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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and colleagues from twenty-five states today filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the constitutional issues surrounding the Obama heath care reform act. Should the supreme court do so, as DeWine and his fellow attorneys generals want, the decision from this case, estimated for mid-year 2012, will be the Waterloo for either President Obama if the ruling is not to his advantage or for DeWine and other Republicans, who have made repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordability Act (PPACA) the center of their anger against the president, if the ruling upholds the issues they argue as unconstitutional, constitutional.
States in the case of State of Florida et al., v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et. al are challenging the health care law and its unprecedented claim of federal power to require individuals to go into the marketplace and buy federally-approved health care coverage or face penalties.
Here comes Waterloo
In a statement Wednesday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said, “I have consistently said that I believe that the individual mandate requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. That is why on my first day as Attorney General, I authorized Ohio to join twenty-five other states in challenging the constitutionality of this law.”
The man DeWine defeated, former Democratic AG Richard Cordray, who President Obama recently appointed to head another controversial federal agency, the Consumer Protection Finance Agency, did not join the list of petitioners DeWine signed on with when he took over this January.
“Frankly, it’s time for a decision by the U. S. Supreme Court on this issue, and I would hope that the Obama Administration will agree with us on this point,” AG DeWine said.
DeWine said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has agreed with the petitioners that the federal government exceeded its constitutional authority in imposing, they say, an unprecedented mandate upon virtually every American. In their view, this unconstitutional mandate is “so intertwined with the rest of the act that the law should be set aside in its entirety.”
Court watchers say, though, that for the supreme court to set aside the law in its entirety, based on 235 years of precedent based on the power of the commerce clause of the constitution, is very speculative. But even if the mandate to purchase insurance is indeed declared unconstitutional, that means the rest of the law will still stand.
Depending on the severity or the anti-climatic nature of the decision next year of a supreme court that lists towards conservative interpretations now, the battle will have been joined by defenders of the law, like President Obama and Democrats and their allied worker and advocacy groups, or its detractors including AG DeWine and other Ohio Republicans like Gov. Kasich, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and all Republican Members of the legislature, who are pointing to it as the cause of the rise in health premiums over the last year.
PPACA supporters also have their talking points, too. How much the new federal health care legislation pushed by President Obama is affecting rates remains a point of debate for many, with some consumer advocates and others suggesting that insurers have raised prices in anticipation of new rules that would, in 2012, require them to justify any increase of more than 10 percent. In a recent study by Kaiser, the increase this year could be an anomaly, after several years of 3 percent to 5 percent increases during the recession. Kaiser further estimates that one to two percentage points of the increase this year is related to provisions of the law already in effect, like coverage for children up to 26 years old and for prevention services like mammograms.
According to some, if the health care law survives legal challenges and goes into full effect in 2014, increased competition will make it tougher for companies to charge those customers more. Consumer advocates contend that the latest requests exceed any documented rise in costs, with some companies enjoying three years of record profits, according to reports. Kaiser says the rise in health care insurance premiums offered by the nation’s private sector insurance industry is mostly attributable to the underlying rise in health care industry costs, and that at best, PPACA might have contributed no more than two percent of the nine percent rise. This increase is mostly born by employers, given health insurance in the United States comes through employers, not through central payers as is the case in Canada, Great Britain, France and every other industrialized nation.
DeWine rightly notes that federal jurists at both the trial and appellate levels have considered the constitutionality of this act, and they are divided. “But individual citizens who have to plan for their families’ futures, businesses that might be considering adding new jobs, and state governments across the country that are looking at enormous new burdens need to know what the rules are,” DeWine said, adding that the questions of the act’s unconstitutionality should go before the Supreme Court. “The sooner the better.”
Closing, DeWine, said, “I hope that our petition will help speed up the process by which the Supreme Court can consider these vital issues. Our case is strong, and I hope that the high court will invalidate the law.”
DOI’s Taylor uses Milliman report to oppose Obamacare
Separately, The independent consulting firm Milliman, Inc., using economic modeling to project the effects of the new federal health care law in Ohio in a study prepared for the Ohio Department of Insurance (DOI), reported that residents will move out of existing health insurance coverage to government programs including Medicaid, and that insurance premiums will increase.
Milliman, Inc., which also performs similar work for Ohio’s retirement pension systems, forecast enrollment in taxpayer-funded, public health care programs will increase by more than 1 million, or 53 percent, and that more than half of these will be people who had non-government coverage before the law went into effect. To PPACA backers, this is exactly what the law is designed to do, giving group power a chance to work on reducing or modulating sharp increases in medial inflation that are above and beyond the customary grow in any given year.
Meanwhile, premiums for employers or individuals who still have private coverage will also increase, from 3 percent to 5 percent in the large group insurance market, 5 percent to 15 percent in the small group market and 55 percent to 85 percent in the individual market.
Premium increases of 130 percent or 150 percent would be extremely unlikely since the PPACA provides a number of cost control mechanisms, including the inclusion of a provision that requires insurers to justify premium increases of 10 percent or more with federal and state regulators, including state insurance commissioners.
DOI Director Mary Taylor, Gov. Kasich’s CPA ticket mate from last year, has been a crusader against PPACA like fellow GOP AG Mike DeWine. Taylor has been criticized for having “wildly exaggerated criticisms of the ACA for only partisan political purposes and to protect insurance company profits at the expense of Ohio consumers. To hear Taylor’s critics talk about the Milliman report, Taylor’s “health care formula is simple: put the insurance companies back in charge and let Ohioans with no insurance, pre-existing conditions, or who get too sick fend for themselves.” Her attacks on the ACA, they say, are political and intellectually dishonest. On the one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s “Patients Bill of Rights,” Dale Butland, a stalwart Democratic operative who speaks for Innovation Ohio, an vociferously anti-Kasich-Taylor advocacy group, said it’s no accident that just this week, independent fact-checker Politifact declared one of Taylor’s most recent attacks to be “mostly false.” Continuing, Butland wonders why Lt. Gov. Taylor continues to attack the PPACA insurance exchanges, when Gov. Kasich has repeatedly declared that Ohio intends to implement them?
Included in Taylor’s talking points is that, because Ohio is in the midst of a challenging economic recovery, one which necessitated closing an $8 billion budget hole, states like it should not have their hands tied with Obamacare’s one-size-fits-all approach. “It’s not the reform we need, ” she said, arguing that Ohioans deserve a consumer-driven, market-based approach that provides adequate protections, along with accountability, affordability and transparency. Echoing the choir of conservatives who chant against government, Taylor declared, “We do not need a government-knows-best set of mandates.”
Taylor, the first CPA to be elected auditor, said, “As I have been saying, the impacts of Obamacare will be widespread and expensive. This report clearly shows what I have long predicted; Obamacare will result in bigger government, unsustainable costs, and ultimately, less consumer choice.”
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