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Entries in Health Care Law (11)

Tuesday
Nov272012

Appeals Court to Rule on Health Care Law Provisions

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- It's possible the U.S. Supreme Court isn't done with the Affordable Care Act just yet.

After ruling last June that the law, otherwise known as "Obamacare," was constitutional, the high court gave its opponents some new life on Monday by ordering the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether the Affordable Care Act's employer requirements and mandatory coverage of contraceptives without a co-pay should stand.

Liberty University, a Christian institution in Virginia, argued successfully that the Supreme Court's decision did not deal with these provisions.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represents Liberty University, said that should the 4th Circuit not agree to hear the case next spring, it would be bounced back to the high court.

Lawyers for Liberty University contend that Congress was wrong to have made it mandatory for businesses with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance for their workers or face financial penalties.

The school also disagrees with the mandatory coverage of contraceptives because it means businesses would also have to fund abortions.

The White House says that while the arguments "lack merit," it would not object to the appeals court hearing the case.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun282012

Health Care Law Mandate ‘Tax’: How Many People Will It Affect?

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The health insurance mandate upheld today by the Supreme Court will impact roughly 26 million Americans, or 8 percent of the population, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute and an independent analysis by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who advised both Mitt Romney and President Obama on health care law.

Those individuals will be required to obtain coverage or pay a fine starting in 2014.

Not everyone will be forced to pay out of pocket, however. Here’s how it breaks down – courtesy of the Urban Institute:

  • 8.1 million will be eligible for free/close-to-free insurance through expansion of Medicaid under the law.
  • 10.9 million will have to purchase coverage but receive subsidies to help with premiums
  • 7.3 million (2 percent of population) will not be eligible for any assistance and will simply have to buy a plan or pay the penalty.

The mandate will not directly impact most Americans.  Two hundred fifty million out of 268 million non-elderly, or 94 percent, of Americans already have insurance coverage through an employer or the government and don’t face the penalty or having to buy a new plan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun252012

What Are the Odds Supreme Court Will Overturn Healthcare Law?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With a Supreme Court decision imminent on President Obama's healthcare law, people around the world are gambling more than their health insurance on the court's ruling that could come Monday.

From New York to London, traders on the political stock market Intrade are buying stock to predict how the court will rule.  And if the market is any indication, the future of the Affordable Care of Act, derisively called "Obamacare" by critics, doesn't look rosy.

According to the Ireland-based market, there is a 75-percent chance the court will rule the individual mandate, or requirement that every American buy health insurance, is unconstitutional.

Since the market pulls predictions from a large group consisting of political junkies, financial analysts and people who heavily research the topic, it is probably the "best predictor," said Koleman Strumpf, a professor of business economics at the University of Kansas School of Business.

Strumpf said, "Decisions by small groups of people in a closed room are hard to forecast" but "this is probably the best forecast."

Last March, before the Supreme Court began hearing the healthcare challenge, the market was considerably more optimistic that the individual mandate would survive.

On March 25, the day before oral arguments began, Intrade put the probability that the court would overturn the mandate at 35 percent.  Within two days of the oral arguments, that probability shot above 60 percent.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar302012

Justices to Vote on Health Care Law's Individual Mandate

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Now that the Supreme Court has heard more than six hours of arguments in the health care case, in many ways the work of the justices has just begun.

On Friday, they will meet behind closed doors in their ornate conference room and discuss the heart of the case -- the individual mandate that requires almost every American to buy health insurance. 

If tradition holds, the conversation will begin with Chief Justice John Roberts, and then every other justice will speak in order of seniority.  A vote will be recorded. 

No one, not a clerk, administrative assistant or staff member is allowed in the room.  If there is a knock at the door -- with someone bringing a law book or a glass of water -- Elena Kagan, as the junior most member of the court, will have to see who is there.

If Roberts is in the majority, he has the power to assign the opinion in the case or keep it for himself.  If he is in dissent, the justice with the most seniority in the majority will assign the opinion.

In this complicated case, which included four separate arguments on different aspects of the health care law, there could be more than one justice assigned to the task of dealing with all the issues. 

Last Wednesday, the justices met in conference to discuss the first set of arguments held on Monday regarding whether it is premature for the court to hear the case.  From arguments, it seemed clear that the justices would hear the constitutional issues.

Drafts will soon begin circulating to the chambers.  It is not unprecedented for a justice to switch sides during the drafting process, sometimes making a majority opinion a dissent.

Some justices have their clerks take a crack at the first draft of the opinion, others write it themselves.  But the clerks -- most justices have four -- are sworn to secrecy.  Leaks coming from the Supreme Court are almost unprecedented.

Popular belief is that the health care case will be released towards the end of June.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar262012

Health Care Law Challenger ‘Confident’ Exiting Court

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A key attorney general challenging the Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court walked out of the building Monday morning predicting that the justices would rule the health care law unconstitutional.

Pam Bondi, the Republican Attorney General of Florida, told reporters on the steps in front of the Supreme Court that all nine justices “expressed concern” about the so-called mandate in the law that requires Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fee.

Supporters of the health care law say the fee is merely a tax, while its critics say the mandate unfairly makes people do something they otherwise might not want to.

“They do not believe this is a tax,” Bondi said of the justices.

The mandate will be debated more on Tuesday.

“I felt very confident,” Bondi said as she was surrounded by other attorneys general challenging the law.

Outside the Supreme Court on Monday, hundreds of protesters rallied to show their support for the Affordable Care Act, vastly outnumbering those who showed up opposed to the health care law.

“Freedom is a human right,” some Tea Party supports shouted, while the supporters of the Affordable Care Act marched by chanting “Health Care is a human right.”

Many of the protesters appeared to be organized with the help of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, otherwise known as AFSCME.

“We love Obama Care. We love ObamaCare,” supporters chanted in unison as they marched in front of the Court. "Care for you, care for me, care for every family.”

Other tourists waited in line for a number of seats reserved for the public. One family from Colorado at the end of the line told ABC News that they had just shown up to take in the spectacle. About 30 minutes later that family had made its way to the front of the line and was escorted into the Court by security officers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar262012

Supreme Court Readies to Hear Health Care Law Arguments 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Hearings will get underway Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court for one of the most eagerly anticipated cases to reach the high court in decades.

Justices will be determining the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance reform law that President Obama muscled through Congress and signed two years ago this month. 

Bringing suits against it are 26 states, four individuals and a small business group who say Congress over-reached by requiring everyone in the country who can afford it to purchase health insurance if it's not provided by an employer. 

Cynthia Magnuson with the National Federation of Independent Business, one of the groups fighting the law, says: "This is the first time in the history of our country that the government has ever forced individuals to enter a marketplace."

But backers of the law say Congress has the power because the health care system crosses state lines.

"Clearly, Congress does have the constitutional authority as part of this interstate commerce provision to regulate how health care is paid for," says Ron Pollack, who leads Families USA, a liberal group that has pushed for universal health coverage for three decades.

"Everybody needs health care, at some point in their lives -- whether it's at birth, death or often in between," he says.

But opponents like Magnuson question what that has to do with them.

"If the argument can be made about the health care market, that it is special and that it is different and that everyone will need it, it can be made about anything," she says.

Opponents are asking the high court to rule that Congress exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause, but there are several issues justices have chosen to weigh.

Over three successive days, the court will hear a total of six hours of oral arguments -- an extraordinary amount of time for the modern Supreme Court, which apparently hasn't spent as much time on one issue since 1967.

First, the court will hear arguments on whether the issue should be dealt with now or later when all aspects of the law have taken effect.  Then, on Tuesday, there will be an in-depth discussion on the individual mandate.  Finally, on Wednesday, justices will question lawyers about whether the entire law should be struck down if only part of it is found unconstitutional.  They'll also hear a claim that an expansion of Medicaid -- to cover more families -- violates states rights.

A decision, which isn't expected for months, will likely come in the heat of the presidential election.  A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll finds most Americans -- 52 percent -- oppose the health care reform law, and two-thirds say either the individual mandate or the entire law should either be tossed out.

Pollack says he isn't worried about the court ruling against him.

"I'll tell you, the biggest hurdle that needs to be climbed is the November elections," he says.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar192012

As Health Care Law Trial Nears, 67% Say Ditch Individual Mandate

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Two-thirds of Americans say the U.S. Supreme Court should throw out either the individual mandate in the federal health care law or the law in its entirety that requires nearly all Americans to have coverage, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

The latest findings signal the depth of public disagreement with that element of the Affordable Care Act. The survey finds that Americans oppose the law overall by 52-41 percent.  Sixty-seven percent believe the high court should either ditch the law or at least the portion.

The high court opens hearings on the law’s constitutionality a week from Monday.

The law has never earned majority support in ABC/Post polls, and this update, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a strong sense its critics are dominating the debate. 

Seventy percent of Americans report hearing mainly negative things about the law lately; just 19 percent say the buzz has been positive.  Even among its supporters, 53 percent are hearing more negatives than positives.  Among opponents this soars to 88 percent.

Intensity of sentiment is more negative as well: Forty-one percent strongly oppose the law, while only a quarter strongly support it.

The Obama administration has long had difficulty convincing Americans of the benefits of the law.  In a January 2011 ABC/Post poll, for example, more people expected the law to increase rather than decrease the deficit (62-29 percent), hurt rather than help the economy (54-39 percent) and cut rather than create jobs (46-38 percent).

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan192012

White House Says States On the Way to Heath Care Reform

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly two months before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in the country’s sweeping and controversial healthcare reform law, the Obama administration announced Wednesday that every state in the country has taken some steps to move forward with its plan.

Observers, however, say many of those steps are incremental and that states may not be moving fast enough to meet looming deadlines to implement parts of the law passed two years ago. And also omitted by the administration is the fact that 26 states are suing over what critics call Obamacare on constitutional grounds.

Forty-four states are now participating in a requirement to make insurance companies justify any sky-high, double-digit premium rate increases, according to a new report released Wednesday by the White House.

The report also says 28 states and the District of Columbia are in the process of creating a one-stop shop for health insurance, where consumers could choose from a variety of health insurance plans.  These so-called “exchanges” are a key component of the new law and would allow individuals and small businesses to search for better prices and more options in plans.

[CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL REPORT]

“We’re very encouraged by the progress that our states are making,” said one administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

States have until January 2014 to create the insurance exchanges, but officials in some states have expressed reluctance to begin implementing the law until the Supreme Court rules.

Although the issue of insurance exchanges is not directly before the Supreme Court, Republican governors and attorneys general for 26 states argue that Congress exceeded its authority in passing the law, which they say unfairly burdens the states.

The court will hear five-and-a-half hours of arguments over three days in late March.  A ruling is expected by late June.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan062012

Obama Admin. Files Brief Defending Individual Mandate

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration on Friday filed its first merits brief on the constitutionality of a key provision of the health care law. At issue is the individual mandate that requires people to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty.

In the 80-page brief, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argues that the uninsured shift, “tens of billions of dollars of costs for the uncompensated care they receive to other market participants annually.”

Verrilli writes, “The Act breaks this cycle through a comprehensive framework of economic regulation and incentives that will improve the functioning of the national market for health care by regulating the terms on which insurance is offered, controlling costs, and rationalizing the timing and method of payment for health care services.”

Opponents of the law argue that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring individuals to buy health insurance. The brief from lawyers representing 26 states opposed to the law is due on February 6.

Arguments in the case will be held in late March.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov292011

Health Care Law: Does One Supreme Court Justice Hold Its Future?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- If the Supreme Court breaks down along its usual ideological lines on the vote on the health care law, Justice Anthony Kennedy -- known as the swing vote on the court -- could be the one to decide whether the government can require almost every American to buy health insurance or pay a fine.

When the court hears the case on the Affordable Care Act in March, advocates, experts and the media will parse every question from Kennedy, hoping for a hint of his views on the merits of the case.  The central focus will be on the individual mandate, the key provision that requires individuals to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty.

As its principal argument that Congress has the authority to enact the mandate, the administration relies on the Commerce Clause of the Constitution that says in part: "The Congress shall have power ... to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states and with the Indian tribes."

Critics of the health care law argue that while Congress has substantial power to regulate interstate commerce, it may not compel people into the marketplace and force them to buy a product.

Kennedy, 75, who was appointed to the court in 1988 by Ronald Reagan, has often been the deciding vote in big cases.  But the Supreme Court has never heard a case quite like the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, and predictions regarding the final vote count have varied significantly.

Many were surprised when two appellate court judges, with sterling reputations in conservative circles, voted to uphold the constitutionality of the mandate when a similar challenge came before their courts.

The case -- with an unprecedented 5.5 hours of argument allotted to it -- could defy expectations.

Scholars have scoured Kennedy's previous cases for hints on how he might rule.  They point out that it's not always easy to forecast Kennedy's vote on particular cases and that the term "swing vote" can be misinterpreted.

"I would reject equating swing vote with lack of clarity," says Michael C. Dorf, a professor at Cornell University Law School and a former Kennedy law clerk.  "Being the swing vote is simply an artifact of who the other eight justices are.  On some issues, free speech for example, he's very liberal.  On gay rights, he's been very liberal, out ahead of the court.  On other issues, he's been conservative -- the Establishment Clause, for example," which prohibits a national religion for the United States.

Neil S. Siegel, a professor at Duke Law, says Kennedy "cares about a number of different things and often times they are conflicting.  He cares about robust federal power to regulate markets, he cares about robust federal power to create and maintain an integrated national economy.  But at the same time that he cares about federalism, he cares about states' power.  He cares about individual liberty, and the role that federalism plays in preserving it."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio