Posts tagged as:

ObamaCare

Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on December 5, 2014

  • Furious over EEOC attack on wellness programs, CEOs threaten to suspend their support for ObamaCare [Reuters] Had it been common knowledge that CEOs covertly support ObamaCare, then? And isn’t the EEOC formally an independent agency not answerable to White House directives?
  • If more editors handled situations this way, readers would think better of the press: Annalee Newitz of io9 offers “apology and analysis” for running tendentious, ill-reported article attacking animal-based research;
  • Success of personal injury litigation is reshaping nursing home business in some states [WSJ]
  • “With the Advent of Mandatory Paid Sick Leave in California, Here are a Few Sick Leave Excuses” [Coyote, related Massachusetts]
  • Really, it’s not a shock-scandal that rules for human-subjects research might be written by actual scientists [Zachary Schrag, IRB Blog]
  • In combating diseases of poverty, you’d think economic growth would top the list of remedies [Bryan Caplan]
  • Judge slices $9 billion punitive Actos award against Takeda and Lilly by 99% [Bloomberg, earlier]
  • “Grubergate, the Mini-Series” [Michael Cannon; more from Cannon on Supreme Court's grant of certiorari in King v. Burwell ObamaCare case]

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Another hidden gift inside the Affordable Care Act: mandatory calorie labeling for many restaurant menus. Walter Olson comments on the complications and potential unintended consequences of such a mandate.

My new Cato podcast: the new FDA calorie labeling rules apply to not-so-big chains (20 +) of grocery stores and amusement facilities as well as restaurants, and make it less likely that servers and local managers will manage to vary from rigidly standardized recipes, menu listings and portion sizes based on knowledge of their local customers, temporary availability of attractive ingredients, and so forth. That won’t matter much for food servers who already design their offerings in a lab, but spells trouble for those whose offerings are more localized or unpredictable (earlier). Coverage by Ed Morrissey of what the scheme would mean for a 21-unit pizza chain is linked here.

In January, David Boaz commented on the parallel vending machine calorie label mandate:

In my experience, vending machines shuffle their offerings fairly frequently. If the machine operators have to change the calorie information displayed every time they swap potato chips for corn chips, then $2,200 [per operator per year] seems like a conservative estimate of costs. But then, as Hillary Clinton said when it was suggested that her own health care plan would bankrupt small businesses, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

More: Baylen Linnekin. And Julie Gunlock recalls her own days working in a supermarket deli. Goodbye, making up prepared salads in single-serving containers from whatever produce happened to be in overstock at the time. Hello, food waste!

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[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty and expanded with a P.S.]

Even by his standards, Paul Krugman uses remarkably ugly and truculent language in challenging the good faith of those who take a view opposed to his on the case of King v. Burwell, just granted certiorari by the Supreme Court following a split among lower courts. Krugman claims that federal judges who rule against his own position on the case are “corrupt, willing to pervert the law to serve political masters.” Yes, that’s really what he writes – you can read it here.

A round of commentary on legal blogs this morning sheds light on whether Krugman knows what he’s talking about.

“Once upon a time,” Krugman claims, “this lawsuit would have been literally laughed out of court.” [Citation needed, as one commenter put it] The closest Krugman comes to acknowledging that a plain-language reading of the statute runs against him is in the following:

But if you look at the specific language authorizing those subsidies, it could be taken — by an incredibly hostile reader — to say that they’re available only to Americans using state-run exchanges, not to those using the federal exchanges.

New York City lawyer and legal blogger Scott Greenfield responds:

If by “incredibly hostile reader,” Krugman means someone with a basic familiarity with the English language, then he’s right.  That’s what the law says. … There is such a thing as a “scrivener’s error,” that the guy who wrote it down made a mistake, left out a word or put in the wrong punctuation, and that the error was not substantive even though it has a disproportionate impact on meaning.  A typo is such an error.  I know typos. This was not a typo. This was not a word misspelled because the scribe erred.  This was a structural error in the law enacted. Should it be corrected? Of course, but that’s a matter for Congress.

While some ObamaCare proponents may now portray the provision as a mere slip in need of correction, as I noted at Overlawyered in July, “ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber had delivered remarks on multiple 2012 occasions suggesting that the lack of subsidies for federally sponsored exchanges served the function (as critics had contended it did) of politically punishing states that refuse to set up exchanges.”

Josh Blackman, meanwhile, points out something incidental yet revealing about Krugman’s column: its homespun introductory anecdote about how his parents discovered that they had been stuck with a mistaken deed to their property, fixed (“of course”) by the town clerk presumably with a few pen strokes and a smile, couldn’t possibly have happened the way Krugman said it did. Property law, much more so than statutory construction, is super-strict about these matters.

If your deed is incorrect, you cannot simply get the “town clerk” to “fix the language”. … Mistakes are enforced by courts. That’s why [everyone] should purchase title insurance. …

So this is the exact opposite example of what Krugman would want to use to illustrate why King is “frivolous.” If courts applied property doctrine to the construction of statutes, this case would be over in 5 seconds. The government loses.

To be sure, there may be better arguments with which to defend the Obama administration’s side of the King case. But do not look for them in Paul Krugman’s commentary, which instead seems almost designed to serve the function of pre-gaming a possible defeat in King by casting the federal judiciary itself as “corrupt” and illegitimate.

P.S. “Krugman’s column in today’s NYT on King is the liberal equivalent of a Rush Limbaugh tirade.” [Gerard Magliocca] Krugman not notably consistent on views of statutory interpretation [Simon Lester] ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber caught on camera saying “lack of transparency” key to passing the bill; he “may believe that American voters are stupid, but he was the one dumb enough to say all this on camera” [Peter Suderman, Mickey Kaus ("I am big. It's the electorate that got small.")] How to argue the administration side in a less unhinged way than Krugman does [David Ziff via Jonathan Adler]

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Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on September 10, 2014

  • ObamaCare challenge: D.C. Circuit vacates Halbig decision for en banc rehearing [Roger Pilon, earlier]
  • ACLU and SEIU California affiliates oppose trial lawyers’ higher-damages-plus-drug-testing Proposition 46 [No On 46, earlier] As does Sacramento Bee in an editorial;
  • Rethinking the use of patient restraints in hospitals [Ravi Parikh, Atlantic; legal fears not mentioned, however]
  • Certificate of need regulation: “I didn’t know the state of Illinois had a standard for the maximum permissible size of a hospital room.” [John Cochrane]
  • In China, according to a study by Benjamin Liebman of Columbia Law School, hired malpractice mobs “consistently extract more money from hospitals than legal proceedings do” [Christopher Beam, The New Yorker]
  • Overview of (private-lawyer-driven) municipal suits on painkiller marketing [John Schwartz, New York Times, earlier] More: Chicago’s contingency deal with Cohen Milstein on opioid lawsuit [LNL] More: Rob Green, Abnormal Use.
  • “So In The End, The VA Was Rewarded, Not Punished” [Coyote]

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Making hash of Halbig

by Walter Olson on August 25, 2014

We live in a golden age of Supreme Court coverage, and then there’s Linda Greenhouse [David Henderson on Michael Cannon]

P.S. Likewise on the Canning decision [Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz]

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August 13 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 13, 2014

  • Texas jury awards $27 million against McDonald’s in negligent security case [Bloomberg]
  • NYC cop sues after being acquitted on rape charges, and from the difference in coverage between the NY Daily News and Slate, you might not realize it was the same case;
  • “Obamacare was no inartful compromise; it was a brutal cramdown.” [Michael Greve, Law and Liberty, on Halbig]
  • American Tort Reform Foundation nominations of “judicial hellholes” this year include Louisiana, South Florida and NYC [Abnormal Use]
  • Antitrust’s awful academics [Tom Bowden, Ayn Rand Institute]
  • New York Assembly Speaker Silver “earned up to $750,000 in 2013 working a few hours per week” at prominent tort firm [NY Daily News]
  • Europe: Gardeners with sit-on lawnmowers face buying motor insurance [Telegraph]

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Last week, when two federal circuit courts of appeals came out on the same day with conflicting opinions on whether to enforce the literal language of the Affordable Care Act bestowing tax credits only on users of state-established exchanges, some journalists (at, e.g., Vox) took the line that the omission in the statutory language had been a mere drafting error not reflecting anyone’s intent. In subsequent days it was revealed that ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber had delivered remarks on multiple 2012 occasions suggesting that the lack of subsidies for federally sponsored exchanges served the function (as critics had contended it did) of politically punishing states that refuse to set up exchanges. Complicating further the question of intent, however, Daniel Fisher at Forbes writes of a Republican Senate staffer who did expect federal exchange enrollees to get tax credits.

Even if we accept the “drafting error” rather than the “pressure the states” explanation of the ACA’s language, it’s worth noting that after major legislation Congress ordinarily comes back to pass a fix-it bill to clean up drafting errors. [More: Tyler Cowen] That’s a lot less likely to happen when the landmark bill is forced through in half-finished form against a unanimous opposition party because going to conference committee would have required negotiating.

I well remember the pride displayed in some quarters about having forced a health care bill through against Republicans’ resistance, even though it was common knowledge that the bill’s details were not in anything like a finished state. I suppose the plan was to rely on a combination of creative executive interpretation and, where needed, judicial mulligans of the sort the Fourth Circuit just agreed to provide.

A panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled today that the IRS is not free to rewrite the ObamaCare statute to extend tax credits from users of state-run health exchanges, as per the law’s language, to users of the federal exchange as well, because the federal government is not a “State.” [Halbig v. Burwell; Ilya Shapiro, Cato] Later today, a panel of the Fourth Circuit ruled that yes, it’s free to do so. [King v. Burwell] Given the instant one-day circuit split and the importance of the issue, further court consideration is inevitable, and the Obama administration has already indicated that it will seek en banc consideration by the full D.C. Circuit, packed with its own recent appointees. More: The work of my Cato colleague Michael Cannon and Case Western lawprof Jonathan Adler helped undergird the suit; Cannon has commentary here and here and Adler here and here.

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Hobby Lobby prevails

by Walter Olson on June 30, 2014

The Court has ruled that under RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Congress cannot require closely held corporations to provide contraception coverage as part of ObamaCare when there are readily available alternatives to serve the government’s objectives that would not tread on conscience rights. So said a five-Justice majority led by Justice Alito, including a whittle-it-down concurrence by Justice Kennedy emphasizing the narrowness of the ruling. Why narrow?

* “Closely held” is important — private corporations like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are closer to surrogates for the owning family than are publicly traded corporations.

* The available alternatives are important — in many closely related situations it won’t be as easy to devise a workaround that serves the government’s policy objectives, and in those situations the claims of conscience may lose out.

* And the basis of the decision in RFRA, that is to say, statutory rather than constitutional law, is important. Congress is free to tinker with RFRA, Obamacare law, or both if public opinion is dissatisfied with the outcome. Although objectors may later raise First Amendment arguments, today’s decision in no way decides those issues.

Earlier coverage here. Cato’s brief is here, and Ilya Shapiro is out with a statement for Cato (“Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate had to [fail under RFRA] because it didn’t show – couldn’t show – that there’s no other way of achieving its goal without violating religious beliefs.”)

P.S. My colleague Julian Sanchez argues that the outcry against Hobby Lobby had almost nothing to do with whether any actual female employees will gain or lose access to contraception, and was instead was almost entirely a matter of cultural signal-sending.

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All sitting Presidents try to press the power of their office into doubtful areas. President Barack Obama has been particularly aggressive about doing so, according to the panelists at a May 21 discussion held at the Cato Institute. Georgetown law professor and Cato fellow Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz noted that the Constitution’s Take Care Clause directs the President to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, and descends directly from centuries of struggle against the “dispensing power” claimed by pre-modern English kings — that is, the power to dispense with enacted legislation entirely where the royal will is better served that way, a claim of power that goes beyond simple prosecutorial discretion or the pardon power.

Rosenkranz pointed to a number of Obama executive actions that are hard to reconcile with the Take Care clause. The text of the Affordable Care Act, for example, states that the employer mandate prescribed by the law was to begin Jan. 1, 2014. “You don’t need a lawyer to interpret this, you need a calendar.” Yet President Obama elected unilaterally to delay the mandate and substitute a later effective date of his own choice. Likewise, the President’s suspension of some immigration regulations overrode the clear letter of U.S. law, aside from any pluses or minuses it may have had as a policy matter.

“President Obama is being the kind of President Nixon wanted to be,” said panelist Jonathan Turley, a well-known legal commentator and law professor at George Washington University: “Many Democrats will rue the day they stood by while the President asserted these kinds of powers.” Panelist Andrew Grossman of Cato said future presidents are likely to follow Obama’s lead and assert their own right to suspend the operation of other laws.

Bonus: At a separate event, Cato welcomed George Mason U. law professor Frank Buckley to talk about his book The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America. I offer a question at the beginning of the comment period.

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Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on March 31, 2014

  • Latest don’t-blame-the-regulators shortage of a generic medical supply is nitroglycerin for acute cardiac care [New York Times, ACSH]
  • “Does Medical Malpractice Law Improve Health Care Quality?” Maybe not so much [Michael Frakes and Anupam Jena, SSRN via Tyler Cowen]
  • “Affordable Care Act opening doors to IT security attacks” [Ponemon via Fierce CIO] “States Barred from Requiring Obamacare Navigators Carry Error and Omission Insurance” [Craig Gottwals, Benefit Revolution] On suspension of statutory dates, Rule of Law has scanty constituency [Ramesh Ponnuru]
  • “Video Debate: Richard Epstein and Ryan Abbott on FDA, Off-Label Drug Use” [Bill of Health]
  • “Trial lawyers helped FDA with rule opening generic drug firms to lawsuits” [Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner]
  • Everyone including the agency itself discontented with FDA’s handling of new sunscreen ingredients [WaPo via Alex Tabarrok]
  • Does writing up a more careful patient chart help keep a doctor from getting sued? [White Coat]

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on March 29, 2014

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My Cato colleague Ilya Shapiro thinks it went well for the religious objectors. More: Lyle Denniston/SCOTUSBlog, transcript, earlier.

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on March 22, 2014

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Schaden, meet freude

by Walter Olson on March 10, 2014

“Obamacare Call Center Faces Unpaid Wages & Overtime Class Action Lawsuit” [BigClassAction.com]

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Ilya Shapiro sorts out the issues for SCOTUSblog. Earlier here.

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Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on February 10, 2014

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  • “Live or travel within 100 miles of a US Border? America’s Internal Checkpoints” [Wes Kimbell, Reason]
  • EFF, ACLU sue Los Angeles seeking disclosure of how automatic license plate readers [ALPRs] are used to track motorists [The Newspaper]
  • Would cops run unauthorized background checks on someone appointed to a police oversight board? [Ed Krayewski/Reason, St. Louis County, Mo.]
  • “How the NSA bulk data seizure program is like gun registration” [Randy Barnett]
  • Text sent to Kiev protesters points up downside of cellphone location signaling: “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.” [NY Times]
  • As New York AG Schneiderman pursues AirBnB, privacy is collateral damage [Ilya Shapiro and Gabriel Latner, Daily Caller]
  • Oops! California Obamacare exchange passed along visitors’ personal info to insurance agents without permission [L.A. Times]