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Today’s Headlines – March 27, 2012

Good morning! It’s day two of the Supreme Court hearings on the health law. There’s lots to read —

The New York Times: Most Oppose At Least Part Of Overhaul, Poll Finds
Two-thirds of Americans want the Supreme Court to overturn some or all of the health care law, even though large majorities support a few of its major aspects, according to a poll by The New York Times and CBS News (Sussman, Cooper and Phillips, 3/26).

The Associated Press: Justices Take Up Heart Of Health Care Overhaul Law
The Supreme Court is taking up the key question in the challenge to President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul: Can the government force people to carry insurance or pay a penalty? The justices hear extended arguments on that topic Tuesday. It’s the linchpin of the law’s aim to get medical insurance to an additional 30 million people, at a reasonable cost to private insurers and state governments (Sherman, 3/27).

For more headlines …

The New York Times: For Justices, A Matter Of Framing The Core Issue On Health Care
The Supreme Court on Tuesday hears arguments on the central question in the constitutional challenges to President Obama’s health care overhaul law. How it answers the question depends in large part on how the justices decide to frame the core issue. … However the questions are ultimately framed, the Supreme Court’s answers will be grounded in the text of two provisions of the Constitution and in the precedents interpreting them (Liptak, 3/27).

USA Today: Supreme Court To Tackle Controversial Health Care Debate
Monday’s hearing paves the way for two more days of oral arguments in a case that has played a central role in this year’s presidential campaign and raises questions about the scope of Congress’ powers. The challenge by 26 states and a national business consortium seeks to overturn the law passed by Congress and signed by Obama two years ago. … Today’s arguments will center on whether Congress can require people to buy insurance (Health and Wolf, 3/27).

Politico: Mandate A Lose-Lose Proposition For President Obama?
If the Supreme Court upholds health reform’s individual mandate, will it really be a victory for President Barack Obama? Or will it just mean he gets to keep owning the least popular part of the law? (Haberkorn, 3/27).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Provision At Center Of Supreme Court Debate Was A Republican Idea
The individual insurance mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain health coverage or pay a fine, was the brainchild of conservative economists and embraced by some of the nation’s most prominent Republicans for nearly two decades. Yet today many of those champions — including presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — are among the mandate’s most vocal critics (Aizenman, 3/26).

NPR: Justices Tackle The Big Question: Can Congress Force You To Buy Insurance
The U.S. Supreme Court gets to the heart of the health care arguments Tuesday. Almost exactly two years after Congress passed the Obama health care overhaul, the justices are hearing legal arguments testing the constitutionality of the so-called health care mandate — so-called because those words actually do not appear in the law (Totenberg, 3/27).

The Wall Street Journal: A Small-Business Lobby’s Million-Dollar Assault
Small-business owners will be in the center of the Supreme Court debate Tuesday about whether the requirement that most Americans carry health insurance or pay a penalty violates the Constitution. National Federation of Independent Business lawyer Michael Carvin will argue against the “individual mandate” in President Barack Obama’s health-care law, together with former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who is representing 26 states (Needleman and Loten, 3/26).

Politico: Health Care Reform: Individual Mandate Will Not Affect Most Americans
The fight over the individual mandate has been so loud that people may think it will hit nearly everyone, whether they can afford health insurance or not. But what’s usually overlooked is that the health reform law has so many exemptions that millions of Americans are likely to be off the hook, including a wide range of middle-class Americans. Most Americans already have coverage that satisfies the mandate (Feder, 3/26).

The New York Times: Justices Hear Argument That Health Case Is Premature
At the opening of three days of arguments, the justices’ questions suggested that they were receptive to a point on which both supporters and opponents of the law agree: that the court should decide the case now rather than waiting until the law’s penalties for not having health insurance become due (Liptak, 3/26).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Justices Unlikely To Delay Obama Healthcare Ruling
During the first of three days of historic arguments, the justices voiced doubt that a U.S. tax law requiring that people pay first and litigate later should delay the legal challenge to the president’s signature domestic legislative achievement (Biskupic and Vicini, 3/26).

NPR: Uninsured Will Still Need Money To Meet The Mandate
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court hears its second day of testimony about the Affordable Care Act. At issue is a central tenet of that law: Whether it’s legal to require individuals to purchase healthcare. But apart from the legal debate, there are questions about the economics of the mandate. Some … worry it may be difficult to find the money to pay for health insurance, even with government subsidies (Noguchi, 3/27).

The New York Times: Arguing That Health Mandate Is Not A Tax, Except When It Is
Throughout the two-year history of the health care litigation, judges have mocked the Obama administration’s have-your-cake approach to the central question debated at the Supreme Court on Monday: whether the constitutional challenge is even ripe for judicial review before the law takes full effect in 2014. During the opening 90 minutes of oral argument, the justices found that they too could not resist (Sack, 3/26).

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Begins Review Of Health-Care Law
The court began the first of three days of oral arguments on the 2010 law by examining a statute that keeps courts from hearing tax challenges before they go into effect. But the justices’ questions indicated skepticism that the penalties prescribed for those who do not buy health insurance by 2014 amount to taxes under the 1867 law forbidding tax challenges (Barnes, 3/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Court Unlikely to Delay Ruling
Supreme Court justices showed little sympathy Monday for the position that they must wait until 2014 or after to decide on the challenge to President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul law. … The case’s central issue is whether Congress can require Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty along with their income taxes. But the court couldn’t entertain that question until the penalty takes effect in two years, said Washington litigator Robert Long, who was appointed by the court to argue the position (Bravin, Radnofsky and Kendall, 3/27).

Politico: 5 Supreme Court Takeaways
On the opening day of Supreme Court arguments over President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, justices signaled Monday that they most likely will rule on whether the heart of the law is constitutional (Haberkorn and Gerstein, 3/26).

NPR: Reading Between The Lines Of Monday’s Supreme Court Arguments
The argument against the court’s role in the case hinges on justices buying the theory that penalties assessed under the law on those who fail to obtain health insurance by 2014 are tantamount to taxes. Unfortunately for Washington lawyer Robert Long, who was making the argument, they appeared not to be buying it (Halloran, 3/26).

The Wall Street Journal: If It Looks Like A Tax, And Acts Like A Tax…
If the Obama health-care law ultimately is struck down by the Supreme Court, the reason could be the absence of a single word: tax. The high court long has recognized broad congressional authority to levy taxes, and both supporters and opponents say the law would be on firmer ground if the penalty for those who refuse to carry health insurance were labeled a tax (Bravin, 3/27).

The New York Times: Awaiting Health Law Ruling, And Preparing Plan B
State officials and insurance executives are devising possible alternatives to the coming federal requirement that most Americans buy health insurance, even as the Supreme Court hears arguments about the constitutionality of the mandate (Abelson, 3/26).

The Washington Post: Review Of ‘Obamacare’ Puts GOP Spotlight On Romney’s Massachusetts Health Care Law
Health care was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s Achilles’ heel: The state overhaul he championed as governor of Massachusetts is so similar to the sweeping federal law conservatives deride as “Obamacare” that it was once widely regarded as a big enough liability to doom his presidential chances. … This week, as the Supreme Court reviews the Obama administration’s health-care law, Romney’s remaining opponents for the Republican presidential nomination are trying to capi¬tal¬ize on what may be one of their last opportunities to deny him the prize (Rucker and Balz, 3/26).

Politico: Santorum: Only I’m Qualified To Repeal Obamacare
Rick Santorum went to the Supreme Court Monday after oral arguments to position himself as the only candidate to make health reform a leading issue in the 2012 race. “There’s only one candidate… who can make this the central issue that will be a winning issue to win the presidency back,” Santorum said at the Court (Haberkorn, 3/26).

The New York Times: Vindication For Challenger Of Health Care Law
When Congress passed legislation requiring nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance, Randy E. Barnett, a passionate libertarian who teaches law at Georgetown, argued that the bill was unconstitutional. Many of his colleagues, on both the left and the right, dismissed the idea as ridiculous — and still do (Stolberg and Savage, 3/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Outside The Court, Activists Argue Their Cases
Doctors in white coats and union activists who support the law marched in a circle chanting “I love ObamaCare,” adopting a term coined by the measure’s foes. Opponents, many sporting tea-party T-shirts, hoisted “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. A shouting contest—”Health care is a right” versus “Where in the Constitution?”—dominated the sidewalk. The spectacle was the latest revival of a debate that started at heated town-hall meetings and rallies in 2009. Each side has spent months preparing for this week, obtaining everything from bongo drums to a rented building for radio broadcasts to further their cause (Radnofsky and Grossman, 3/27).

Chicago Tribune: Survey: Employers Keeping Health Coverage
Most employers who said they would drop health insurance coverage for employees because of new health reform legislation, have not done so, according to a new survey. The survey, in its third year, is conducted by the Midwest Business Group on Health and co-sponsored by the National Business Coalition on Health, Business Insurance and Workforce Management, and asked 440 employers in 34 states their perspectives on the Affordable Care Act (Wernau, 3/26).

The Washington Post: Democrats Release Budget to Compete With Ryan
House Democrats have released an election year budget proposal they say would begin to curb deficits without making major changes to growing entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid. by pairing spending cuts with higher taxes on the wealthy (Helderman, 3/26).

Politico: Medicare’s Billion-Dollar Headache
It’s not easy to get lawmakers interested in an obscure and complex part of the Medicare law, especially when their minds are clearly on other topics, like the upcoming election. But a loose coalition of K Street types that includes trial lawyers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and advocates for seniors wants to breathe life into a congressional effort to pass legislation that would streamline the Medicare secondary-payer process — a tedious name for a billion-dollar headache (Dobias, 3/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Rivals Battle For Patients In Pittsburgh
In Pittsburgh, the acrimonious battle between Highmark, the region’s most powerful health insurer, and UPMC, the dominant health-care provider, is drawing national attention as a test case on the impact of consolidation in the health-care industry (Mathews and Miller, 3/27).

The New York Times: Cuomo And Top Legislators Near Accord On The Budget
But the Legislature, with a Senate controlled by Republicans and an Assembly by Democrats, was unable to agree on whether to establish a health insurance exchange to comply with the much-debated federal health overhaul championed by President Obama. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, is now planning to sidestep opposition from Senate Republicans by creating an exchange via executive order, a spokesman for the governor said (Kaplan and Hakim, 3/26).

The Washington Post: Virginia Senate Approves State Spending Plan
After two failed attempts, the Virginia Senate on Monday passed a state budget that includes tens of millions of additional dollars for public schools, health care and transportation, including $300 million for the Metrorail extension to Dulles Airport. But the evenly divided chamber rejected an attempt by Democrats to force the state to pay $1.5 million a year for a Republican-supported law that will require women to undergo ultrasounds before abortions (Kumar, 3/26).