December 31st, 2012
Undoubtedly the biggest health reform news of 2012 was the June 28 decision of the United States Supreme Court narrowly upholding the Affordable Care Act’s individual responsibility provision as a constitutional exercise of Congress’ power to tax. The Court also held that Congress lacked authority under the spending clause to require the states to extend Medicaid coverage to all adult citizens with incomes under 138 percent of the federal poverty level, although it upheld the Medicaid expansion as an option.
The Supreme Court decision brought to a close most of the approximately thirty cases that had been filed challenging the individual responsibility provision and other provisions of the ACA. Some of these cases, however, have died a lingering death. On December 19, 2912, a federal court in Arizona dismissed the final remaining claims in Coons v. Geithner, a case brought by, among others, Senator Jeff Flake. The court held that the ACA preempted Arizona’s Health Care Freedom Act and did not violate any rights of the plaintiffs to medical autonomy or informational privacy.
Another case has flickered back to life. As reported earlier, the Supreme Court on November 26, 2012, vacated its earlier order denying review of a challenge brought by Liberty University to the ACA and sent the case back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration. The Fourth Circuit’s earlier decision against Liberty University was set aside by the Supreme Court strictly based on that court’s conclusions as to jurisdiction, and the only outstanding issue in the Supreme Court appeal — the constitutionality of the employer responsibility provision — has no chance of succeeding given the well-settled power of Congress to legislate concerning employee benefits. Liberty University is likely, however, to also press religious liberty challenges to the ACA that it raised in its original complaint, and these challenges may require further consideration.
The Legal Fight Over Contraception Coverage
As litigation challenging the ACA’s individual responsibility provision has drawn to a close, however, a new surge of litigation has been building challenging another provision of the ACA — the preventive services mandate.Read the rest of this entry »