Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Virginia Appeal Confirms the ACA’s Individual Mandate

Monday, September 19th, 2011

The Obama administration won a round in the legal battle over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) when a federal appeals court tossed out two lawsuits in Virginia.  The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in both lawsuits — one filed by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, the second by Liberty University – that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to sue.  This is a rejection of the first case that ended with a ruling that the healthcare reform law was unconstitutional.  Additional cases remain active, including the lawsuit filed by 26 other states, which means that the issue has by not gone away.

Virginia argued that it had the right to challenge the individual mandate – a key proviso of the law that requires people to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty – because it interferes with a state law that says residents can’t be forced to purchase health insurance.  According to the court, “To permit a state to litigate whenever it enacts a statute declaring its opposition to federal law” would “convert the federal judiciary into a forum for the vindication of a state’s generalized grievances about the conduct of government.”  During oral arguments, a lawyer for the Obama administration said that the case “fails at the outset” because the mandate is applicable to individuals and not the state.  After the decision was handed down, Cuccinelli expressed “disappointment” that the case was thrown out.  According to Cuccinelli, “the Court did not even reach the merits on the key question of Virginia’s lawsuit – whether Congress has a power never before recognized in American history: the power to force one citizen to purchase a good or service from another citizen.”

In the case brought by Liberty University — a private Christian school — the court said in a 2 – 1 ruling that it was blocking the case because a federal tax law stripped it of jurisdiction to decide the issue.  The Court was the first to rule that the individual mandate is essentially a tax.  Because the mandate cannot be enforced until 2014, the Court ruled that the Anti-Injunction Act “strips us of jurisdiction” from hearing a pre-enforcement challenge.  “What the Court said is that the penalty for not complying with the mandate functions as a tax that cannot be challenged until it has been assessed,” said Kevin Walsh, a law professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell reacted to the ruling, saying “Today, a three judge panel, consisting of two judges appointed by President Barack Obama and one by former President Bill Clinton, found that Virginia lacks standing to challenge the individual mandate provision of the federal healthcare law.  We respectfully disagree with the panel’s reasoning.  To conclude that a state has no standing to challenge an expensive and burdensome federal mandate on its citizens that the state has banned in its law, might cause James Madison and George Mason, Virginia’s principal drafters of our nation’s founding documents, to promptly roll in their graves.  To dismiss a Virginia statute as a basis for standing, declaring it to be ‘quintessentially political,’ and asserting that a state cannot be a ‘constitutional watchdog’ undermines our precious principles of federalism.  This decision must be promptly appealed.

“As federal courts across the country continue to come to differing conclusions on the merits of cases arguing the unconstitutionality of the federal healthcare law, today’s decision further exemplifies why these cases should be expedited to the nation’s highest court.  It is the Supreme Court that will ultimately determine whether the federal mandate on every citizen to purchase health insurance violates the U.S. Constitution.  States and businesses continue to expend time and money and languish in uncertainty as they try to come into compliance with a law that may ultimately be ruled unconstitutional.  It is exasperating that the President and the Justice Department oppose a prompt resolution of this case through an expedited appeal.  America needs finality in this case,” according to McDonnell.

Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, who was appointed to the bench by President Clinton, wrote that the only apparent function of the state law was “to declare Virginia’s opposition to a federal insurance mandate.”  The state law was enacted just days after President Obama signed the ACA into law.

Writing in U.S. News & World Report, Scott Galupo says that “Cuccinelli and co. follow a long trail from the 18th century British jurist William Blackstone to the Dred Scott case to the New Deal to the present day.  The conservative team, at first, makes a tight, prudential case against the Obamacare mandate that I, in my nonprofessional capacity, happen to favor.”  Parsing Cuccinelli’s statement about the decision, Galupo notes that “In plainer, get-to-the-point English: We grant you the social safety net established under the ‘Roosevelt Settlement.’  We recognize Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.  We even grant that this power could conceivably deliver universal healthcare.  But for Pete’s sake, don’t try to include ‘inactivity’ — that is, not buying a health insurance plan on the private market — under its purview.  Because, once you regulate the act of doing nothing, what’s left to regulate?  Er, nothing.  Thus, does the state’s power to tax and police become theoretically unlimited?  But, later in the body of the piece, Team Cuccinelli begins to play other, more presently familiar cards.  Glenn Beck fans will recognize the faces in the rogue’s gallery: Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, progressive philosopher John Dewey, and others who, this argument goes, created the post-New Deal legal and philosophical edifice.  Wouldn’t you know it, this welfare-state stuff constitutes a violation of natural law — which, ipso facto, means economic laissez-faire — and a lurch into moral chaos.  Echoing the newly popular Hayek, Cuccinelli’s article asserts the primacy of economic rights while characterizing as relativistic the not-exclusively-liberal jurisprudential argument that personhood and dignity precede the marketplace.  (Last I checked, I’ve never seen an unborn baby sign a contract.)”

The Obama administration remains optimistic about the ACA.  “When it ends, we are confident we will prevail,” White House adviser Stephanie Cutter said.

Oklahoma Just Says “No” to ObamaCare At a Price of $54 Million

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

The state of Oklahoma has turned down a $54.6 million grant to establish the state-based healthcare exchange system required in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Governor Mary Fallin said the move “accomplishes my goal from the very beginning:  stopping the implementation of the president’s federal healthcare exchange in Oklahoma.”  In February, however, Fallin characterized the federal assistance as “consistent with our (healthcare) mission” and a “step in the right direction.”  According to Wikipedia, in 2009 fully 18.1 percent of Oklahomans lacked healthcare coverage.

Several states have refused grants of $1 million from the federal government to build healthcare exchanges — an online “marketplace” that consumers can use to compare and purchase insurance plans — but the Oklahoma grant is the largest that has been rejected to date.  The ACA r requires each state to establish a healthcare exchange by 2014.  If a state opts to not set up its own exchange, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is required to create one for the state.  Oklahoma lawmakers are refusing to let that happen. Fallin said that Oklahoma will use state and private money to establish its own exchange, even though the state faces a $500 million budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year.  “We are working together to address the concerns that have been expressed by some by adding very specific language in the bill to prevent the implementation of federal healthcare exchange in Oklahoma while creating an Oklahoma-based solution,” Fallin said. The state exchange will be named the Health Insurance Private Enterprise Network, and create a public trust governed by a seven-member board made up of health insurance carriers, agents, providers, employer groups and consumers.

In fact, Fallin favors repeal of the healthcare reform law. “We all support the repeal and the replacement of the federal healthcare bill.  We do believe it is unconstitutional,” Fallin said.  A former member of Congress, Fallin voted against the healthcare bill in 2010 and supports a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt that favors repeal.  Insurance Commissioner John Doak is returning a $1 million federal healthcare grant.  “This is a fulfillment of my campaign promise to oppose ObamaCare every way I could,” Doak said.  “I remain deeply committed to a free-market system that relies on licensed agents and brokers as the frontline of consumer protection.”

Not everyone in Oklahoma agrees with Fallin’s actions.  “We are $500 million in the hole and the Republicans have decided to turn away $54 million in federal money,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Tom Ivester.  “I don’t understand how this makes sense.”  Oklahoma is likely to have $500 million less to spend during fiscal year 2012.

“When we have our disasters in Oklahoma, we are the first ones to reach out and ask the same government for help,” said State Senator Judy Eason McIntyre.  “Just two weeks ago, Governor Fallin defended her decision to accept $54 million from the federal government to implement the state health exchange by arguing that the money was not tied to President Obama’s healthcare plan and that the state could not afford to do it on our own,” said House member Scott Inman.  “Now, just days later, Governor Fallin admits that the funding is in fact a part of Obama’s healthcare plan and that somehow, despite our $500 million shortfall, we can afford to do it without these funds. The question I have is, was Governor Fallin wrong then or is she wrong now?”

Court Extends Stem Cell Funding Indefinitely

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Court rules to fund embryonic stem cell research. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has said “yes” to the Obama administration’s request to allow the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund embryonic stem cell (ESC) research.  The ruling extends a temporary decision issued by the same court.  Earlier, Judge Royce Lamberth had issued an injunction that shut down NIH funding for new embryonic stem cell research, claiming the government is violating the Dickey-Wicker amendment by using federal funds to support human embryonic stem cell research.

Stem cell researchers reacted with shock to the cut-off of funding, which forced the NIH to withdraw 50 grants that were awaiting peer review and put a hold on 22 grants that were up for yearly renewal.  Thanks to the recent decision, the NIH has started funding stem cell research again.

The Obama administration praised the court’s decision.  “President Obama made expansion of stem cell research and the pursuit of groundbreaking treatments and cures a top priority when he took office,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.  “We’re heartened that the court will allow NIH and their grantees to continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved.”  In March of 2009, President Obama issued an executive order that rescinded former President George W. Bush’s order that had banned using federal funds for embryonic stem cell research on lines derived after a certain date.  In the last 1½ years, the NIH has approved 74 new embryonic stem cell lines for research purposes.

Ron Stoddart, a member of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, filed the lawsuit.  The organization helps people adopt embryos that are stored in fertilization clinics. According to Stoddart, the case is likely to be controversial for some time.  “I think that eventually Congress has to step up and deal with it,” he said.

Andy Griffith Tapped to Sell Healthcare Reform to Senior Citizens

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

A new sheriff in town, Andy Griffith is promoting support for healthcare reform law.  A familiar face is hitting the airwaves to promote the Obama administration’s new healthcare law to the nation’s senior citizens. The pitchman is 84-year-old Andy Griffith, a lifelong Democrat whose role as Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show made him a lasting symbol of small-town values.  Medicare is picking up the $700,000 tab for the advertisements.

In the commercials, which are airing on The Weather Channel, CNN, Hallmark and Lifetime, Griffith assures Americans that “good things are coming” as a result of the healthcare law.  He lists free preventive checkups and lower-cost prescriptions for Medicare patients as two of the benefits.  According to some polls, senior citizens are skeptical about the healthcare law because Medicare cuts will provide a significant share of the financing to cover the uninsured.

The ads come at a time when Medicare is celebrating its 45th anniversary. In the ad’s background is a photo of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Medicare bill into law. Griffith assures senior citizens that better protections are coming, thanks to the healthcare reform law.

Republicans Calling for Repeal of Healthcare Bill

Monday, April 12th, 2010

With healthcare reform now the land of the land, Republicans are still united in their opposition to the bill.  Are Republicans advocating for repeal of the recently passed healthcare reform bill suffering from a bad case of sour grapes?  Many Americans who are unhappy with the legislation are already saying they will vote Republican in the November mid-term elections in a demonstration of their displeasure with healthcare reform.  Not 24 hours after the bill passed with a Democrats-only majority, repeal emails were flying through cyberspace from Republican Congressional hopefuls.

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) posted a call for repeal on his website, saying he would introduce legislation to repeal “President Obama’s government takeover of healthcare. Unless this trillion-dollar assault on our freedoms is repealed, it will force Americans to purchase Washington-approved health plans or face stiff penalties.  It will fund abortions, raise taxes and insurance premiums, while reducing healthcare choices and quality.”

Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) posted on the conservative website that she had “filed legislation to repeal Obamacare in hopes that we can start from scratch and give the American people true healthcare reform that won’t break the bank nor rob us of our individual liberty and freedom.  There’s too much at stake to simply give up now.”  Bachmann offered no specific proposals on how she would work to achieve healthcare reform.

With Democrats controlling both the House of Representatives and the Senate, repeal is unlikely.

Charles Krauthammer Gives ObamaCare Two Thumbs Down

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer thinks ObamaCare is a fantasy that the president will not be able to deliver.

According to Krauthammer, President Obama promised healthcare reform claiming that medical costs are ruining the economy.  Now, the Congressional Budget Office has said that the Democrats’ healthcare plan will increase costs by more than $1 trillion.

“In response, the president retreated to a demand that any bill he sign be revenue neutral,” Krauthammer said.  “But that’s a classic misdirection:  If the fierce urgency of healthcare reform is to radically reduce costs that are producing bobama-care-tlnudget-destroying deficits, revenue neutrality (by definition) leaves us on precisely the same path to insolvency that Obama himself declares unsustainable.”

Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that the president was “unhelpful” for ruling out taxing employer-provided insurance plans to help pay for coverage.  The House’s conservative Blue Dog Democrats are wincing at what they see as skyrocketing healthcare reform costs.

Krauthammer contends that “The president is therefore understandably eager to make this a contest between progressive Democrats and reactionary Republicans.  He seized on Republican Senator Jim DeMint’s comment that stopping Obama on healthcare would break his presidency to protest, with perfect disingenuousness, that ‘this isn’t about me.  This isn’t about politics.’”

Considering that the Clinton administration is considered successful by many despite its inability to pass healthcare reform, Krauthammer’s opinion may be overly negative if current efforts fail.  Plus, characterizing a cause that 74 percent of Americans support as a personal whim of the president seems unfair.  Also, 30 states have the same form of a public option for health insurance and studies show that residents support it overwhelmingly.  The issue is really about how to pay for it and here, the president will have to level with the American people about the real cost.

Healthcare Industry Plan Mandates Welcome Cost Reductions

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Barack Obama may get his way on healthcare reform with the full cooperation of those who vocally lobbied against it during the 1990s.  The timing couldn’t be better — healthcare costs total $2.4 trillion annually (an average of $7,868 per person) and are projected to rise to $4 trillion by

In a reversal, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, physicians and other industry leaders presented a plan to the White House proposing to save $2 trillion in healthcare delivery costs over the next 10 years.  Participants included the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Service Employees International Union — which master-minded the bold move.  Although healthcare costs will continue to rise, this plan will slow the pace.

“We cannot continue down the same dangerous road we’ve been traveling for so many years, with costs that are out of control, because reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait,” Obama said.

Obama’s proposed plan is based on the existing system, where employers, the government and individuals share responsibility for paying for privately delivered healthcare.  The government will subsidize coverage for additional people and mandate stricter consumer protection.

It’s evident that the healthcare industry has seen the writing on the wall.  Their willingness to work with the Obama Administration and Congress – compared with the fierce opposition to Bill Clinton’s healthcare reform efforts 15 years ago – is a turnaround that should translate to real change.