Monday, November 4, 2013

Last Call For A SCOTUS Punt

Looks like the Supreme Court has taken a pass on Oklahoma's law banning pharmaceutical abortions, letting a lower court ruling stand finding that particular part of the law unconstitutional.

In an important, if likely temporary, victory for abortion rights, the Supreme Court took a major abortion case off its docket on Monday. The Court’s brief order does not explain the justices’ reason for doing so — it simply provides that “[t]he writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted. Nevertheless, it is likely that the justices decided that a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision muddied the issues presented by the case to such an extent that it made sense to wait to decide an important question regarding the ability of states to restrict the use of medication abortions. 
Though the Supreme Court agreed to hear Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice earlier this year, it also asked Oklahoma’s highest court to resolve two questions regarding the scope of an Oklahoma law banning certain forms of non-surgical abortions induced by medication. Last Tuesday, Oklahoma’s justices answered these questions by explaining that the state law at issue in Cline outlaws all medication abortions — including methods of terminating a pregnancy that were specifically approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Thus, if the U.S. Supreme Court were to rule on Cline they would have to answer the much larger question of whether an abortion procedure that’s specifically been approved by the federal government can be banned by a state, rather than considering a narrower question of whether specific methods of abortion lacking FDA sanction can be targeted by states.

So it's something at least.  And yes, SCOTUS would of had to rule very strongly in favor of the federal supremacy clause in the case of Cline.  No way were the conservative justices going to give a victory that big to the pro-choice side, so they punt instead.

And on we go.

Insurance Companies Are Still The Obamacare Bad Guys

Suddenly, Republicans are very, very concerned about people having their insurance policies canceled and being stuck with "substantially" more expensive plans.  But the reality is the insurance companies are happily using Obamacare as a smokescreen to screw their customers over every chance they get.  TPM's Dylan Scott discovers the truth as he investigates the case of Donna, a Washington State resident who got a cancellation notice from her insurer.

Across the country, insurance companies have sent misleading letters to consumers, trying to lock them into the companies' own, sometimes more expensive health insurance plans rather than let them shop for insurance and tax credits on the Obamacare marketplaces -- which could lead to people like Donna spending thousands more for insurance than the law intended. In some cases, mentions of the marketplace in those letters are relegated to a mere footnote, which can be easily overlooked. 
The extreme lengths to which some insurance companies are going to hold on to existing customers at higher price, as the Affordable Care Act fundamentally re-orders the individual insurance market, has caught the attention of state insurance regulators. 
The insurance companies argue that it's simply capitalism at work. But regulators don't see it that way. By warning customers that their health insurance plans are being canceled as a result of Obamacare and urging them to secure new insurance plans before the Obamacare launched on Oct. 1, these insurers put their customers at risk of enrolling in plans that were not as good or as affordable as what they could buy on the marketplaces
TPM has confirmed two specific examples where companies contacted their customers prior to the marketplace's Oct. 1 opening and pushed them to renew their health coverage at a higher price than they would pay through the marketplace. State regulators identified the schemes, but they weren't necessarily able to stop them. 
It's not yet clear how widespread this practice became in the months leading up to the marketplace's opening -- or how many Americans will end up paying more than they should be for health coverage. But misleading letters have been sent out in at least four states across the country, and one offending carrier, Humana, is a company with a national reach.

So at least some of these cancellation notices sent out by insurance companies were attempts to sucker  people into the most expensive plans they offer, automatically, before the protections of Obamacare kicked in fully.

Let's remember the practices that made the ACA necessary in the first place.  Republicans want to take us back to these bad old days across the country.  

Another ENDA Run Past Republican Hate

President Obama took to the Huffington Post this weekend to call for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Here in the United States, we're united by a fundamental principle: we're all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. We believe that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the chance to follow your dreams and pursue your happiness. That's America's promise. 
That's why, for instance, Americans can't be fired from their jobs just because of the color of their skin or for being Christian or Jewish or a woman or an individual with a disability. That kind of discrimination has no place in our nation. And yet, right now, in 2013, in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. 
As a result, millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs -- not because of anything they've done, but simply because of who they are. 
It's offensive. It's wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense. 
That's why Congress needs to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA, which would provide strong federal protections against discrimination, making it explicitly illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill has strong bipartisan support and the support of a vast majority of Americans. It ought to be the law of the land. 
Americans ought to be judged by one thing only in their workplaces: their ability to get their jobs done. Does it make a difference if the firefighter who rescues you is gay -- or the accountant who does your taxes, or the mechanic who fixes your car? If someone works hard every day, does everything he or she is asked, is responsible and trustworthy and a good colleague, that's all that should matter.

ENDA is definitely something that needs to be passed, but I'm 99.99% sure that as long as Republicans control the House, nothing's getting past the bigots in the GOP.  And please note, the "moderates" in the GOP will vote against ENDA as surely as they did last time.

This time may be different, hence that .01% chance this bill gets through the House, because it's looking like every single Democrat will back the Senate version of the bill coming up for a vote this month.  It also looks like a number of Senate Republicans will back the measure and get it past a guaranteed filibuster attempt. However, all that means is that ENDA will die in the House again, just like immigration reform, jobs bills, and so on.  Tea Party groups are already threatening to go after any Republican who votes for the measure and it's very possible the bill could collapse in the Senate as a result.

The vote could come as early as this week in the Senate and Harry Reid has promised action before Thanksgiving recess, so we'll see.


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