Archive for March 2012
- “Obama’s Odds of Winning the Health Care Ruling: 37%,” Huffington Post: Calculating health reform probability.
- “The Supreme Court and the National Conversation on Health Care Reform,” New York Times‘ “Economix”: The Supreme Court’s options in one flow chart.
House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) fiscal year 2013 budget proposal includes changes to Medicare and Medicaid and would repeal the federal health reform law. The plan would cut $5.3 trillion in spending over the next 10 years and reduce revenue to the federal government by $4 trillion during that time.
The plan includes a “modified version” of the controversial Medicare reform plan Ryan released last year, which would have altered Medicare from a fee-for-service program to one in which beneficiaries would purchase coverage on the private market. Ryan developed the new plan, which would provide seniors with subsidies to help purchase coverage, with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The Ryan-Wyden plan maintains traditional Medicare as an option and adds protections for low-income beneficiaries and provisions that would ensure traditional Medicare would not cover only the sickest beneficiaries.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) recently filed a lawsuit against HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her agency over its decision to halt funding for the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health Program.
The lawsuit was filed one day after CMS Director Cindy Mann officially informed state officials that HHS would end the financing because a Texas law violates federal rules prohibiting states from excluding qualified providers. The federal government, which covers 90% of the program’s cost, previously informed Texas officials that it would suspend the financing as of March 14 if they began enforcing a state law that bars participation by Planned Parenthood and other “affiliates of abortion providers.” Despite the warning, state officials said they would begin enforcing the law on that date. The program provides family planning and basic health screenings for 130,000 low-income women.
The House yesterday voted 228-191 to approve House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) fiscal year 2013 budget proposal, which would repeal the federal health reform law and alter Medicaid and Medicare, the Wall Street Journal reports. All Democrats and 10 Republicans voted against Ryan’s budget.
After three days of oral arguments, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices generally seemed skeptical of the constitutionality of the federal health reform law, liberal justices often were forced to come to the law’s defense and the law’s supporters are concerned that the court could overturn it.
Below are summaries of each day’s oral arguments and reactions to the proceedings.
In the afternoon session of the third day of oral arguments in the case against the federal health reform law, the high court’s liberal justices “hammered” states’ arguments against the Medicaid expansion, Politico reports. Chief Justice John Roberts also seemed skeptical of the states’ position (Haberkorn, Politico, 3/28).
States involved in the case have argued that the Medicaid expansion — including the mandated coverage levels and the amount of money involved — is unnecessarily coercive. The high court has noted previously that there are limits to what the federal government can require states to do to receive funds — a condition cannot be “so coercive as to pass the point at which pressure turns into compulsion.” However, it has yet to rule that the federal government has overstepped its bounds (Aizenman/Barnes, Washington Post, 3/28).
- “On Street, Crowd Gives Louder Side of Health Law Argument,” New York Times: Supreme Court crowds do the scream and shout.
- “Comic Relief: The Best of Health Reform Parody,” Reporting on Health: Leave the serious stuff to the justices.
In the morning session of the third day of oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the case against the federal health reform law, at least five justices “seemed open” to allowing the remainder of the overhaul to stand even if the individual mandate is deemed unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports (Sherman/Yost, Associated Press, 3/28). Some observers noted that the justices’ openness to allowing other provisions to stand could indicate that they have accepted that the individual mandate will be struck down (Stohr/Asseo, Bloomberg, 3/28).
According to AP, three liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — asked questions that intimated they believe the law can stand without the minimum coverage requirement (Associated Press, 3/28). Sotomayor said, “The bottom line is, why don’t we let Congress fix it” instead of eliminating the overhaul in its entirety (Bloomberg, 3/28).
Are the Reports of the Individual Mandate’s Death Greatly Exaggerated? (And Five Key Reads To Prepare You for Day Three)
If you believe the immediate reaction from the pundits after today’s oral arguments in the Supreme Court case against the federal health reform law, the individual mandate is dead.
The general consensus, if you haven’t determined it already, is that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli’s poor performance in today’s arguments – contrasted by a fantastic performance from the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Paul Clement – will mean the court is likely to strike down the individual mandate in the overhaul. Judging from the following tweets, it’s almost a foregone conclusion.
@ezraklein Justices are 90% decided on this before oral argument. That said, looks like individual mandate is on life support. Heh.
But wait just a minute.
It seems like just yesterday we were reading that Supreme Court oral arguments matter little in the grand scheme of things and that the justices — having read the briefs filed in the case — mostly have made up their mind.
In fact, just last summer, Justice Samuel Alito told a crowd of 500 lawyers in St. Louis that the unimportance of oral arguments is one of the top 10 things people don’t know about the high court.
It’s no surprise that Justice Clarence Thomas doesn’t think much of oral arguments. Thomas – who hasn’t made a peep in the court since 2006 — once infamously said, “So why do you beat up on people if you already know? . . . I refuse to participate. I don’t like it, so I don’t do it.”
Meanwhile, a post on the blog “D.C. Circuit Review” notes:
Justice Scalia, in a book co-authored by Bryan Garner, wrote that while oral argument rarely changes a judge’s mind, it often helps an undecided judge make up his mind when “the case is a close one.”
Of course, the post also notes that Chief Justice John Roberts thinks “that oral argument is terribly, terribly important.”
So, it’s not that the pundits are wrong. In fact, they very well may be right: Verrilli could have cost the Obama administration at least part of its signature achievement. However, it’s impossible to know at this moment what the court will decide, and it might be forever unknown to us what led to the justices’ ultimate ruling. In fact, only one thing’s for sure: There’s no way for us to know what the court will decide, until it decides.
After the jump, five key reads to prepare you for Wednesday’s oral arguments.