KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Appeals Court Judges Skeptical Of Health Law Arguments

The first federal appeals court hearing related to the health overhaul offered a preview of how the Obama administration will likely approach the case before the Supreme Court, which is expected to be its final destination.

Los Angeles Times: Health Care Law Gets Friendly Hearing In Appeals Court
By their comments and questions Tuesday, the judges signaled they were likely to uphold provisions in the law that require virtually all Americans to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty (Savage, 5/11).

The Washington Post: Judges In Va. Appear Skeptical About Health Overhaul Arguments
During a hearing that lasted more than two hours, the judges - all appointed by Democratic presidents - frequently interrupted lawyers on both sides to probe their legal positions. …  Though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit tends to rule in about 45 days, the judges Tuesday offered no indication of how long they would take before deciding the cases, which resulted from appeals of contradictory lower court decisions (Helderman, 5/10).

The New York Times: Appellate Court Hears Defense Of Health Law
The Obama administration opened its appellate defense of the 2010 health care act on Tuesday before three randomly selected judges who each had been appointed by Democratic presidents, including two named by President Obama himself. … At Tuesday's hearing in Richmond, the three Fourth Circuit judges - Diana Gribbon Motz, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, and the two Obama appointees, Andre M. Davis and James A. Wynn Jr. - challenged both sides with pointed questioning. The hearing lasted more than two hours (Sack, 5/10).

USA Today: Judges Hear Arguments On Obama Health Care Law
The challengers, the state of Virginia and Liberty University, have argued the decision to forgo insurance is not an economic activity that traditionally falls under Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. U.S. Appeals Court Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, who presided over today's hearing, observed at one point that the decision about health insurance is not an "idle" one, but rather takes some active consideration. She noted that Congress has been heavily involved in the health care field, including through Medicaid and Medicare, over decades (Biskupic, 5/11).

NPR: Appeals Court Hears Challenges to Health Care Law
A three-judge panel in Richmond, Va., heard Tuesday oral arguments in two cases challenging the constitutionality of the nation's landmark health care law. It marked the first time any of the dozens of lawsuits filed against last year's law have reached the appellate level, and brings the measure a step closer to what most predict will be a legal showdown that will only end at the Supreme Court sometime in 2012 (Rovner, 5/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Judges Test Health Law's Foes
The hearing previewed how the Obama administration likely will argue before Supreme Court, which is expected ultimately to decide the case perhaps as soon as its 2011-12 term. It was the first oral argument before a federal appellate court, with the Fourth Circuit hearing two challenges side by side. Tuesday's arguments didn't involve the biggest challenge to the health law, brought by 26 states. Federal District Judge Roger Vinson of Pensacola, Fla., ruled in favor of those states in January and wrote that the entire health law must be voided (Adamy, 5/11).

Kaiser Health News: 4th Circuit Court Of Appeals Hears Arguments In Health Law Case
In this Kaiser Health News audio report, Ariane de Vogue, a reporter for ABC News, joins Jackie Judd to talk about two cases challenging the constitutionality of health care reform heard there by a three judge appeals panel. In both cases, the key issue is whether Americans can be required to obtain health insurance, as the 14-month old law mandates. A transcript of the interview also is available (5/10).

The Hill: Health Care Reform Law Challenge Close To The Supreme Court
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held back-to-back hearings Tuesday in two lawsuits challenging the health care law's requirement that most U.S. citizens purchase insurance. Critics say the mandate is unconstitutional. Although Congress can regulate commerce, they argue, it can't require people to engage in a particular "economic activity" just because they live in the U.S (Baker, 5/10).

Politico: Judges' Questions Hint That They'll Uphold Health Law
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals peppered the health reform law's challengers with intense rounds of questioning on Tuesday, suggesting that it could rule against both Virginia and Liberty University - two of the four cases racing toward the Supreme Court this spring and summer. The panel sharply questioned whether Virginia has a right to sue the federal government, suggesting that if Virginia can sue, so can a state that doesn't like the Iraq war. The Virginia case was brought by the state's headline-grabbing attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli (Haberkorn, 5/10).

Bloomberg: Congress Can Regulate Health-Care Market, U.S. Argues To Appellate Court
Congress has broad power to regulate the health care market, U.S. lawyers told the first federal appeals court to hear arguments on the validity of the insurance mandate in the Obama administration's health care overhaul. A three-judge panel in Richmond, Virginia, today was asked to consider whether requiring most Americans to buy health insurance is, as a lower-court judge ruled, the same as ordering them to buy broccoli or a Cadillac (Schoenberg, 5/10).

Fox News: Virginia Health Care Lawsuits Face Critical Court
All three judges from the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond expressed varying degrees of skepticism over the presentation made by a law school dean who argued the law's individual and employer mandates violate the Constitution. A ruling upholding the law, expected in the next couple of months, will certainly give a shot of confidence to the Obama administration but will have to be tempered because, as one of the judges noted Tuesday, the final fate of the measure will come from the Supreme Court (Ross, 5/10).

CNN: Federal Appeals Judges Show Support For Health Reform Law
All three judges hearing the case, named to the bench by Democratic presidents, suggested the law is valid, despite objections from the state as well as private groups and individuals. Past court rulings have affirmed "the significant federal authority in health care," said Judge Diana Gribbon Motz. Judge Andre Davis said, "There was no doubt the individual mandate was necessary to Congress' mandate" in the area of reform legislation, calling the question a "slam dunk" in the federal government's favor (Mears, 5/10). 

PBS NewsHour: Appeals Court Hears Virginia Health Care Reform Challenges
The first case up was Liberty University's, argued by attorney Mathew Staver. The Affordable Care Act, he said, goes "far beyond the outer limits of the constitution by seeking to regulate for the first time in history, non-economic inactivity," he said, adding the mandate "forces inactive bystanders into the stream of commerce." But Neal Kumar Katyal, acting U.S. solicitor general who is defending the law from numerous lawsuits around the country, countered that the requirement to buy health insurance was "necessary and proper," because people are already involved in commerce as consumers of health services (Clune, 5/10). 

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