minimum coverage provision

  • March 27, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The spin is in on today’s health care law oral arguments – Paul Clement, the attorney for the state’s challenging the law’s minimum coverage provision, is awesome, and the provision is in trouble.

    But, as noted yesterday by constitutional law professor Garrett Epps you’re on wobbly ground when predicting Supreme Court opinions based on oral argument theatrics. Sure, Clement is an outstanding high court litigator -- we’ll take it from SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein who lavished praise on Clement at an oral argument preview last month, calling him one of the greatest attorneys of his generation.

    What we can tell from today’s oral argument is that the Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr., largely focused on Congress’s constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce. The government has also argued that Congress’s constitutional power to tax and spend also supports the minimum coverage provision. Most of the justices, however, we're glued to the commerce clause question.

    SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston, a veteran Supreme Court correspondent, wrote of today’s oral argument that Justice Anthony Kennedy, “after first displaying a very deep skepticism,” provided toward the end of oral argument “the impression that he might yet be the mandate’s savior."

    Additionally, the high court’s four moderate to left-of-center justices appear inclined to vote in favor of the ACA provision, which requires many to start carrying a minimum amount of health care insurance in 2014.

  • March 22, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Someday soon, perhaps not soon enough, the fear mongering over the landmark health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, will be relegated to the dustbins of history.

    The scare tactics we’ve lived with for what feels like a decade – the ACA’s minimum coverage provision, requiring Americans who can afford to do so to start paying for a minimum amount of health care coverage in 2014 is an unprecedented expansion of congressional power and a dire threat to liberty as we know it – are getting even louder as oral argument in the case approaches.

    The usual suspects, Fox News and rightwing radio host Rush Limbaugh have been the ringleaders of sloppy reasoning and fear mongering, as Media Matters’ David Lyle notes in cogent fashion.

    Lyle’s piece documents the shrill arguments – you’ve heard them – if Congress can force us to purchase a minimum amount of health care coverage, then surely it'll pass laws soon to force us to purchase gym memberships, organic foods, and American automobiles.

    But Lyle notes this “slippery slope argument turns out, however, to be too slippery by half, and it gets both the Constitution and the facts of the health care marketplace wrong.”

    On a Feb. broadcast, Limbaugh suggested once people are required to purchase a minimum amount of health care coverage, then what can stop the government from “making us buy a stupid electric car.” Lyle cites a slew of other examples peddling the slippery slope scare tactic.

    But Lyle notes, what others have before “legal and health policy experts have explained, contrary to the right-wing’s ‘broccoli mandate’ talking point, the Affordable Care Act appropriately addresses failures in the health insurance market using the broad powers the Constitution gives Congress to regulate the national economy, and does not lead to the absurd results opponents have imagined.”

  • February 13, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Catholic bishops and right-wing pundits and politicians are still slathering over the Obama administration’s contraception rule that requires health insurance policies to provide free contraceptives for employees at religious affiliated universities, hospitals and charities.

    On Friday after announcing a tweak to the rule – requiring insurance providers, not the religiously affiliated institutions to pay for the contraceptives – the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement blasting the change as “unacceptable,” and continued to tar the policy as a violation of their religious liberty rights. (The religious liberties violation is a canard. The policy applies generally to all groups, secular and religious. As ACSblog noted last week there are numerous laws of general applicability that impact religious practice without amounting to a violation of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. The contraception policy from the White House already exempts houses of worship, allowing them to provide inadequate health care coverage to their employees if they wish.)

    Nonetheless, Religious Right outfits, and not surprisingly many politicians, aren’t letting go of this one.

    For example, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) dished up hyperbole in a discussion of the Obama administration’s health care policy on CNN. Video of the segment is below.

    Rep. Mack claimed the flare-up over the contraception rule proved that the Obama “administration doesn’t believe that the Constitution and that personal freedoms and liberties matter. And it is an assault on our freedoms. So whether it is Obamacare forcing people to buy something they may not want to buy, and now this reaching into the church, and forcing the church to do something that is against its own tenants, this shows an arrogance.”

    “He’s a lawyer,” Mack continued, “and he is showing that the words of the Constitution don’t matter to him.”

    Regarding the administration’s landmark health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, numerous constitutional law scholars have argued that the law’s minimum coverage provision, which starting in 2014 will require people who can afford it to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty, is a lawful regulation either under Congress’s power to regulate commerce or its taxing power.

    For more on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s minimum coverage provision see this ACS Issue Brief by the National Senior Citizens Law Center’s Simon Lazarus.

  • February 8, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Opponents of the Affordable Care Act’s provision that requires people who can afford it to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty with their annual income tax return have loudly argued that it upsets the balance between the regulatory powers of the federal government and state governments.

    But in a recent piece for The Times-Picayune, a New Orleans daily, distinguished law professor at the University of Southern California Rebecca L. Brown says the federalism argument is “false.”

    First she notes there is “no serious argument that health care and insurance purchasing are not economic, or that they affect purely local interests – the arguments in all prior Commerce Clause challenges.” (Indeed the Constitution’s commerce clause provides Congress the authority to regulate conduct that substantially affects interstate commerce. The health care market accounts for more than 17 percent of the U.S. economy, and everyone, at some point, participates in it or is constantly at risk of incurring substantial medical expenses.)

    Opponents of the law are aware of the parameters of the commerce clause and federal court precedent surrounding it, and are actually pushing an individual-rights argument. “The Affordable Care Act challenge,” Brown writes, “powerfully evokes that libertarian tradition by arguing that the requirement to purchase health insurance invades personal decision-making.”

    But that argument, Brown continues, is as wobbly as the federalism argument.

  • January 6, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The Obama administration’s signature domestic achievement, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires many people to purchase health care coverage in 2014, is a reasonable and constitutional means to provide millions of uninsured with health care coverage, the Department of Justice argues in a brief lodged today with the Supreme Court.

    The brief “arguments track the Obama administration’s arguments before lower courts,” Brian Beutler reports for TPM, which also provides access to the 130-page document.

    As Beutler notes, the DOJ explains why the law’s so-called individual mandate is a constitutional means to help millions of Americans afford health insurance. The law bars insurance companies from denying coverage or charging more to people who have pre-existing medical conditions. For that provision of the law to work, however, the law must require individuals who can afford health insurance to obtain minimum coverage or pay a penalty via their annual income tax returns.

    The DOJ’s brief argues that the law is a permissible regulation under its constitutional authority to regulate commerce and its taxing power.

    The federal government already regulates the health care market – Medicare and Medicaid are examples. However, millions of people, because of a lack of additional regulation have been unable to afford health care insurance or been denied it because of preexisting conditions.

    The DOJ argues that the law’s so-called individual mandate will bridge the gap.

    “The uninsured shift tens of billions of dollars of costs for the uncompensated care they receive to other market participants annually,” the brief states. “That cost-shifting drives up insurance premiums, which, in turn, makes insurance unaffordable to even more people.”