KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Key Health Law Question For High Court: How Far Does Congress’ Power Reach?

Media outlets analyze the questions, personalities and precedent-setting issues that will be in play as the Supreme Court takes up the constitutionality of the health law.

The Associated Press: Court Weighs Making Health Coverage A Fact Of Life
Death, taxes and now health insurance? Having a medical plan or else paying a fine is about to become another certainty of American life, unless the Supreme Court says no. People are split over the wisdom of President Barack Obama'shealth care overhaul, but they are nearly united against its requirement that everybody have insurance. The mandate is intensely unpopular even though more than 8 in 10 people in the United States already are covered by workplace plans or government programs such as Medicare. When the insurance obligation kicks in, not even two years from now, most people won't need to worry or buy anything new (Cass, 3/19).

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare Law Poses A Question For Top Court: How Far Can Congress Go?
Critics say the mandate to buy insurance crosses a line. Supporters say the Constitution allows the federal government to "promote the general welfare." The Supreme Court hears arguments next week (Savage, 3/19).

The Associated Press: How Health Care Law Affects Lives Of 7 Americans
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, The Associated Press spoke with a variety of people to hear their experiences so far with the landmark legislation, whose major provisions don't take effect until 2014. Reporters asked: How has the health care law affected your life? Here are snapshots of seven Americans (Johnson and Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/19).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Law Activists to Reach For Broad Political Targets At Supreme Court Hearings
Expect demonstrators to brandish placards reading "Hands off my health care!" and demanding a repeal of the 2010 health-care law. Expect doctors in white lab coats and patients who have suffered at the hands of insurance companies to hold news conferences lauding the law’s consumer protections and pleading for its preservation (Aizenman, 3/18).

Reuters: "Friends" Line Up For Obamacare Supreme Court Challenge
So many friends. So little love. Such is the state of the amicus, or "friend of the court," briefs that have piled up in the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case involving President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law. In all, some 136 amicus briefs have been filed with the high court in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act litigation. That's a stack about 2 feet (61cm) high, according a Reuters estimate, or two full carts, as Solicitor General Donald Verrilli put it in a recent speech at Georgetown Law. It's also a third more amicus briefs than were submitted in the previous Supreme Court amicus record-holder - two affirmative action lawsuits against the University of Michigan, decided in 2003 (Baynes, 3/18).

The Associated Press: 'Obamacare' Foes Fear Ballooning Big Government
They're coming. The mom from North Carolina who opposes vaccinations and dislikes doctors and chooses to forgo health coverage because, she says, it is her right as an American. The Massachusetts Navy vet who feels health reform in his state has limited choice and ballooned costs. The husband-and-wife private investigators from Georgia who are satisfied with their own health plan and fear being forced to buy something more expensive. They're coming, along with so many others, to Washington, D.C., this month (Arrillaga, 3/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Set Plans In Case Mandate Is Quashed
The insurance industry and advocates of the health-care overhaul are sketching out contingency plans in case the Supreme Court strikes down a central part of the law in the coming months (Radnofsky, 3/18).

Politico: Health-Care Reform Still Standing
Despite all the bombs thrown at the health reform law — and there have been bombs aplenty — two years after President Barack Obama signed his crowning domestic achievement, the core provisions remain essentially unscathed, and reform is kicking in haltingly around the country (Norman, 3/18).

Bloomberg: Health-Care Challenge Evokes Roosevelt New Deal High Court Clash
In reviewing Barack Obama's health care overhaul, the U.S. Supreme Court has pushed into territory it hasn’t approached since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt: ruling on a president’s signature legislative victory in the midst of his re-election campaign. Justices will take more time to hear arguments -- six hours over three days next week -- than for any other case in the last 44 years. The court will determine whether the government can force millions of people to obtain insurance (Stern, 3/19).

The Washington Post: How The Roberts Court Could Save Obama's Health-Care Reform
[T]he Obama administration will try to convince the justices that the Constitution grants Congress broad power to regulate interstate commerce and provide for the national interest. Broad enough to require that almost every American purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. [Chief Justice John] Roberts, who appears less dedicated to federalism than was his predecessor and mentor, William H. Rehnquist, may be "gettable" on such a question. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the usual go-to conservative for liberals, is a realistic possibility. Even Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s most irascible conservative, might be lured (Barnes, 3/16).

The Associated Press: 4 GOP-Appointed Justices Control Health Law's Fate
Here's a thought that can't comfort President Barack Obama: The fate of his health care overhaul rests with four Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices. His most sweeping domestic achievement could be struck down if they stand together with Justice Clarence Thomas, another GOP appointee who is the likeliest vote against. But the good news for Obama is that he probably needs only one of the four to side with him to win approval of the law's crucial centerpiece, the requirement that almost everyone in this country has insurance or pays a penalty (Sherman, 3/19).

Medscape: The ACA and the Supreme Court: What Are the Scenarios?
Stuart Altman, PhD, of Brandeis University, talks with host Eli Y. Adashi, MD, about US healthcare reform and the upcoming Supreme Court hearings ... [Altman:]  There are a lot of people that want a single-payer system and to simplify the system, make it fairer. ... one thing that comes as a big surprise to most people when you talk to them, including I'm sure your colleagues, is that people say, "Well, yes, we need universal coverage, but even more important we need to control healthcare costs." But you cannot do both of them (3/16).

The New York Times' The Caucus: Health Care Debate Returns With Intensity
This week is the two-year anniversary of Mr. Obama’s health care law, and Republicans in Washington are planning to celebrate with a series of attacks. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear three days of arguments about whether the law is constitutional. The hoopla will be enormous. The string of events will serve to push health care to the front of the public and political agenda — a development that is bound to embolden Mr. Romney's Republican rivals as they seek to undermine his march toward the presidential nomination (Shear, 3/19).

The Washington Post: Low-Key Solicitor General Verrilli To Be In Health-Care Spotlight
But for now, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who will represent the United States when the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the nation's health-care overhaul, is focusing on the "it's an honor" part (Barnes, 3/18).

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