KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

High Court OKs Liberty University’s Push To Argue Claims Against The Health Law

The arguments, which were not considered in the earlier Supreme Court review of the overhaul, maintain that it is unconstitutional for the government to require large employers to provide health insurance to their full-time workers or pay a tax and that the law violates the school's religious freedoms.

The Wall Street Journal: Court Orders New Review Of Health Law
The Supreme Court told a federal-appeals court Monday to consider several lesser-known legal arguments against the national health-care law, in an order backed by the White House. The move came in a case brought by Liberty University, a Lynchburg, Va., college founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, and observers said the challenge was unlikely to succeed (Bravin, 11/26).

The Associated Press: Court Orders New Look At Health Care Challenge
The court on Monday ordered the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., to consider the claim by Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., that Obama's health care law violates the school's religious freedoms. ... Liberty is challenging both the requirement that most individuals obtain health insurance or pay a penalty, and a separate provision requiring many employers to offer health insurance to their workers. ... Liberty's case joins dozens of other pending lawsuits over health reform (Sherman, 11/26).

Los Angeles Times: Liberty University Allowed To Argue Claims Against Healthcare Law
No one has seriously disputed that the federal government has broad power to regulate employers, and the justices did not even consider this claim earlier this year. ... Last month, the Obama administration told the justices it had no objection to such an order (Savage, 11/26).

Politico: SCOTUS Orders Appeals Court To Hear Liberty University Health Care Lawsuit
The Justice Department declined to comment on the Supreme Court order Monday, but it told the court last month that it wouldn’t object to the 4th Circuit taking up the case. In that brief, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote that Liberty University’s arguments “lack merit” but that the Obama administration wouldn’t oppose a hearing because the issues weren’t fully aired the first time around. Some legal experts are skeptical that Liberty would get anywhere with its arguments against the employer mandate if the case does get to the Supreme Court (Haberkorn and Smith, 11/27).

The Hill: Supreme Court Revives Challenge To President Obama's Health Care Law
The court's decision Monday is purely procedural and does not indicate that the justices believe Liberty is likely to win on the merits. The lower court will still be bound by the Supreme Court's decision upholding the healthcare law as constitutional (Baker, 11/26).

Medpage Today: Supreme Court Remands ACA Mandate Case
After the case was dismissed by a district court, the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., which decided in September 2011 that it could not rule on it because of the Anti-Injunction Act, a federal law that states that a person cannot sue over a tax until they are actually forced to pay it. The Supreme Court disagreed with that thinking (Frieden, 11/26).

Reuters: Obama Health Law To Face Religion-Based Challenge
Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University in Virginia, said the challenge to the employer mandate would be a "tough sell" based on the June decision, which let Congress require people to buy health insurance under its power to tax. "If you look at the way Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the individual mandate, and made it a tax, there is considerable reluctance on his part to strike down a major portion of this law," Somin said (Baynes and Stempel, 11/26).

In other news from the Supreme Court -

Modern Healthcare: High Court Justices Skeptical Of Phoebe Putney’s Arguments In Antitrust Case
The Supreme Court has long allowed state governments to disregard federal antitrust law and establish monopolies to meet public goals. But a lawyer for the Federal Trade Commission told the justices Monday that the same power does not flow to public hospital authorities unless the legislature explicitly says so in a law. The FTC has been waging a legal battle against the public hospital authority in Dougherty County, Ga., which federal lawyers say was used as a front to protect an anticompetitive transaction between two private corporations that consolidated the acute-care services within a six-county area under the control of Phoebe Putney Health System, Albany, Ga (Carlson, 11/26).

CQ HealthBeat: Supreme Court Considers Whether Georgia Hospital Merger Creates Monopoly
The justices didn't seem to reveal their opinions one way or the other. At one point, Justice Stephen G. Breyer declared: "I'm not at all decided." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pressed a Department of Justice lawyer to explain how a Georgia state law should have been worded to allow a hospital to acquire other properties. ... The FTC says such a sale creates a monopoly that will drive up prices for consumers since they are the only two hospitals in a wide geographic area (Norman, 11/26).

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