KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Perspectives: All This Fuss About The Word ‘Tax’; Civic Lessons From The Supreme Court

Commentators offer further thoughts about the Supreme Court's review of the health law.

The Wall Street Journal: ObamaCare Will Punish State Budgets 
It is now clear that the law will impose heavy burdens on state and family budgets and increasingly possible that its mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance or face penalties will be ruled unconstitutional. ... We and our Republican colleagues voted against the law two years ago and will continue to work toward a smarter, step-by-step solution that will make health care available to more Americans at a lower cost to the federal government, the states, and individuals seeking care (Sens. Lamar Alexander, Mike Johanns, John Hoeven and Jim Risch, 3/29).

Chicago Tribune: Reading The Court's Mind 
[T]he court took up the question of whether, if it ruled against the mandate, the whole law would have to go. Simply doing so in a sense raised whether the bathwater would also have to be thrown out with the baby -- including concomitant features such as the requirement that insurers cover pre-existing conditions and dependent children up to age 26. One may wonder why that discussion could not have been held later, in the event the conservative guillotine did fall (Jules Witcover, 3/30).

Chicago Tribune: Obama’s 'Tax' Lapse
In 2009, President Barack Obama was asked whether the individual mandate in his health care plan was really just a tax in disguise. "I absolutely reject that notion," he responded. But if the president had been brave enough back then to call a tax a tax, his health care law might not be in such a mess today (Doyle McManus, 3/29).

The Washington Post: Civics Lessons From The Supreme Court
We share in the disappointment that the justices on both sides of their ideological divide are, for the most part, so predictable. That's not, in the ideal world, how judging is supposed to work. But we also think there's a kind of cynicism, or at least intellectual laziness, in asserting that this is an easy or obvious call — that no justice could possibly strike down the mandate out of honest, reasoned conviction (3/29).

The Washington Post: A Stronger Prescription For What Ails Health Care
If Obamacare is struck down, the short-term implications are uncertain. ... The long-term consequences, however, are obvious: Sooner or later, a much more far-reaching overhaul of the health-care system will be inevitable (Eugene Robinson, 3/29).

The Wall Street Journal: The GOP’s Health-Care Eeyores
Conservatives are meant to be optimists, yet by the mutterings attending this week's Supreme Court drama, more than a few have been eating thistles with one depressive, gray donkey. To listen to this troop, the worst thing that might happen in this election season is for the court to . . . wait for it . . . kill ObamaCare. … Whatever the Eeyores say, ObamaCare—upheld or repealed—remains Republicans' most potent issue this fall (Kimberley A. Strassel, 3/29).

The Wall Street Journal: What Conservative Legal Revolution? 
Questions from the bench hint that the court's conservative wing may hold together to strike down the individual mandate, which requires all American adults to purchase health insurance. But this week's arguments also reveal the risky gamble of placing all hopes of stopping ObamaCare in the courts, and they underscore the pivotal importance of this year's elections to restoring limited government (John Yoo, 3/29).

USA Today: Individual Mandate Vs. 'Do Not Treat' 
Now it appears at least as likely that the court will throw out the mandate, and perhaps even the entire law, when it issues its decisions, likely in late June. Opponents would celebrate such an outcome, but none of the problems the law was designed to address will disappear just because the law does. The prospect requires some preliminary thinking about other options (3/29).

Boston Globe: If Obamacare Is Struck Down, The Court Loses
[B]y comparing the individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare to the government forcing people to join a health club or to buy broccoli or to purchase cars, Scalia displayed an astonishing intellectual imprecision. That kind of “reasoning’’ doesn’t reflect ratiocination; it shows reflexive rejectionism (Scot Lehigh, 3/30).

The Kansas City Star: Health Care Freedom Means All Of Us Are On Our Own
All I know is that my concept of freedom seems to be different from the way conservatives define freedom these days. My idea of freedom is knowing that I could afford a health insurance policy if I happen to lose my job (Barb Shelley, 3/29).

The Fiscal Times: Missing: 1,726 Pages From The Health Care Bill!
It's true that conservatives in the media on the campaign stump have routinely attacked the "2,000-page Obamacare" bill. And the original Senate submission did clock in at 1,994 pages, according to media reports at the time. But the final legislation, as printed by the Government Printing Office, is just 974 pages (Merrill Goozner, 3/29).

Reuters: Obama Backs Healthcare Defender – Until He Doesn’t
It may not matter, because the justices often make up their minds before oral argument. But they do respect the solicitor general’s positions more than most, and Verrilli’s failure to offer persuasive answers may have undermined his credibility with the court. He may even doubt it himself (Reynolds Holding, 3/29).

Bloomberg: Orange County Dropped Out Of Obamacare. Why Haven't More? 
[S]o far Orange County, California, appears to be the only county government brave enough to express its opposition by refusing funds made available under the law. ... If the Supreme Court votes to strike down the law, or key provisions of it, state and local governments might incur expenses because federal dollars would no longer be available to finance the programs they approved. Maybe that prospect will encourage other local and state governments to follow Orange County's lead (Brian Calle, 3/29).

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