Week ahead: States to make their case against healthcare law

On Monday, the states suing over Obama’s healthcare law must file their brief with the Supreme Court on the central question of whether the healthcare law is constitutional. The states say Congress does not have the constitutional authority to make people buy a product — in this case, health insurance — solely because they’re U.S. citizens.

The states, which filed the suit along with the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), are likely to argue that upholding the healthcare law’s individual mandate would open the door to a flood of congressional mandates and give the government an unprecedented level of power over people’s private lives.

Monday is also the deadline for the states and NFIB to file their brief on the Anti-Injunction Act — a separate federal law that could prevent the Supreme Court from reaching a decision on the mandate’s constitutionality until it goes into effect in 2014. The states and the Justice Department agree that the court shouldn’t worry about the Anti-Injunction Act, but it’s still an issue the justices have to deal with, in part because of a lower court’s ruling.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are still trying to hammer out an agreement on a payroll tax cut package that is likely to include another temporary “doc fix.” Failure to reach an agreement would mean a cut in doctors’ payments of almost 30 percent.
More Republicans seem to be warming to the idea of paying for the doc fix with savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would let hospitals and other providers escape the targeted Medicare cuts that Congress usually uses to offset patches to the Medicare payment formula.
While House and Senate conferees negotiate the next short-term fix, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on programs that could serve as a model for broader changes in Medicare’s payment formula. The hearing will examine programs that push doctors toward higher quality and greater efficiency.
Off the Hill, the Center for American Progress hosts a forum Wednesday on the Massachusetts healthcare law, which served as a model for the federal effort. Massachusetts Attorney General and failed Senate candidate Martha Coakley will discuss the state’s experience and also argue that the federal healthcare law is constitutional.
Also on Wednesday, the Brookings Institution hosts a discussion of health information technology and state “information exchanges.”