KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Law Challenges Take Center Stage In Appeals Court

Today the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia heard arguments in two cases challenging the constitutionality of the health overhaul.

Bloomberg Businessweek: "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.  ... The U.S. calls the insurance mandate the linchpin of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, claiming that, without expanding the pool of younger, healthier customers, the insurance industry won't be able to meet its obligations for coverage under the law. Absent the mandate, the health-insurance market will wither, the government said in court papers" (Schoenberg, 5/10).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: "In a packed second-floor courtroom, judges grilled Liberty University counsel Mathew D. Staver over the contention that Congress could not regulate a decision not to purchase health insurance. Later, the judges focused on questions of legal standing when hearing the case filed by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli – namely, whether the state has the legal right to challenge the health law on behalf of individuals just by virtue of passing a statute that protects its residents from being compelled to buy insurance. After more than two hours of arguments, the court recessed. A decision on the cases could come at any time, but typically takes 45 days" (Nolan, 5/10).

Kaiser Health News: "[T]he court only announced this morning that the three-judge panel were all nominated by Democratic presidents: Two from Obama and one from Clinton. That, at the start, is good for the Obama administration. And they immediately, on the merits, seemed to question the core of the challengers' argument. They, all three of them, went at this notion of activity vs. inactivity, and they seemed skeptical. One of the judges said, 'What's the dividing line between inactivity and activity?' So, they spent the entire first case just talking about the merits" (de Vogue, 5/10).

The Washington Post: The three judges heard more than two hours of arguments in two separate cases and frequently appeared skeptical of arguments advanced by parties seeking to invalidate the law. ... The lawsuits are two of the more than 30 legal challenges to the federal law that have been filed. An appeals court in Atlanta is scheduled to hold oral arguments in Florida next month on a challenge filed jointly by 26 states. ... The judges seemed particularly dubious of Virginia's assertion that it has standing to sue in the case (Helderman, 5/10).

The Wall Street Journal: "The judges also appeared sympathetic to the Obama administration in the case brought by a private university. In the case brought by Liberty University, U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon in Lynchburg, Va., last year sided with the Obama administration and upheld the law. In the case led by Mr. Cuccinelli, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson of Richmond last year sided with the state and ruled the requirement violates the Constitution" (Adamy, 5/10).

Los Angeles Times: "The judges said precedent did not permit states to sue on behalf of their citizens to contest federal laws" (Savage, 5/10).

KHN's Related Coverage: Scoreboard: Tracking Health Law Court Challenges (Vaida, 4/26).

Before the hearing, news outlets reported on the judges who would be hearing the two appeals and what the impact of their decisions might be:

Politico: "Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, the presiding judge, was nominated by President Clinton in 1994. Judges Andre M. Davis and James A. Wynn, Jr. were nominated by President Obama in 2009" (Haberkorn, 5/10). 

USA Today: "[The] three judges were chosen at random by a Fourth Circuit computer program; about half of the 14 circuit judges are Democratic appointees, half Republican appointees. ... To date, lower Democratic-appointed judges have upheld the landmark law; Republican-appointed judges have ruled it unconstitutional" (Biskupic, 5/10).

CBS Political Hotsheet: "Of course, health care is eventually expected to be resolved by the Supreme Court (and swing vote Anthony Kennedy). The Virginia attorney general will take this case straight there next. In many ways though, today's developments in Virginia make the BIG challenge to the health care reform law, coming out of Florida with more than half of the states on board, even more significant. That challenge will be heard next month in an Atlanta-based federal appeals court" (Crawford, 5/10).

The Hill: "The appeals court in Richmond is the first appellate court to hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of the healthcare law's requirement that everyone buy insurance. Whatever the outcome, the losing party will still have the option of asking for an en banc review by the entire court" (Pecquet, 5/10).

And, earlier today, coverage set the scene for the issues in play as these two challenges mark the first of the many cases to make it to the federal appeals level.

Los Angeles Times: Health Care Law Showdowns Loom In Appeals Courts (Savage, 5/10).

The Washington Post: Virginia Suit Over Federal Health Care Law Go Before Appellate Panel (Helderman, 5/9).

The Associated Press: Court In Va. To Hear US Health Care Law Challenges  (5/9).

Bloomberg: Fight Over Obama Health Care Law Reaches First Of Three U.S. Appeals Courts (Schoenberg, 5/10).

Fox News: Appeals Court Ready To Consider Challenge To Obama Health Law (Ross, 5/9).

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