Today’s Headlines – Nov. 15, 2011

Good morning! Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports that the Supreme Court will take up the health law.

The New York Times: Justices To Hear Health Care Case As Race Heats Up
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to the 2010 health care overhaul law, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, setting the stage for oral arguments by March and a decision in late June as the 2012 presidential campaign enters its crucial final months (Liptak, 11/14).

The Washington Post: High Court Takes Health-Care Law Challenge
Next March, around the second anniversary of the act’s passage, the nine justices will hear arguments in the case, taking on the role of constitutional referee between those who see the law as a trespass on individual and states’ rights and those who consider it an extension of a safety net to Americans regardless of where they live or work (Barnes, 11/14).

For more headlines …Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Puts Healthcare Law In Campaign Spotlight
Both sides see the case as posing a profound legal dispute over the size and scope of the federal government, reminiscent of the 1930s court battles over President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. At stake now is whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to require all Americans to buy health insurance — a linchpin of the new law. Conservatives have made the “individual mandate” a key part of their argument that Obama and congressional Democrats tried to expand government regulation to an unprecedented degree. Democrats argue that the requirement will help control costs and spread the risk (Savage, 11/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Test For Health Law
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to review President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, in a landmark case that could define not only Mr. Obama’s presidency but the scope of federal power well into the 21st century (Bravin, 11/15).

NPR: Supreme Court Sets Historic showdown For Health Law
The Supreme Court said Monday it will review President Obama’s health care overhaul, setting up an election year legal showdown. In an apparent effort to be as comprehensive as possible, the court certified four questions for review. First, and most important: Did Congress exceed its constitutional authority in requiring virtually all Americans to have basic health care coverage? (Totenberg and Rovner, 11/14).

USA Today: Justices’ Review Of Health Care Law Adds To Election Tumult
A ruling could determine the federal government’s power to address the most pressing social problems, specifically how to ensure medical coverage nationwide. The decision is likely to be handed down in late June, right before the Republican and Democratic conventions for the 2012 presidential election (Biskupic, 11/14).

Politico: Barack Obama’s Supreme Court Health Care Gamble
President Barack Obama is so confident of the constitutionality of his signature Affordable Care Act — and so happy to cast Mitt Romney as his human shield against its Republican critics— that he did little to stop the Supreme Court from fast-tracking a ruling on the law now likely to come in the middle of the 2012 campaign. Yet for all the administration’s public optimism, Obama’s eagerness for the court to render a final judgment on the health care law represents a roll of the dice that could result in a decision that might roil an already agitated electorate in unpredictable ways, and quite possibly drag Obama back into the most divisive battle of his presidency (Thrush, 11/15).

The New York Times: Whatever Court Rules, Major Changes In Health Care Likely To Last
No matter what the Supreme Court decides about the constitutionality of the federal law adopted last year, health care in America has changed in ways that will not be easily undone. Provisions already put in place, like tougher oversight of health insurers, the expansion of coverage to one million young adults and more protections for workers with pre-existing conditions are already well cemented and popular. And a combination of the law and economic pressures has forced major institutions to wrestle with the relentless rise in health care costs (Abelson, Harris and Pear, 11/14).

NPR: Supreme Court Wades Into Presidential Politics Once Again
With the high court’s announcement Monday that it would decide on the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, we are assured of a decision coming smack dab in the middle of the 2012 general election campaign (James, 11/14).

Los Angeles Times: Scalia And Thomas Dine With Healthcare law Challengers As Court Takes Case
The day the Supreme Court gathered behind closed doors to consider the politically divisive question of whether it would hear a challenge to President Obama’s healthcare law, two of its justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, were feted at a dinner sponsored by the law firm that will argue the case before the high court (Oliphant, 11/14).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: White House Keeps Up Campaign To Show Executive Action With New Steps To Cut Waste
Pounding away with executive actions, the White House is laying out new steps to cut fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, keeping up its campaign of acting without Congress as President Barack Obama tends to diplomacy — and relaxation — far from Washington (11/15).

The New York Times: Far From Washington, Obama Defends His Policies
Mr. Obama also called for Republicans on the special Congressional committee seeking $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years to drop their opposition to raising some revenues from the wealthy — to “bite the bullet and do what needs to be done, because the math won’t change.” “If you want a balanced approach that doesn’t gut Medicare and Medicaid, doesn’t prevent us from making investments in education and basic science and research,” he said, “then prudent cuts have to be matched up with revenue.”  Now at an apparent impasse, the committee of six Democrats and six Republicans faces a Nov. 23 deadline — four days after Mr. Obama returns — to reach agreement (Calmes, 11/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Deficit Deal Might Delay Tax Overhaul
Budget experts, meanwhile, said recent movement on both sides suggested that a meaningful deal remains within reach for the congressional supercommittee—even with only 10 days left before its Nov. 23 deadline (McKinnon, 11/15).

The New York Times: Deficit Panel Still Talking As Others Focus On Spending Bills
As members of the Congressional deficit reduction panel retreated to conference rooms Monday to continue negotiations, House Republicans and Senate Democrats were putting their final touches on a series of spending bills that they hope will avert another showdown over short-term financing of the government. The discussions among members of the deficit reduction committee reflect the wrangling over spending writ large, and the members’ inability to reach a compromise with less than two weeks to their deadline to present to the full Congress has unnerved lawmakers (Steinhauer and Pear, 11/14).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: GOP Hopefuls Oppose Potential Deficit Deal As Supercommittee Struggles
Republican presidential hopefuls are assaulting a proposal by GOP lawmakers on a bipartisan deficit-reduction panel that calls for increased tax revenues even as the special supercommittee appears increasingly headed for deadlock. … The GOP rank and file was to be briefed on the supercommittee negotiations at a closed-door session Tuesday. The House returned Monday from a weeklong vacation. The committee has been at work for two months, hoping to succeed at a task that has defied the best efforts of high-ranking political leaders past and present. The principal stumbling blocks revolve around taxes, on the one hand, and the large federal benefit programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, on the other. Democrats are unwilling to agree to cuts in benefit programs unless Republicans will accept higher taxes, particularly on the highest-income individuals and families (11/15).

Politico: Medicare Savings By Raising The Eligibility Age Could Be A Mirage
One way to save Medicare money is to gradually boost the eligibility age from 65 to 67, eventually aligning it with the older Social Security age being phased in. The idea is popular among Republicans, some Democrats and various deficit experts. Even President Barack Obama said last summer that he could consider it as part of a comprehensive deficit-cutting package. The House Republicans included it in their budget proposal last spring, which passed without Democratic support. And it’s an element of Mitt Romney’s Medicare overhaul blueprint (Dobias, 11/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Report: Prescription-Drug Sponsors Lack Data
Companies that administer government-funded prescription drug plans for seniors have no way of knowing whether the drugs they cover are approved by Medicare, a new report by federal investigators has found (Radnofsky, 11/15).

The Washington Post: Florida’s Push For Specific Waiver In Health-Care Law Could Have Big Implications
At issue is a regulation requiring insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical costs. Florida, a swing state with voters skeptical of the health-reform law, is pushing back. The state wants the Obama administration to waive the spending requirement for Florida insurers, a move that critics say would roll back a crucial consumer protection in the health-reform law (Kliff, 11/14).

Los Angeles Times: Anthem Blue Cross Sued Over Higher Medical Insurance Deductibles
For the second time in eight months, California health insurer Anthem Blue Cross is being sued over allegations that it has breached contracts with individual policyholders for hiking annual insurance deductibles in the middle of the year. The latest lawsuit, filed Monday by the group Consumer Watchdog, says that California’s largest for-profit health insurance company used “bait and switch” tactics to raise deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for some customers May 1 (Helfand, 11/15).

Los Angeles Times: Two California Mental Hospitals Released From Federal Oversight
Two California mental hospitals have been released from federal oversight, ending a five-year court-ordered reform effort that implemented major changes in patient treatment. Atascadero State Hospital and Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino will no longer be subject to a consent judgment on patient care that state and federal officials reached in 2006, according to an order issued Monday by a federal judge in Los Angeles (Hoeffel, 11/15).