KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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After Scalia’s Death, Health Care Cases Hang In Balance

The Supreme Court is set to hear several health care cases, including ones on abortion, insurers, and the health care law. If the court is split 4-4, the decision of the lower court is upheld.

The New York Times: Scalia’s Absence Is Likely To Alter Court’s Major Decisions This Term
Justice Antonin Scalia’s death will complicate the work of the Supreme Court’s eight remaining justices for the rest of the court’s term, probably change the outcomes of some major cases and, for the most part, amplify the power of its four-member liberal wing. ... In the major abortion case the court will hear next month, Justice Scalia’s absence may have no consequence. Abortion rights groups already had reason to think, based on an earlier vote on a stay application in the case, that there are five votes to strike down some of the law’s restrictions. A 4-to-4 split in the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, No. 15-274, would be a loss for those groups, as the restrictions in Texas would then go into place. But Justice Scalia’s death seems to make a more restrictive revision of the constitutional standards nationwide quite unlikely, as the court’s four liberals would not go along. (Liptak, 2/14)

The Associated Press: Major Cases Heard By Or Scheduled For The Supreme Court
Some of the major cases heard or scheduled to be heard this term by the Supreme Court. Justice Antonin Scalia's death casts uncertainty on the court's term. No rulings have been issued in any of these cases. ... In a case argued in November, faith-based hospitals, colleges and charities objected to the process the Obama administration had devised to spare them from paying for contraceptives for women covered under their health plans while ensuring that those women can obtain birth control at no extra cost. The groups complain that they remain complicit in making available the contraceptives in violation of their religious beliefs. (2/14)

The Washington Post: These Are The Key Cases Facing The Supreme Court After Scalia’s Death
The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia casts a cloud of uncertainty over a Supreme Court term filled with some of the most controversial issues facing the nation: abortion, affirmative action, the rights of religious objectors to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, and the president’s powers on immigration and deportation. ... Before the court is another challenge to the Affordable Care Act, this time over whether religiously affiliated organizations such as universities, hospitals and charities can be free from playing any role in providing their employees with contraceptive coverage. Most appeals courts that have decided the controversy found in favor of the Obama administration. But one did not. Presumably, a split court would mean the law is interpreted differently depending on the region of the country. (Barnes, 2/14)

The Associated Press: Results In Key Cases Could Change With Scalia's Death
The Supreme Court abhors even numbers. But that's just what the court will have to deal with, perhaps for many months, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Eight justices will decide what to do, creating the prospect of 4-4 ties. ... The Supreme Court will be looking at the health care law for the fourth time since its 2010 enactment. ... A tie vote here would sow rather than alleviate confusion because the appellate courts that have looked at the issue have not all come out the same way. That prospect suggests that Justice Anthony Kennedy will join the court's four liberal justices to uphold the arrangement, Supreme Court lawyer Thomas Goldstein said. (2/15)

NPR: Scalia's Death May Mean Texas Abortion Case Won't Set U.S. Precedent
The U.S. Supreme Court next month is scheduled to hear its biggest abortion case in at least a decade, and the reach of that decision will likely be impacted by the absence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend. A Texas law requires that doctors have local admitting privileges, and that clinics make costly building upgrades to operate like out-patient surgical centers. Numerous other states have passed similar laws, and Scalia was widely expected to provide a fifth vote to uphold such restrictions. Without him, it may not change much for Texas. A 4-4 split in the court would leave in place the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld these provisions. (Ludden, 2/15)

Modern Healthcare: Justice Scalia's Death Leaves Healthcare Cases In Limbo
The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who famously said the Affordable Care Act should be called “SCOTUScare,” leaves in limbo a number of healthcare-related cases. The news also quickly sparked a debate over who would replace him amid the presidential campaign. (Schencker and Rubenfire, 2/13)

The Associated Press: Obama Faces Political Puzzle In Naming Scalia Successor
For most presidents, choosing a Supreme Court nominee is a puzzle. For President Barack Obama, the chance to pick a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia is more like a Gordian Knot. ... His nominee would almost certainly support abortion rights, consideration of race in college admissions and other areas of public life, limits on campaign contributions and stronger rights of labor unions — all issues that have divided the court's liberal and conservative justices on a 5-4 margin. (2/15)

The New York Times: More Republicans Say They’ll Block Supreme Court Nominee
Senate Republicans on Monday began to close ranks behind a vow by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, to block consideration of any nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend, for the remainder of President Obama’s term. ... The coming clash on Capitol Hill is a testament to the stakes: A president has a chance to establish a clear liberal majority on the Supreme Court. That could shift the direction of legal thought on a wide variety of issues like climate change, gay rights, affirmative action, abortion, immigration, gun control, campaign finance and labor unions. (Shear and Steinhauer, 2/15)

The Washington Post: Scalia Battle Reflects Politicization Of Court’s Role
The rancorous debate over picking a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia reflects in many ways a growing public skepticism toward the U.S. Supreme Court itself, as its image has evolved from impartial arbiter of the laws to yet another politicized institution. ... In part, the Republicans’ determination to block President Obama’s chance at a nomination that could leave a lasting mark on the court reflects their fury over how its current conservative majority has allowed same-sex marriage to become the law of the land and has refused to gut the health-care law that is Obama’s signature domestic achievement. (Tumulty, 2/15)

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