Tis the season for groundbreaking lawsuits. In the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, the House Committee on Rules last week mulled whether Speaker of the House John Boehner's attempt to sue President Obama over delays in the O'care employer mandate is legit. Like Hobby Lobby, this is a political suit masquerading as a healthcare lawsuit—but it has implications for the industry.
On its face, the suit debates the scope of presidential power: Did President Obama overstep constitutional bounds by delaying the mandate? As a refresher, the administration pushed back the mandate by a year in July 2013, and in January of this year, gave businesses with between 50 and 99 employees another year on top of that to comply.
But the four attorneys (two for, two against) who provided testimony to the Rules Committee in a packed house last week also discussed whether or not the House of Representatives has the standing to sue the president. The hearing went on for nearly five hours. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School called this administration an "uber presidency" and a "crisis." Simon Lazarus, senior counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, said that the mandate delays mirrored Medicare prescription drug benefit delays under President George W. Bush.
Overall, the legal community seems to think Boehner lacks the standing to go forward with the case. ("Standing," in legalese, means that a plaintiff can demonstrate to the court sufficient harm done to him by the challenged law or action to merit a lawsuit.) If Boehner does go to court and he wins on the standing issue, that could be significantly more important than the case itself. It would mean that a legislative body—a chamber of Congress or the president—can sue the other over policy disputes.
Assuming that the case does go to the courts, and assuming Boehner prevails, the impact on the ACA probably won't be extreme, however. The employer mandate would be implemented sooner, rather than delayed under the Treasury Department's so-called "transition relief" authority. However, the Supreme Court likely won't reach a ruling on the case until summer 2016—months after the provision is supposed to go into effect anyway.
And so, the political exercises over the Affordable Care Act continue. Following the hearing, the panel will likely amend the draft of the resolution to pursue the suit. Expect to see it on the House floor within a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, this week on Healthcare Dive...
Today, we launch a two-part feature on Adam O'Neal, a small-town mayor who is walking 300 miles from his tiny North Carolina town to Washington, D.C. to petition for help in saving his local critical access hospital. The hospital was acquired by conglomerate Vidant, and was shut down on July 1. The story illustrates the struggles of rural healthcare delivery across the U.S., and the real-life impact of M&A on care delivery.
We will also take a look at the recent—and hard-fought—Medicaid expansion in Michigan, and the impact that it's had on uncompensated care in hospitals across the state.
And as always, be sure to check in to the Healthcare Dive app throughout the day for the most up-to-date industry news and analysis.
Want to know more?
- Boehner's original announcement that he intended to sue was in late June. Talking Points Memo reports.
- The New York Times reports that Boehner intends to focus the suit on breaches surrounding the Affordable Care Act.
- Newsweek recaps the four attorneys' testimonies in the packed House Rules Committee meeting room. (Which NBC's Frank Thorp caught on Instragram.)