Supreme Court Decision Unlikely To End Debate on Health Care Reform
The U.S. Supreme Court's forthcoming review of the constitutionality of the federal health reform law and some of its key provisions is unlikely to settle the national debate on health reform, the AP/Washington Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 11/15).
Supreme Court To Review Reform Law Challenges
On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it will review the legal challenges against the federal health reform law in early spring 2012.
Four lawsuits challenging the law were presented to the justices, but the court selected only the multistate lawsuit filed by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business. The high court also announced it accepted HHS' petition to review the overhaul (California Healthline, 11/14).
The high court will consider:
- If Congress has the power to require individuals to purchase health insurance;
- Whether the individual mandate is severable from the rest of the overhaul and whether its invalidation means striking down the entire law;
- If Congress can compel states to expand Medicaid by threatening to withhold funding from states that refuse; and
- Whether legal arguments brought against the reform law are premature since the mandate will not be implemented until 2014 (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/14).
Lawmakers Plan To Continue Current Tactics
Despite the court's acceptance of the case, lawmakers intend to continue their current tactics. Republican leaders said that if the court upholds the law, they still will push for its repeal.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "Job-killing tax hikes on families and small businesses may well be constitutional -- that doesn't mean we would support them."
Conversely, if the court strikes down the law's individual mandate, the Obama administration still will try to implement the remaining provisions of the overhaul.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-N.D.) said, "Either way it rules, the Supreme Court decision will not end the debate on health care," adding, "It is, and will largely remain, a debate on the role of government" (AP/Washington Post, 11/15).
In addition, provisions in the overhaul that already have been enacted are here to stay, according to Geri Recht, senior consultant at Towers Watson. Recht said, "You cannot repeal what's already in the marketplace," adding, "Health care reform might not look like it does now based on the elections ... but you can't deny that it absolutely changed the marketplace" (Mamula, Pittsburgh Business Times, 11/14).
Surprise Over Court's Medicaid Consideration
Lawyers on both sides of the health reform lawsuit were surprised when the Supreme Court announced it will consider the reform law's Medicaid expansion, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. The court rarely examines issues on which lower courts have agreed, and both the district and appeals courts in the multistate lawsuit ruled that such an expansion is constitutional.
However, experts said that the court's decision to examine the Medicaid issue does not necessarily mean it disagrees with the lower courts.
Simon Lazarus, policy counsel at the National Senior Citizens Law Center, said that it might only indicate the justices see it as an issue worth considering (Baker , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/14).
Reform Law Ruling Collides With Election
The court is poised to rule on the law by late June, making it a focal point of the 2012 presidential election that could bolster or undermine campaigns on both sides, according to analysts, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Ed Rollins, who managed President Ronald Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984, said, "Probably no court case in modern times would have the impact this would" in the middle of a presidential election (Savage, Los Angeles Times, 11/14).
According to Politico, President Obama has gambled by not trying to stop the high court from releasing its decision amid his re-election campaign. However, some analysts say the court reviewing the case could be positive for Obama regardless of the outcome.
If the court rules in favor of the overhaul, Obama's highest legislative achievement will be validated. If the Supreme Court strikes it down, it could rally the Democratic base in the few crucial months to ensure that liberals are appointed to the high court in the next term (Thrush, Politico, 11/15).
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans plan to seize the resurgence of health reform discourse to attack Democrats in the months leading up to the decision, Roll Call reports. The National Republican Senatorial Committee already has issued a press release to local media and grass-roots Republicans targeting lawmakers who support the reform law. Meanwhile, several House and Senate Republicans are set to sign amicus briefs condemning the law.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said the Supreme Court decision will help Republicans regardless of the outcome. He said, "If the court finds it unconstitutional, [health reform] fails. But if [it finds] it constitutional ... the only recourse the voters will have will be to elect a new president that will sign the repeal" (Drucker/Sanchez, Roll Call, 11/15).
Health Reform Case Sets Record
The Supreme Court on Monday allotted five-and-a-half hours for oral arguments in the case against the reform law, setting a modern-day record, according to The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports. The amount of time given to oral arguments underscores the importance of the case, according to "Healthwatch."
Randy Barnett, a Georgetown University law professor working with the National Federation of Independent Business, said, "I think the court hears that this is the biggest case of the century" (Baker , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/14).
Justices Kagan, Thomas Do Not Recuse Themselves
Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Clarence Thomas have not recused themselves from the health reform case, despite pressure from activist groups to do so, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Conservative groups said Kagan should not take part in the case because she was solicitor general when that office developed its legal defense of the reform law. Meanwhile, liberal groups said Thomas should abstain from the case because his wife has profited from activities calling for lawmakers to repeal the law.
Neither justice is expected to change his or her mind (Baker , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.