KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Health Law Oral Arguments: Analyzing The Moving Parts

News reports explore the constitutional questions to be explored in the high court's review of the health law and the most likely potential outcomes.

The Associated Press: High Court Has Options On Health Care Law
The Supreme Court has several options in ruling on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, from upholding the law to striking it down in its entirety. The court also could avoid deciding the law's constitutionality at all, if it finds the lawsuits challenging the law are premature. Here is a look at six potential outcomes, from the simplest to the most complicated possible rulings (Sherman and Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/20).

McClatchy: Supreme Court To Weigh Key Constitutional Issues With Health Care Law
When the Supreme Court hears arguments on President Barack Obama's health care law, what will be at stake is not just whether Americans can be required to have health insurance, but whether the Constitution puts any limit on Congress' power to regulate the economy.  Since 1936, the justices have not struck down a major federal regulatory law on the grounds that Congress went too far. The court's forbearance on matters touching Congress' authority to regulate commerce has allowed Washington's power to grow, to protect civil rights and the environment, to ensure safer automobiles and drugs, and to help boost the wages and benefits of workers (Savage, 3/19).

Bloomberg: Insurers At Risk In Challenge To Health Care Law's Medicaid Plan
A Supreme Court decision striking down the U.S. health-care law’s expansion of Medicaid might expose environmental and educational laws to legal challenges while hurting stocks that surged anticipating more than $600 billion in new spending over the next decade….Managed-care companies with large Medicaid businesses, such as Centene Corp. (CNC) of St. Louis, Missouri, have seen their stock prices more than double since March 2010 on the expectation that states with rising caseloads will turn to them to help control program spending. An adverse decision might affect those gains while also hurting hospitals, nursing homes and other health providers (Crawford, 3/20).

ABC: What To Expect: Supreme Court To Hear Health Care Law Challenge
Next week when the U.S. Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the president's health care reform law and whether the government can require Americans to buy health insurance through a so-called "individual mandate" there will be six hours of arguments featuring six different lawyers over three days. That's a marathon by Supreme Court standards. Most cases are heard over a single day and rarely for longer than an hour (de Vogue, 3/20).

The New York Times: At Heart Of Health Law Clash, A 1942 Case Of A Farmer's Wheat
If the Obama administration persuades the Supreme Court to uphold its health care overhaul law, it will be in large part thanks to a 70-year-old precedent involving an Ohio farmer named Roscoe C. Filburn. ... The 1942 decision against him, Wickard v. Filburn, is the basis for the Supreme Court's modern understanding of the scope of federal power. It is the contested ground on which the health care case has been fought in the lower courts and in the parties' briefs. And it is likely to be crucial to the votes of Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, who are widely seen as open to persuasion by either side (Liptak, 3/19).

KQED's State of Health blog: The Supreme Court's 4 Health Care Reform Questions
Legal scholars, pundits and those suitably opinionated have been pontificating about all kinds of legal issues. But the average American might want to know, in straightforward language, what those Four Questions actually mean. Here’s my take on them: 1. Can the Supreme Court Consider the ACA Now, Anyway? ... 2. Is the Individual Mandate Constitutional? ... 3. If the Individual Mandate is Unconstitutional, Can the Rest of the ACA Go Forward? ... 4. Is the Medicaid Expansion Constitutional? (Aliferis, 3/19). 

Related, earlier KHN coverage: The Health Law And The Supreme Court: A Primer For The Upcoming Oral Arguments (Taylor, 3/15).

Medscape: Supreme Court Oral Arguments on the ACA, Part I: Wheat, Guns, and Yes, Healthcare Reform
The Obama administration, challengers of the ACA, and dozens of "friends of the court" or amici curiae allied with each side have filed a veritable library of legal briefs in the Supreme Court case. These come on top of their pleadings in lower federal courts that issued conflicting opinions on the law's constitutionality. The 9 high-court justices presumably have digested them all (Lowes, 3/19).

St. Louis Beacon: HHS Secretary Predicts Supreme Court Will Uphold Health Reform Law
"I'm confident that the law will be found constitutional," [HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius] said Monday during a forum at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. "A majority of  (appellate court) judges have found the law constitutional. There's about 70 years of precedent where the Supreme Court has continued to uphold Congress in broadening the powers of the Ccommerce Clause, which is really what this case is about" (Joiner, 3/19).

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