On Thursday, for the second time in three years, the Supreme Court rejected a major lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), thereby preserving the largest expansion in health coverage since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid half a century ago, writes the Huffington Post.
The stakes of the case, King v. Burwell, were enormous. Had the plaintiffs prevailed, millions of people who depend upon the Affordable Care Act for insurance would have lost financial assistance from the federal government. Without that money, most of them would have had to give up coverage altogether.
In an interesting twist, Forbes reported that the Supreme Court decision has helped investment in health care Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) – in other words, investing in health care real estate.
Forbes: “As a result, health systems and doctors will now be able to move forward with the certainty they need to make major decisions such as leasing, capital expenditures and other investments.
“The ACA is projected to add an additional 35 to 45 million insured patients into the marketplace. These individuals are expected to increase their utilization of health services, which should bode well for hospitals and physicians volumes – a net positive for hospitals and the owners of on-campus medical office buildings.”
Chief Justice John Roberts cited Massachusetts’ own Romneycare law extensively throughout his opinion explaining the court’s 6-3 decision to uphold Obamacare’s subsidies. The Affordable Care Act (the ACA, aka Obamacare) relied on a similar framework to Romneycare, writes MSNBC.
Legal scholars say the 2006 Massachusetts law, which Romney supported and signed as governor, played a key role in bolstering the White House’s case that the ACA always intended to provide subsidies to federal and state exchanges, despite a clause that referred only to “an exchange established by the state.”
Democrats have Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care law to thank as inspiration for the Affordable Care Act, which relied on a similar framework. Now they can credit the 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney with helping to save it from an existential legal threat in King v. Burwell, writes MSNBC.
President Obama’s signature health care law survived a second challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday, and the Justices ruled by a margin of 6 to 3 that the intent of Congress was clear enough to override contradictory language in law itself.
Time writes that the decision was a major win for Democrats and the President, who would have faced the difficult task of negotiating a fix to the law with Republicans if they didn’t win the court case. The court decided that a specific clause in the law validated tax subsidies for millions of Americans.
That negotiation could have resulted in either a collapse of the health insurance reforms in a majority of states, or a significant paring back of their reach, according to Time.
At issue was a clause in the law that stated that federal tax subsidies for health insurance purchases were only available in insurance marketplaces that had been set up by states as opposed to the federal government.
A decision is expected by the Supreme Court at the end of June on the fate of a key feature of the Affordable Care Act (the ACA). The ACA is also known as Obamacare.
If the justices vote in favor of King v. Burwell, it could mean the loss of subsidies for millions of Americans, making their health insurance no longer affordable, writes Yahoo News.
The ACA was passed In 2010. That law allowed for the government to offer subsidies to people who qualified and required health insurance exchanges (marketplaces) to be set up. Thirty-four states opted not to set up their own insurance marketplaces. This meant that the states defaulted to a federal marketplace instead. Subsidies have been provided to those residents.
This case against Obamacare comes down to the actual language of the law, states Yahoo News. It’s being challenged because of a section that details the subsidies as available with policies provided through health insurance “exchanges established by the state.”
Opponents say this language means the federal subsidies do not apply to residents in states using the federal marketplace. On the other side of the debate, proponents argue that these subsidies are covered by the law as it also says that when a state does not set up its own marketplace, the federal government will “establish and operate such exchange.”
Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO labor union, has had a front-row seat to the current TPP trade negotiations on Capitol Hill, writes NPR.
She opposes many of the provisions in the new trade deal, though, and she can’t discuss the details.
“We are sworn to secrecy, so we can’t talk about it — not to our colleagues, not to our members, not to the press, and so that’s frustrating,” she says. “If I talked to you specifically about what I think the shortcomings of the labor chapter are, I could lose my security clearance. I don’t know if I’d go to jail, but …”
So she’s left talking in generalities, states NPR.
“These deals make it easier for multinational corporations to move jobs overseas,” Lee says.
She – as well as other union leaders – point first and foremost to the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect 21 years ago, writes NPR.
Roland Zullo, a University of Michigan labor and employment policy researcher, says that for organized labor, NAFTA’s wounds are still there.
“Labor has enough of a institutional memory to know what happened with NAFTA,” he says. “There was a theory behind NAFTA; there was a theory that by integrating Canada, U.S. and Mexico, there would be a sort of overall net economic benefit.”
However, that didn’t happen for U.S. workers in sectors like manufacturing. Michigan auto workers, for example, lost more than 100,000 jobs in the years that followed NAFTA’s passage, writes NPR. Nationwide, sources claim that anywhere from 700,000 to 5 million jobs were lost due to NAFTA.
It’s not a clear case of cause and effect, though.
NPR writes that this is the period when Japanese automakers were setting up shop in the U.S. and taking market share away from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler (though this situation doesn’t exactly make the case for trade agreements, either.)
Matt Slaughter, associate dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, points out some of the difficulties labor faces in opposing the TPP trade deal.
He says labor should stop trying to kill the new trade pact, and instead push for a more robust 21st century social safety net for dislocated workers.
Again, though, if the trade agreements were so good for the U.S., why would we need to push for a more robust social safety net for dislocated workers? Why would there be dislocated workers? Isn’t that admitting that there will be job loss due to the trade pacts?
Tim Waters, the national political director for the United Steelworkers, disagrees with the idea that trade agreements cannot be stopped or changed.
“For us to just say, ‘Oh well, it’s inevitable, we shouldn’t try to stop it, we shouldn’t try to stand up, we should just try to get in there and cut some kind of deal that made it less sickening,’ doesn’t make any sense,” he says.
Waters says that unions aren’t anti-trade; they want fair trade. He says trade deals need to put the concerns of American workers first.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Obama spoke about America’s healthcare in a speech to the Catholic Health Association’s annual assembly, in Washington, DC. He attempted to make the case that The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is an integral part of the country’s social safety net, much like Social Security or Medicare.
He condemned opponents of his signature health care law as “cynical” partisans seeking to deprive Americans of an important benefit, writes The New York Times. He built a tough political case against Republicans as the Supreme Court weighs whether to strike down a key element of the Affordable Care Act in the case of King v. Burwell.
“This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another — this is health care in America,” the president said in a speech to the Catholic Health Association, an organization that championed the law and has written a brief asking the high court to uphold it. “It seems so cynical to want to take health care away from millions of people.”
According to The Associated Press, more than 10 million people have signed up for private health insurance this year under The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the White House said Tuesday.
The 10.2 million consumers enrolled in a plan and followed through by paying their first month’s premiums, states The Associated Press.
The report comes from the Department of Health and Human Services as insurers are reportedly proposing premium hikes for next year, raising concerns about affordability. Also, the Supreme Court is weighing the legality of subsidized premiums for millions of consumers in more than 30 states. That decision is A decision is due around the end of the month.
By the end of June, the Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision in King v. Burwell, the case that centers on whether the Internal Revenue Service can allow payment of Affordable Care Act subsidies to individuals enrolled in the federal exchange.
The lawsuit is widely considered to be based on a technicality. The actual law reads “state exchanges” as opposed to “federal exchange.”
Should the Court rule against the Obama administration, subsidies no longer would be available to individuals who purchased coverage through HealthCare.gov, the federal website, in the 34 states that chose not to establish their own state-based exchanges, writes The Daily Signal.
It also would mean the Obamacare employer mandate would be effectively unenforceable, according to The Daily Signal.
Things would probably get ugly if that happens. Democrats would probably go on the offensive, blaming Republicans for “every case of a person who lost coverage just before giving birth, or having another round of chemo,” according to nhpr.org.
Currently, the 10 million sign-ups exceed the target of 9.1 million set last year by HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.
However, “(e)nrollment has been lower and slower than what most people projected,” said Caroline Pearson of the data analysis firm Avalere Health.
Still, the combination of subsidized private coverage sold through online insurance exchanges in every state, along with Medicaid expansion in most states, has resulted in large coverage gains.
Nearly 9 out of 10 adults now have health insurance, writes The Associated Press. It is about the same proportion of Americans who buckle their seatbelts.
Roll Call states that Senator Ted Cruz is warning he might seek to compel testimony from the Treasury Department about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
The Texas Republican senator – who is also a presidential candidate – is in control of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts.
He said his staff had been informed by the Obama administration that witnesses would not be available to testify about the rule-making process for providing subsidies under Obamacare because of ongoing litigation.
“For two main reasons, this excuse is entirely invalid,” Cruz wrote in a new letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew.
“First, Congress retains its right to conduct oversight of the executive branch at all times, regardless of any perceptions of poor timing by, or inconvenience to, the executive branch. The Senate Judiciary Committee has obligations to ensure the proper functioning of the federal government at all times, and not just during windows of convenience for political officials. Second, your Department’s pending litigation justification is without basis, particularly given how you have provided at least one Department witness for the exact same topic during the pendency of other litigation over the last few years.”
After five years and more than 50 votes in Congress, the Republican campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act (the ACA or “Obamacare”) is essentially over, states the LA Times.
According to the LA Times, GOP congressional leaders, unable to roll back the law while President Obama remains in office and unwilling to again threaten a government shutdown to pressure him, are focused on other issues like trade and tax reform.
Another interesting development is that senior Republican lawmakers have quietly incorporated many of the law’s key protections into their own proposal bills, including guaranteeing coverage and providing government assistance to help consumers purchase insurance.
Oddly, facing the situation that the Supreme Court this year could strip away insurance subsidies provided through the law, several GOP lawmakers have even proposed extending the aid, perhaps even until a new president takes office.
Former Florida Governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush has shown little enthusiasm for a new healthcare fight. Last year, he even criticized the repeal effort, states the LA Times.
This doesn’t mean that efforts to repeal the law will completely stop.
“Only 18% of Americans want to go back to the system we had before because they do not want to go back to some of the problems we had,” Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster who works for presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who still demand a repeal, appear to be long shots for the presidential nomination, states the LA Times.
More realistic might be adjustments to Obamacare rather than outright repeal. For example, the Affordable Care Act allows states to enact policies that specifically ban abortion coverage in health plans offered through the health insurance exchange.
Right now, Republicans in the House State Affairs Committee in Texas are considering just such a bill that would ban coverage for abortion in health plans offered through the ACA’s health insurance exchange.
Opponents, however, argued that House Bill 3130 would create yet another hurdle for women.
A new survey finds that just 11.9 percent of people in the United States did not have health insurance in the first quarter of the year. It is a drop of 5.2 percentage points since Obamacare went into effect, states The Hill.
The Gallup-Healthways survey was released Monday and finds that since Obamacare’s coverage expansion went into effect at the beginning of 2014, the rate has fallen from 17.1 percent.
Majority Report looks at the statistics regarding the uninsured after the passage of Obamacare.