KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Politics Provides The Backdrop For Justices’ Consideration Of Health Law

The proceedings at the high court could shake the fall elections in a variety of ways. Even before the arguments begin, both sides of the fight are a bit battleworn from the court's past rulings and the path that has led to this week's clashes.  

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Supreme Court Begins Review Of Far-Reaching Obama Health Law Amid Political Campaigns
A decision is expected by late June, in the midst of a presidential election campaign in which all of Obama's Republican challengers oppose the law and promise its repeal, if the high court doesn't strike it down first. People hoping for a glimpse of the action have waited in line all weekend for the relatively few seats open to the public. The justices allotted the case six hours of argument time, the most since the mid-1960s (3/26).

NPR: In Health Case, Combustible Mix Of Politics And Law
U.S. Supreme Court is set to begin hearing oral arguments Monday in a Republican-led challenge to the national health care law that has convulsed the country and its political class for more than two years -- and may well define President Obama's tenure in the White House (Halloran, 3/25).

The Associated Press: Court's Health Ruling Could Shake Fall Elections
No doubt, a decision to throw out the entire law would be a defeat for Obama. His judgment and leadership, even his reputation as a former constitutional law professor, would be called into question for pushing through a contentious and partisan health insurance overhaul only to see it declared unconstitutional by the court. But it would not spell certain doom for his re-election. In fact, it would end the GOP argument that a Republican president must be elected to guarantee repeal of the law. It also could re-energize liberals, shift the spotlight onto insurance companies and reignite a debate about how to best provide health care (Kuhnhenn, 3/26).

Roll Call: Supreme Court Ruffles Democrats' Feathers
When the Supreme Court begins to deliberate President Barack Obama's signature health care law Monday, it will serve as a bitter reminder to Democrats of the blows leveled at their causes by the conservative Roberts court. Though the outcome of the high-profile case reviewing the constitutionality of the health care law's marquee feature, the individual mandate, is unknown, plenty of other decisions have given Democrats pause or even rallied them to battle with the court in ways rarely seen before (Shiner, 3/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Law Foes' Rocky Road To High Court
If the lawsuit contesting President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is to succeed, it will have to overcome setbacks that left the challengers with unfavorable lower-court rulings and a less-than-ideal plaintiff. Some participants in the challenge say the setbacks could have been minimized with a more focused strategy that was proposed early on by some prominent conservative lawyers but never fully adopted, while others say any past stumbles will ultimately have little significance (Bravin, 3/24).

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. But as the cases head to the Supreme Court this week, what looked to many like far-out legal arguments to undo "Obamacare" don’t seem so zany anymore (Gerstein, 3/25).

Des Moines Register: Harkin Fears Political Tilt In Justices' Health Law Ruling
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin on Friday questioned whether the U.S. Supreme Court could set aside political predispositions when judging the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law ... He strongly defended its constitutionality: "Judges in the lower courts … have made it very clear that arguments against the act lack merit. They have no basis in law," he said. "To overturn this health reform bill would overturn 70 years of precedents. So I'm hopeful that on all those issues that they're going to hear next week that the court will rule that it is constitutional and we can move ahead" (Noble, 3/23).

Also in the news, polls tap into voters' expectations of the Supreme Court justices as well as public opinion of the law itself --

The Hill: Hill Poll: Voters Expect Justices' Personal Views To Decide Health Care
Half of likely voters want the Supreme Court to overturn President Obama's health care law, according to The Hill's latest poll. Just 42 percent said the court should uphold the law, with 50 percent saying it should be struck down. A majority of both men and women want the law voided. ...  While even the youngest voters oppose the law (47 percent to 42 percent among those aged 18-39), opposition grows to 53 percent among voters aged 65 and older (Baker, 3/26).

CBS: Poll: 47% Disapprove Of Obama Health Care Law
As the Supreme Court embarks on three days of historic arguments over President Obama's health care law -- two years after the law was enacted -- Americans remain skeptical about the legislation. A CBS News/New York Times poll shows 47 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's Affordable Care Act, including 30 percent who strongly disapprove. In the poll, conducted March 21-25, only 36 percent of those questioned said they support the law either somewhat or strongly (3/26).

Meanwhile, both The Associated Press and Politifact offer historical perspectives of this landmark legal challenge --

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 (Cass, 3/26).

Politifact: Switching Sides On The Individual Mandate
Once upon a time, the individual mandate was the preferred health care policy of many Republicans. The year was 1993. President Bill Clinton had proposed a complicated health bill ... In response, a group of Senate Republicans introduced their own plan, inspired by ideas from conservative think tanks in Washington like the Heritage Foundation. ... When Hillary Clinton released her plan, it too had an individual mandate. Obama's plan didn't. And when the candidates started debating the merits of their proposals, Obama leaned into the difference, releasing ads attacking the mandate as punitive (Holan, 3/25). 

And, The New York Times reports that, as the Supreme Court takes up the health law, it will be moving the focus of the health care debate from the campaign trail to Capitol Hill --

The New York Times: Debate Shifts From The Trail To The Capital
For months, the political debate in Washington has been defined largely by the seemingly constant confrontations on the Republican presidential campaign trail. That is about to change, at least for a while. … Here is a look at five issues that will return to the spotlight: HEALTH CARE The Supreme Court's decision to hold an unprecedented three days of oral arguments about President Obama's health care law is certain to push the issue to the forefront of the political debate this week -- and probably for the rest of the spring (Shear, 3/26).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.