KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

The Individual Mandate: To Be, Or Not To Be? That Is One Of The Questions For The Supreme Court

News outlets report on the mandate's chances of surviving a constitutional challenge that will be argued before the high court next week.  

Politico: Justice Department Bets Big On Mandate
The Justice Department argues that without the mandate, there is no way to keep the law's requirements that insurance companies accept all applicants regardless of their medical history and cannot charge more to sicker and older patients. That's because without the mandate, there won't be enough healthy people paying health insurance premiums to cover the costs of the sick people. … It could also make the Supreme Court ... think twice about striking the mandate if the überpopular piece has to go, too (Haberkorn, 3/22).

The Fiscal Times: Why the Health Care Mandate Isn't Mushy Liberalism
The individual mandate is a quintessential conservative idea, created by conservative economists and initially backed by conservative think tanks (the Heritage Foundation, for one) because it was deemed necessary to make the private marketplace for individual and small group insurance policies more efficient and affordable (Goozner, 3/23).

NPR: How The Health Law Could Survive Without A Mandate
[E]xperts say there are ways to strongly encourage people to sign up that stop short of a mandate. ... [Paul Starr, a sociologist at Princeton University] has also been pushing another, even more dramatic idea. It would let people opt out of the law's requirement to have health insurance for a period of five years at a time. But they would also have to opt out of the law's benefits (Rovner, 3/23).

Legal experts also attempt to handicap how the arguments will play out - 

Politico: Legal Experts Say Court Likely To Uphold Health Law
A panel of legal experts convened by POLITICO Pro on Thursday predicted that the Supreme Court is likely to uphold the 2010 health care law. Most said the law's opponents' argument that the individual mandate could lead to Congress being able to require people to buy all sorts of other goods or services doesn't apply because health insurance is unique (Nocera and Nather, 3/22).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Changes May Not All Disappear Even If Justices Overturn The Law
So what happens to the existing provisions if the Supreme Court, which will hear challenges to the law next week, ultimately decides to go with its most sweeping option: overturning the law in its entirety? The answer depends on where you live, who you work for and how you get your insurance (Aizenman, 3/22).

McClatchy: Supreme Court Health Law Rulings Could Have Big Impact 
The court is likely to issue its decisions by the end of June, when the 2011-12 term expires. The outcome will occur in the heat of the year's election campaigns, when both parties will want to keep the issue alive, spinning the decisions to their own advantage. Expect a summer of congressional rhetoric, followed by campaign ads in the fall (Doyle and Lightman, 3/22).

Meanwhile, NPR profiles the administration's lawyer who will defend the law -

NPR: The Man Behind The Defense Of Obama's Health Law
At 54, Don Verrilli, stands tall and calm in the Supreme Court chamber, his salt and pepper mustache the only thing about him that bristles. His deep, baritone voice suggests to the justices that he is the essence of reasonableness. There are no histrionics. ... He has argued 17 cases before the court, five of them since taking over as solicitor general at the beginning of this term (Totenberg, 3/22).

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