More legal challenges to ACA on way

July 5, 2012


The Supreme Court lawsuit isn’t the end of the legal challenges to the health care law — and the next ones just might help Republicans keep pushing their favorite political hot buttons.

The next wave of lawsuits likely wouldn’t put the whole law at stake, as the challenge to the individual mandate could have. But they’re going after pieces of the law that happen to be red meat for many conservative voters — like the law’s contraception mandate and a new Medicare panel that Republicans call a “rationing board.”

And one possible legal challenge, which would try to block the feds from offering subsidies in a federal health insurance exchange, is meant to exploit a loophole in the law. But it could also be a good “messaging hit” — allowing them to attack the subsidies they see as a budget-busting new entitlement.

GOP strategist Ron Bonjean said the continuing legal challenges play into the party’s kitchen-sink mentality toward bringing any negative attention to the health law.

“It fires up conservatives who want to do everything possible to repeal Obamacare and its various tentacles,” Bonjean said. “So any type of action, legal or political, is up for grabs. It’s in the toolbox.”

The danger for Republicans is that the public could get sick of the debate. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Monday found that 56 percent of Americans — including 51 percent of independents with no party leanings — say they’re ready to move onto other issues after Thursday’s landmark health care ruling.

Bonjean said there’s a possibility of exhausting the health debate, but he said there’s still opportunity for the lawsuits to sway independents against the law.

“These legal actions could be used as PR initiatives to show the massive overreach of Obamacare,” he said. “In certain places, it could move independents to a varying degree.”

The suits could get additional attention as they move toward the oral argument stages — if they make it that far. And they’ll help the Republicans keep up the broader narrative they hope to push in November: The law has so many problems that it deserves an all-out assault.

“It presents the picture that this law has a lot of problems with it and has to be adapted and changed,” said Republican strategist John Feehery. “This law isn’t getting any more popular.”

These are the next health care lawsuits that are either under way or in the pipeline.

Contraception requirements

There are 23 lawsuits already filed in courts across the country challenging the law’s requirement that religious-affiliated institutions, such as schools and hospitals, provide insurance coverage for birth control and other contraceptives.

The first suits challenging the requirement were filed late last year and arguments could possibly begin in the trial courts late this year.

The challengers — which include Notre Dame University and several regional Catholic archdioceses with the backing of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops— say that the requirement violates their religious freedom.

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