Supreme Court Sets Late March Dates To Hear Health Care Reform Arguments

The countdown clock is on for health care reform. This morning, the Supreme Court announced that it has set aside three dates in late March to hear arguments surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

There will actually be three separate matters before the court. The biggest one concerns the portion of the law that requires almost everyone to carry some sort of health coverage or face a financial penalty. The Supremes will hear arguments on this issue on March 27.

All but one of the federal appeals court panels that have already ruled on this matter have upheld the law, claiming that a person’s decision to not have health insurance has a wide-ranging impact that places it under the umbrella of the Commerce Clause. The one court that ruled against the Obama administration only struck down that portion of the act, not the entire thing.

On March 28, the court will hear arguments about which parts of the act would be impacted should it rule against the mandatory coverage portion of the law. There will also be time later in the day for attorneys general of numerous states to argue their claim that Congress can’t compel the states to increase their Medicaid spending.

Before all of this takes place, there is a bigger preliminary issue to be heard by the court on March 26:

The question is whether the entire case needs to be shelved because of a federal law requiring taxpayers to pay their assessments before challenging a levy’s legality. One federal appeals court, in Richmond, Va., found this law applies to the Affordable Care Act.

That court found that the penalty for noncompliance, which is to be collected by the Internal Revenue Service along with individual tax returns, was similar enough to a tax to fall under the provision. Both the Obama administration and the challengers disagree, but the Supreme Court was sufficiently interested in the question to schedule a hearing anyway and hire an attorney to present the argument.

Of course, it will still be several months until the court issues its rulings on these matters.

High Court to Hear Health-Care Case in March [WSJ.com]

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  1. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    We finally found an affordable health insurance policy. Mandate or not, it’s a shame that it wont qualify for acceptable coverage in 2014, and even the cheapest family policy on the exchange (bronze tier) is going to cost in the $14,000/year ballpark.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      14k/yr for family (I assume it’s family coverage) is $1,166.67 a month.

      At my work, 2011 rates for family on the HMO plan was $957.64 and HDHP (high-deductible health plan) was $759.17. This is all, of course, before my employer’s contribution. So for uncontracted rates, that’s not too bad.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Not bad but not in any way affordable for my family.

        Our new policy at work would be $1,500/month for the HDHP w/$5k deductible ($1,200 employee/$300 employer) or significantly more for the PPO with a small deductible ($1,500 employee/$300 employer). Our 2011 rates were about $1,000/month for our portion of the HDHP which was putting us close to our breaking point (close to $30k in two years worth of deductibles and premiums).

        We are beyond grateful for the major medical policy we were just approved for… No maternity, no prescriptions, no dental, no vision and a $10,000 deductible but premiums are less than $500/month. We are beyond grateful to Highmark BC/BS for selling us a policy.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          Wow, that’s a lot of numbers. Needless to say, the options are great insurance for $18,000/year, OK insurance for $14,000/year or a major medical policy for $6,000/year.

    • FatLynn says:

      Single payer.

      (and….flounce!)

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Or public option, or Medicare for all, or expanding to VA to provide full service to all veterans. Anything besides the mandate and the loss of affordable policies.

        • Kuri says:

          Eh, if the money isn’t all being funneled to their corporate butt buddies it’ll never happen

          • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

            I imagine the entire system will implode in the coming years. I’m not sure what the breaking point will be, maybe when family policies start hitting the $20,000 or $30,000/year range.

    • Ihmhi says:

      Here’s an insane idea.

      Let’s collect a portion of money from everybody. People who can afford to pay pay, and those who are poorer are covered by those who are better off because a society should take care of all of their people – not just the upper middle class and the wealthy.

      Then, we take a portion of this thing I’ll call a “tax” and dedicate it solely towards a government run organization that nationalizes the hospitals and provides care for everyone regardless of citizenship or ability to pay. I think “National Health Service” would be a nice name.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I never realize SCOTUS could hire their own attorney and force an argument to the court.

    • McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

      Yeah, that was interesting. I had no idea either.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        I would assume it’s only in the situation that a case has been brought to SCOTUS already, and they can decide to argue parts of it that both sides have not chosen to argue and thus are not prepared to fight.

        • FatLynn says:

          Well, there’s a paywall, so I can’t see the whole article, but I think it’s a little more nuanced than that. The Supreme Court is actually getting someone to argue that the SCOTUS shouldn’t even hear the original case.

          • partofme says:

            SCOTUSblog covered it nicely about a month ago. There is a circuit split on the issue of whether they can hear the challenge before the penel-ax goes into effect, but none of the current players care to argue for it. They could adopt the argument on their own as the Fourth Circuit did, but instead they appointed someone to argue for it. The court often solicits lots of outside help via briefs, but less often appoints someone to argue.

  3. Cat says:

    (Reclines in easy chair and dons peril-sensitive 3-D glasses)

    Okay, who’s making the popcorn?

  4. Kuri says:

    Eh, the system is going to stay as it is anyway, as those with the money to make the rules are fine with things as they are, because in the end it doesn’t effect them.

  5. damicatz says:

    Health insurance companies are nothing but useless middlemen that siphon off money from the system so that their executives can have multi-million dollar salaries. They are a ponzi scheme (they call it “spreading the risk”) in which more people must pay in then get paid out. This is why the new “law” requires people to purchase health insurance, because if enough people don’t pay in (and now that they can’t exclude preexisting conditions), then the house of cards comes tumbling down.

    Health care is expensive because of the following :

    1.The health insurance companies engage in routine price fixing. The price of your healthcare is not determined by the doctor but by the insurance companies; if they wish to be able to accept patients with a given insurance, they must comply. The health insurance companies, via corporate health insurance for employees, have entangled so many people into their net that no one would refuse to accept a major insurance provider because then they would loose income.

    2.The health insurance companies have bought out enough politicians in congress to allow for laws that make it very difficult for doctors to help out those that are uninsured. They do this under the guise of “fair competition”.

    3.The AMA artificially restricts the supply of doctors via quotas for medical school. This insures higher salaries for the existing doctors by creating an artificial shortage. In what other country does a private for-profit organization get to set regulations and rules for government licensing of medical practitioners?

    4.Ambulance-chasing lawyers (frankly, a profession the world would be better off without) bleed the system dry via malpractice lawsuits. Couple that with the fact that the average juror is an idiot (and, intentionally, because intelligent people rarely make it past voir dire; just mention the words “jury nullification” and see how fast they boot you out of court) and you have ridiculous judgements for things that were simply known risks and not malpractice.

    5.Patents. The only type of property is tangible property. Anything else is completely fictitious. There is no natural right to “own” an idea. If two people independently come up with the same idea, but one can’t afford to patent it because patents are expensive (another scam by lawyers), by what moral right do the statists deny them the use of their own idea? And if they use their own idea, then the government uses violence to shut them down, sending in the stormtroopers if they don’t comply with their demands. Contrary to the apologists of the state, patents are not needed to encourage innovation. Competition is. The need to constantly one up your competitors drives innovation far more than any artificial and unnatural regulation on the part of the government.

    Patents are now being extended to genes. You can’t even get certain medical tests anymore, such as screenings for breast cancer, unless you pay outrageous sums of money. By what right does someone claim ownership over a part of the human body? Drug patents are used to give big pharma a way to fix prices at ridiculously high levels (and drug development costs are highly inflated, more on that below).

    6.Government regulation drives prices up. Contrary to popular belief (particularly amongst the misguided “Occupy Protesters”), big corporations love, LOVE regulation. It puts their smaller, more nimble competitors, out of business because they can’t afford or don’t have the resources to comply.

    FDA regulations are absurd. As someone who worked for a company that sold computers to pharma companies to go along with instruments, the certification process was ridiculous. Just certifying the computer was a 500 page front and back ordeal that took 2 weeks to do. And any change, ANY change, to the computer, even so much as a stick of RAM, requires that entire process to be done over again.

    Big pharma has lobbies for these regulations. They love them because it’s not a big deal for them to comply with them. They just pass on the cost to the consumers. Meanwhile, their smaller competitors, such as those offering natural herbal supplements and vitamins, can’t afford to comply with the regulations. It was big pharma that lobbied to have FDA regulations applied to vitamins and the like.

    No, Obamacare doesn’t fix healthcare. It plays right into the hands of the “healthcare” industry. What large corporation wouldn’t like a law that forces everyone in America to be their customer? Now, under threat of government violence, everyone must turn over their hard earned cash to the health insurance cartel. Refusal means confiscation of your money without due process and further refusal means a shakedown visit by jack-booted thugs employed by the IRS.

    • Cat says:

      “Yep.”

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      “What large corporation wouldn’t like a law that forces everyone in America to be their customer?”

      I agree with most of your points but this is one of the reasons why I find the mandate so abhorrent.

      Once the precedent is set, what is stopping Congress from mandating that we purchase services from other big donors? I’m sure the five largest banks would love it if every American was required by law to open up an account with them, with a minimum monthly deposit, under authority of the IRS. If the mandate stands, I have no doubt we’ll see something similar in regards to retirement accounts. What about mandatory life insurance, disability insurance, etc.?

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        Exactly. You could take almost any situation and show that by not doing this, you’re creating a major impact on society.

        So you don’t have a bank account? Well, because those funds are in an institution, that’s money that cannot be used as reserves, reducing the overall lending ability of the bank, resulting in a slower economy.

        What I will find funny, though, is that if the Individual Mandate is upheld, the law of the land will be that you can be forced to purchase a product, but you cannot be forced to work (which many have said should be done for those on long-term unemployment… make them work on road crews, janitorial staff, things that nearly anyone could do.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          This is a terribly fallacious analogy.

          Not utilizing a bank results in….nothing.

          Not utilizing a hospital result in….permanent disability of death.

          Humans need access to health care to live, they do not need a bank account. Lack of a bank account only results in certain invonveniences.

          • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

            What about mandatory retirement accounts with “qualified banks” like Citi, BOA, Chase, and Wells Fargo, with overhead set by law at 20%? People can’t work forever and at some point will have to leave the work force.

          • TuxthePenguin says:

            No, we’re not talking about health CARE, we’re talking about health INSURANCE. If you do not buy health insurance, you can still go to the hospital. You just don’t have a nifty little plan to pay for it – you’ve got to do it out of your pocket.

            The Individual Mandate isn’t forcing us to consume health care – its forcing us to consume health insurance. There’s a WORLD of difference there.

          • partofme says:

            Unfortunately, such a distinction is meaningless in the government’s current Commerce Clause argument. The government has basically said, “Yes, we can require broccoli and bank accounts… so what?” And there are plenty of people… constitutional scholars… who think exactly that. So what?

    • Kuri says:

      American Health-care, it’s your Health but we don’t Care

    • PunditGuy says:

      That was quite the talking-point and conspiracy laden diatribe. While I agree with some of it, I feel the need to take it all in with a garbage truck full of salt.

      Off the top of my head, Texas instituted strict tort reform years ago. So if lawsuits have something to do with the price of health insurance, then Texas’ rates should have increased slower than everyone else’s. Did they?

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I’m always dubious about tort reform claims (I live in a tort reform state but our rates are the highest in the nation) but it’s incredibly difficult to compare costs from state to state, with so many intertwined variables.

        It’s like the mandate, if a mandate is going to lower rates, wouldn’t Massachusetts have the lowest health insurance premiums in the nation?

        When it comes down to it, the entire health care system in the USA is full of so many perverse incentives, that it’s almost designed to fail from the ground up.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      When you call is Obamacare, you make it clear that you are biased in your viewpoints.

      • tsumeone says:

        Why? Obama himself says he likes it when people call it Obamacare. He says he doesn’t mind people saying he cares.

        I am not against Obamacare. I am against the fact that it did not include a public option, though.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          It seems like there’s been a big push to “take back the word” and remove negative connotations from it. I’ve heard Obama refer to it as ObamaCare, as well as numerous liberal columnists in the NY Times and Washington Post, as well as Slate use that term in a non-pejorative manner.

          I think it’s a lot like “Reaganomics” or “Bush Tax Cuts”, where whether it’s positive or negative is completely dependent on one’s political beliefs. I actually prefer ObamaCare over “Affordable Care Act” because the law’s name is biased in itself, a lot like “Patriot Act” or “Operation Iraqi Freedom”.

          I oppose the ACA for numerous reasons, primarily because it does nothing to control costs or deal with primary flaws in the American health care system. It also makes the situation worse for middle class families without access to subsidized group plans.

  6. Ablinkin says:

    It’ll be overturned due to this one requirement. While it might morph into a different form, the mandate to purchase will essentially kill it.

    I do have to ask why is a political hot potato like this on Consumerists?

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      For many readers, health insurance is our largest monthly expense. It also has the farthest reaching consequences.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      It won’t be overturned because of this one requirement.

      The requirement may be overturned, but it does not negate the remainder of the bill.

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        It’ll depend on how much the SC wants to play with specifics. There’s no Severability Clause in the Act, unlike most bills (to protect from this point exactly). If they strike down the Mandate and don’t do the rest of the law, they’ll be essentially writing new legislation.

        That, and it functionally won’t work either – you’ll have a moral hazard for every economist to study – why bother getting insurance before you’re really sick when its guaranteed issue? You’re just playing a guessing game, just whether you can get the insurance application processed before you need it – such as for a major planned surgery. Rather than for a critical emergency room visit.

        Hey, maybe there will be a new market for an insurance plan – “we pay if you can’t get your health insurance online in time!”

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          That’s exactly how I see it too.

          Paying the fine instead of buying a policy would net an additional $13,000 or $14,000 a year for a typical middle class family that does not have a subsidized policy through work and makes too much for the tax credits.

          By going without insurance, one is basically gambling that there wont be an immediate, non-automobile, and non-work related hospitalization. For the vast majority of (non-geriatric) medical spending, it’s for relatively predictable, and fairly routine procedures. One can simply pay out-of-pocket for regular doctor’s visits and if anything comes up, sign up for a policy to pay for anything that comes up.

          There’s still an inherent (albeit very small) risk of a hospitalization but the savings from not paying $14,000 on insurance could be applied towards it. Given the enormity of the expense, it’s likely a gamble that many will take.

          The only way the mandate will work is if it costs significantly more than the annual premium for the most expensive plan or involved more severe, possibly criminal punishment.

      • partofme says:

        The entire third day of oral arguments is scheduled solely for the purpose of determining severability. This is not a done deal either way.

  7. Greg Ohio says:

    In a nutshell, Republicans are defending your right NOT TO have health care, and Democrats are fighting for your right TO have it. I know which I’m more worried about…

    • Kuri says:

      It’s kind of funny that our money is already paying for their healthcare.

    • obits3 says:

      You are incorrect. If the Democrats were truly fighting for our right to have healthcare, then they would not demand direct payment.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      This is about INSURANCE, not CARE. Those two are not synonyms.

      Everyone has access to healthcare, right now. Some have it paid by a third party, some have to pay themselves, and others just don’t pay. But walk into an ER with a condition and they’ll treat you.

      What we’re arguing over is health insurance and using that to make health care more affordable.

      • Greg Ohio says:

        So, the children of the working poor can walk into an ER 4x a day to get treatment for chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma? Even if they could, would it be cost-effective for whoever ends up paying?

        No, absent single-payer, insurance = care for most people.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          Paying for diabetes or asthma treatment is still significantly cheaper out-of-pocket than buying insurance and having the insurer cover the charges after the deductible is hit. Even with the subsidies for the “working poor” (~200-300% of poverty level), there will still be significant premiums and the deductibles are still fairly high for the cheapest policies in the bronze tier.

  8. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    I can’t imagine the supremes coming out of this without the label of “activist judges”

  9. MECmouse says:

    One of the biggest ‘problems’ with the Health Care Act is that doctors are not required to take insurance. The word problems is in quotes because I think this is one of the stupidest things the administration has EVER come up with. You’re going to force everyone to buy coverage, and if you have any kind of preexisting condition(s) (such as I do) your deductible will be more than what you’re paying in premiums.

    I’d rather give that money to my doctors than some corporation that’s not doing anything for me but making it harder for me to find a doctor and deciding what kind of medicines I should be taking so they can save a nickel!

    Also, just heard today of a family practice doctor in FTW who will no longer be taking government subsidized insurance plans (Medicaid, Medicare, CHIPS, etc), and though I didn’t get the whole story — I’d bet my last antirejection pill that it was because of all the crap that goes along with insurance companies having more power.

    Want to do the health care world a favor? Outlaw HMOs — it’s where all this crap started.

  10. coffee100 says:

    At least the case has found its way to the only court in the country with the jurisdiction to hear the case. See Article III Section 2 for details. In any case where a state is a party, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction, meaning the District and Appeals courts cannot hear the case. The same goes for the Arizona immigration case.

    Hopefully the Court will remind Congress to read the Constitution before they pass any more laws. The health care bill is unconstitutional under the 10th amendment.

    Further, the law that requires taxes to be paid before their legality is considered is a violation of the Fifth Amendment prohibition against depriving a citizen of property without due process.