KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Supreme Court Watch: Counting Down To Health Law’s Historic Arguments

There's a flood of news coverage about the Supreme Court hearings set to begin tomorrow morning. Here's a selection of those stories:

The Associated Press: Battle Over Obama Health Law Reaches High Court
Two years and three days after President Barack Obama signed into law a health care overhaul aimed at extending medical insurance to more than 30 million Americans, the high court begins three days of hearings over the law's validity. The challenge from 26 states and a small business group puts the court smack in the middle of a heavily partisan fight over the president's major domestic accomplishment and a presidential election campaign in which all his Republican challengers oppose the law. (Sherman, 3/25).

CNN: Justices To Tackle Epic Debate Over Constitutionality Of Health Care Reform
"The implications in the health care litigation are impossible to overstate," said Thomas Goldstein, a prominent Washington attorney and publisher of SCOTUSblog.com. ... The opportunity to rule on a landmark case brings with it precedent-setting opportunities to either expand or deflate not only the power of Congress and the executive but also the judiciary's own prestige and authority. In some ways, it is a perilous path, since the courts have increasingly become a political football (Mears, 3/23).

Politico: How The Legal Assault On Obama's Health Law Went Mainstream
When President Barack Obama signed the health care bill two years ago, the legal challenges to the law were widely belittled as long shots — at best. ... The challengers’ journey from the near-fringe of legal thought to coming within striking distance of knocking out Obama’s signature legislative achievement has coupled an intense legal assault with a communications drive to convince elites and the public that the law violates the Constitution. ... For most of 2009, as Congress began to draft and debate the health care bill, the individual mandate drew little criticism — let alone a sustained argument that it would be unconstitutional  (Gerstein, 3/25).

Kaiser Health News: The Health Law And The Supreme Court: A Primer For The Upcoming Oral Arguments
How big is the constitutional challenge to the Obama health care law, which the Supreme Court will hear on March 26-28? For starters, it's big enough for the justices to schedule six hours of arguments -- more time than given to any case since 1966. ... it's big enough to cause the justices to postpone until October half of the 12 cases that they would ordinarily hear in April in order to clear time to get started on the health care opinions that they are expected to issue by the late June, or possibly, early July (Taylor, 3/23).

NPR: A Legal Guide To The Health Care Arguments 
[W]e take a look at the questions at stake each day. Monday: Can the courts even rule on the constitutionality of the law right now? ... Tuesday: Can the government force you to buy health insurance?
... Wednesday morning: If the mandate is struck down, do all the other provisions of the law fall? If not, which parts of it remain standing? ... Wednesday afternoon: Is Congress unconstitutionally twisting the arms of the states by requiring them to expand Medicaid? (Totenberg and Rovner, 3/24).

Los Angeles Times: In Healthcare Case, Supreme Court Weighs Entwined Provisions
Guaranteeing affordable health insurance to everyone is nearly impossible without a way to induce younger, healthier people to get covered and offset the cost of insuring older, sicker ones. That means that if the Supreme Court strikes down the much-maligned insurance mandate as unconstitutional, it might also toss out the promise that all Americans can get health coverage, even if they have preexisting medical conditions.
... Many initiatives in the sweeping legislation aren't connected to the mandate, including billions of dollars for community health centers, new programs to track how well doctors and hospitals are caring for patients and new initiatives to train more medical  (Levey, 3/24).

The Christian Science Monitor: Two Formidable Lawyers To Spar At Supreme Court Over Health Care Reform Law
Six lawyers are set to deliver arguments at the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Two will handle the lion's share: As US solicitor general, Donald Verrilli is representing the Obama administration and will argue that the court should affirm the constitutionality of the ACA. ... Washington lawyer Paul Clement is no stranger to the podium at the nation's highest court. To date he has argued 55 cases before the justices. He is representing Florida and 25 other states in their challenge to the constitutionality of the ACA's individual mandate (Richey, 3/25).

Modern Healthcare: Reform Challenge Prompted Flood Of Legal Filings
Proponents and enemies of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have buried the U.S. Supreme Court under an unprecedented cache of filings arguing why the law should be upheld in whole, modified or tossed out like last week's garbage. More than 150 filings were lodged with the court by various groups—so many that they required their own lawyer-run website, the ACA Litigation Blog, to keep them straight. Perhaps it's only right for a law whose final draft spanned 900 pages and took more than a year to write. For those just interested in the bare essentials, however, Modern Healthcare has compiled a required-reading list of links in PDF form (Carlson, 3/25).

NPR: In Health Case, Combustible Mix Of Politics And Law
Call it what you will — the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare — the historic law and its insurance requirement signed by the president in March 2010 has spawned a hyperbolic vernacular (see: "death panels" and "Republicans want you to die"), multimillion dollar special interest advertising campaigns, and a slew of lawsuits with mixed outcomes. ... In advance of the high court arguments, politicos and court-watchers have been consumed not only by the merits of the case, but also by how public opinion and party pressure may influence a court that has come under increased scrutiny for perceived political bias (Halloran, 3/25).

The Washington Post: As Supreme Court Justices Review Health-Care Law, Stakes Will Be Hard To Ignore
Such a charged political atmosphere is not the court’s favored environment. The justices are protective of their charge as neutral arbiters of the law, what Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. described as umpires calling balls and strikes. But some see other factors at work in the court’s decisions — and they say there should be nothing surprising or even particularly negative about that (Barnes, 3/24).

The New York Times: Groups Blanket Supreme Court on Health Care 
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has helped lead opposition to the health care law, has been hosting moot court sessions to prepare lawyers involved in the case. ... Many groups, like the American Constitution Society, liberal backers of the law and of Congress’s power to regulate commerce, are setting up war rooms and daily briefings on the Supreme Court steps. ... And a record number of organizations — 136 so far — have filed amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs, densely packed with historical citations and legal arguments, to urge the court to either strike down or uphold the law (Lichtblau, 3/24).

ABC News: Public Options and Death Panels: How the Health Care Debate Evolved
After years of countless contentious town halls across the country, backroom negotiations, speeches, compromises, advertisements and spam emails, the Great Health Care Debate has split the United States along party lines and is likely to be one of the more important matters for voters on Election Day 2012. ... So how did we get here? ... Bill Clinton tried to pass health care "reform" in 1993, an effort tied closely to his wife, future senator/presidential candidate/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Negrin, 3/23).

The Associated Press: America's Health Care Reform Through History
The three days of arguments beginning before the Supreme Court on Monday may mark a turning point in a century of debate over what role the government should play in helping all Americans afford medical care. A look at the issue through the years: 1912: Former President Theodore Roosevelt champions national health insurance as he tries to ride his progressive Bull Moose Party back to the White House (Cass, 3/24).

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