Health Care Reform on Judicial Fast Track

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Remember the law suit filed by 26 states (and the National Federation of Independent Businesses) in Florida? That’s the one in which U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson decided that the PPACA’s requirement that individuals obtain health care coverage or pay a penalty/tax/fine/whatever was unconstitutional. In making his decision Judge Vinson stated the law’s violation of the Commerce Clause made the entire Act unconstitutional, but he declined to issue an injunction to stop implementation of the health care reform law. Some states used the the Judge’s ruling to stop work on implementing the law; others did not.

This is the suit likely to move things to the Supreme Court the fastest. Because in an attempt to bring some clarity to the situation, the Justice Department asked Judge Vinson to clarify whether he intended to halt the law – at least in the 26 states party to the suit. They got their answer from Judge Vinson in a response that, when you weed out the criticism of the Justice Department, comes down to yes, he did mean to halt implementation of the law, but he would stay his ruling (which means he’d delay making it effective) so long as the federal government appealed his decision on an expedited basis.

The Department complied and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has put a hearing of Judge Vinson’s decision on a fast track. For a case of this magnitude, the Court set a short timetable. Lawyers for the Obama Administration must file its first briefs by April 4th. The states will have until May 4th to make their case. Federal attorneys will have until May 18th to respond to the states’ filing.

Usually appeals of this nature are heard by a panel of three Circuit Court judges. The losing party may then appeal the case to the all the judges in the Circuit (referred to as an “en banc” hearing). Some of the states involved in the suit have are seeking to skip the panel and have all 10 judges in the Circuit consider the case. This approach would more quickly get the case to the Supreme Court. In any event, oral arguments before the 11th Circuit will likely occur this summer. Given the importance of their decision, a decision by the Court could take a few months.

This is not the only case moving through the system concerning the constitutionality of the PPACA. And even with this expedited timetable the odds are the Supreme Court will announce its decision in the midst of the 2012 elections. Which means there’s plenty of time for Congress to modify the law, for other suits to address non-Commerce Clause issues, and for health care reform to dominate the presidential campaign and the fight for Congress. Which means the Supreme Court’s decision will not be the end of America’s health care reform process, regardless of what they rule it will only be the start of the next round of America’s health care reform process.

10 thoughts on “Health Care Reform on Judicial Fast Track

  1. I have to agree with Steve Lee – we may not have the best system, but we have the best care. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else to have surgery, prescriptions or advanced medical issues dealt with. Granted, I am a Libertyville Insurance Agent so my opinion is biased, but regardless of cost, the actual level of care is highest.

  2. Publicly traded companies are required to disclose about possible risks to their future earnings and performance. When a number of large enterprises began reporting that health care reform would hurt their earnings, however, some lawmakers were, as the New York Times put it “skeptical.” Now that they’ve investigated the matter, however, the Times is reporting that “House Democrats have concluded that the companies were right to tell investors and the government about the expected adverse effects of the law on their financial results.”

  3. This is not the only case moving through the system concerning the constitutionality of the PPACA. And even with this expedited timetable the odds are the Supreme Court will announce its decision in the midst of the 2012 elections. Which means there’s plenty of time for Congress to modify the law, for other suits to address non-Commerce Clause issues, and for health care reform to dominate the presidential campaign and the fight for Congress. Which means the Supreme Court’s decision will not be the end of America’s health care reform process, regardless of what they rule it will only be the start of the next round of America’s health care reform process.

  4. Hi Alan,

    Sorry for posting off-topic, but I’ve recently been reading your blog and think you provide a unique perspective and insights into health care policy and it’s implementation. This article got me to thinking and I was wondering if you accept guest contributions.

    If so, I’d like to offer to write a post considering whether or not there will be any potential for federally backed universal health care if the supreme court rules PPACA unconstitutional.

    Hope to hear from you soon!

    -Pat

  5. We used to say the two biggest lies are “The check is in the mail” and “It won’t hurt a bit.” Now, there is a third biggest lie, which is, “We have the best health care system in the world,” as Bill Clinton and George Bush uttered repeatedly during their respective terms. On the other hand, all of the standard measures of health care quality points to ours as being “the best substandard price-gouging health care system in the world”. We need to find out what’s really wrong and why no one wants to fix it.

    • Totally disagree. While our health care may be expensive and over-priced, who provides a consistently higher quality of health care? In which country would you rather get your health care, if your life depended on it, and I am not referring to cost.

      By the way, I would assert that the third biggest lie, much further from the truth than yours, is, “If you like your health insurance, you’ll be able to keep it.” Yeah, right.

      • “While our health care may be expensive and over-priced, who provides a consistently higher quality of health care? In which country would you rather get your health care, if your life depended on it, and I am not referring to cost.”

        Stevie Lee: Excellent comments, and completely correct. It becomes annoying to hear and read so many Americans (I hope they are from this country, given the “bashing” they enjoy giving our health care system) constantly deriding the American health care system. Were our system so completely rotten, why do so many Canadians come to the US for Cardiac Surgery to be performed in Seattle, and so many other Canadian/US border states? Guess Canadians just enjoy spending money here.

        America has, by far, the most respected “Critical Care” procedures of any of the free-world countries. Citizens from all over the world are advised to, and come to the United States for their serious surgeries knowing that their chance of survival is far greater if performed here, than in any other country.

        It never ceases to amaze me how so many are so ungrateful for the care they receive here, yet complain the loudest if their Welfare (Medicaid) check arrives even a few days late. Most amazing of all is that so many Canadians (and Brits, French, Italians, Germans, etc. etc.) keep saying to the US, “Don’t do it! Don’t socialize your system any more than you already have! If you do, where will we go when we need that kind of care?” No? You don’t think so? My father was a Jew who escaped Germany in 1933, went to Perugia, Italy to finish his Med School, came to the US, served in the Army in WW II, and for years claimed that Germany had a superior health care system. In the early 1990s he spoke with a friend, also a physician, who still lived in Germany. As I was “knocking” HillaryCare, then adopted by WA State, he called his friend the doctor in Germany and discussed the state of German health care versus the US system.

        I must hand it to my father. When he’s wrong he would admit it. He called me to tell me that I was right and he was wrong. His friend in Germany told him that the best health care any where else was in the USA. His complaints about the German system left dad stunned. A client from Britain told me that her sister died due to the British system. She had to wait far too long for treatment, and it was too late.

        Americans have become so spoiled, so used to instant gratification and Entitlements as a way of life that they have no idea of what life would be like if they had to “Work for a living” and pay their fair share. And we STILL give it away. No TVA, CCC, or “work for what you get”, it’s just “gimme, gimme, gimme.”

        Should those Americans who continue to scream “gimme, gimme, gimme” get what they want in a Liberal-Progressive-Socialist desired system it will be interesting to see how long it takes before they are hollering, “I didn’t mean it, I was only kidding, don’t let my wife/husband die just because we were stupid, please!”

        Those Americans who continue to yell their displeasure with America from the rooftops should be spanked and sent to bed without their dinner. They would demand no less for their neighbors badly raised children.

  6. Alan, what do you rate the odds of the Supreme Court overturning or gutting the PPACA? In the event this does happen, how long do you figure the current status quo (stripped of the few beneficial provisions thus far implemented) will manage to hobble along before a broken healthcare system becomes too broken to function for all but the wealthiest or luckiest (corporate subsidized) Americans?

    • Predicting Supreme Court decisions on something like this is never easy. There’s enough reasonable arguments to go around to enable them to land most anywhere. As I’ve written in a few posts, I believe the Obama Administration should seek an alternative to the individual mandate contained in the PPACA. That would greatly increase its chances of passing muster (and make most of the current suits moot).

      Predicting how long the status quo would have been able to hobble along is also impossible to guess. The system worked well for the majority of Americans, but the need for substantial change was becoming more clear each year. The question was never “will there be reform,” but rather “when will there be reform” and “what kind.” And even before the 2008 election I was thinking reform would come sooner rather than later. I just wish the reform we got did a better job of addressing the cost of medical care and took a more reasoned and nuanced approach to the market reforms that were necessary.

      • Good response, Alan.

        I would add only a few additional word: “I just wish the reform we got did a better job of addressing the cost of medical care and took a more reasoned and nuanced approach to the market reforms that were ‘DEEMED’ necessary, ‘though in reality they may not have been necessary at all’.”

        However, it’s your sentence, not mine. 🙂

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