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Accountable Care Act Unconstitutional? The Fate Of Americans’ Health

A Florida’s judge’s ruling that the Accountable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional doesn’t resolve the underlying constitutional issue (which will ultimately have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court) but it has introduced new uncertainty for the $2.3 trillion health care industry, and emboldened the law’s critics to push even harder for repeal (not that they weren’t trying already).

The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) health blog reports that “states and companies that are supposed to be implementing the law trying to figure out what to do next. The WSJ reports that the 26 states that are parties to the suit are considering whether to ask the Supreme Court to take up the case now, before it has fully wended its way through the legal system. The New York Times (NYT) quotes the governor of Florida as saying that until the fate of the law is clear, “we’re not going to spend a lot of time and money” to implement it. Other states, even if part of the suit, will move ahead,” the NYT says. The WSJ also reports that most health care companies plan to “stay the course” and continue to plan for the law’s implementation. Meanwhile, the Obama administration says that the judge’s ruling will have no effect on the implementation of the law or the requirement that states (including those who brought the suit) comply with its mandates and claims that most constitutional experts agree with the administration.

Now, I am not a lawyer, so I don’t have any expertise on the legal arguments over the ACA’s constitutionality. For those of you who want to hear more about the constitutional questions from people who might actually know what they are talking about, I recommend this Health Care Blog post from attorney Mark Hall, a critic of the Florida judge’s ruling. He notes that “at least half of the relevant part of the opinion is devoted to discussing what Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson and other Founding Fathers would have thought about the individual mandate” (Judge Vinson concluded that they would not have approved of it) but “the same Founders wrote a Constitution that allowed the federal government to take property from unwilling sellers and passive owners, when needed to construct highways, bridges and canals.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein — a supporter of the Affordable Care Act — has posted an excellent overview of what legal experts are saying about the ruling, pro and con, including a link to a posting that argues Judge Vinson ruled correctly. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Healthcare Reform Law: State Courts Pose A Threat

Busted 300x200 State Courts Pose Threat to Health Reform LawFlush from their big win in the midterms, the Boehners are vowing to repeal and replace the Big O’s health reform law. They pose a legitimate threat, but an even larger one lies in the courts, where suits challenging the constitutionality of the law have been popping up like fireflies on a late August night.

In Virginia for example, Republican-appointed Federal District Court Judge Henry Hudson has indicated that the Individual Mandate — a key provision of the law that has been challenged in a suit filed in his court by the state’s Republican Attorney General — might not pass his sniff test.

Hudson said he’d rule on the matter this month. If he deems the provision to be unconstitutional, he might (it’s unlikely, but he might) enjoin the law altogether until higher courts rule on the matter. Holy Kazakhstan, Batman!

An official at Camp Obama, who spoke with the New York Times under the condition that his name not be WikiLeaked, acknowledged that Hudson’s thumbs appear to be pointing downward, indeed. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Workers Compensation: A Model For The Future Of American Healthcare?

There’s a country with an unusual healthcare system. In it, you often spend about as much time with your lawyer as you do your doctor. There are special courts set up to decide what kinds of treatment you are allowed to have. And doctors have to be careful that they don’t say or do the wrong thing, or else they risk being blackballed by insurance companies.

The country:  The United States of America.

You may not realize it, but if you hurt your back at work you end up in a different healthcare system than if you hurt your back at home. Sure, you may end up with similar doctors or hospitals, but your experience of healthcare will be completely different. Here’s why.

If you get hurt at work, you’re covered by the “workers compensation” system. That system has its roots over a century ago, when employers didn’t do much to take care of workers. So the system is based on laws that mandate employers to take care of injured workers, often for the rest of their lives. In exchange for this very comprehensive coverage, employers and their insurers get a great deal of control over what care workers get and where they get it.

Does the workers compensation system represent a model of how a future American healthcare system might work? It might. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Medicare Cut Effective Today: Who Should Doctors Be Angry At?

Instead of blogging (again) about Congress’s failure to stop the 21% Medicare SGR cut, which went into effect today, I could just re-run my April 16 post. I wrote then:

“It is the failure of both political parties, over many years, to honestly deal with the SGR, including the cost of getting rid of it, which has resulted in the current ongoing SGR farce. And yet members of Congress wonder why the public holds them in such low regard.”

Blogging in DB’s Medicare Rants, Dr. Bob Centor captures the outrage felt by most physicians:

“I am mad. Every physician I know is mad. Patients should join us in expressing anger. Physicians cannot trust Congress if they cannot repair this absurdity.”

(Bob references ACP’s statement, released on Friday; click here to read it in its entirety.)

That Congress allowed politics again to get in the way of doing what is best for patients makes my blood boil. Voters can and should hold them accountable. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Will Large Employers Dump Healthcare Coverage?

Fortune magazine has made some news recently about the impact of healthcare reform on large employers:

Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill’s critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the healthcare coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.

The only trouble? There’s no way these employers are seriously thinking about doing this.

I can understand why the employers would do the math. According to healthcare reform law, penalties for failing to provide health coverage are a small fraction of the cost of that coverage. But as with most everything else in healthcare, there’s much more to it than just a simple math equation. Here’s what I mean. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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