KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints On Health Law: Court Decision Will Determine Federal Role ‘In Caring’ For People; Law Is Scaring Business

News sites reflect on the arguments being made before the Supreme Court about the 2010 federal health law.

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare Opening Day
The Supreme Court's epic oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act began Monday with a kind of tease. The 90-minute exchange explored a technical side issue about taxes, but even so it suggested that the Justices will rule on the merits and are skeptical of some of the Obama Administration's claims (3/26).

The New York Times: Getting To The Merits
During an hour and a half of oral arguments on Monday, the justices showed their interest in addressing the merits of the case and their skepticism that the Anti-Injunction Act posed an insurmountable hurdle to doing so. That instinct seems right (3/26).

The New York Times: Step To The Center
The Obama health care law represents another crucial moment in the move toward centralization. With its state insurance exchanges, Obamacare is not as centralized as a single-payer system. Still, it centralizes authority in at least four ways (David Brooks, 3/26).

The Washington Post: Why The Individual Mandate Holds The Key To Health-Care Reform
Does the Constitution give Congress the power to order all individuals above a certain income level to buy health insurance? ... The mandate is an indispensable tool for achieving the government’s compelling goals of universal coverage and lower costs. Insurance companies would be unable to offer affordable coverage to those with preexisting conditions, for example, unless they also were guaranteed enrollment of the young and healthy customers who are less likely to consume health-care services (3/26).  

Politico (Video): Health Care: Will We Take Care Of Our Own?
Tuesday, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on this key question: Will we take care of our own? In the three days of arguments, Tuesday is the most important. The court will decide what the role of government is in caring for our people. Boiled down, if you believe access to health care is a right, then you want the government to make it available to all. If you believe health care is a privilege, then each person earns their own and government's role is minimal. Does it get any more important than this? Any more fundamentally defining (Jennifer Granholm, 3/26)?

The Hill: Obama's Health Law Proving Successful
In my world of people and politics there are two relevant issues. First, does the law provide better medical care for Americans? And is it reducing the cost of healthcare? While the new law will not be fully implemented until 2014, the parts that have been enacted show that the indisputable, factual answer to both questions is "yes." But at the moment, the facts do not seem to matter in the court of public opinion. Republican opposition remains as solid today as the day the act was signed into law (Juan Williams, 3/26).

The Wall Street Journal: The Gay Alternative To ObamaCare
(GOProud) argues that the problem with our tax code isn't just that it discriminates against gays. It's that it discriminates against every American who doesn't have his or her health insurance through an employer. ... they want a system in which all health-care consumers are treated equally. They argue that this requires a thriving national marketplace for individual insurance—which is why GOProud also favors removing restrictions that prevent health-insurance plans from competing across state lines (William McGurn, 3/26).

Bloomberg: All Americans Lose If Health-Care Law Is Overturned
It's not perfect, of course; nothing with so many facets could be. We don't yet know, for example, whether the law's incentives to move doctors and hospitals away from a fee-for-service system to one more focused on efficiency will work. ... But the law takes a great many small steps in the right direction -- toward a health-care system that provides good-quality care at a reasonable price for the largest possible number of people (3/26).

Bloomberg: Supreme Court Case Won't End Republican Obamacare Attacks
If the court keeps the law and [Sen. Mitch] McConnell becomes Senate majority leader, he vows that "the first item up would be to try to repeal Obamacare"…. Signing the health-care legislation was probably the most consequential action (President Barack) Obama has taken, yet it seems likely that both major presidential candidates will be hesitant to talk about it. Obama will avoid the topic because it’s unpopular, while his probable challenger, Mitt Romney, will do the same because the health-care law he himself signed as governor of Massachusetts bears an embarrassing resemblance to it.  McConnell faces no such constraints. He is going to do what he can to keep the issue alive, whatever the Supreme Court decides (Ramesh Ponnuru, 3/26).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Is Unconstitutional?  Now They Tell Us
Basically anything the government does that has ever been justified by the Commerce Clause will be open to challenge (if the court overturns the health law). For the sake of their own sanity and summer recesses, the justices ought to proceed cautiously.  Conservatives also ought to pause and consider all the lectures they have delivered over the past half-century about the need for judicial restraint (Michael Kinsley, 3/26).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: High Court Should Uphold Health Care Reform Law
We've had our concerns with health care reform. We never were convinced, for example, that the bill passed by Congress in 2010 did enough to get costs under control. But the law, overall, was a major step toward a healthier America…. No matter how the court decides, the issues raised by health care reform will not go away. They will be central to the presidential campaign this fall. But two years in, the country is better off with the Affordable Care Act than without it (3/26).

Fox News: Why We Went To Court Over 'Obamacare'
Small-business confidence is measurably lower today than it was this time last year, and the (health) law has been identified in study after study as the primary contribution to this erosion of faith in the future. People are afraid to expand and hire—they are unable to plan for future growth while the fear of new costs shrouds them like a fog on the horizon. But the biggest cost—the one that carries no dollar figure and affects every American—is the incalculable loss of economic freedom (Dan Danner, 3/26).

CNN: U.S. Must Keep Its Promise On Health Care
Many of those who want the individual responsibility requirement struck down also express support for the patient protections that the provision makes possible. Several states have tried such an approach by enacting insurance protections for patients with pre-existing conditions without compelling healthy people to enter the insurance market as well. These states are now among the most expensive in the country in which to buy insurance, and two of them, Kentucky and New Hampshire, ended up repealing those protections because of increasingly unaffordable premiums (Nancy Brown, Larry Hausner and John Seffrin, 3/27).

JAMA: Dinner Conversations—The Health Care Law And The Supreme Court
Although first proposed by a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, the individual mandate has become a lightning rod for those opposed to the ACA. I pointed out to John that he would probably qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance that are built into the ACA, and then I explained why the individual mandate was included: it's 1 part of a 3-legged stool for reforming the health insurance market. The other 2 parts require insurers to cover all those with preexisting conditions who want to be insured and prohibit insurers from charging sick people more for coverage than they charge healthier people (Diana J. Mason, 3/26).

JAMA: What Is The Economic Rationale For The Health Care Law's Individual Mandate?
While some have portrayed the mandate as a novel and dangerous encroachment on freedom, it's important to realize that it has a reasonably long and well-thought-out rationale supporting it. ... the mandate requires decision makers (individuals) to bear the costs of their actions either by purchasing insurance or paying a penalty. This at least partially transfers some of the cost of free riding back to the decision maker ... and bring the health insurance market closer (but by no means all the way to) the ideal (Austin Frakt, 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.