The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and President Donald Trump’s controversial nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill her seat—have ignited concerns over how a court with a six-to-three conservative majority might rule on an upcoming case on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Barrett’s confirmation this Thursday. On November 10 the court will hear Texas v. California. That case will decide whether to uphold a lower court’s ruling that the ACA’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance makes the entire act unconstitutional—or to declare that the mandate is “severable” from the rest of it. If the ACA as a whole is struck down, 20 million people in the U.S. would lose their insurance. Even if it is partially struck down, up to 129 million could lose protections for preexisting conditions—including the more than eight million who have had COVID-19. If she is confirmed before the case is heard, Barrett has given no assurances that she will vote to uphold the landmark health care law.
Many legal scholars say the case for nixing the entire ACA is very weak. But even if the court severs the mandate from most of the law—as Justice Brett Kavanaugh and others have hinted—and strikes down only parts of it, that decision could still do significant damage because the ACA is so intricately tied to the health care system, a number of experts say. Invalidating the law would “throw the nation into economic chaos, in addition to people not having health insurance,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, a professional organization that promotes public health. “The unintended consequences of even a small tinkering of the ACA could have enormous implications.”
In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that the ACA’s individual mandate was constitutional because the penalty for not being insured could be considered a tax. But in 2017 Congress passed a tax bill that lowered the penalty to $0, beginning in January 2019. As a result, Texas and other states filed a civil suit claiming the mandate was unconstitutional in 2018. A federal judge in Texas ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and nonseverable, making the entire law unconstitutional—but he did not overturn it. The decision was appealed and eventually made it to the Supreme Court, which is now preparing to hear the case.
A range of different outcomes is possible, according to Katie Keith, a part-time research faculty member at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University and a principal at the consulting firm Keith Policy Solutions. First, the court will have to determine whether the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the mandate. “If the answer is no, the case kind of goes away,” she says. Second, it must decide whether the mandate is constitutional or not. “Reasonable minds could disagree,” she says, but the case also goes away if the mandate is found to be constitutional.
Appeals court upholds Kentucky abortion law requiring clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a Kentucky law that requires abortion clinics to have written agreements with a hospital and ambulance service in case of medical emergencies.
The 2-1 ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a 2018 district court ruling that found the law, first passed in 1998, violated constitutionally protected due process rights.
EMW Women’s Surgical Center first challenged the law in 2017 after a licensing fight with then-Gov. Matt Bevin (R). EMW was the only clinic that provided abortions at the time, and Bevin claimed that it lacked proper transfer agreements and took steps to shut it down.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky joined the suit later on, claiming that Bevin had used these transfer agreements to block its request for a license to provide abortions. After Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear took office in 2019, the two clinics were allowed to provide abortions.
The court wrote that the “district court erred in concluding that Kentucky would be left without an abortion facility,” according to The Associated Press, and dismissed the clinics’ argument that they were at risk of closing. It further said that the law allows clinics to apply for a 90-day waiver if they are denied a licensing agreement, which they could theoretically reapply for and continue to operate.
“(We) must presume that the Inspector General will consider waiver applications in good faith and will not act ‘simply to make it more difficult for (women) to obtain an abortion,’” the ruling read.
In his dissenting opinion, Judge Eric Clay wrote that it “condones the evisceration of the constitutional right to abortion access in Kentucky.”
“At the end of the day, no matter what standard this Court is bound to apply, the majority’s decision today is terribly and tragically wrong,” he wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which represented the clinics, said in a statement that Kentucky’s law means abortion providers have to navigate “needless red tape every 90 days” and warned that the state could be the first without any abortion providers if the governor refuses to grant the waiver.
“This is what it looks like when politicians chip away at protections under Roe — pushing medically unnecessary laws that jeopardize abortion access without ever overturning Roe,” Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in a statement.
“It must be stated that we are in a dangerous moment for abortion rights and what this moment calls for is leadership to put all people before politics and do what’s necessary to ensure every person has access to the care they need and deserve,” Charbonneau added.
Abortion rights have become a hot-button issue this election, as Democrats worry that the impending Senate confirmation of Judge Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettRepublicans increasingly seek distance from Trump Overnight Health Care: Pfizer could apply for vaccine authorization by late November | State health officials say they need .4B for vaccination effort | CDC: Blacks, Hispanics dying of COVID-19
Affordable Care Act: Trump keeps chipping away at Obamacare with only weeks until the election — and a Supreme Court hearing
The administration this week approved Georgia’s waiver request to provide Medicaid coverage to certain low-income residents if they work or participate in other qualifying activities for at least 80 hours a month. It’s the latest state to receive permission to require work as a condition of coverage, though implementation elsewhere has been halted by federal courts or state officials.
The Peach State, which has the nation’s third highest uninsured rate at 13.4%, is the first to seek this enhanced power to reshape its individual market.
Georgia and federal officials say that these efforts will make coverage more available and affordable to residents, but consumer advocates say they are the latest attempts to undercut the law.
“It’s a road map of what they would allow were the ACA to be struck down and were they to win election again,” said Judy Solomon, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
What Georgia wants to do
Georgia is not looking to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The waiver only applies to those earning up to
A bankruptcy court ruled Friday that Exide Technologies may abandon its shuttered battery recycling plant in Vernon, leaving a massive cleanup of lead and other toxic pollutants at the site and in surrounding neighborhoods to California taxpayers.
The decision by Chief Judge Christopher Sontchi of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Delaware, made over the objections of California officials and community members, marks the latest chapter in a decades-long history of government failures to protect the public from brain-damaging lead, cancer-causing arsenic and other pollutants from the facility.
The plan’s confirmation only deepens a fiasco that has subjected working-class Latino communities across southeast Los Angeles County to chronic and dangerous levels of soil contamination and made the area a poster child for environmental injustice.
Community groups have fought for years with the company and its environmental regulators to restrict harmful pollution, shut down illegal operations and clean up the toxic mess. The property’s abandonment compounds the challenges of addressing ongoing health risks to young children and others living nearby, where thousands of yards remain riddled with lead, a powerful neurotoxin with no safe level of exposure.
The decision followed a two-day court hearing with testimony from environmental regulators, company consultants and officers and health experts, much of it about the threats to the environment and the public from abandoning a hazardous facility with the remediation unfinished. The recycling operation, located about 5 miles from downtown Los Angeles, has not been fully demolished and remains partially enclosed in a temporary, tent-like structure designed to prevent the release of lead and other toxic pollutants.
In his verbal ruling, Sontchi concluded it is not an imminent threat to the public.
“The entire property is not sort of a seething, glowing toxic lead situation,” Sontchi said.
“We have a very dangerous element that will cause long-term health effects” and takes time to accumulate, he said. “I don’t think any of that indicates there’s an imminent, immediate harm to the general public if this property is abandoned.”
State officials blame decades of air pollution from the plant, which melted down used car batteries until its closure five years ago, for spreading lead dust across half a dozen communities, including Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Commerce and Maywood. The area contains more than 100,000 people.
A state-led cleanup has so far removed contaminated soil from 2,000 residential properties, as well as as well as parks, day-care facilities and schools. But thousands more have yet to be cleaned in the largest remediation project of its kind in California.
The Trump administration, through the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, supported Exide’s plan, which also leaves behind toxic sites in several other states. Those sites too remain a threat to public health and