California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

53% of U.S. Residents Expect Court To Rule Against Reform Law

Fifty-one percent of respondents to the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest tracking poll believe that the federal health reform law's individual mandate should be declared unconstitutional and 53% of them expect the Supreme Court to do so, USA Today reports (Wolf, USA Today, 3/14).

The poll also found that favorable opinion on the law has declined to 41%, from 46% in April 2010, one month after it was enacted. Meanwhile, 40% of respondents said they now have an unfavorable opinion of the law, which is unchanged from April 2010 (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 3/14).

Separate Poll Finds 47% Support Overhaul

A separate poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and released on Wednesday found that 47% of U.S. residents approve of the health reform law, up from 41% in January, compared with 45% who disapprove, National Journal reports.

The survey -- which polled 1,503 U.S. adults from March 7 to March 11 -- also found that just 11% of Republicans support the overhaul, compared with 76% of Democrats. In addition, 56% of individuals ages 18 to 29 support the reform law, compared with 40% of people ages 65 and older (McCarthy, National Journal, 3/14).

However, the study suggests that public opinion on the overhaul "may not be especially firm." For example, the pollsters asked respondents about the individual mandate, including the subsidy to help U.S. residents purchase coverage and the penalty for not obtaining health insurance.

When questioners mentioned the subsidy first and the penalty second, 63% of respondents opposed the mandate. When the pollsters referenced the penalty first and noted that the government would help purchase coverage, just 49% opposed the requirement (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/14).

High Court Will Not Delay a Decision in Health Reform Lawsuit, Experts Say

The Supreme Court will not delay or decline to rule on the constitutionality of the health reform law, according to two legal experts, CQ HealthBeat reports.

During a Washington Legal Foundation briefing on Tuesday, the experts -- lawyer Andrew Pincus and Ilya Somin, an assistant professor of law at George Mason University -- said the court would deliver a ruling because of the unprecedented time that it has allotted to review key issues with the law. Pincus has assisted with a brief in favor of the law, and Somin has assisted opponents of the law (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 3/13).

Moot Court Previews Debate Over Individual Mandate

A nine-member panel including former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) and former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno on Wednesday presided over a moot court to debate the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Lawyer Theodore Boutrous argued that the coverage requirement goes beyond the powers granted to the federal government in the Constitution. "For the first time in American history, the federal government is claiming the power to compel private citizens to engage in commerce by spending their own money for goods and services they do not want," he said.

Former Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan argued that the mandate is necessary to control health care costs. "Only if you ensure that people take health insurance before they get sick, before they are on their way to the hospital in the ambulance ... unless you have that mandatory minimum coverage, the other" provisions in the overhaul will not work, she said (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 3/14).

Next Steps Difficult if SCOTUS Strikes Down Overhaul

Should the Supreme Court strike down part of the health reform law, it is unlikely Congress would act quickly to fix the resulting confusion over implementation, according to two health policy experts, CQ HealthBeat reports.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Wednesday, Chris Jennings, a former senior health care adviser to President Clinton, and Sheila Burke, former chief of staff for GOP Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), said that the partisan divide over the overhaul would make it difficult to move forward with a solution. Jennings said, "This is a Mars versus Venus dynamic here."

Burke said that even in areas where there is bipartisan agreement, such as changing the insurance market to protect consumers, the political environment "is so poisoned it will be difficult for people to come back from where they've been" (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 3/14).

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