Supreme Court Lays Out Schedule for Filing Briefs in Health Reform Case
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court set the schedule for briefs to be filed ahead of oral arguments next spring in a lawsuit challenging the federal health reform law, Reuters reports (Vicini, Reuters, 12/8).
Last month, the Supreme Court announced that it would review the legal challenges against the law in early spring 2012. Four lawsuits challenging the overhaul were presented to the justices, but the court only selected the case filed by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business (California Healthline, 11/15).
Under the filing schedule, the high court will require the first set of briefs be presented in early January, the second set be filed in February and the final reply briefs to be filed in early March (Reuters, 12/8).
Advocacy Groups Ask for Inclusion in Lawsuit
Three health care and consumer advocacy groups that are opposed to the health reform law -- Freedom Watch, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and the Alliance for Natural Health USA -- recently petitioned the Supreme Court to be allowed to "intervene" in the multistate lawsuit as parties in the case, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Larry Klayman, the founder of Freedom Watch, said the group should be included in the lawsuit because it has attempted to obtain information from the Obama administration through the courts about alleged secret meetings the administration held with lobbyists during the overhaul debate.
The other two groups contend that they should be allowed to participate in the case because they have concerns that the future of the lawsuit could be threatened by a federal tax law, known as the Anti-Injunction Act.
The justices on Friday are expected to consider the Freedom Watch petition during their final closed-door conference meeting for 2011, according to CQ HealthBeat (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 12/8).
House Republicans Question Kagan Participation in Reform Law
Members of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's role in the implementation of the reform law, the Washington Post reports (Markon, Washington Post, 12/8).
Republicans argue that Kagan should recuse herself from the case because she was solicitor general in the Obama administration when the law was passed, creating a potential conflict of interest. The Department of Justice has argued that Kagan did not participate in discussions on the law (California Healthline, 11/15).
House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas) noted that administration emails reveal Kagan took an interest in the case in January 2010. He asked Holder to explain the role she played between January 2010 and March 2010, when President Obama nominated her to the high court (Dinan/Boyer, Washington Times, 12/8).
According to the Post, Holder reiterated that the administration will not release any more information about Kagan's role on the law, noting that supplying such internal material to lawmakers about a sitting Supreme Court justice would raise issues about the "separation of powers." He also said that he does not recall Kagan being present for discussions on the health reform legislation (Washington Post, 12/8).
House GOP Questions NAIC Role in Creating MLR Provision
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week asked officials with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to clarify whether the Obama administration had consulted with the group when it set the medical-loss ratio rules under the health reform law, CQ Today reports (Ethridge, CQ Today, 12/8).
The MLR rule mandates that private insurers spend at least 80% in the individual market or 85% in the group market of premium dollars on direct medical costs. Insurers that do not comply with the ratio must issue rebates to consumers (California Healthline, 12/5).
The reform law required NAIC to help establish the MLR regulations. Insurance agents and brokers lobbied NAIC for months to change an early version of the regulations because it classified their fees as administrative costs. NAIC eventually adopted a resolution urging Congress to change the plan "in order to preserve consumer access to agents and brokers." However, HHS said it still would include those fees in its interim final rule for MLR.
The lawmakers have asked the NAIC officials to respond by Dec. 19 (CQ Today, 12/8).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.