Category Archive - Reform & Regulation

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Michigan Judge Says Health Insurance Reform is Constitutional

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Image: Seattle Municipal Archive under CC 3.0

Opponents of healthcare reform are pinning their hopes of overturning the law on the legal system. Specifically, they contend that the individual mandate provision that requires people to purchase a health insurance plan violates states’ rights.

That argument was recently rejected by one federal judge. In Michigan, U.S. District Judge George Sheeh accepted the Obama administration’s contention that the refusal to buy health coverage materially affects interstate commerce; therefore, Congress has the right to create the mandate.

Of course, the plaintiffs will appeal. Also, two other similar lawsuits are pending in Florida and Virginia–which may be in more conservative districts.

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Should Obama Use Executive Orders To Ban Health Insurance Plans From Increasing Rates?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

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In preparation for healthcare reform regulations that will end up cutting into their profits, insurers are sharply increasing rates while they still can. While Department of Health and Human Services head Kathleen Sebelius has criticized their opportunism–which allegedly goes beyond the actual rise of health care costs–right now, her words have no teeth.

The increases are lowering already shaky public support for the law. What can the Obama administration do? A consumer watchdog group is recommending that the President issue an executive order to freeze health insurance plans‘ premiums until the rate review provisions go into effect in the next plan year.

According to the Supreme Court, presidents are allowed to do so. However, taking that course of action would be politically risky–many already believe that his administration is taking too much control over the health insurance industry.

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Arizona Proposition Would Ban Affordable Health Insurance Mandate

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

The issue of healthcare reform is very controversial. Proponents admit that while the bill isn’t perfect, one of the most unpopular elements is necessary. Basically, in order to provide affordable health insurance without a public option or a national health service, private health insurers must be induced to accept the more popular regulations (such as accepting people with pre-existing conditions) by guaranteeing them a larger supply of healthy consumers, which is where the individual mandate comes in.

In November, Arizona voters will try to launch a challenge to that provision. Proposition 106 would write a ban against forcing residents to buy health coverage into the state constitution. Tea party groups believe that the Healthcare Freedom Act will inspire conservative voters to head to the polls, voting for Republican candidates at the same time. A similar proposition narrowly failed in 2008.

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Predicted Health Insurance Reform Savings Misleading?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Image: University of Tennessee

According to the Obama administration’s director of healthcare reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle, the law will result in a slight reduction in the cost of health insurance. Specifically, each insured person will save up to $1,000 on their health insurance plan by 2019.

While this sounds positive, it does not cancel out the fact that the government’s Medicare actuary predicted a modest cost increase. That is because that cost will be divided among more people–the law seeks to expand coverage to 93 percent of the American population.

Some may consider the relatively small increase a worthwhile investment in our society for helping others, but that trade-off should be presented honestly.

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Healthcare Reform Lawsuit Arguments Continue

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
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Image: steakpinball under CC 3.0

When it comes to healthcare reform, controversy is never far behind. The federal government has continued to argue that the law is constitutional. In a district court, their lawyers claim that the burden of proof should be on the coalition of states suing.

Specifically, the states claim harm from the provision that mandates the purchase of health insurance plans. If a person or business does not comply, they are subject to annual fines of $695. However, the plaintiffs have allegedly failed to demonstrate imminent or actual financial injury, since that aspect of the legislation does not take effect until 2014.

Moreover, the federal government claims that even if the penalty (which would be collected by the IRS) is technically considered a tax, the Anti-Injunction Act prevents states from challenging it, since the individual mandate is considered integral to the structure of the bill.

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Colorado To Vote On Health Insurance Plan Mandate

Saturday, August 28th, 2010
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Image: Paraflyer under CC 3.0

Like several other states, Colorado will have a healthcare reform-related question on the November ballot. Voters will be able to decide whether or not they want to legally challenge provisions of the law.

Similar to other states’ ballot measures, it would pass a law that prevents the federal government from enacting a health insurance plan mandate–one of the main provisions of the bill, intended to reduce the cost of health insurance by spreading the cost among more (typically healthy) people.

It remains to be seen if Amendment 63 is successful. Even if it passes, the federal law may still dominate state law. However, conservative groups are happy that the Colorado health insurance measure received enough signatures to reach the ballot.

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Will States Be Able To Implement Health Insurance Plan Reform?

Monday, August 16th, 2010

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Image: tomcensani under CC 3.0

Although healthcare reform will result in more federal involvement in regulations, the majority of the responsibility for regulating health coverage will still rest with the states.

However, it seems that many state insurance commissioners don’t have the power to do some of the things the Obama administration wants them to. Almost half of the states claim that they don’t have the legal authority to review health insurance plan rate increases, for example.

What are they doing to make sure that they can effectively enforce some of the consumer protection provisions that begin next month? States such as Florida and Texas have little recourse, except for gently encouraging health insurers to modify their contracts in order to comply with federal law. Regulators are planning on new state laws being passed in the next year, or using general laws against deceptive trade practices. It remains to be seen if these tactics will be successful. If they are unable to take the lead, the national government will step in–an unpalatable alternative to many.

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Yet Another Affordable Health Insurance Reform Lawsuit

Saturday, August 14th, 2010
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Image: Wikipedia

This time, a conservative group from Arizona is suing the Obama administration over healthcare reform. The Goldwater Institute, which filed the lawsuit, believes that while the issue of increasing access to affordable health insurance is important, the federal law is too heavy-handed.

They are representing a variety of interests, including Republican politicians on both state and local levels, as well as a small business owner. In addition to the belief that they will be forced to purchase a health insurance plan they don’t want (when, in their view, the Constitution delegates health care policy decisions to the states), the plaintiffs also fear that the legislation violates privacy rights.

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Massachusetts Man Doesn’t Buy Health Insurance Plan, Sues Govt.

Thursday, August 12th, 2010
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This may be a sign of things to come: a man who defied Massachusetts’ individual mandate by not buying a health insurance plan is contesting his $2,000 fine in court. He already tried the formal appeals process to get the fine reversed, but to no avail.

Michael Merlina claims that the $800 monthly premium for him and his wife under the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector’s most affordable option was too expensive. Meanwhile, the couple’s combined income wasn’t low enough to qualify for heavily discounted state health care for the poor.

National healthcare reform will phase in a similar requirement in 2014. It includes elements of–but differs from–the Massachusetts model. It remains to be seen if it will have a similar impact for those caught between the cracks.

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Is There Precedent To Uphold Healthcare Reform?

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Image: BAR Photography under CC 3.0

One of the main arguments against the legality of healthcare reform is the contention that it is unconstitutional. Many opponents believe that the individual health insurance mandate, in particular, violates the 10th Amendment. That amendment says that all rights not specifically given to the federal government in the Constitution or its amendments are left to each state.

However, a competing interpretation–accepted by some conservative justices, no less–states that at times, the national government can exercise powers not expressly mentioned in the document. A recent Supreme Court decision (approved by seven out of the nine members) upheld the federal government’s right to indefinitely detain sex offenders after serving their sentences. Surely, the specifics of ankle monitoring or house arrest for child molesters and others were not on the founding fathers’ minds.

Granted, U.S. vs. Comstock is relatively less controversial an issue than affordable health insurance reform. Still, it’s a sign that the highest court is willing to consider the application of the “elastic clause”, which states that the federal government is allowed to pass laws to help it execute the powers it was expressly given.

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