Skip to comments.With healthcare reform law in legal limbo, Dems consider their options (on the edge of contempt)
Posted on 02/01/2011 11:05:47 AM PST by Libloather
With healthcare reform law in legal limbo, Dems consider their options
By Julian Pecquet - 02/01/11 06:01 AM ET
Healthcare reform supporters have begun to seek alternatives to the unpopular individual mandate at the heart of Mondays surprising decision overturning the entire law.
Officially, the Obama administration dismissed Judge Roger Vinsons decision as a fluke. Two judges have already ruled that the mandate is constitutional, and a third struck down the mandate but not the rest of the law.
The department intends to appeal this ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler. We strongly disagree with the court's ruling today and continue to believe as other federal courts have found that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.
Yet lawmakers supportive of the law and healthcare activists are already actively contemplating various scenarios for moving forward without the mandate.
Healthcare reform advocates say that as the administration and the states move forward with implementation, millions of Americans will begin to benefit from the law's consumer protections making it less likely that the appeals court judges and eventually the Supreme Court justices will strike down massive legislation that's already the law of the land.
I think the litigation will be less attractive at that time, said Tim Jost of the Washington and Lee University School of Law.
Even if the mandate itself is struck down, others say, moving forward with implementation could also make it more likely that Americans would clamor for an alternative so they can keep the law's consumer protections.
Justices have to factor in the impact of their decision on people, said Chris Jennings, who was senior healthcare adviser to President Clinton. I'm not saying theyll acknowledge that. But everyone's human, and humans react to their environment.
Traditionally, judges have sought to strike specific provisions instead of entire laws, to avoid accusations that theyre legislating from the bench. The federal judge in Virginia who struck down the mandate in December, for example, limited his ruling to the mandate.
Without the benefit of extensive expert testimony and significant supplementation of the record, Judge Henry Hudson ruled, this court cannot determine what, if any, portion of the bill would not be able to survive independently.
Vinson addressed his rationale for striking the whole law in his decision.
I must conclude that the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit, Vinson wrote.
Democrats are still hopeful that the Supreme Court will rule in their favor on the individual mandate. If that doesn't happen, though, they've started laying the groundwork to argue that only the mandate should be stricken, not the whole law.
The administration in November filed arguments in the Florida case, stating that parts of the statute ... are plainly severable from ... the minimum coverage provision. Lawyers for the administration wrote at the time that plaintiffs inflate beyond their obvious meaning the arguments in favor of the individual mandate and added that countless ... provisions of the Act are entirely capable of being applied even if the mandate is struck down.
Defenders of the law reiterated those arguments after Monday's ruling.
There is no reason why the rest of the statute including the insurance reforms shouldn't go forward without the individual mandate, Jost said during a press call organized by the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP). It would be more difficult, but not impossible.
Most of [the provisions] do not have anything to do with the individual mandate, added CAP Chief Operating Officer Neera Tanden, who worked inside the White House Office of Health Reform during the reform debate. I think that is a mark of how much judicial activism this ruling really is.
Some centrist Democrats up for reelection in 2012 are already looking for alternatives.
There's other ways we can get people into the pool I hope other than a mandate, and we need to look at that, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said on MSNBC earlier this month.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) late last year asked the Government Accountability Office to evaluate alternative incentives to get people covered. The senator has been told to await a response in the first part of this year, a spokesman said Monday.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), however, thinks striking the mandate would have a noticeable impact. According to the CBO's June analysis, repealing it would increase the number of uninsured people in 2019 by 16 million, for a total of 39 million uninsured. Doing so would also shave $202 billion off the federal deficit, as scores of people choose to forgo signing up for Medicaid or requesting federal subsidies to buy private coverage.
Some options do exist if the Supreme Court tosses the federal mandate.
Bill Pewen, the top health staffer for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) during the healthcare reform debate, laid them out last December in a lengthy post on the policy journal Health Affairss blog. Pewen was deeply involved in the process because Snowe was among the four Republicans who worked for several months with Senate Finance Committee Democrats to try to craft a bipartisan bill.
One alternative would be to penalize people who wait to buy coverage by hitting them with higher premiums or excluding them from certain protections, such as the guarantee that a pre-existing condition will be covered. Another approach would be to tell states that they can only get certain federal subsidies if they pass their own individual mandates.
The risk of a successful challenge of the mandate could have been avoided through a number of alternative mechanisms, Pewen wrote. Most of these were not viable, as they would have required substantial bipartisan cooperation to enact.
Jennings told The Hill that there were major shortcomings with all those alternatives.
The idea of penalizing people who wait works to get them into Medicare as soon as they're 65, but older Americans are much more risk-averse than the young people who are most likely to stay uninsured without a mandate. And failing to sign up for Medicare benefits and its 75 percent subsidy would be a costly mistake, he said.
As for leaving the decision up to the states, that would create a patchwork system because some would be sure to reject the mandate; in fact, voters in several states have already voted to make it illegal.
Still, Jennings said, the administration would likely seek ways to keep the healthcare reform law intact if the mandate is struck down.
I think they feel committed to those insurance protections, he said, and they would look at alternative ways to do that.
Correction : This story was updated at 9:45 a.m. to reflect the fact that Missouri is not among the parties in the Florida challenge.
Later on this afternoon they’re going to go down to the beach and try to hold back waves with their hands.
I think that the RATs will cut and run. They know that if Obamacare is an issue in 2012 that they will lose everything.
Demwits in the regime will ignore the ruling, but the attorney generals in the offended states won’t. Congress can hold hearings.
This article shows why any time the Feds get their claws in anything it is impossible to get the Vampire off your neck. The best hope is for the SCOTUS to grab the case and rule now.
Promises have been made. Assurances have been communicated. Much of this legislation has been bought and paid for by special interest groups who have paid top dollar to buy this ATM, called Obammacare. The players are now in position to demand their return on investment.
This is going to get very ugly. Egypt style ugly considering the union beast and public employees unions will also draw on the teacher reserists for protests this summer.
What about ... THE CONSTITUION?????? Do we just swat it away like a fly when a law becomes popular. After all, lynching was once quite 'popular'.
Kayan fella lol
The left will try to destroy the judicial branch of our government now or at the very least try to bypass it with impunity.
None of the ramblings of the law professors addresses the reality that the dems intentionally removed the severability clause. They knew that the individual mandate was the lynchpin to forced funding of this nightmare and tried to protect it by making it seem too difficult for a judge to want to over-turn the entire law. It almost worked with Hudson in Virginia kicking that can down the road.
Vinson, on the othe rhand, took the bull by the horns and said up front in his ruling that the removal of the severability clause will not protect the law. If the individual mandate cannot be severed, then the entire law must fall.
For the liberal bloviators to now claim that somehow they still have the legal right if severance after intentionally removing it as a defense to protect the individual mandate is pure hogwash. No matter how thin the media tries to slice it, it’s still baloney!
“Yet lawmakers... are already actively contemplating various scenarios for moving forward without the mandate.”
The “affordability” aspect of the law to the treasury and health insurance providers, according to the numbers given to the CBO, rests on the mandate. Without that, there will be no such thing as health insurance left in this country, therefore the law is even more damaging to the economy, even more restrictive of access to care, even for people who had access prior to the law, and accomplishes nothing.
Repealing the bleeping thing and starting over is the only rational alternative, not moving full steam ahead like money is no object.
With over half of the sovereign states opposing this outrageous bill, it would be interesting to watch how many people will move into those states from the Obama slave states if the bill is allowed to stand sans the mandate.
They should get Donald Berwick to the Hill ASAP and get him on record stating that he plans to ignore a federal court ruling and proceed illegally to implement Obamacare until SCOTUS tells him otherwise. The judicial system doesn’t work so well if one branch of government can just thumb its nose at its rulings.
Doesn’t this ruling carry more weight than the other two. If only because there were 26 states that joined this one.
Where is this vaunted “consumer protection” that everyone is supposed to fall in love with? It doesn’t exist! The only thing anybody has to like about this bill is the provision to let your child stay on your policy until they are 26....and then only if you happen to have a college grad who cannot find full-time work in this Obama Economy.
The article does belie the fact that Liberals think judges should put a moistened finger in the air and check the political winds before ruling on the Constitutionality of anything.
I think you have a likely point. We’re probably in for “Battle of the Corporate Pigsters”.
I pointed this out yesterday to some other FReepers.
Don’t your hopes too high yet. Wait till the Democrats open up their 55 gallon drum of worms first!
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