Archive for March, 2012

Today’s Headlines – March 30, 2012

Good morning and an especially happy Friday to you! The health law’s week at the Supreme Court is over, but we still have some headlines for you to catch up on all the analysis:

The Washington Post: The Supreme Court Will Decide On The Health-Care Law Soon. It Will Tell You Later.
If the usual process occurs, the justices of the Supreme Court will gather around a large rectangular table Friday morning and, one by one, cast their votes on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law. They will let the rest of us know the outcome in due time (Barnes, 3/29).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Supreme Court Justices Vote Friday On Outcome Of Health Care Case; Opinion Unlikely Until June
While the rest of us have to wait until June, the justices of the Supreme Court will know the likely outcome of the historic health care case by the time they go home this weekend. After months of anticipation, thousands of pages of briefs and more than six hours of arguments, the justices will vote on the fate of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in under an hour Friday morning. They will meet in a wood-paneled conference room on the court’s main floor. No one else will be present (3/30).

For more headlines … (more…)

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Social Media Rundown: Three Days At The Supreme Court

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the 2010 health law, in what court watchers are calling the biggest case at the high court in decades. Here’s a rundown from the social media-sphere of what happened in those three days.

Day 1: Can We Even Argue About The Health Care Law?
Mon., March 26

The first day began with an examination of whether the Anti-Injunction Act, which bars lawsuits seeking to prevent a tax, would prevent a review of the health law’s individual mandate at this time. This would push the consideration of the health law challenges to 2015, when the first penalties would be imposed.


Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Like The U.S., Europe Wrestles With Health Care

This story comes from our partner ‘s Shots blog.

The U.S. has been absorbed by the Supreme Court case this week on the future of health care. But Americans are not alone.

Photo by Andreas Nilsson via Flickr

Several European nations, where universal health care has been the norm for decades, have been waging their own intense debates as they also deal with aging populations and rising costs.

Britain passed a new health care measure earlier this month, after more than a year of rancorous debate. Can the European experience cast some light on the American debate over health care?

“There are some common problems,” says British analyst Chris Ham, “but we’re coming to this debate from very different starting points. In the States, it’s about how to extend coverage to more people, whereas [in Britain], it’s about how to get more bang for the buck out of our current system.”

Ham is the chief executive of The King’s Fund, an independent health policy think tank in London.

The British Debate

Britain’s debate is still going on, with critics charging that the Conservative-led government is trying to privatize the more than 60-year-old system in an effort to cut the nation’s budget deficit.


Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Today’s Headlines – March 29, 2012

Here are your morning headlines — much of them trying to wrap up a tumultuous three days of health law oral arguments at the Supreme Court. Enjoy!

The New York Times: On Day 3, Justices Weigh What-Ifs Of Health Ruling
The justices seemed divided on both questions before them: What should happen to the rest of the law if the court strikes down its core provision? And was the law’s expansion of the Medicaid program constitutional? The two arguments, over almost three hours, were by turns grave and giddy. They were also relentlessly pragmatic. The justices considered what sort of tasks it makes sense to assign to Congress, what kinds of interaction between federal and state officials are permissible and even the political character of the lawsuits challenging the law (Liptak, 3/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Three Days Of Hearings Yield Five Take-Aways
It is notoriously hard to predict how the Supreme Court will rule on a case based on justices’ questioning of attorneys. But with this week’s health-care arguments having wrapped up, here is what we know (Radnofsky, 3/28).

For more headlines … (more…)

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Inside The Courtroom On The Final, Historic Day

At 1 p.m. sharp on Wednesday, the loud buzzer sounded, and from behind floor-length ruby curtains and four marble columns, the nine justices emerged to take their chairs.

Photo by Jessica Marcy/KHN

Chief Justice John Roberts, seated in the center in a high-backed leather chair, quickly brought down the gavel. And the last of four hearings into the 2010 health care overhaul was underway.

Getting into the final historic hearing on Wednesday was surprisingly easy— even without a media pass or a special ticket from a member of Congress.

I first got in line outside the Court at 8 a.m.  for the first hearing, which was to start at 10 a.m, on the issue of severability, or what would happen to the health law’s other provisions if the justices strike down the individual insurance mandate. While the passes to the full one-hour hearing were already spoken for by earlier birds, I was one of about 150 people who snagged a “three-minute pass” which enabled me to go into the chamber for what turned out to be about six minutes. I did that twice.

For the afternoon hearing into whether the Medicaid expansion of the health law was constitutional, I got lucky and was one of about 60 people who were able to get a gray ticket for the the full, one-hour segment. After making my way through a magnetometer, then up about 25 marble steps — with a brief a stop at a 25-cent locker to store all my electronics and other bags — and through another metal detector, I was ready to enter the chamber. My seat was in the rear, about 15 rows from the front, but afforded a full view of all nine justices.

Justice Elena Kagan took the offensive from the start, focusing her attention on Paul Clement, the 26 states’ plaintiff attorney, who argued that the Medicaid expansion was coercive to states and, thus, unconstitutional. “There’s no matching funds requirement, there are no extraneous conditions attached to it, it’s just a boatload of federal money for you to take and spend on poor people’s healthcare,” Kagan said. “It doesn’t sound coercive to me, I have to tell you.”


Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

House Debates Ryan Budget: Predictably Partisan

The tone was immediately and undoubtedly partisan Wednesday when the House began considering the Republican-backed 2013 budget resolution that the House Budget Committee recently approved.

Photo by Karl Eisenhower/KHN

The House was expected to debate the Budget Committee-approved resolution for four hours, and then turn to six complete substitutes, including one that would replace the resolution with President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal from earlier this year. Ryan’s plan, however, is expected to easily pass. The debate could spill into Thursday, and a vote is expected Thursday.  C-SPAN is covering the debate live.

The plan, written by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would make fundamental changes to Medicare. Ryan and other Republicans argued that significant deficit reduction is needed, and they hammered Democratic leaders in the Senate for deciding not to consider any budget resolution this year.

Democrats claimed that Ryan’s plan would harm seniors on Medicare and Medicaid. “As a member of Congress representing seniors in Florida, this budget is devastating for seniors,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. “This would pass like a tornado through nursing homes. Sixty percent of people in nursing homes are on Medicaid.”

Ryan’s Medicare proposal is nearly identical to a premium support idea that he put forward in December with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and to one that GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney crafted a month earlier in November. Ryan’s budget would provide a set amount of money for future Medicare beneficiaries – those currently under the age of 55 – to purchase either a private health plan or the traditional government-administered program through a newly created Medicare exchange. That would begin in 2023.

Ryan’s plan would void the Medicaid expansions of the health law and give states full leeway to run their programs as they see fit, with federal funding coming to them in the way of block grants.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Crowd Dwindles On Final Day of Health Law Arguments

A smaller and more subdued crowd gathered outside the Supreme Court Wednesday for the third and final day of the historic hearings over President Obama’ health care law.

About 100 supporters of the law, many carrying signs saying, “Protect our Health, Protect the Law,” marched in front of the Court, while about 30 opponents stood nearby with their own placards.

The justices are scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday morning about whether the rest of the health law can stand if the individual mandate is overturned by the court.  In the afternoon, they are considering a challenge to the law’s Medicaid expansion.

Marty Hayden, 54, of Alexandria, Va., a supporter of the law, said he was optimistic the justices would uphold it, even though the government’s top lawyer had come under tough questioning Tuesday. “I still think the justices will do the right thing,” he said. “We are a long way from the ruling.”

Angela Bartels, 56, a nurse from Seattle who supports the law, also expressed confidence. She said pundits’ predictions are often wrong, adding, “It’s really hard to gauge what the judges will do based on the questioning.”

John Stevens, 49, of Richmond, Va., an opponent of the law, predicted a different outcome.  “This law will not stand,” he said, adding that he was pleased by the justices’ aggressive questioning on Tuesday.

Several people also spoke outside the court about the value of Medicaid, the joint federal-state coverage program for low-income people slated to be expanded under the law, including an Ohio state lawmaker, a doctor and the grandparents of a child on Medicaid.

“We are beyond grateful for how Medicaid helped us with our granddaughter,” who suffers from multiple sclerosis and heart issues, said Linda Christianson of Arlington, Va.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Today’s Headlines – March 28, 2012

Good morning! Last day of oral arguments on the health law at the Supreme Court. Here’s a rundown of what happened yesterday:

The Washington Post: On Last Day Of Health Care Hearing, Supreme Court Considers Severability, Medicaid Expansion
The Supreme Court will complete its review of President Obama’s health care law Wednesday by considering whether all of the law must fall if part of it is found unconstitutional, and whether the law’s proposed Medicaid expansion violates the federal-state partnership. The Medicaid expansion decision might have the most lasting impact on the federal government’s ability to use its spending power to pressure state action (Aizenman and Barnes, 3/28).

NPR: Supreme Court’s Medicaid Decision Could Reach Far Beyond Health Care
After Tuesday’s judicial fireworks, the Supreme Court wraps up arguments on the new health care law Wednesday by focusing on two questions. The first involves what would happen if the “individual mandate” — the core of the law that requires most people to have health insurance — is struck down. Would the rest of the law fall, too, or could some provisions stay? But it’s the second argument the court will hear about the Affordable Care Act that could potentially have the most far-reaching consequences. At issue is whether the health law’s expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor unfairly forces the states to participate (Rovner, 3/28).

For more headlines … (more…)

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Pundits Parse Tough Questions By Conservative Justices

The second day of the momentous Supreme Court hearing on President Obama’s health law ended almost exactly at noon.

By 12:03, many conservative lawmakers and television commentators who had been in the packed chambers stood on the marble steps outside, saying the health insurance mandate at the heart of the law appeared to be in deep trouble.

Photo by Jessica Marcy/KHN

“You could just read their body language that they were sympathetic to our argument that the mandate exceeds federal powers,” said Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, a member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.

Many listeners cited comments by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, who raised repeated questions about whether the government could force people to buy health insurance.

Kennedy’s comment that such a mandate “changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in the very fundamental way” was repeated over and over Tuesday.


Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Hundreds Brave Chilly Weather For Chance To Witness History

With the Supreme Court poised Tuesday to hear arguments about the health law’s mandate requiring most Americans to buy health insurance, about 200 advocates for and against abortion rights marched outside the court on a sunny, but chilly morning. They carried signs saying, “Abortion is not Health Care,” and “Protect the Law.”

A few feet away, about 100 others gathered at the corner of East Capitol and First Streets, waiting for a chance to get a glimpse of history — via a yellow ticket that would allow them to watch five minutes of the court hearing. It was the second of three days of hearings on the 2010 health law.

The 50 public seats earmarked for people to watch the full two-hour court session had already been claimed by those who had waited in line for days.  But those in line on this cold, but sunny morning for a temporary peek into the court were not dismayed.  And they expressed more interest in the historical significance of the event than the politics.

“I just wanted to say I was there and tell my students about it,” said Cris Welsh, 29, an 11th grade history teacher at Columbine High School in Denver. He said he was taking a cautious view of the law. “Something has to be done about health care in this country,” he said, talking about making  coverage more affordable for more people.


Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

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