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By- Mike Sacks

Posted: 06/28/2012 10:10 am Updated: 06/28/2012 11:16 am

WASHINGTON — The individual health insurance mandate is constitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, upholding the central provision of President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.

The controlling opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, upheld the mandate as a tax, although concluded it was not valid as an exercise of Congress’ commerce clause power. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined in the outcome.

The decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius comes as something of a surprise after the generally hostile reception the law received during the six hours of oral arguments held over three days in March. But by siding with the court’s four Democratic appointees, Chief Justice Roberts avoided the delegitimizing taint of politics that surrounds a party-line vote while passing Obamacare’s fate back to the elected branches. GOP candidates and incumbents will surely spend the rest of the 2012 campaign season running against the Supreme Court and for repeal of the law.

Five justices concluded that the mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty, falls within Congress’ power under the Constitution to “lay and collect taxes.”

“The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause,” Roberts wrote. “That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.”

Ginsburg, writing separately for the four liberals, said they would have upheld the mandate under the commerce clause too. “Unlike the market for almost any other product or service, the market for medical care is one in which all individuals inevitably participate,” she wrote. “Virtually every person residing in the United States, sooner or later, will visit a doctor or other health care professional.”

Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined in a dissent.

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TPM

Sahil Kapur May 1, 2012, 6:16 AM

In the first two years after “Obamacare” was signed, Medicare reforms in the law saved seniors a total of $3.4 billion in prescription drug costs by bridging a coverage gap, according to official figures.Over 220,000 beneficiaries have saved an average of $837 in the first three months of 2012, the Medicare agency said Monday. That’s on top of $3.2 billion in savings enjoyed by some 5.1 million seniors in 2010 and 2011 thanks to the Affordable Care Act, according to the advisory on the new figures.The savings were wrung through a combination of discounts on Medicare prescription drugs — 50 percent on brand names, 7 percent on generics — and rebates for seniors who fell under a coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole.”

“The Affordable Care Act is helping millions on Medicare save billions of dollars on care and prescription drugs,” top Medicare official Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement. “The Affordable Care Act gives people on Medicare the relief they need from medical costs and more resources to stay healthy.”

The figures, circulated to reporters, reflect the administration’s latest attempt to highlight the successes of President Obama’s signature domestic achievement. Just last week, they released data showing that an “Obamacare” insurance regulation is yielding rebates for consumers and businesses who provide employees health care.

Republicans have instead seized on cost projections and some of the law’s failures, such as the now-neutered long-term care CLASS program, to paint the law as an expensive monstrosity. The dedicated stream of attacks from the law’s opponents, and ensuing partisan shouting matches that have defined debates of the law, has painted the legislation in a negative light.

Polls say Americans continue to view “Obamacare” unfavorably on balance. With a Supreme Court decision looming on its constitutionality, the law is shaping up to be an important issue in the November elections.

Image from Shutterstock

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Crooks and Liars

By karoli

March 20, 2012 09:00 AM

When I first saw this image on Facebook, I wasn’t sure how on earth Fox News could have killed someone’s mother. And then I read the message that went with the photo. Tracy Knauss posted it on his Facebook page along with a message which said in part:

I know this personally. FOX News killed my precious mother, Hallie. She watched FOX religiously. And when she fell ten days before she died, she refused to go to the doctor because, “I don’t want Obamacare to get all of my information! she declared, recalling the warnings from FOX News “anchors.” She was emphatic. She was not going to consort with the muslim enemy. As she made out her will she told her lawyer, “I don’t want any of my money going to the Muslim Brotherhood!” And her last protestation dealt with “Obama’s death panels.” Mother died just days later. I hold FOX News responsible for my mother’s death.

Hallie Jean Mayes Knauss Culpepper passed away on February 16, 2012. Ten days earlier, she had fallen, but as Knauss says, refused to see a doctor. Her obituary notes that she was a “lifelong, dyed-in-the-wool Republican” who at one time had also been a business owner (TECO Products, now Griffin Products).

And it seems, she got her news from Fox. It’s not hard to understand where she got the idea that “Obamacare” had death panels. Just three days before Mrs. Culpepper’s death, they were still calling them death panels. Republicans have been working hard (with the cooperation of some turncoat Democrats) to repeal that board, which is really the last best hope we have for keeping Medicare out of the crosshairs of budget hawks.

The death panel lie has been around since the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act in 2009, when Liberty Council first started circulating emails to seniors and Sarah Palin amplified it. Then we had the Fox News Parade of Idiots saying it over and over again, along with the usual complement of birthers. Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that a lifelong Republican who entered the age of television with the Fairness Doctrine where fair coverage and truth telling was part of the mix, would believe what Fox told her?

Don’t write this woman off as some ignorant back-country hick. She clearly wasn’t. She owned a companyat one time. She paid attention to events and politics in the news, or at least, in the news as she understood it. She, like most of her neighbors, voted Republican. But until Fox News came along, Republicans weren’t stupid. They had different philosophies about government and its role, but they weren’t blatantly invested in advancing a lie-based ideology until Fox News came along.

It isn’t hyperbole to say Fox News killed her. She fell and feared the doctor would kill her. That fear can be laid at the feet of Roger Ailes and his obsession with advancing lies to promote his agenda. When are they going to be held accountable for this?

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If you happen to be a swing voter who’s considering the Republican slate next month, you’re being tricked. That’s not to say you’re an idiot, but the Republicans are doing an excellent job masking over what they really stand for, and millions of Americans seem to be falling for it.

The Republican strategy for this midterm election is simple: Treat voters like easily manipulated hoopleheads. The GOP and its various apparatchiks are spending untold millions of dollars, much of it from anonymous donors and, perhaps, even some illegal foreign donors, in order to play out this nationwide swindle. They’re investing heavily on the wager that Americans are so kerfuffled by the slow-growth (but growth nevertheless) economy that they’re willing to buy any line of nonsense as an alternative solution.

Regarding that nonsense, just about every GOP solution and every GOP idea reveals either a hilariously obvious contradiction or an utterly transparent hypocrisy. Say nothing of unchecked awfulness like Southern Strategy race-baiting or bald-faced lies. But it doesn’t seem to matter much because they’ve buried most of it under heaping piles of inchoate outrage and fear. Just like always. It’s not unlike the 2000s all over again. They’re engaging in the same bumper sticker sloganeering and myopic agitprop, but with updated content for 2010.

If you’ve seen any of the Republican TV spots this cycle, you’re probably familiar with the focus-group-tested duet of fear: “Obamacare and Stimulus.” For example, that infamous John Raese commercial featuring two not-West-Virginian West Virginians in full “hicky” regalia discussing why they’re voting Republican. Among the reasons: “Obamacare and Stimulus.” No specific reasons why those items are evil, they’re just two scary things the hicky guys are pissed about.

And why aren’t there any specific gripes cited along with those two items? Because the actual gripes are ridiculous.

Let’s start with “Obamacare,” then hit “Stimulus” presently.

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Yesterday, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) finally released a proposal for his committee’s health care reform bill — the framework for the eventual Senate Finance Committee legislation.

Predictably, the Baucus Plan is totally nightmarish. Naked on the subway while being accosted by prostitutes that resemble Chuck Grassley nightmarish. I’ve been writing about the terrible possibility of such a bill for several weeks, but now it’s actually beginning to take shape.

But first, because he’s not the most famous or likely political villain, here’s some background.

Baucus controls the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over any legislation that revolves around Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and health care in general. So the senator, as chairman, enjoys a remarkable degree of power considering that he only represents 960,000 people in Montana, one of the most sparsely populated states in the Union. And I’m fairly certain that if polled most Americans would say that Max Baucus is the guy who played Thurston Howell on Gilligan’s Island.

While the Baucus Plan would impose the usual syllabus of regulations on the health insurance industry, it also includes an individual mandate, making it compulsory for everyone to buy a health insurance plan. I get the idea: mandates are an important step to controlling costs and achieving a universal health care, but mandates should be accompanied by a public health insurance option in order to serve as an “option of good conscience” — an escape hatch for those of us who have moral objections to being forced under penalty of law to finance the corrupt insurance cartels.

And the Baucus Plan doesn’t offer a public insurance option.

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Attention politicians and traditional media people. Important announcement.

Is everyone with me? Chuck Todd: stop applying your beard rouge and pay attention. Bartiromo: leave the cork on the fork.

Okay, here we go.

The public health insurance option as defined in both the Senate HELP bill and the House bill (HR 3200) is not a far-left liberal proposal. A far-left liberal proposal would actually be a single-payer plan. The public option is actually a program supported by almost everyone, despite the misleading way it’s currently being discussed by Republicans, town hall wingnuts, cable news “smackdown” panelists and other very serious members of the Washington establishment.

To wit, David Brooks’ column the other day urged the president to reconnect with “the center” on issues like healthcare reform, and to also exercise more “fiscal restraint.” Naturally, Brooks isn’t prescribing this approach in a vacuum. It’s all over Washington, including within certain corridors at the White House.

And it only takes a few minutes of cable news viewing to arrive at the assumption that the “centrist” position on healthcare reform, according to Brooks and other establishment people, is a bill without a public option. The health insurance lobby in collusion with both the corrupt and spineless Blue Dogs and the lying hacks who control the cartoonish Republican Party have successfully convinced large chunks of Washington that the public option is some sort of ultra-left concoction manufactured inside the secret underground Wellstone Memorial Lib-ratory located beneath Howard Dean’s cavernous walk-in Birkenstock closet.

The reality, however, is that a healthcare reform bill with a robust public option is both extraordinarily popular and fiscally responsible, while, on the other hand, the kind of “centrist” bill that David Brooks wants is actually more expensive and generally more corrupt. In other words, a bill without the public option can hardly be called “centrist” by any definition of the term.

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