Tag Archives: healthcare

The opening for a fresh ObamaCare challenge

By defining the mandate as a tax, one that will not be uniformly applied, the Supreme Court ran afoul of the Constitution.

By DAVID B. RIVKIN, JR. AND LEE A. CASEY

ObamaCare is being implemented, having been upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in June in a series of cases now known as National Federation of Independent Business v. HHS. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that the court took a law that was flawed but potentially workable and transformed it into one that is almost certainly unworkable. More important, the justices also may have created new and fatal constitutional problems.

ObamaCare, or the Affordable Care Act, was conceived as a complex statutory scheme designed to provide Americans with near-universal health-care coverage and to effectively federalize the nation’s health-care system. The law’s core provision was an individual health-insurance purchase mandate, adopted by Congress as a “regulation” of interstate commerce. The provision required most Americans to buy federally determined minimum health-care insurance, or to pay a penalty more or less equivalent to the cost of that coverage.

Equally important were provisions requiring creation of state-run health-care insurance exchanges (where middle-income earners could obtain the prescribed coverage) and an expanded Medicaid program (also administered by the states) to cover people with incomes up to 133% (later upped to 138%) of the federal poverty level. An income of up to $31,809 for a family of four would qualify for Medicaid. States that failed to join in the Medicaid expansion were threatened with the loss of all federal Medicaid dollars, nearly a quarter of all state expenditures.

In the ObamaCare ruling, the Supreme Court correctly held that Congress could not impose the individual mandate as a constitutional regulation of interstate commerce and that Congress could not constitutionally use its spending power to coerce the states to expand Medicaid. Rather than strike down the law, however, the court construed the insurance-purchase mandate and its penalty as a “tax” on the failure to have health insurance. The justices also interpreted the Medicaid-expansion requirements as optional—permitting states to opt out of these provisions while staying within the traditional Medicaid program. Given that interpretation, the court’s majority upheld the statute as constitutional.

The court’s determination to preserve ObamaCare through “interpretation” has exacerbated the law’s original flaws to the point that it has become palpably unworkable. By transforming the penalties for failing to comply with the law’s requirements into a “tax,” the court has given the public a green light to ignore ObamaCare’s requirements when it is economically beneficial. Law-abiding individuals, who might otherwise have complied with the law’s expensive purchase mandate to avoid being subjected to financial penalties, can simply now choose to pay a tax and not sign up for coverage. There is certainly no stigma attached to simply paying a tax, and noncompliance with the law’s other requirements—such as those imposed on employers—is arguably made more attractive on the same basis. This effect fundamentally undercuts Congress’s original purpose, which was to expand health-care coverage to the greatest number of people, not to improve federal revenues.

Similarly, having reviewed the likely costs and benefits, states are now taking advantage of the court-granted flexibility. Seven states, including Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, have so far opted out of the Medicaid-expansion provisions, and eight (with more certain to come) are refusing to create the insurance exchanges, leaving this to a federal bureaucracy unequipped to handle these new administrative burdens. As a result, a growing number of low-income Americans will be unable to obtain the free or cost-effective insurance that Congress originally meant them to have, although they remain subject to the mandate-tax.

Policy problems aside, by transforming the mandate into a tax to avoid one set of constitutional problems (Congress having exceeded its constitutionally enumerated powers), the court has created another problem. If the mandate is an indirect tax, as the Supreme Court held, then the Constitution’s “Uniformity Clause” (Article I, Section 8, Clause 1) requires the tax to “be uniform throughout the United States.” The Framers adopted this provision so that a group of dominant states could not shift the federal tax burden to the others. It was yet another constitutional device that was simultaneously designed to protect federalism and safeguard individual liberty.

The Supreme Court has rarely considered the Uniformity Clause’s reach, but it cannot be ignored. The court also refused to impose meaningful limits on Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce for decades after the 1930s, until justices began to re-establish the constitutional balance in the 1990s with decisions leading up to the ObamaCare ruling this summer. And although the court has upheld as “uniform” taxes that affect states differently in practice, precedent makes clear that a permissible tax must “operate with the same force and effect in every place where the subject of it is found,” as held in the Head Money Cases (1884). The ObamaCare tax arguably does not meet this standard.

ObamaCare provides that low-income taxpayers, who are nevertheless above the federal poverty line, can discharge their mandate-tax obligation by enrolling in the new, expanded Medicaid program, which serves as the functional equivalent of a tax credit. But that program will not now exist in every state because, as a matter of federal law, states can opt out. The actual tax burden will not be geographically uniform as the court’s precedents require.

Thus, having transformed the individual mandate into a tax, the court may face renewed challenges to ObamaCare on uniformity grounds. The justices will then confront a tough choice. Having earlier reinterpreted the mandate as a tax, they would be hard-pressed to approve the geographic disparity created when states opt out of the Medicaid expansion. But that possibility is inherent in a scheme that imposes a nominally uniform tax liability accompanied by the practical equivalent of a fully off-setting tax credit available only to those living in certain states. To uphold such a taxing scheme would eliminate any meaningful uniformity requirement—a result that the Constitution does not permit.

ObamaCare was always a poorly conceived and constitutionally deficient statute. The Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the law has simply made it worse. In the future, that decision is likely to be seen as a prime reason that the federal courts should judge and never legislate—even in the cause of rescuing an otherwise unconstitutional law from oblivion.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are lawyers in the Washington, D.C., office of Baker & Hostetler LLP. They pioneered the constitutional arguments against the individual mandate and represented 26 states in challenging ObamaCare before the trial and appellate courts.

A version of this article appeared December 6, 2012, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Opening for a Fresh ObamaCare Challenge.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324705104578151164101375482.html?mod=djemEditorialPage_h

The Supreme Court ruling on federal government’s police powers: The good, the bad, and the Fig Leaf

The Supreme Court ObamaCare ruling is the topic at a Federalist Society forum on October 4 at Florida International University College of Law. David Rivkin, who led the 26-state case against the US government, and Prof. Elizabeth Foley will present.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


PRLog (Press Release)
 - Oct 01, 2012 -

The issue of government takeover of healthcare isn’t going away. While Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion on the legality of ObamaCare put limits on Congress’ power to regulate citizens’ activity, it gutted limitations on Congress’ taxing power.

David Rivkin, who led the 26-state case against the U.S. government in Florida’s 11th District Court (whose judge, Roger Vinson, ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor), said that the Supreme Court decision in June was both “excellent and bad.” The Supreme Court ObamaCare ruling is the discussion topic on Thursday, October 4, at Florida International University College of Law.Prof. Elizabeth Foley, a “founding faculty” of the FIU College of Law, will serve as commentator for the event.

Over the past decades, Congress has enacted legislation that increasingly broadened its regulatory powers, assuming that any regulation is justified by the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court decision established limits on Congress’ power to do so. For those interpreting the Constitution as limiting and enumerating the powers of government, this aspect of the ruling was good news.

Unfortunately, according to Rivkin, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold ObamaCare required that they effectively rewrite the law and broaden Congress’ tax authority. They converted the individual mandate into a tax for not purchasing insurance. Rivkin asserted that this expansion of the taxing power enables Congress to tax inactivity—crossing a constitutional barrier into police powers.

Rivkin has observed that the Supreme Court adheres to the principles of federalism, i.e., the dual sovereignty of the federal government and the states, only when ruling on laws that are not important—a position commonly known as “fig leaf federalism.”

For more information about David Rivkin, visit http://www.fed-soc.org/events/detail/the-health-care-mand…

Source: http://www.prlog.org/11988497-the-supreme-court-ruling-on-federal-governments-police-powers-the-good-the-bad-and-the-fig-leaf.html

ObamaCare’s Supreme Court fallout: The good, the bad, and the Fig Leaf

David Rivkin Analyzes the Supremes’ Decision at the Cato Institute’s annual Constitution Day symposium on Supreme Court rulings. The Chief Justice’s opinion expanded Congress’ taxing power in order to uphold the ObamaCare legislation.
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
DRIV Screen shot 2012-09-19 at 9.02.14 AM
DRIV Screen shot 2012-09-19 at 9.02.14 AM

PRLog (Press Release) - Sep 19, 2012 - Washington D.C. – The ObamaCare issue isn’t going away. While Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion put limits on the Congress’ power to regulate citizens’ activity, it gutted limitations on Congress’ taxing power.  So said constitutional attorney David Rivkin at the Cato Institute’s Annual Constitution Day symposium on the Supreme Court rulings.  The symposium was held yesterday at the institute’s conference facility in Washington, D.C.

David Rivkin, who led the 26-state case against the U.S. government in Florida’s 11th District Court (whose judge, Roger Vinson, ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor), said that the Supreme Court decision in June was both “excellent and bad.” For years, Congress has enacted legislation that increasingly broadened its regulatory powers, assuming that any regulation is justified by the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.  The Supreme Court decision put limits on Congress’ power to do so.  For those interpreting the Constitution as limiting and enumerating the powers of government, this aspect of the ruling was good news.

Unfortunately, according to Rivkin, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold ObamaCare required that they effectively rewrite the law and broaden Congress’ tax authority.  They converted the individual mandate into a tax for not purchasing insurance.  Rivkin asserted that this expansion of the taxing power enables Congress to tax inactivity—crossing a constitutional barrier into police powers that are generally reserved for the states.  

Rivkin observed that the Supreme Court adheres to the principles of federalism, i.e., the dual sovereignty of the federal government and the states, only when ruling on laws that are not important—a position known as “fig leaf federalism.”

To view a video on the symposium, visit http://www.cspan.com. For more information about David Rivkin, visit http://www.davidrivkin.com.

Source: http://www.prlog.org/11978584-obamacares-supreme-court-fallout-the-good-the-bad-and-the-fig-leaf.html

 

A triumph and tragedy for the law

To uphold the individual mandate as an exercise of the taxing power, the majority overlooked the natural meaning of the statutory text.

By DAVID B. RIVKIN, JR. AND LEE A. CASEY

The Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision is both a triumph and a tragedy for our constitutional system. On the plus side, as we have long argued in these pages and in the courts, the justices held that Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce cannot support federal requirements imposed on Americans simply because they exist. The court also ruled that there are limits to Congress’s ability to use federal spending to force the states to adopt its preferred policies.

However, in upholding ObamaCare’s mandate that all Americans buy health insurance as a kind of “tax,” the court itself engaged in a quintessentially legislative activity—redrafting the law’s unambiguous text. The court struck down ObamaCare as enacted by Congress and upheld a new ObamaCare of its own making.

Congress grounded ObamaCare’s individual insurance coverage mandate in its power to regulate interstate commerce, supported by the Constitution’s Necessary and Proper Clause, which permits Congress to make all laws “necessary and proper” for carrying into effect its various enumerated powers. It relied on these constitutional provisions so as to avoid the clear political costs involved in simply raising taxes to create the universal health-care system ObamaCare’s backers really desired.

ObamaCare defenders, in the courts of law and public opinion, have been pressing these points for the last two years, and they lost. A majority of justices ruled that the Commerce Clause, even in conjunction with the Necessary and Proper Clause, cannot support federal regulation of “individuals as such, as opposed to their activities.”

This is a profound and highly significant reaffirmation of the Constitution’s federalist structure, which assigns only limited and enumerated powers to the federal government and reserves the power to enact broad health and welfare regulations to the states. Here, the court clearly rebuked Congress, sending a very clear message: There are judicially enforceable limits to your power.

Equally important, the court also ruled that the federal government cannot use its spending power to coerce the states into adopting federal programs and requirements. As originally enacted, ObamaCare required the states to expand their Medicaid programs so that they would cover those with incomes far above the federal poverty line. This would have shifted untold costs to the states, with the federal government paying these costs only for a limited time. The alternative that states faced was the loss of all federal Medicaid funding. Seven justices ruled that, applied in this manner, the law was unconstitutional and rewrote it to avoid this outcome. As a result, this federal hammer can no longer be used to force the states to support ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.

This is significant. Since deciding Steward Machine Co. v. Davis in 1937, the Supreme Court has maintained that the Constitution limits Congress’s power to coerce the States through federal grants, but it has never identified the boundaries between the permissible use of federal funding as a carrot and unconstitutional federal coercion. The ObamaCare decision began to draw those lines, putting real limits on Congress’s ability to use the states as simple administrative units to carry out its will.

On the debit side, the court upheld ObamaCare’s individual mandate as an exercise of the federal taxing power. The law was not passed as a tax, and both the president and ObamaCare’s congressional supporters persistently proclaimed that they were not raising taxes. The court itself was forced to concede that “the statute reads more naturally as a command to buy insurance than as a tax.”

In order to reach its conclusion that the mandate was a tax, and avoid the political fallout of striking down President Obama’s signature achievement in an election year, the court did more than overlook the statutory text’s natural meaning. It ignored congressional enactment of the mandate in a separate provision from any penalty. As Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito wrote in dissent, “to say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it.” The perhaps unintended irony of this judicial edit is that politicians who wish to impose this type of mandate in the future will no longer be able to claim that they are not imposing a new tax.

The court’s ObamaCare opinion presents an uncertain legacy. The court reaffirmed and clarified the constitutional limits on Congress’s power to regulate commerce and to spend money. Yet the individual mandate and the law’s Medicaid expansion were upheld through judicial copyediting that the court has always found to be beyond its own constitutional power. The fact that this happened in the context of a hotly contested statute raises questions about the court’s ability to remain immune to political pressures.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are lawyers in the Washington, D.C., office of Baker & Hostetler LLP. They pioneered the constitutional arguments against the individual mandate and represented 26 states in challenging ObamaCare before the trial and appellate courts.

A version of this article appeared June 29, 2012, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Court Rewrites ObamaCare.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303561504577494972697358622.html?KEYWORDS=david+rivkin

ObamaCare ruling 2012: Who’s laughing now?

“Congress has crossed a fundamental constitutional line.”

United States Supreme CourtAs the nation awaits one of the most important Supreme Court decisions of our time, efforts to sway the decision toward upholding ObamaCare are not in short supply. Some have the thin veneer of news articles; others carry the weight of admonition by the President himself. One can only conclude that such efforts are based on a sober assessment that overturning at least one linchpin of the law is a very real possibility.

The editors of this newsletter recall vividly how the efforts of Messers Rivkin and Casey to call attention to the unconstitutionality of the 2010 healthcare law were met with derision by professors, legislators, and, unsurprisingly, reporters and news “analysts.”  The hearty laughs and chuckles have long since ceased.

Lest readers believe that the legal argument against ObamaCare is grounded in political ideology, the editors of this newsletter present excerpts from articles penned by Rivkin or Casey to summarize the 26 states’ case against the federal government and to emphasize what’s at stake for the nation. —Editors

ObamaCare mandates that every American, with a few narrow exceptions, have a congressionally defined minimum level of health-insurance coverage. Noncompliance brings a substantial monetary penalty.

·  The ultimate purpose of this “individual mandate” is to force young and healthy middle-class workers to subsidize those who need more coverage.
·  Congress could have achieved this wealth transfer in perfectly constitutional ways. It could simply have imposed new taxes to pay for a national health system. But that would have come with a huge political price tag that neither Congress nor the president was prepared to pay.

Instead, Congress adopted the individual mandate, invoking its power to regulate interstate commerce. The uninsured, it reasoned, still use health services (for which some do not pay) and therefore have an impact on commerce, which Congress can regulate.
Congress’s reliance on the Commerce Clause to support the individual mandate was politically expedient, but constitutionally deficient. Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce is broad but not limitless.

Congress has crossed a fundamental constitutional line. Neither the fact that every individual has some discernible impact on the economy, nor that virtually everyone will at some point in time use healthcare services, is a sufficient basis for federal regulation.

Nowhere in the Constitution can we find a provision to support the notion that “the ends justify the means.”

At stake are the Constitution’s structural guarantees of individual liberty, which limit governmental power and ensure political accountability by dividing that power between federal and state authorities.

Upholding ObamaCare would destroy this dual-sovereignty system, the most distinctive feature of American constitutionalism.

The arguments advanced by ObamaCare’s defenders are flawed because they admit no judicially enforceable limiting principle marking the outer bounds of federal authority.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are lawyers who served in the Justice Department during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. They represented the 26 states in their challenge to ObamaCare before the trial and appellate courts.

The contents of this email include excerpts from an article that appeared March 21, 2012, with the headline: The Supreme Court Weighs ObamaCare.

Up or Down on ObamaCare: Texas Attorneys to Hear Live Debate

David Rivkin and Harvard Law Prof to Face Off June 15

Washington D.C. – As the U.S. awaits the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), the various factions pro and con continue to line up and weigh in on both whether and how the controversial law will stand.  David Rivkin, who led the 26-state case against the U.S. government in Florida’s 11th District Court (whose judge, Roger Vinson, ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, will meet Harvard Law professor Einer Elhauge, author of amicus briefs that assert the legality of the individual mandate.  The debate is scheduled for 9:00 am, on Friday, June 15, at the Texas Bar Association’s Annual Conference in Houston.

For more information on the debate and the conference, visit www.texasbar.com.

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Debate on ObamaCare’s individual mandate on display for attorneys

Constitutional Attorney David Rivkin to debate Harvard Law Professor at Texas Bar Association Meeting

The final word on the Obama administration’s signature health care law has yet to be spoken.  As the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) looms, organizations throughout the nation are lining up speakers and events to present their opinions—whether a pre-decision debate that might sway an undecided justice, or a post-mortem discussion on how the justices got it right or wrong.  Regardless of when the Supreme Court decision is handed down, the June 15 Texas Bar Association debate on the topic, the interchange promises to be both lively and substantive.

David Rivkin, an appellate attorney whom the Wall Street Journal credits with initiating the question of ObamaCare’s constitutionality and who represented the 26 states in the Florida health care lawsuit, will debate Harvard Law professor Einer Elhauge, who has filed amicus briefs asserting the legality of ObamaCare’s individual mandate.  The debate is scheduled for 9:00 am, on Friday, June 15, at the Texas Bar Association’s Annual Conference in Houston.

About The Texas Bar Association

The mission of the State Bar of Texas is to support the administration of the legal system, assure all citizens equal access to justice, foster high standards of ethical conduct for lawyers, enable its members to better serve their clients and the public, educate the public about the rule of law and promote diversity in the administration of justice and the practice of law.

The Texas Bar Association is the fifth largest organization of lawyers in the United States. The State Bar Act, adopted by the Legislature in 1939, mandates that all attorneys licensed to practice law in Texas be members of the State Bar. For more information, visit www.texasbar.com.