Tag Archives: Supreme Court

HuffPost dives into public records on King v. Burwell

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

Photo by dbking via Flickr

Photo by dbking via Flickr

A key issue in King v. Burwell, the health care reform case argued before the Supreme Court in early March, is whether Congress intended to make certain subsidies available to eligible people across the country or only to those living in states that created their own health insurance exchange.

Sam Stein and colleagues at the Huffington Post filed public record requests with several key states, including some  in which prominent GOP governors did not establish exchanges. The reporters also reviewed records from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and more than 50,000 previously released emails from the Oklahoma governor’s office. The requests covered a period between the March 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and August 2011, when the IRS ruled that the subsidies should be available in all states.

How much discussion did Stein find about the risk of losing subsidies? Continue reading

SCOTUS: Some things to note as we wait for a decision

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

By Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Roberts Court (2010-) - The Oyez Project) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Roberts Court (2010-) – The Oyez Project) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On March 4 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell. A ruling is expected in late June – though it’s possible it could come earlier. The plaintiffs argue that the health insurance subsidies should only be available to people living in states running their own Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges or marketplaces, not the 34 states using the federal exchange via HealthCare.gov. They cite four words in the text of the law “established by the state” to make this argument. The Administration says it’s clear from reading the full text of the 906 page law that subsidies were to be available in all 50 states, no matter what kind of exchange they have.

So the Supreme Court has heard the King v. Burwell challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

Now what?

Good question.

Much of the coverage suggested that the March 4 oral arguments seemed to favor the administration, particularly because Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the deciding swing vote on the court, asked some questions showing skepticism of the plaintiff’s case.

But all that tells is precisely that – he asked some questions showing skepticism. He won’t necessarily vote that way. He backed scrapping the entire statute back in 2012 and made clear at that time that he detested the law.

Oral arguments are interesting and important – but rarely decisive. If you think you know how the court will rule – well you have a 50-50 chance of being right.

A few things did come out that health journalists should note. Continue reading

Under­standing, explaining primary issues of King v. Burwell

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

Photo by dbking via Flickr

Photo by dbking via Flickr

With oral arguments in King v. Burwell scheduled for tomorrow, the Supreme Court will likely rule in late June.

The case challenges whether subsidies, in the form of tax credits, can go to people in states using the federal exchange, or only to those in the states running their own health insurance marketplaces.

After the state cases and 2012 National Federation of Independent Business case, it is the third case that poses an existential threat to the Affordable Care Act. (Hobby Lobby and other contraception-related cases wouldn’t unspool the structure of the whole ACA, only that aspect of women’s preventive health care.)

This case isn’t about whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. (The 2012 case was.) This is about interpreting the text, and whether the language of the law allows the subsidies in the federal exchange states.

Learn more about the landmark Supreme Court case in this new tip sheet.

Experts weigh in on covering the SCOTUS challenge

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Seth Borenstein, Associated Press/New York UniversityPhil Galewitz, of Kaiser Health News; Tom Goldstein, an attorney and founder of SCOTUSblog; Christine Eibner, a senior economist at Rand Corp.; and Thomas Miller, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (left to right) discussed how to cover Burwell vs. King Supreme Court Case during a chapter event at the NYU Washington, D.C., Center on Feb. 18.

Photo: Seth Borenstein, Associated Press/New York UniversityPhil Galewitz, of Kaiser Health News; Tom Goldstein, an attorney and founder of SCOTUSblog; Christine Eibner, a senior economist at Rand Corp.; and Thomas Miller, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (left to right) discussed how to cover King v. Burwell at the NYU Washington, D.C., Center on Feb. 18.

The Washington, D.C., chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists had a session last week about the upcoming King v. Burwell case that will go before the Supreme Court challenging whether the Affordable Care Act subsidies can flow through the federal exchanges.

More than 30 people attended the event at New York University’s D.C. campus, including some students and faculty, and it was mentioned in Politico Pulse. Seth Borenstein, a science writer for The Associated Press and adjunct professor, helped organize and co-host the session. Kaiser Health News reporter Phil Galewitz, who leads the D.C. chapter, and Margot Sanger-Katz, a health writer with The New York Times, spoke to students after the event about how journalists have covered the Affordable Care Act.

A ruling for King would affect people in 34 states. Three other states – Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon – are using HealthCare.gov technology but are running enough of their own exchange to be a sort of hybrid. Briefs for both sides filed in the case agree that it will affect 34 states, not 37.

We’re assembling a tip sheet with more resources on the case, but here are some highlights from the event. Continue reading

State waivers and the next Supreme Court ACA challenge

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

A recent Health Affairs blog post by Heather Howard (a familiar name to AHCJ members who have attended the panels or webcasts she’s done for us) and her colleague Galen Benshoof at the State Health Reform Assistance Network (housed at Princeton) outlined an aspect of the coming King case on exchange subsidies. The information was new to me, and may be unfamiliar to other reporters too. I’ve summarized the key points below and included story ideas at the bottom. You can read the original (more detailed) post here.

justice scales

Image by HoustondwiPhotos mp via flickr.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) encourages state innovation in many ways, but one of the most significant is the “Wyden waivers” or the State Innovation Waivers program in section 1332 of the law. They become available in 2017, although planning can start earlier.

Some states are thinking about taking these waivers,  which include “exchanges, benefit packages, and the individual and employer mandates.” States can get all the federal money that would have gone into those provisions – hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars – but they have to provide comparable coverage and it must be affordable. HHS and Treasury have released some guidance but not a whole lot of detailed rules and instructions.

Continue reading

Supreme Court hears case over teeth whitening, professional board’s power

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo by dbking via Flickr

Photo by dbking via Flickr

WASHINGTON — A long-running fight between the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners and a group of non-dentists who provide teeth-whitening services reached the nation’s high court today.

During an intense hour of oral arguments, the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court delved into whether the state board overstepped federal anti-trust laws in sending out threatening “cease and desist” letters to operators of teeth whitening salons in mall kiosks and salons.

Was the board, which is dominated by practicing dentists, unfairly obstructing competition from lower-priced providers? Or was the body fulfilling its obligation to protect the public health by acting as an arm of the state to shut down illegal practitioners of dentistry?

The court’s decision might have implications for teeth-whitening shops around the country, as well as for the state-established boards that regulate a wide range of professions, Emery Dalesio reported in an Oct. 13 story for The Associated Press

Dental whitening has grown into a multibillion dollar business and the struggle over who should be allowed to bleach teeth has been playing out in many states in recent years. Continue reading

Watch funding, implementation and court cases as health reform moves forward

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

The election is over. Obamacare survived.

So what’s the story in your state or community?

Implementation. Or lack thereof.

Joanne KenenJoanne Kenen (@JoanneKenen) is AHCJ’s health reform topic leader. If you have questions or suggestions for future resources, please send them to joanne@healthjournalism.org.

So here’s an overview of where things stand in D.C. – and what it means for the health beat.

(Soon we will post a short separate item on the new state insurance exchange deadlines. If your state wants to run its own exchange, the deadline is still Nov. 16. They have more time to fill in the details though.)

The Affordable Care Act will not be repealed. Maybe the House will still hold a few symbolic repeal votes, but it’s not going to be repealed. That does not mean that critics of the law won’t try to dismantle parts of it. Some likely targets include the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board and some of the industry taxes, particularly the medical device tax. Watch your own legislators to see where they go on this—if you are in a state or district with a medical device industry, watch the Democrats as well as the Republicans (and the medical device businesses themselves). Ask them how they want to offset the funding; if they eliminate one of the taxes that paid for the coverage expansion, where do they want to get that money instead? Adding to the deficit isn’t going to go over as a solution.

The law’s funding is vulnerable. How vulnerable and which parts? Hard to say yet. But for what it’s worth, #DEFUND is the new Twitter rallying cry for opponents of the law (some of whom do not seem to realize that the Republican House can’t act unilaterally … but I digress). There will be ample opportunities for Republicans to try to take a whack at this, not just through the annual budget and appropriations process but through the lame duck session of Congress getting under way this week that will try to find a way of averting, at least temporarily, the fiscal cliff. Continue reading

The Supreme Court has ruled. Now what?

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Now that the Supreme Court has issued a decision on health care reform, how do you localize and cover it for your readers, listeners and viewers?

To assist reporters across the country who will need to localize the decision and what it means for their states and local communities, AHCJ will host a one-hour online roundtable of experts to offer you suggestions on stories you can pursue right away and in the weeks ahead. We will help you identify stories that make sense for you as a local or regional reporter.

The U.S. Supreme Court

Photo by functoruser via Flickr

The event will take place at noon ET on June 29, the day after the court releases its ruling.

Participants include:

  • Alan Weil, executive director, National Academy for State Health Policy
  • Kevin Outterson, associate professor of law and associate professor of health law, bioethics and human rights, Boston University
  • Bruce Siegel, M.D., M.P.H., president and chief executive officer, National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems
  • Moderator: AHCJ President Charles Ornstein, a senior correspondent for ProPublica

To participate in the webcast, click on this link at the time of the webcast. You will need your AHCJ website username and password to log in. During the event, you will be able to send in questions through a chat function and listen to the answers via your computer’s speakers.

AHCJ is committed to helping you cover this milestone decision. And for many valuable tips and resources, visit our health reform topic pages, compiled by health reform topic leader Joanne Kenen.

Some related items you will find on the health reform topic pages:

Covering state responses to Supreme Court decision on Affordable Care Act

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

If the Supreme Court strikes key parts – but not all – of the 2010 health law, the best chances of fixing the gaps might come from the states.

Core Topics
Health Reform
Aging
Other Topics

The conventional wisdom – and conventional wisdom based on justices’ comments during oral arguments is not worth its weight in gold – is that the Supreme Court in late June (maybe June 28) will issue the health care ruling and strike the individual mandate. The conventional wisdom, further, is that it will probably, but not necessarily, also strike two related insurance market rules – covering people with pre-existing conditions (AKA guaranteed issue) and limits on how much more older people can be charged for coverage than younger ones (AKA community rating.) But it could strike only the mandate, tossing the other insurance rules back to Congress to address.

The health reform law minus the individual mandate, community rating and guaranteed issue won’t work so well, either as a coverage tool or as a cost-container. (Although Medicaid expansion and subsidies for people buying plans in the exchange would proceed). And the health reform law without the individual mandate but with everything else intact will work even less well. Judging from the experiences of states that have tried such regulations without a mandate, insurance premiums are likely to soar.  In fact, it could be such a mess that it would actually increase pressure on legislators to address it.
Continue reading

Get familiar with alternatives to ACA’s individual mandate

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

The Supreme Court this month – probably June 28 but maybe a bit earlier – will rule on the Affordable Care Act.

Core TopicsHealth ReformAgingOther Topics

The central question is whether the individual mandate is constitutional. If the mandate is struck down, with or without some related insurance market rules, it pokes a huge hole in the 2010 health care law.

We’re going to post a longer, separate item on  what reporters need to understand about the next steps in policy – and how it might play out in the states. But first here are some quick resources on what the policy alternatives might be (short of repealing the law entirely, as many Republicans have proposed).
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