asked OPM to close this loop hole contractually by requiring Multi-State plans to comply with state regulations.5
August 12, 2011
Court of Appeals finds ObamaCare individual mandate unconstitutional
A second federal circuit court of appeals has spoken in the ObamaCare case, the one brought by 26 states. A split three judge panel for the Atlanta-based 11th Citcuit has found the individual mandate unconstitutional, but leaves the rest of the law intact, though crippled and financially not viable.
Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico:
The 2-1 ruling marks the first time a judge appointed by a Democrat has voted to strike down the mandate. Judge Frank Hull, who was nominated by former President Bill Clinton, joined Chief Judge Joel Dubina, who was appointed by George H.W. Bush, to strike down the mandate.
Judge Stanley Marcus, in a dissenting opinion, said the mandate is constitutional. He was also appointed by Clinton.
This ruling all but guarantees that the Supreme Court will review the case, as the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the mandate in a similar suit six weeks ago.
Eighth Democrat signs on to Obamacare Medicare board repeal legislation
Daily Caller 7/14/2011
Another House Democrat has signed onto legislation aimed at scrapping the board Obamacare sets up to control Medicare costs.
Virgin Islands non-voting Del. Donna Christian-Christensen became the eighth congressional Democrat to oppose President Obama on the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) on Monday.
Other Democrats include Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania and Rep. Michael Capuano of Massachusetts. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Phil Roe, Tennessee Republican.
IPAB is a 15-member board, appointed by the president, slated to go into effect in 2014. It will recommend how much money Medicare recipients, including seniors, can get for health care. (AARP accuses IPAB opponents of trying to ’scare old people’)
Roe told The Daily Caller he’s “pleased” about the “growing bipartisan support to repeal the IPAB” because he thinks “it will lead to rationing of care by government bureaucrats.”
“By supporting this bill, Democrats and Republicans are saying with a unified voice that the idea of Washington control over patient health care decisions is unacceptable, and we must preserve Medicare by leaving the power to control health care decisions in patients hands,” Roe said in an email to TheDC.
Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/07/11/eighth-democrat-signs-on-to-obamacare-medicare-board-repeal-legislation/#ixzz1SAyBo8C7
Major Glitch Found in Obamacare: 3 Million ‘Middle Class’ People Could Get Nearly-Free Care
Posted on June 21, 2011 at 2:45pm by Jonathon M. Seidl WASHINGTON (AP)
President Barack Obama’s health care law would let several million middle-class people get nearly free insurance meant for the poor, a twist government number crunchers say they discovered only after the complex bill was signed.
The change would affect early retirees: A married couple could have an annual income of about $64,000 and still get Medicaid, said officials who make long-range cost estimates for the Health and Human Services department.
Up to 3 million people could qualify for Medicaid in 2014 as a result of the anomaly. That’s because, in a major change from today, most of their Social Security benefits would no longer be counted as income for determining eligibility.
Medicare chief actuary Richard Foster says the situation keeps him up at night.
Judge Vinson delivers another blow to ObamaCare
By Jennifer Rubin Wall Street Journal
When U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson issued his ruling finding ObamaCare unconstitutional, liberals seemed to develop a reading comprehension problem. He plainly stated that the law is unconstitutional, but defenders of ObamaCare seemed not to grasp that the judge meant the government was obliged to follow that edict. Yesterday, Vinson blasted the administration, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
Judge Vinson said he believed his earlier ruling to be "plain and unambiguous," and said the federal government should have sought an immediate stay if it didn't believe it could comply with the judgment.
"It was not expected," the judge said, that the administration "would effectively ignore the order and declaratory judgment for two and one-half weeks, continue to implement the act, and only then file a belated motion to 'clarify.'"
Judge Vinson said he had intended for his earlier ruling to bar the Obama administration from moving forward with the law, at least with respect to the parties in the case, which involved a legal challenge by 26 states, two individuals and the National Federation of Independent Business.
But, in a gesture of unearned leniency, Vinson gave the Obama administration a brief window to appeal: "Despite his criticism Thursday of the Obama administration's tactics, Judge Vinson said he would postpone the effect of the original ruling while the government appealed. However, he said the administration must file its appeal within seven days and seek expedited review at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta."
Judge Rules Health Care Law Is Unconstitutional
Published January 31, 2011
A U.S. district judge on Monday threw out the nation's health care law, declaring it unconstitutional because it violates the Commerce Clause and surely reviving a feud among competing philosophies about the role of government.
Judge Roger Vinson, in Pensacola, Fla., ruled that as a result of the unconstitutionality of the "individual mandate" that requires people to buy insurance, the entire law must be declared void.
"I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system. The health care market is more than one-sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute
has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here," Vinson wrote.
"While the individual mandate was clearly 'necessary and essential' to the act as drafted, it is not 'necessary and essential' to health care reform in general," he continued. "Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void."
Department of Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the department plans to appeal Vinson's ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.