mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“A Cardinal Reality Facing The Justices”: The Supreme Court Is Now A Death Panel

Back in March 2011, when the biggest threats facing Obamacare were the Supreme Court and the 2012 elections, I argued that the demise of the Affordable Care Act would put people’s lives in immediate danger.

At the time, the law had relatively few beneficiariespeople under 26 covered by their parents’ health plans, a small population of people with pre-existing medical conditions. But some of them had already used their new coverage to finance the kinds of life-saving treatments that would leave them in need of chronic care for the rest of their lives. Take away the health law, and most of these organ transplant recipients and other patients would have become unable to afford their medications, and some of them would die.

Since then, millions of people have gained coverage under the law, and that group of chronic care patients has grown much larger. But despite the fact that the Court upheld the law, and President Obama won reelection, the ACA isn’t out of danger.

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that will determine whether the federal government can continue to subsidize private ACA coverage in states that didn’t set up their own insurance exchanges.

That case is King v. Burwell, but the issue at stake has come to be defined by a comparable case called Halbig v. Burwell.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the challengers in King, but the Supreme Court agreed to grant cert to those challengers anyhow, despite the absence of a Circuit Court split. If the five conservative Supreme Court justices are so inclined, they can void ACA subsidies for millions of beneficiaries, and cripple the insurance markets in about three dozen states.

Some of those beneficiaries will be the kinds of transplant recipients and other patients I wrote about three and a half years ago. Except today there are many more of them. Several of these patients explained the risk to their lives in an amicus brief, urging a different circuit court to reject the challenge to the subsidies, and thus to the viability of the insurance markets their lives depend on.

“Without insurance, Jennifer [Causor’s] treatments would be completely unaffordable. Her transplant cost nearly $280,000. She takes three anti-rejection drugs, one of which has a sticker price of $2,400 per month…. Should she become uninsured, Jennifer would face bankruptcy and even death.”

You can read the whole brief below. Conservatives are brimming with excitement over the Court’s decision to hear the challenge. Should the five conservatives rule that the text of the law doesn’t provide for federal subsidies in states that didn’t set up their own exchanges, they’ll place the onus on Congress or state governments to address the consequences for constituents who lose their benefits. The contested text could be fixed with a comically simple technical corrections bill, which Democrats would happily support. If Republicans were to sit on their hands, or use the ensuing chaos as leverage to extract unrelated concessions, it will cost people their lives. That is a cardinal reality facing justices, and the people soliciting their conservative activism.

There’s an ironic post-script to this article. The Supreme Court is likely to resolve this case with a 5-4 decision, one way or another. Either a single conservative will side with the Court’s four liberals as in 2012, and leave the law unscathed, or the five conservatives will align to void the subsidies.

Under the circumstances, supporters of the law might be nervous about the potential loss of a liberal justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health and advanced age make many liberals very uneasy, especially now that Obama’s ability to fill Supreme Court vacancies has come into doubt. But for the purposes of King, this issue is immaterial.

If Ginsburg’s seat were to become vacant, then the fate of the law would remain in the hands of a conservative swing justice. A 4-4 split effectively upholds the lower court’s rulingand since the Fourth Circuit upheld the subsidies, the subsidies would stand. If the Fourth Circuit had ruled the other way, her health would be much more material.

When I mentioned this admittedly morbid but nevertheless important curiosity on Twitter, a large number of dimwitted (or in some cases persistently dishonest) conservatives flooded my mentions column in outrage. Most of them missed the meaning altogether, and accused me of wishing death upon a conservative Supreme Court justice. But even the ones who didn’t managed to contain their enthusiasm over the possibility of millions of people losing insurance for a moment, to reprimand me for being so cavalier about people’s lives.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, November 7, 2014

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just The Tip Of The Iceberg”: Hundreds Of Voters Are Disenfranchised By North Carolina’s New Voting Restrictions

Craig Thomas of Granville County, North Carolina, registered to vote before he deployed to Afghanistan with the US Army. After serving abroad for eighteen months, he went to vote early in the state’s primary on April 30. He returned from Afghanistan to the same house, in the same precinct, but was told at the polls that there was “no record of registration” for him.

In the past, Thomas could’ve re-registered during the early voting period and cast a regular ballot under the state’s same-day registration system. But same-day registration was one of the key electoral reforms eliminated by the North Carolina legislature last year when it passed the nation’s most onerous package of voting restrictions. In 2014, Thomas had to cast a provisional ballot, which was not counted. After fighting abroad, he was disenfranchised at home.

Thomas was one of 454 North Carolina voters who would have had their ballots counted in 2012 but did not have them counted in the 2014 primary because of North Carolina’s elimination of same-day registration and prohibition on counting a provisional ballot cast in the wrong precinct, according to a new review by Democracy NC. (North Carolina also cut early voting by a week and mandated a strict voter ID law for 2016, among other things.)

From the report:

Voters denied a chance to have their voices heard include a veteran returning from Afghanistan whose registration was incorrectly terminated while he was away; a first-time voter who registered at the DMV, but that registration didn’t reach the local board of elections; a precinct judge assigned to a precinct other than her own who couldn’t leave to vote in her home precinct; a disabled senior who was driven to a friend’s polling place on Election Day; a nurse who temporarily registered her car in a nearby county while working at its hospital for nine months; a college student who registered during a voter drive but her application was not recorded; and a new couple in town who mailed in their registration but it did not reach the county board of elections before the registration deadline.

These new restrictions disproportionately impacted black and Democratic voters. “While Black voters make up 22% of all registered voters, they were 39% of those who lost their votes because of the two rule changes,” according to Democracy NC. “Democrats are 42% of the state’s registered voters, but 57% of those disenfranchised by the new rules.”

The problems in the primary are a disturbing preview of what’s to come. “These 454 voters are obviously just the tip of the iceberg of the thousands who faced the same problems when they went to vote in the primary and who simply left the polling place without taking the time to fill out the paperwork and file a provisional ballot,” Democracy NC notes.

Voter turnout will be much higher in the general election than in the primary, so many more voters will be burdened by the new rules. North Carolina has one of the closest Senate races in the country between Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis, which could very well decide control of the Senate.

Last month, US District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder declined to grant a preliminary injunction against the state’s new voting restrictions because he said that the plaintiffs “have not demonstrated they are likely to suffer irreparable harm.”

Craig Thomas and the hundreds of voters whose ballots were not counted would likely disagree with Schroeder’s definition of irreparable harm.

An expedited appeal to block the new restrictions before the midterms will be heard by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Charlotte on September 25.

 

By: Ari Berman, The Nation, September 10, 2014

September 15, 2014 Posted by | North Carolina, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: