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Entries in Health Care (23)

Wednesday
Oct032012

LISTEN: Supreme Court Audio of Health Care Ruling Released

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Only a few people -- those lucky enough to get seats inside -- were able to witness history last June when the Supreme Court announced its health care decision.  Now, as it begins its new term, the court has turned over audio recordings of the event.

Courtesy of OYEZ.org, you can listen to an excerpt of the opinions.  Chief Justice John Roberts begins by saying that the mandate could not be upheld under the Commerce Clause, but then he stuns the audience by announcing the law would be upheld as a taxing power.

Justice Anthony Kennedy then reads from the dissent he coauthored with Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia.  The tone is polite, but the words are scathing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul192012

Scalia: ‘I Haven’t Had a Falling Out with Justice Roberts’

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed reports that the recent health care decision created a rift between him and Chief Justice John Roberts.

“Who told you that?” Scalia asked CNN’s Piers Morgan, who said he had read the allegations in news reports. The interview aired Wednesday night.

Roberts sided with the liberals on the Court to uphold the individual mandate under the taxing clause and Scalia, Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito wrote a blistering joint dissent.

“You should not believe what you read about the Court in the newspaper,” Scalia said. “Because the information has either been made up or given to the newspapers by somebody who is violating a confidence, which means that person is not reliable.”

Morgan asked him, “So you have had no falling out with Justice Roberts?”

“No, I haven’t had a falling out with Justice Roberts,” Scalia replied.

Scalia said that in general there are clashes in the Court “on legal questions, but not personally. The press likes to paint us you know, nine scorpions in a bottle, and that’s just not the case at all.”

Although he wasn’t asked about the cases decided in the term that just ended, Scalia did not shy away from other controversial cases.

Morgan asked him about Citizens United and campaign spending.

“I think Thomas Jefferson would have said the more speech, the better. That’s what the First Amendment is all about. So long as the people know where the speech is coming from,” Scalia said.

But it is Bush v. Gore, the contentious decision that put George W. Bush in the White House in 2001, that Scalia said most people ask him about.

“It comes up all the time and my usual response is ‘get over it‘,” Scalia said. He added that he had no regrets about the decision. “Especially because it’s clear that the thing would have ended up the same way anyway. The press did extensive research into what would have happened if what Al Gore wanted done had been done county by county, and he would have lost anyway.”

He reiterated his long held belief that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

“My view is regardless of whether you think prohibiting abortion is good or whether you think prohibiting abortion is bad, regardless of how you come out on that, my only point is the Constitution does not say anything about it. It leaves it up to democratic choice. ”

The interview came as Scalia is launching a book tour for Reading the Law: the Interpretation of Legal Texts co-authored with Bryan A. Garner. The book explains Scalia’s textual approach to the law.

The law, Scalia said, “should be based on the text of the Constitution, reasonably interpreted.”

Morgan also asked Scalia about the secret to his successful 52 year marriage with his wife Maureen and their nine children and 33 grandchildren. “What was the secret? Maureen made it clear if we split up I would get the children,” Scalia quipped.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul172012

Obama Admin. Extends Health Coverage to Federal Firefighters

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration is extending health insurance to seasonal firefighters employed by the U.S. government, following a public outcry over the lack of affordable coverage for such workers.

“Starting today, the brave men and women of our nation's federal firefighting forces, as well as their families, will have access to the health coverage they deserve. Their heroism in battling the deadly fires that have impacted states across the country this summer inspires us all,” the president said Tuesday in a written statement. “Each day, these Americans put themselves in grave danger to save the lives of people they never met, which is why I directed my administration to ensure that our nation’s firefighters can count on the care and protection they need.”  

Temporary firefighters working on wildfires across the country and their families will now have access to the same health insurance afforded to full time federal employees, the Office of Personnel Management announced.

The president directed his administration to extend coverage shortly after he toured the damage caused by the Colorado wildfires last month.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul052012

President Obama: Health Care Law Is 'Here to Stay'

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(MAUMEE, Ohio) -- Speaking at his first campaign event since the Supreme Court upheld his signature health care legislation, President Obama boasted that the “law I passed is here to stay.”

“I'll work with anybody who wants to work with me to continue to improve our health care system and our health care laws,” the president told supporters in Maumee, Ohio, the first stop of his two-day campaign bus tour. “But the law I passed is here to stay.”

The president also had a stern warning for Republicans seeking to challenge the legislation.

“Now is not the time to spend four more years refighting battles we fought two years ago,” he said. “Now is the time to move forward and make sure that every American has affordable health insurance and that insurance companies are treating them fairly. That's what we fought for. That's what we're going to keep.”

The president argued the law will “make the vast majority of Americans more secure” and touted its more popular provisions.

“We will not go back to the days when insurance companies could discriminate against people just because they were sick. We're not going to tell 6 million young people who are now on their parents' health insurance plans that suddenly they don't have health insurance,” he said.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said he will work to repeal the president’s health care law if elected.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun292012

‘Obamacare’: Americans Split on Supreme Court Ruling, Gallup Poll Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- On the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, including the law’s most controversial item -- the individual mandate requiring everyone to have health insurance -- a newly released poll finds that Americans are evenly split on the decision.

According to a Gallup poll released on Friday, 46 percent of adults agree with the court’s decision, while another 46 percent disagree. Unsurprisingly, the breakdown follows party lines, with 79 percent of Democrats agreeing and only 13 percent of Republicans disagreeing.

Despite the partisan divide, however, a majority of adults, 59 percent, said that they would consider the issue as “one of many important factors while voting” -- suggesting that while the issue is indeed important, it won’t be make-or-break for either candidate with the bulk of voters.

Roughly the same number of Democrats, Republicans and Independents felt this way; 60 percent of Democrats said a candidate’s position on healthcare was one of many important factors, 60 percent of Independents responded this way and 59 percent of Republicans agreed.

Gallup also polled people on what ought to happen next -- now that the court has found it constitutional, where should the law go from here? The responses were somewhat polarized, with the majority of respondents split between upholding the law, expanding it, and getting rid of it all together. Twenty-five percent of adults said that they would like Congress to “keep the law in place and pass further legislation to expand the government’s role in healthcare beyond what the law currently does,” while 31 percent responded that they would like Congress to “repeal the law entirely.”

Twenty-one percent said that they would like to repeal some parts of the law, though the poll did not specify which parts.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun282012

Health Care Law Ruling: Supreme Court Upholds Individual Mandate

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In a landmark ruling with wide-ranging implications, the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the so-called individual mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, the key part of President Obama's signature health care law.

The court ruled that the mandate is unconstitutional under the Constitution's commerce clause, but it can stay as part of Congress's power under a taxing clause. The court said that the government will be allowed to tax people for not having health insurance.

"The Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the ruling. "Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."

[ CLICK HERE TO READ THE SUPREME COURT'S FULL DECISION ]

In a speech Thursday, Obama said from the White House that he wanted to move on, even as House Republicans vowed to vote symbolically to repeal it, and as his main opponent argued that the best way to ditch the law is to kick Obama out of office.

"The highest court in the land has now spoken," Obama said. "We will continue to implement this law. And we will continue to improve on it where we can."

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Obama insisted that the debate over the political benefits from the court's ruling "completely misses the point."

"It should be pretty clear by now that I didn't do this because it was good politics," he said. "I did it because I believed it was good for the country."

The ruling is a clear victory for the Obama administration and a defeat for Republicans, who had anticipated that at least some of the law would be struck down. But it also means the debate will continue.

"It actually settles nothing. By shifting the debate to the tax arena, and with a four-justice dissent, the decision guarantees only that the broader fight over a suitable national health policy will continue," said Richard Saltman, a professor at the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University. "In effect, the court decided this was too hot to handle. The focus will (has already) shift back to the political arena, where a deeply divided electorate will have to decide which policy path they want the country to pursue."

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The court's ruling upholding the main part of Obama's law means that people must buy health insurance or pay a tax up to several thousand dollars a year. Other popular provisions of the law will stay, including:

-- If you are under 26, you can get health insurance from the plan your parents use.
-- If you're on Medicare, you can get free mammograms.
-- If you have what's called a pre-existing condition, you can get health insurance.
-- Insurance companies can't deny you coverage even if you get sick or make a mistake on your health insurance application.

The vote from the high court was five to four. Roberts, who was appointed by George W. Bush, joined the more liberal four justices in upholding the mandate. Justice Anthony Kennedy was thought to be the swing vote, but he sided with the conservative bloc.

"Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in section 5000 A under the taxing power and that section 5000 a need not be read to do more than impose a tax," Roberts wrote.

Pundits sailed off statements all morning espousing their views. From supporters:

"By authoring an opinion joined by the more liberal justices, upholding the so called individual mandate, Chief Justice Roberts has helped to strengthen the American Public's faith in the Court as an impartial institution of Justice," said Elizabeth Wydra, the chief counsel to the Constitutional Accountability Center, who supports the law. "The court today has affirmed the federal government's constitutional power to provide national solutions to national problems."

[ VIEW PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Supreme Court Health Care Decision ]

From the opposition: "I am disappointed with today's Supreme Court decision because the court has cleared the way for what looks like a very broad use of the tax power. But we can still be very thankful that the court has defended the contours of the commerce clause," said Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network.

Reading the dissent from the bench, Kennedy said the Affordable Care Act is invalid in its entirety."

"It is true that if an individual does not purchase insurance, he or she affects the insurance market to a degree," he said. "But the Government's theory would make one's mere existence the basis for federal regulation. There would be no structural limit on the power of Congress. As a result, the Government's theory would change the relation between the citizens and the Federal Government in a fundamental way."

Lyle Denniston, a Supreme Court expert who writes on the influential Scotus Blog, noted that the White House's main argument failed -- but that its Plan B case won out.

"Essentially, a majority of the court has accepted the Administration's backup argument that, as Roberts put it, 'the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition -- not owning health insurance -- that triggers a tax -- the required payment to IRS,'" he wrote. "Actually, this was the Administration's second backup argument: first argument was Commerce Clause, second was Necessary and Proper Clause, and third was as a tax. The third argument won."

The ruling has immediate effects on the presidential race. Obama has called his health care law "the right thing to do," even as polling has determined that the law is unpopular. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, had vowed to repeal "ObamaCare" as soon as he became president, despite championing remarkably similar legislation as the governor of Massachusetts.

Even Karl Rove, the GOP strategist who founded an outside spending group to defeat Obama in 2012, said the ruling helps Obama.

"If this is actually the decision, it's a boost for the president, but it doesn't make the controversy go away," Rove said on Fox News. "In fact, it probably enhances the controversy."

Reacting two hours after the ruling was handed down, Romney repeated his pledge to repeal the law on the first day of his would-be presidency.

"If we want to get rid of ObamaCare, we're going to have to replace President Obama," he said.

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While just 36 percent of people in the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll had a favorable opinion of the health law, a similarly low number of people — 39 percent — had a favorable opinion of the health care system as it stands now. And while the GOP has trumpeted polling that shows Americans unsatisfied with the law as a whole, the White House has boasted of surveys that show that people are warmer to individual parts of the law, like letting young adults stay on their parents' plans until they're 26 and barring insurers from denying coverage to people with so-called pre-existing conditions.

Obama's opponents in Congress signaled they aren't done fighting. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said that "Congress must act to repeal this misguided law."

"Today's decision does nothing to diminish the fact that Obamacare's mandates, tax hikes, and Medicare cuts should be repealed and replaced with common-sense reforms that lower costs and that the American people actually want," he said. "It is my hope that with new leadership in the White House and Senate, we can enact these step-by-step solutions and prevent further damage from this terrible law."

In court, the government argued that the health care law was passed partly because in 2009, 50 million people lacked health insurance. Costs of the uninsured were spiraling out of control and were being shifted to those who are insured, doctors and insurance companies. And, people with so-called pre-existing conditions were being denied coverage. The law offered insurance reforms but mandated that almost every American buy health insurance by 2014.

The government said that Congress was well within its authority to pass the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution. As a secondary argument the government also said Congress had the authority to pass the mandate under its taxing authority.

Opponents — 26 states, an independent business group and two private citizens — said that while Congress has the authority to regulate interstate commerce, it doesn't have the power to require people to buy a product. The opponents argued that the claim of federal power was both "unprecedented and unbounded."

In March, the court devoted more than six hours of arguments to different aspects of the law.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May022012

107 Charged in Medicare Fraud Worth $452 Million

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Government officials Wednesday confirmed the arrests of more than 100 medical professionals in a nationwide crackdown on Medicare fraud. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged 107 individuals around the country with about $452 million in false billings. Federal officials call that dollar amount the largest Medicare fraud bust in the five-year history of the Force.  

Suspects were rounded up in seven different cities Tuesday, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Houston.

"The defendants charged include doctors, nurses, social workers, health care company owners and others, who are accused of a range of serious offenses," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday at a news conference.

Federal authorities allege that medical service companies billed Medicare for services that were often unnecessary or never provided.

"We have charged owners and operators of four ambulance and private ambulance companies with billing Medicare for millions of dollars worth of phony or unnecessary ambulance rides," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said of the individuals charged in Texas.

In Baton Rouge, La., Breuer says seven defendants have been charged with running two community mental health clinics that submitted $225 million in fraudulent Medicare claims.

"These defendants allegedly recruited elderly, drug-addicted and mentally ill patients from nursing homes and homeless shelters in order to submit false claims on their behalf."

Holder touted the takedown as a result of the administration's commitment to keeping health care costs low for American taxpayers.

"The results war are announcing today are at the heart of an adminstration-wide commitment to protecting American taxpayers from health care fraud, which can drive up costs and threaten the strength and integrity of our health care system," he said, adding, "As today's takedown reflects, our ongoing fight against health care fraud has never been more coordinated and effective."

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged more than 1,330 individuals for Medicare fraud totaling $4 billion since the initiative began in 2007.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar282012

Pelosi: ‘No Idea’ Whether Supreme Court Will Strike Down Individual Mandate

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi Wednesday said she has “no idea” whether the Supreme Court will strike down a key provision of the health care law that she guided through Congress during her reign as speaker of the House two years ago.

“I have no idea. None of us does,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “We are all now talking about something of which we have no knowledge because we’re not members of the Supreme Court. We have knowledge of the legislation [and] we have knowledge of the arguments, but we have no idea what the outcome will be.”

With some Supreme Court watchers predicting the justices will rule 5 to 4 down ideological lines against the individual mandate, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, Rep. John Conyers, says he attended the oral arguments Tuesday and came away with a different impression of how the court could rule.

“My feeling is that, and I’m predicting this, is that we will have a 5-4 decision supporting the mandatory provision,” Conyers, D-Mich., said. “I’ll be checking with you in June to see which one of us were correct.”

Pelosi said congressional Democrats “have long believed in judicial review” as part of the country’s constitutional process, but said that as Democrats wrote the Affordable Care Act, “we were careful to honor our Constitution.”

“I hope it’s better than [Conyers' 5-4 prediction], because we have one thing going: the merits,” she said.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday for the third day this week. A decision is not expected from the court until late June.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar272012

Protesters Collide over Health Care Outside Supreme Court

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The space just outside the Supreme Court morphed into a figurative battlefield Tuesday afternoon as Tea Party forces rallied and confronted Obamacare supporters with screams, personal attacks and provocative signs.

The argument erupted in the middle of the de facto no-man’s land that had formed between Tea Partiers and a group of Obama supporters, far fewer than had been present at organized demonstrations Tuesday morning.

Tea Partiers and Obamacare supporters chanted and yelled at one another, making it impossible to hear anyone more than three feet away. The scene was drastically different from that of the morning, when Obamacare supporters sang in an orderly march, drowning out their conservative counterparts.

This time the attacks were personal -- on both sides.

One man and woman (who didn’t give their names) were arguing over the principles of patriotism and constitutionality. “He’s got a big mouth and he’s not qualified for the job,” the man said of Obama before spotting this reporter and asking: “What are you writing? Walk away.”

“We’re not trying to start a fight,” the woman replied. “We’re trying to start a conversation.”

Behind them, a young woman grabbed a megaphone being used by an anti-abortion activist to scream into it, “It’s a law against ugly women!”

Fifteen feet to the right, a half-dozen pro-Obama demonstrators directed signs in support of the president at Tea Party protesters who were standing a few yards away. A male protester hurled a comment about birth control at the Obama supporters.

“Unless you actually have a vagina, don’t go there, OK?” 30-year-old Fatma Hocaoglu screamed back.

Another man who refused to be identified joined the fray. “I don’t want to pay for her abortion!” he blared. “With Obamacare, we do. Yes, we do.”

A few minutes later, an Obamacare supporter and foe who were screaming at each other about their medical conditions broke the ranks to show each other their insurance cards.

The supporter, Barbara Stakes, a retiree from Pennsylvania with a seizure disorder classified as a “pre-existing condition,” explained that she had been turned down for health coverage.

“I pay for this,” she said. “I was rejected.”

Danny Mullaney, a former home-improvement contractor from Baltimore, replied by saying that he has cancer and won’t be able to get it treated under Obamacare.

“They’re going to kick me off,” he insisted. “They’re going to ration.”

Not that there weren’t scenes of harmony. As an organized Tea Party rally began to start, the animated activists stopped yelling and sang the national anthem.

So was Conner Beagle, a 10-year-old from Indiana whose mom brought him to Washington to witness the health care debate.

“In 20 years, I’ll remember this,” Conner said as his mom, Gina Lemasters, who works for the anti-Obamacare National Federation of Independent Business in Rep. Mike Pence’s district, shot video of him on her phone. “The health bill -- it’s history.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar272012

Key Supreme Court Justices Skeptical of 'Obamacare' Mandate

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Two years after President Obama signed the signature achievement of his administration, the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether a key provision of the law is constitutional.

In a courtroom stuffed with spectators, the justices focused intently on the individual mandate, the part of the law that requires most Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who seemed at times nervous and hoarse, arguing on behalf of the law, told the justices that the health care law was passed to address a "fundamental and enduring problem" in that millions of Americans were unable to get health care.

But the conservatives on the bench had some tough questions for the government lawyer.

Justice Anthony Kennedy got right to the core of argument. "Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?" he asked, referring to an argument from the challengers of the law who say that while Congress can regulate interstate commerce, it cannot force someone into the marketplace.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito asked Verrilli about the limits of federal power.

"Can the government require you to buy a cellphone?" Roberts asked.

"Do you think there is a market for burial services?" Alito said.

Alito also asked the government: "Could you express your limiting principles as succinctly as possible?"

[ CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO TUESDAY’S ARGUMENTS IN FULL ]

[
CLICK HERE FOR A TRANSCRIPT OF TUESDAY’S ARGUMENTS ]

Kennedy suggested that the law which requires "the individual citizen" to act "is different from what we have in previous cases and that changes the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in the very fundamental way."

Verrilli repeated that the law was not about forcing someone to buy a product, but regulating how it is paid for.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came to the government's side, pointing out that those people who choose not to buy health care affect the market place in a "major way" by shifting costs to those people who are insured, doctors and the insurance companies.

Paul D. Clement, arguing on behalf of 26 states challenging the law, said the individual mandate was "an unprecedented effort to compel an individual to enter into commerce" and said the law was "without any limiting principles."

But liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan seemed skeptical of Clement's argument that the government could have mandated individuals to buy insurance not in advance, but "at the point of consumption," at the hospital for example. Is this just a "matter of timing?" Kagan asked.

More than once, Roberts pointed out to lawyers challenging the law a key aspect of the government's argument: that health care is different than other markets because everyone will eventually find themselves, sometime in their lives, in need of health insurance. And Kennedy wondered about how a young person who is uninsured might affect the market.

Justice Kennedy, who is sometimes seen as the swing vote on the court, picked up on the government's argument that the health care market is unique. While he said he was concerned about the limits of that principle, he conceded that a young person who chose not to buy health care insurance could "be very close" to affecting the rates of insurance in a way that is not true in other industries.

"That's my concern" Kennedy said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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