Health reform implementation

Healthcare Friday: Tea Party candidate benefited from ‘unconstitutional’ Medicaid program

Federal judge upholds individual mandate

A federal judge in Michigan ruled Thursday that a new law requiring individuals to buy health insurance or face a financial penalty does not violate the Constitution.

The conservative Thomas More Law Center and four individuals had sued the Obama administration over the individual insurance mandate, arguing that it violates the Constitution’s commerce clause.

But U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh found differently, ruling that the financial penalty is “incidental” to the law’s primary goals of increasing coverage and cutting costs. Therefore, Steeh wrote, the “plaintiffs’ challenge to the constitutionality of the penalty as an improperly apportioned direct tax is without merit.”

DOJ is quick to applaud

The Department of Justice issued a brief statement, cheering the decision.

“This ruling marks the first time a court has considered the merits of any challenge to this law and we welcome the court’s decision upholding the health care reform statute as constitutional,” DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said in an email. “The court found that the minimum coverage provision of the statute was a reasonable means for Congress to take in reforming our health care system. The department will continue to vigorously defend this law in ongoing litigation.”

Others aren’t so sure

Randy Barnett, law professor at Georgetown University, argued that Steeh’s ruling simply reinforces what critics of the mandate have said all along: a requirement by government to purchase a product has no precedence in law. 

“Never before in American history has the U.S. Government imposed an economic mandate commanding that persons engage in economic activity,” Barnett wrote. “Given that there is no current Supreme Court doctrine recognizing such power in Congress, the appropriate stance of a district court judge is to follow Supreme Court precedent and deny this claim of power until the Supreme Court decides in due course to expand its doctrine.”

In Nevada, Angle (falsely) accuses Reid of endorsing Viagra coverage for pedophiles

GOP Senate hopeful Sharron Angle launched a new ad Thursday accusing her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), of supporting legislation to subsidize Viagra for sex offenders.

The reference is to an amendment to the healthcare bill, offered in March by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), “prohibiting coverage of Viagra for child molesters and rapists.” It was one of a long list of proposals Republicans offered on the Senate floor as a last ditch attempt to kill the larger proposal.

All of those amendments were tabled — mostly along party lines — to keep the underlying bill intact.

In Angle’s book, that’s an endorsement for funding Viagra for pedophiles.

“Want to know just how out of touch Harry Reid is?” the narrative begins. “Reid actually voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra — for convicted child molesters and sex offenders.

“What else could you ever need to know about Harry Reid?”

Reid’s office was quick to respond, with spokeswoman Kelly Steele telling Politico that the ad is another example of Angle’s “‘pathological’ pattern of lying to the voters of Nevada in pursuit of her extreme and dangerous political agenda.”

White House justifies those waivers

Stephanie Cutter, assistant to the president for special projects, offered a lengthy explanation Thursday behind dozens of HHS waivers exempting companies from the new insurance reforms contained in the healthcare law.

The waivers came after companies like McDonald’s — which offer low-premium, low-benefit health plans called mini-med policies — threatened to drop coverage altogether if they were forced to adhere to new rules eliminating caps on annual coverage.

“The good news is that in 2014 ‘mini-med’ policies will be a thing of the past. The bad news is that today they are the only option for many Americans who can’t afford coverage on the individual market,” Cutter wrote on the White House blog. 

“But between now and 2014, we want to ensure that these workers are able to maintain their best available coverage option. … So, to ensure that we’re not creating a whole new population of uninsured Americans and causing significant disruption in the marketplace, HHS created a process to provide temporary waivers from complying with the new annual limit rules. 

“These waivers are only granted if insurers and employers show that such rules would lead to significantly higher premiums or a significant decrease in access to care,” Cutter adds. “In addition, these waivers are temporary.  Insurance companies must reapply for the waivers each year, and they will not be available beginning in 2014 when annual limits are completely banned. 

“This policy isn’t about mollifying insurers, it’s about protecting consumers.”

Tags Harry Reid Tom Coburn

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