Recommended Reading: Recent Legal Scholarship on Workplace Wellness Programs

April 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Health Law, Recommended Reading 

Kate Greenwood_high res 2011Since its release last month, Sheryl Sandberg’s bestseller Lean In has attracted seemingly continuous attention and controversy.  Critics charge that the book encourages women to “lean in” to their outside-of-the-home work without fully addressing the barriers that might be impeding women’s advancement.  They express concern that too intense a focus on what individual women can do to address the persistent achievement gap between women and men will only result in women blaming themselves for structural, societal problems.  Similar concerns underlie the controversy over workplace wellness programs.  While almost no one is against “wellness,” there is concern that emphasizing what individuals should do to achieve it, potentially on pain of losing their jobs, could be ineffective and even counterproductive.

Workplace wellness programs run the gamut from providing more nutritious food in the office cafeteria, to building an on-site gym, to providing counseling and other supportive services, to positive financial incentives keyed to achieving goals such as blood pressure control or smoking cessation, to negative incentives including hiring bans, health insurance surcharges, and, ultimately, termination.  With regard to variations in the price of health insurance, Tara Ragone has explained that “[a]lthough the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] prohibits issuers in the individual and small group markets from basing premium variations on health status or claims experience, Federal law permits insurers to offer premium discounts to enrollees in the small and large group markets based on participation in certain wellness programs.”  The statute provides for wellness rewards of up to 30 percent of the cost of coverage, and the Secretaries of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury have discretion to increase the rewards to up to 50 percent.

In Jessica Roberts’ latest article, Healthism and The Law of Employment Discrimination, which is available on SSRN, she explains that while “issues of income, insurance, and health” seem discrete, in fact they are “intimately intertwined.”  Wellness programs could exacerbate existing health disparities by restricting relatively unhealthy individuals’ access to wages, wellness programs, and employer-provided health insurance.  Moreover, while “using tobacco and being overweight are conduct-based statuses”—and thus not fully protected under the federal statutes that outlaw trait-based employment discrimination—“the underlying choices are not simple ones.”  As Roberts notes, “[t]he lack of access to healthy foods and time to work out or a longstanding addiction to tobacco may be difficult obstacles to overcome without some help.”  Roberts recommends that Congress, or the substantial number of state legislatures that have not already done so, pass legislation shielding employees from discrimination not just on the basis of their health-related traits, but also on the basis of their health-related conduct.  She recommends that such legislation permit employers “to promote the healthy lifestyle choices of their employees through rewards programs that do not relate directly to employment status or compensation.”  I recommend Roberts’ article for its helpful (and thought-provoking) overview of the intersection between employment discrimination law, insurance regulation, and workplace wellness programs and for its nuanced legislative proposal.

I also recommend Wendy Mariner’s article, The Affordable Care Act and Health Promotion: The Role of Insurance in Defining Responsibility for Health Risks and Costs, published last year in the Duquesne Law Review.  In it, Mariner argues, pithily, that “wellness program incentive systems range from minor and marginally effective, to major and possibly coercive.”  She believes that the wellness rewards that PPACA permits “are likely to be too crude to significantly improve the population’s health or save money, and they pose an unnecessary threat to the [statute’s] underlying goals[.]”  By fostering the idea that the unhealthy are at fault for their condition, such rewards may increase resistance to the “public programs to provide preventive services, safer social and built environments, research and education” for which Mariner advocates.  She calls for the elimination of PPACA’s wellness program exception to the ban on basing the price of health insurance on health status or claims experience.  With the projected cost of premiums in the new health insurance exchanges widely-reported and much decried, elimination of the wellness program exception is unlikely.  Mariner’s article nonetheless offers a valuable note of caution as 2014 approaches.

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Professor Jordan Paradise of Seton Hall Law School Issues Paper on e-Cigarettes and the Law

Paper Warns Against ‘Nonexistent Safety Data’ and Charts a Course for FDA Oversight

Seton Hall Law Professor Jordan Paradise has released her newest paper, “No Sisyphean Task: How the FDA can Regulate Electronic Cigarettes,” scheduled to be published this Spring in Volume 13 of the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics.

A report issued in February 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as of 2011 “about one in five U.S. adult cigarette smokers have tried an electronic cigarette,” nearly twice as many as in 2010. CDC’s director, Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, remarked that “E-cigarette use is growing rapidly” but also noted that “there is still a lot we don’t know about these products….”

In “No Sisyphean Task: How the FDA can Regulate Electronic Cigarettes,” Professor Paradise investigates the rise of the e-cigarette phenomenon in the wake of the recently enacted Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 (TCA), the tumultuous history of attempts at tobacco regulation— through Congress, the FDA and the courts— and suggests a feasible approach to strengthening regulation of e-cigarettes under the existing statutory framework. These measures would facilitate oversight and the compilation of a safety profile for e-cigarettes; such a profile is conspicuously absent at present.

In the paper, Professor Paradise explains that because e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and are “derived from tobacco,” they have been found to fall under the designation of “tobacco products” under the TCA. Any product designated a Tobacco Product may not be considered a drug or medical device for FDA oversight purposes. Although e-cigarettes have been found to be a tobacco product, they are neither “cigarettes” nor “smokeless tobacco” under the statutory definitions.  This leaves their regulation unclear as neither drug-devices absent blatant health claims (which would subject them to rigorous preapproval clinical trials) nor cigarettes (subjecting them to flavor additive bans, advertising restrictions, and graphic warnings).  These perceived statutory gaps have thus far allowed the manufacturers, marketers and distributors of e-cigarettes  to sell their product to the public, largely unregulated and unsupervised.

Professor Paradise notes, “E-cigarettes are one of those products for which the technology has seemingly outpaced the law.  In fact, most of the core provisions of the TCA aimed at restricting youth access to smoking apply only to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.  But there is sufficient foundation under the TCA for oversight of e-cigarettes, and that oversight can be used to inform consumers of the potential risks to health as well as any benefits.” She continued, “Although there seems to be a great many people who have benefitted from e-cigarettes to quit or drastically reduce their smoking, there is currently a dearth scientific testing, comparative data, manufacturing and quality controls, limits on nicotine levels, product standards, or labeling requirements.  This results in vials of the addictive drug nicotine being distributed for public consumption unchecked.  We don’t necessarily know what’s in e-cigarettes, we don’t know how much, nor do we know what e-cigarettes will ultimately do, health wise, to those who use them or those who are exposed to them second hand.”

As an example of potential for oversight of e-cigarettes under the existing statutory framework, Professor Paradise points out that the statute provides for heightened requirements for what are known as “modified risk tobacco products,” defined as “any tobacco product that is sold or distributed for use to reduce the harm or the risk of tobacco-related disease associated with commercially marketed tobacco products.”  The FDA has clarified the definition to say that what constitutes a “modified risk tobacco product” may be found through a product’s label, and it’s advertising—either explicit or implicit— and through any type of media.  Products which meet this definition are subject to satisfying the scientific data and comparative study requirements set out by the FDA.

In addition, Professor Paradise notes that “products which make ‘therapeutic claims,’ such as signaling that a product is intended for use as an aid in smoking cessation, reduction, or as a healthy alternative to smoking, will trigger the drug or medical device provisions under the Food Drug and Cosmetics Act as a threshold matter—bringing with it, again, the need for scientific data and comparative studies. The intent in ‘Intended use’ may be determined through explicit claims or ‘expressions’ by the original manufacturer or subsequent marketer or affiliates, or, according to the FDA, ‘be shown by the circumstances surrounding the distribution of the article.’”

A good look at the advertising for e-cigarettes and the circumstances surrounding their distribution is compelling, she said.”

Recommendations:

  • Scrutinize claims and representations of e-cigarette manufacturers and distributors and identify those that trigger drug-medical device requirements.  These representations can be found on the labeling, packaging, advertising, and all printed promotional materials; television, internet, radio, and other communications; and statements in public documents, including patents and SEC filings.
  • Examine the actual consumer use of e-cigarette products to support enforcement based on drug-device requirements because of the widespread intended use of the products for smoking cessation or reduction.
  • Utilize the “new tobacco product” and “modified risk tobacco product” provisions contained in the TCA to implement heightened requirements for e-cigarettes.
  • Provide clarity on the application of universal tobacco product requirements contained within the TCA and FDA regulations regarding manufacturer registration, disclosure to FDA of ingredients, and manufacturing practice requirements.
  • Promulgate e-cigarette regulations and issue guidance documents for standardization, reporting, and labeling, including:

o   Product standards

o   Good manufacturing practices and quality control mechanisms

o   Uniform labeling and listing of ingredients on the label

o   Prominent and uniform display of nicotine levels

  • Congressional amendment of the TCA to include e-cigarettes in the flavor additive ban, advertising and marketing restrictions, and other provisions to protect adolescents and youth.
  • Proactive assessment by states and localities of the scope of laws covering access to tobacco products and public smoking bans.  Many are drafted in a manner that does not encompass e-cigarettes and “vaping”; states and localities should determine whether they should amend them to include e-cigarettes.

The paper, “No Sisyphean Task: How the FDA can Regulate Electronic Cigarettes,” may be found here on SSRN: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2118802;

Contact info may be found here.

 

The Seton Hall Law Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law & Policy advances scholarship and recommendations for policy on the varied and complex issues that emerge within pharmaceutical and health law. Additionally, the Center is a leader in providing compliance training on the wide-ranging state, national and international mandates that apply to the safety, promotion and sale of drugs and devices. Seton Hall University School of Law, New Jersey’s only private law school and a leading law school in the New York metropolitan area, is dedicated to preparing students for the practice of law through excellence in scholarship and teaching with a strong focus on experiential learning. Founded in 1951, Seton Hall Law School is located in Newark and offers both day and evening degree programs. For more information visit law.shu.edu.

 

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Professional Licensing and Liability Round-Up

November 29, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Health Law 

Here are some highlights from recent headlines affecting licensing and liability of health care professionals:

  • Professional liability for failing to report child abuse in New Jersey: In L.A. v. Div. of Youth & Family Servcs., the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey held that an emergency room physician must stand trial for medical malpractice because he failed to report to the State that a two year-old child brought to the ER had ingested cologne.   The applicable standard of care is established by N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10, which requires “[a]ny person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or acts of child abuse” to report this information to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (previously DYFS).  Although this statute does not expressly mention neglect, the court held that it “requires the reporting of injuries resulting from conduct that is reckless, or grossly or wantonly negligent, but not conduct that is merely negligent.”  The court further held “that the triggering of the obligation to report, especially in the context of civil litigation involving professional malpractice, does not require the potential reporter to possess the quantum of proof necessary for an administrative or judicial finding of abuse or neglect.  All that is required by N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10 is ‘reasonable cause to believe.’”   Because the paramount concern is the safety of children, “a physician has ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that there has been abuse if a ‘probable inference’ from the medical and factual information available to the physician is that the child’s condition is the result of child abuse, including ‘reckless’ or ‘wantonly negligent’ conduct or inaction by a parent of caregiver.  The inference need not be the ‘most probable,’ but it must be more than speculation or suspicion.”  The court found that it was a jury question whether the doctor here failed to satisfy this standard of care.  Because there is a jury question as to the doctor’s liability, the court also reversed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim against the hospital based on the doctrine of respondeat superior.  As Charles Toutant highlighted  in a recent article in the New Jersey Law Journal, health care professionals need to pay attention to this case.   The court reminded in a footnote that more than professional liability could be at issue because it is a disorderly persons offense under N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.14, 2C:43-8 to fail to make the required report.

 

  • A supervising doctor in Vermont is not subject to professional discipline based solely on the unprofessional conduct of the physician assistant he supervised: The Vermont Supreme Court in In re Porter, 2012 Vt. 97, held that the state Board of Medical Practice may not find a doctor guilty of unprofessional conduct based only on the unprofessional acts of the physician assistant (PA) whom he supervised where the supervising physician met or exceeded all standards of care.  The PA had admitted that his improper prescribing of opiates constituted professional negligence and unprofessional conduct.  Under Vermont law, “[t]he supervising physician delegating activities to a physician assistant shall be legally liable for such activities of the physician assistant, and the physician assistant shall in this relationship be the physician’s agent” (emphasis added).  26 V.S.A. § 1739.  The Court distinguished “between legal liability, typically at issue in a civil action or for a monetary penalty, and unprofessional conduct at issue in a professional licensing disciplinary proceeding.”  Because the statute references only legal liability, the Court concluded that the statute “encompasses only the concept of civil liability, and does not render a supervising physician vicariously answerable or guilty for the unprofessional acts of his or her PA simply on the basis of their relationship.”  That the statute made the PA the physician’s agent did not change the analysis because “agency theory applies in tort or contract cases, not professional responsibility actions.”
  • Bill to permit advanced practice nurses to prescribe medication without supervision in New Jersey: New Jersey Senator Joseph Vitale introduced S.2354 on November 21 to permit advanced practice nurses (APNs) with more than twenty-four months or 2,400 hours of licensed, active advanced practice experience to prescribe medication without a joint protocol with a physician; reportedly Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz will introduce an Assembly version on December 3. Under current New Jersey law, although APNs may practice independently of physicians, they are only permitted to write prescriptions pursuant to a joint protocol developed with a collaborating physician.  See N.J. Stat. § 45:11-49(b)-(c); N.J.A.C. 13:35-6.6; N.J.A.C. 13:37-8.1.  According to a recent Health Affairs Health Policy Brief, eighteen states and the District of Columbia permit nurse practitioners, which are a type of APN, to prescribe without a doctor’s involvement.  A 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine urged more states to move in this direction.  Although the language of S.2354 is not yet available on the Legislature’s web site, Andrew Kitchenman reports in NJ Spotlight that it would make it easier for APNs to open their own practices.   A study published in the November/December 2012 Annals of Family Medicine predicts that the United States will require nearly 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025 while noting that the number of internal medicine residents choosing primary care is decreasing.  Given the existing shortage of primary care providers throughout the country and in New Jersey, which is expected to intensify with Medicaid expansion and increased coverage under the Affordable Care Act, S.2354 could help relieve the primary care supply pressures in New Jersey.   Although this bill circumvents the turf battles between the State Boards of Medical Examiners and Nursing, it is sure to meet substantial pressure from physician groups in the State.   The Health Affairs Health Policy Brief provides helpful context for this important debate.
  • New York begins accepting applications for professional licenses from nonimmigrant aliens: Following the Second Circuit’s decision in Dandamudi v. Tisch, 686 F.3d 66 (Jul. 10, 2012), New York has begun accepting applications for thirteen professional licenses, including medical, podiatric, chiropractic, dental, pharmacy, and veterinary, from applicants who previously were categorically precluded from licensure because they are neither citizens nor legal permanent residents (LPRs).  At issue in Dandamudi was New York’s requirement that pharmacists be citizens or legal permanent residents, which denied licensure to a “subclass of aliens known as nonimmigrants who are lawfully admitted to the United States pursuant to a policy granting those aliens the right to work in this country . . . .”  Because the Circuit in Dandamudi found that these nonimmigrant aliens are a suspect class, “[a]ny discrimination by the state against this group is subject to strict scrutiny review.”  The state had conceded that it lacked any compelling interest in treating this class differently, and thus the court found the New York law violated nonimmigrant aliens’ right to equal protection.  Although limiting its ruling to equal protection grounds, the court also credited Supremacy Clause and preemption concerns with New York’s law because it stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress’ decision to admit these individuals to the country for the express purpose of working in these specialty professions.  In reaching its decision, the Second Circuit expressly refused to follow decisions of the Fifth (see, e.g., Van Staden v. St. Martin, 664 F.3d 56 (5th Cir. 2011)) and Sixth (LULAC v. Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523 (6th Cir. 2007)) Circuits that required only rational basis review of statutes that treated nonimmigrant aliens differently than citizens or LPRs.  Despite the circuit split created by Dandamudi, the United States Supreme Court on October 1, 2012 denied the petition for certiorari filed in Van Staden.  Although the New York professions web site states that the time to seek a petition for certioriari in Dandamudi has not yet expired, a search of the Supreme Court’s online docket does not reveal that New York has filed a petition within 90 days of the decision or sought an extension of time in which to do so.

 

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The Individual Mandate, a Brief History — Part II, The Republican Alternative (1993-1994)

February 16, 2011 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Health Reform, Proposed Legislation 

bl2When President Clinton announced his “Task Force on National Health Reform” in late January, 1993, Republicans (at least initially) felt the need to offer voters a conservative counterpoint. Their primary concern was countering the “employer mandate” proposals, which the right has long opposed as a job-killer. The stakes were raised when, for various reasons, the Task Force’s activities became a political liability for the new President. (The PBS Newshour’s website provides a useful timeline for the entire “Hillarycare” fiasco.)

Politicians on both sides recognized many of the same problems with American health insurance. But without employer mandates or government-run plans at their disposal, Republicans needed a more direct means of containing the cost of health coverage and protecting the insured from “free riders.”

Solutions from the Pauly and Heritage plans soon found their way into Republican- and Democrat-sponsored health bills-including the individual mandate that was vital to both. Lately, liberal pundits have been pushing this fact as some great dramatic irony: Republicans, some of whom are still in office today, loved the mandate back when it was an alternative to President Clinton’s proposals.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. However much Republicans liked it, conservative legislators wanted to focus on how their bills would enable individuals to choose the insurance they wanted, rather than the consequences for failing to do so.

The “Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993,” sponsored by Republican Senator John Chafee, was probably the most thorough proposal of the bunch, and even enjoyed some bipartisan support. As has been noted, the bill shared several common elements with the ACA, and would have required all citizens and resident aliens to possess qualifying health coverage by 2005. (This is also the only bill I know of to call this requirement an “individual mandate.”)

Like the ACA, but unlike the think-tank plans or competing Republican proposals, the Chafee bill excludes those with religious objections from the mandate. This proposal didn’t so much enforce the mandate as attempt to make compliance financially attractive-only by possessing qualifying coverage could one take advantage of increased tax credits.

One rejoinder to this history lesson is that two bills without mandates, Representative Rick Santorum and Senator Phil Gramm’s “Comprehensive Family Health Access And Savings Act” and Representative Cliff Stearns and Senator Don Nickels’s “Consumer Choice Health Security Act”, were both more popular among Republicans than the Chafee bill. This is true insofar as neither bill contained a specific provision requiring Americans possess health coverage, but untrue in every other respect.

Based on the Heritage plan, the Stearns-Nickels bill terminated the employer health plan exclusion, and the medical expense and self-employed health insurance deductions. The tax credits and other benefits designed to defray the cost of health care expenses were withheld from those who failed to possess “federally qualified” coverage, as were both itemized health care deductions and even standardized deductions. The Consumer Choice Act would also have followed through with a version of the think tank proposals’ enforcement mechanism, creating state programs to provide coverage “to any individual who . . . who refuses to voluntarily purchase such insurance coverage privately.”[1]

As with other 1990s reform bills, the Consumer Choice Act didn’t devote a specific provision to spelling out an individual mandate; yet no less an authority than the Heritage Foundation considered the bill to possess an individual mandate as per their own design. Soon after the introduction of Nickels-Stearns, Heritage scholar and conservative health care guru Robert E. Moffitt delivered an eloquent and  detailed apologetic in its support. Moffitt’s reasoning would be echoed, years later, in the Government’s own defense of ACA § 1501(b).

The Santorum-Gramm bill was, at once, more draconian and less detailed than any competing proposal. Title VI of that bill stated that “Any individual with family income exceeding [100%] of the official poverty line[2] . . . but who fails to purchase [the required] coverage . . . within 1 year of the date of the enactment of this Act, shall not be eligible for the insurance pool program under title V of this Act.” Title V established subsidized insurance pools for those with pre-existing conditions. In addition, “No provision of Federal, State, or local law shall apply that prohibits the use of any statutory procedure for the collection of unpaid debts for medical expenses incurred by [these] individuals . . . .”

In other words, under Senator Gramm’s plan, not only would you suffer the same tax disadvantages in the similarly-structured Stearns bill, but noncompliance at any point apparently nullifies whatever bankruptcy protections that would help relieve medical debt. The uninsured and underinsured would also risk the possibility that a health condition would price you out of health coverage for either a year or until you aged into Medicare (the bill is unclear as to which). That may be a valid exercise of the commerce power, but it’s also begging a closer look at the Eighth Amendment’s use of the phrase “cruel and unusual.”

There were a few conservative and libertarian criticisms of these mandate proposals, but they were comparatively tame to what we hear now. Nobody seemed to consider the individual mandate a constitutional problem of any kind.[3] The main concern about Stearns-Nickels, it seems, was not that it required states to forcibly insure hold-outs, but that it permitted (but did not require) this by way of state-run plans. At a March, 1994, Heritage Foundation meeting, Senator Nickels promised to delete the provision. But neither Nickels nor Representative Stearns ever altered it.[4]

This disinterest continued even after Democrats reintroduced the “Health Security Act” in July, 1994. That bill had an express individual mandate, was authored by liberal superhero Ted Kennedy, and would have issued Americans spooky-sounding “Health Security Cards.” Amazingly, at the height of Newt Gingrich’s revolution against government overreach, not a constitutional concern seems to have been raised.

At any rate, all Republican bills were left for dead by the end of 1994. Various forces (including Bill Kristol’s infamous memo) convinced the party that any compromise on health care reform would be good for President Clinton and thus bad for them. Colorado senator Hank Brown went so far as to rescind his co-sponsorship of the Chafee bill a month before the midterm election. The problem wasn’t the individual mandate, itself, but its incompatibility with the new message: there wasn’t a health care crisis in America to begin with.

[Read "The Individual Mandate a Brief History--Part I, Conservative Origins"]
[1] Stearns-Nickels § 131(b).

[2] Note, the original text reads “exceeding 200 percent of the income official poverty line . . . or who is eligible for a partial or full credit to purchase a catastrophic health insurance plan under such section.”  Said tax credits are calculated as “100 percent reduced (but not below zero percent) by 1 percentage point for each 1 percentage point (or portion thereof) the qualified individual’s family income exceeds 100 percent of the income official poverty line . . . .”  Thus, if your income is 101% or greater, you’re subject to the bill’s penalties.

[3] William Saffire, Let’s Make a Deal on Health, N.Y. Times (May 23, 1994) (available online at http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F00713FC355C0C708EDDAC0894DC494D81&scp=10&sq=safire%20health%20care%20let’s%20make%20a%20deal&st=cse); Michael D. Tanner, Health Care Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 184 (Nov. 24, 1992) (available online at http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa184.pdf); Miller, supra.

[4] Tom Miller, Nickles-Stearns Is Not the Market Choice for Health Care Reform, Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 210 (June 13, 1994) (available online at http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa210.pdf).

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Senate Votes Against Repeal: Out of the Woods but for How Long?

February 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 
Photo by debabrata via flickr.

Photo by debabrata via flickr.

Last Wednesday, the Senate voted 47-51 against the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”  50  Democrats and one Independent voted against the Act while all 47 Republicans voted in favor of it (click here to view results).  No surprises there… but where do we go from here?

The Washington Post and the New York Times report that pro-repeal Senators and activists remain energetic and optimistic.  Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) observes “[t]hese are the first steps in a long road that will culminate in 2012.”  Marilyn Shachter, a tea party activist, predicts a repeal “definitely will happen. It may take until 2012, or after 2012, when we get rid of Mr. Obama and a lot of these borderline senators that are up for reelection are replaced.”  Keith Hennessey, former Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council, outlines a two-year “path to repeal” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA):

  • Keep up the pressure in 2011 and 2012:
    • maintain and strengthen Republican unity toward full repeal;
    • repeatedly attack the bill legislatively on all fronts, knowing that most votes will pass the House and fail in the Senate;
    • continue legal pressure through the courts; and
    • tee up repeal as a key partisan difference in the 2012 Presidential and Congressional elections;
  • In 2012 win the White House, hold the House majority, and pick up a net 3 Republican Senate seats to retake the majority there; and
  • In 2013, use reconciliation to repeal ObamaCare, requiring only a simple majority in the Senate.

ABC News notes that the latest repeal attempt “was just one of three ways the Republicans are trying to kill the health care law.”  The second way involves the constitutional challenges filed in the courts.  The third way involves Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator John Barrasso’s (R-WY) proposed legislation allowing states to opt out of certain PPACA provisions, such as the individual mandate.

I would add a fourth way: good ol’ public relations (see my previous post on renaming/rebranding PPACA).  For instance, last Thursday Alaska Governor Sean Parnell announced that he had asked the state attorney general whether implementing and enforcing PPACA would violate his oath of office.  The Governor described himself as being “caught between a federal government that says, ‘You must pursue this, you must pursue this,’ and I have the duty to uphold the rule of law.”  There’s some solid, dramatic PR right there.

Be that as it may, the Senate has spoken.  The lower courts have spoken.  Senators Graham and Barrasso have spoken.  Governor Parnell has spoken.  Members of this blog have spoken.  Must we wait until Mr. Hennessey’s two year “path to repeal” has been successfully implemented or foiled before the Supreme Court chimes in?

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