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Question 2010: Whither USA Inc.?

By Stefan Published: December 31, 2009

For some time now, the Wall Street Journal has been running a series entitled "USA Inc.", wherein it examines "the consequences of the federal government's deep intervention into the U.S. economy, from Wall Street to Detroit and beyond."  This past Monday, it ran an article entitled "After the Bailouts, Washington's the Boss", wherein it made the assertion that, "In 2008 and 2009, Washington strove to save the economy.  In 2010, Americans will get a clearer picture of how Washington has changed the economy."

In the face of all this, one may conclude that those of us who have in the past been concerned about excessive corporate influence over our nation's political system should turn our attention elsewhere.  However, as I  note in my article "Finding State Action When Corporations Govern" (soon to be published in the Temple Law Review):

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Health Care Financing Reform: (101) Is the "Nebraska Compromise" Constitutional?

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 31, 2009

     Jordan Fabian of The Hill reports that thirteen state Attorneys General - all Republicans - have written a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatening legal action if the health care reform legislation is enacted with the exception singling out the State of Nebraska for favorable treatment under Medicaid.  The AGs contend that the exception for Nebraska violates the Constitution.  I agree that this particular provision of the Senate bill is unwise, unfair, and unappealing.  But is it unconstitutional?

     The Senate health care reform bill expands Medicaid enrollment to all individuals and families earning less than 133% of the federal poverty level.  Beginning in 2014 the federal government will pick up 100% of the costs attributable to the expanded enrollment in the program until the year 2016.  After that date, the federal government will pay for about 90% of the cost of the additional enrollees.  In addition, beginning in 2014 the federal share of CHIP funding in the states will increase from an average of 70% to an average of 93%.  (See page 7 of the CBO report of December 19, 2009)  

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Health Care Financing Reform: (100) An Appeal to My Liberal and Conservative Friends

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 30, 2009

     Liberals and conservatives both find much to dislike in the health care reform legislation, and many persons in each camp are opposed to the current measure.  I urge both groups to reconsider.

     Both liberals and conservatives want health care reform.  Among liberals, the most important goal is univeral coverage.  Among conservatives, the most important goal is cost containment.  But liberals are not opposed to cost control, and conservatives are not opposed to the expansion of coverage.  In fact, we cannot expand coverage without reducing costs because it would be too expensive, beyond even the means of this wealthy country.  And many authorities agree that we cannot control costs without expanding coverage - that the large population of uninsured and underinsured Americans dramatically increases the amount of money that we spend on health care, because delaying or going without health care makes chronic conditions such as diabetes, athsma, and hypertension worse, requiring even more expensive interventions when those conditons become life-threatening.  Furthermore, the lack of adequate treatment for dental problems and mental health issues worsens the health of our citizenry, as does our failure to treat addiction in a systematic manner.  Americans are sicker and die younger than the people of other industrialized countries.  (See the 2009 WHO World Health Statistics)  This diminishes our productivity as well as our well-being.  Every single year, 45,000 Americans - both liberals and conservatives - die as a consequence of having inadequate health insurance.  (See the 2009 Harvard Study)  Both liberals and conservatives are necessarily invested in health care reform.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (99) No Conference Committee to Resolve Differences Between House and Senate Bills

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 29, 2009

     The differences between the House and Senate health care reform legislation will be reconciled not by a conference committee, but rather informally by the leadership of the House and Senate, in consultation with the White House and with Senators and Representatives whose votes are necessary for passage of the measure.

     In the past few postings I have described some of the critical differences between the House and Senate bills, regarding the employer mandate, the extent of coverage and amount of subsidies, and the public options in each bill.  In addition, of course, there is also the subject of funding for abortions, with the difference between the Nelson amendment and the Stupak amendment.  But Congress will not be convening a conference committee to resolve these differences.  Is that appropriate?

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Health Care Financing Reform: (98) The Employer Mandate ("Play or Pay") in the House and Senate Bills

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 28, 2009

     Another difference between the House and Senate health care reform bills is with respect to the "employer mandate" - more accurately, the provisions that penalize employers that fail to provide health insurance to their employees.  In general, the House bill contains a stronger employer mandate than the Senate bill.

     Both the House and the Senate bills contain an "individual mandate" requiring people who can afford it to purchase health insurance.  But only the House bill contains a strong employer mandate.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (97) Extent of Coverage and Subsidies in the House and Senate Bills

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 27, 2009

     If a principal goal of health care reform is universal coverage, both the House and Senate bills fall short of this ideal.  But each bill gets us most of the way there.

     According to the CBO, the House bill would extend coverage to an additional 36 million Americans by the year 2019; the Senate bill would add 31 million persons to health insurance rolls.  (October 29 CBO report on House bill; December 19 CBO report on Senate bill).  The House bill would leave 18 million residents without health insurance and the Senate bill would leave 23 million persons without coverage, of whom about 8 million are not legal residents.  (Page 16, CBO report on House bill; page 22, CBO report on Senate bill)  As a result the House bill would cover all but 10 million lawful residents, and the Senate bill all but 15 million lawful residents.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (96) The Public Options in the House and Senate Bills

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 26, 2009

     It is well-known that the House bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, contains a "Public Health Insurance Option" - a government-run health insurance company that would have competed with private insurers to provide coverage for American citizens.  It is also well-known that the Senate rejected this provision in its bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Less appreciated is the fact that the Senate bill contains two provisions that would extend government financed health care to millions of more people than the "public option" in the House bill would.

     The Senate rejected the "public option," even with "opt out" or "trigger" mechanisms that would have made the program optional with the states or contingent upon circumstances such as lack of competition in the marketplace or rising costs.  However, the public option was not expected to cover very many people, under either the House or Senate version of health care reform.  The CBO estimated that under the House version of the reform bill six million people would have enrolled for coverage by 2019, and that the Senate plan would have attracted only two or three million enrollees by that time.

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Faith and Hope

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 25, 2009

     The polarization of American society along ideological lines may cause both liberals and conservatives to despair for their country.  But it need not, if we have faith and hope.

     Liberals seek to change society.  For many of them reform of their beloved country cannot come fast enough, and they view any disagreement as to strategies or means as a determination to retard progress and preserve old injustices.  Liberals lose hope that the future will ever come.

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The Second Annual "College Football is Un-American" Blog Post

By Stefan Published: December 24, 2009

I was going to wait till the "National Championship" game to post this, but the Wall Street Journal ran a story this past week on possible new legislation that made me change my mind:


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Health Care Financing Reform: (95) The Senate Bill Passes

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 24, 2009

     Minutes ago the United States Senate approved the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and sent the legislation to a conference committee with the House of Representatives.   

      With nearly all of the Senators at their desks and Vice-President Joe Biden presiding, the Senate just voted 60-39 to approve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

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The University of Akron School of Law Open House - January 9th

By Diana Published: December 23, 2009

Date: January 9, 2010

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Health Care Financing Reform: (94) Additional Funding for Community Health Centers

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 23, 2009

     The "manager's amendment" offered by Majority Leader Harry Reid includes $10 billion in new funding for community health centers.  It has been reported that this funding will support primary medical care for 25 million Americans.

     On December 19, Chris Frates of Politico reported that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) threw his support to the Senate health care bill because it added $10 billion in funding for community health centers, where people can obtain low-cost medical and dental care.  Frates quotes Sanders:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (93) AHIP, the AMA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Positions

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 22, 2009

     The American Medical Association has endorsed the Senate health care plan.  In light of the role that doctors and hospitals played in defeating health care reform 17 years ago, this was a significant development, but it was not particularly a surprise.  However, I hadn't realized how much consensus there is in favor of health care reform until I read what AHIP (the private health insurance lobbying group) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are saying about the Senate bill. 

     The A.M.A. has been largely supportive of health care reform for some time.  The current legislation achieves a number of its goals.  There will be near-universal health insurance coverage, and health insurance policies will be far more comprehensive.  There will be coverage for pre-existing conditions and no annual or lifetime limits for necessary medical care.  There will be no public option, thus postponing the development of a "single-payer" system such Canada's or Britain's.  Best of all from the A.M.A.'s standpoint, there will be no expansion of the relatively low Medicare reimbursement rates through either a public option or Medicare buy-in plan.  Had either of those provisions passed the Senate, doctors and hospitals would almost certainly have opposed the legislation.  The legislation will increase demand for medical care which will ensure a market for the services of medical care providers.  It is therefore not surprising that doctors and hospitals support the legislation.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (92) Revenue Sources in Senate Health Care Bill

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 20, 2009

     Funding for health care reform comes principally from two sources: reductions in payments to providers under Medicare and Medicare Advantage, and increased taxes.  In this post I describe the new taxes that will be imposed to pay to provide health care to tens of millions of low-income Americans.

     The new taxes that will be imposed under the Senate bill are described in the December 19, 2009 report of the Joint Committee on Taxation.  The report is only three pages long, and it may be accessed from this link.  According to the report, these new taxes will generate $397 billion over the next ten years, approximately half of what is needed to pay for the expansion of Medicaid and to subsidize low-income persons to purchase health insurance, thus helping to extend health insurance to 31 million people (one-tenth of the American population) who are currently without health insurance.  The largest new revenue sources are the following: 

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Health Care Financing Reform: (91) 60 Senators Agree on Bill - CBO Estimate

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 19, 2009

     News outlets are reporting that 60 Senators have agreed upon an amended health care reform bill.  The new bill and the CBO estimate are discussed below.

     Carrie Budoff Brown and Chris Frates of Politico and David Espo and Ricardo Alonso-Zalvidar of The Huffington Post are reporting (here and here) that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has secured 60 votes in favor of an amended health care reform bill.   The amended bill was introduced in the Senate this morning, and the CBO released its estimate of the effect of the bill on the federal deficit.  Jeffrey Young of The Hill reports that the unvailing of the amended bill

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Young People's Constitutional Right to Drink and Vote

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 19, 2009

     In my day, college kids could drink but not vote.  Now they can vote  but not drink.  What gives?

     There was once a time-honored American tradition of drinking and voting.  Candidates would "likker up" their supporters and festive mobs would parade to the polls on election day, taking over the polling place and generally intimidating anyone with the temerity of voting for someone else.  I blame the Australians for ruining this custom with their curious habit of voting by "secret ballot"  at "neutral polling places."  This foreign invention - the "Australian system" - was imposed upon the boistrous American electorate between 1888 and 1896, and things have never been the same.  (See the discussion of this topic in the Supreme Court decision Burson v. Freeman (1992)).

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It is easier than ever to find legal sources on the web!

By Lynn Published: December 18, 2009

What is better than Google?  How about two new legal research search engines designed by legal powerhouses. 

American Bar Association  Legal Search Engine 

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May Congress Regulate the Loudness of Television Commercials?

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 18, 2009

     Loud television commercials are a problem at our house.  During television shows my wife and I tell the kids "Turn it up!" because we can't hear as well as they do- at the volume they are comfortable with the shows sound like mumbling to us.  But when the commercials come on they are so loud we all jump.  Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA ) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have introduced legislation designed to reduce the loudness of television commercials.  Would this legislation be constitutional?  Yes, and here's why.

     In this AP story, it is reported that Representative Eshoo and Senator Whitehouse have introduced identical legislation in the House and Senate addressing the problem of loud television commercials.  In the House it is bill number H.R. 1084, and in the Senate it is S. 2847.  The bill is entitled "Commerical Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act" (or CALM Act).  The operative portion of the proposed law states:

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The Efficient Market Hypothesis vs. The Hypothesis That Markets are Efficient

By Stefan Published: December 17, 2009

Prof. Stephen Brown has posted a paper on SSRN entitled "The Efficient Markets Hypothesis: The Demise of the Demon of Chance?"  The abstract reads as follows (HT: Prof. Ribstein):

Brown writes that: "In the period leading up to the current financial crisis few practitioners believed that the EMH had any practical implications. It was believed to be rather easy to make money investing in short term trends."   However, given that the semi-strong version of the EMH is generally considered to be the most in accord with reality, there is really no inconsistency with believing in the EMH and trying to gain an investing edge through the use of inside information.  Overconfidence in one's ability to do so without getting one's hand caught in the cookie jar may be another story.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (90) How Important Is the Public Option - Part 2 - CBO Estimates

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 17, 2009

      Yesterday's post discussed the potential advantages of the public option in making health care more affordable.  However, in its evaluation of the House and Senate health care reform bills the CBO didn't think that the public option would have much of an impact either on the federal deficit or on overall expenditures for health care.

     In its report of November 13, 2009, evaluating the effect of the House bill on the federal budget, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that while the costs incurred by the public plan would likely be lower than the cost of private insurance largely because of lower administrative expenses, premiums for coverage under the public option would likely be higher than the cost of private insurance purchased through the exchange.  The CBO explained:

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New Differences in Federal and State Court Time Computation May Be Trap for Unwary

By Bernadette Published: December 16, 2009

On December 1, 2009, sweeping changes in computing time under the federal rules of civil procedure, appellate procedure, bankruptcy procedure, and criminal procedure took effect.  Because the Ohio procedural rules -- and, in fact, the procedural rules of most state courts -- have not changed, attorneys who practice in both federal and state courts must beware.

If you practice in federal court, you will need a new copy of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  On December 1, sweeping changes in computing time under these Rules took effect.  The Rule changes also include changes to the Rules of appellate procedure, bankruptcy procedure, and criminal procedure.  You may access the various proposed amended Rules here.  The proposed Rules were not blocked or modified by Congress and, hence, became law on December 1, 2009.  A simplified listing of the Rules that have been amended is available here.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (89) How Important is the Public Option? - Part 1

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 16, 2009

     According to news reports (including this article by Jeffrey Young in The Hill), Senator Joe Lieberman is killing the public option in the Senate.  And as a result, some leading Democrats like former Governor and Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean now oppose the health care bill if it is stripped of the public option (according to this report by Carrie Budoff Brown and Mike Allen of Politico).  How important is the public option to expanding coverage and lowering costs?

     The "public option" is a essentially a government-run health insurance program.  It would not be free medical care.  Premiums would be established as they are by any non-profit insurance company - premiums would have to be set high enough to cover both the cost of medical care and administrative costs.  The public option would be simply one among many choices available to individuals through the exchange or (under a more expanded version of the public option) to employers for purchasing health insurance.

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Atheist Elected in North Carolina, Presenting an Easy Religious Freedom Case

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 15, 2009

     David Waters of the Washington Post reports that Cecil Bothwell, an atheist, was elected to city council in Asheville, North Carolina, despite a provision of the North Carolina state constitution which provides that "any person who shall deny the being of the Almighty God" is disqualified from holding public office.  This presents an easy question of religious freedom under the Constitution.

     As Waters notes, the Constitution seems to cover this very situation.  The last portion of Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution states:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (88) Warner Amendment to Strengthen Cost Containment Provisions of Senate Bill

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 14, 2009

     Senator Mark Warner, (D-VA) has offered a detailed amendment to the Senate health care bill that will strengthen many of the cost containment provisions of the bill.  This is in line with changes that have been demanded by the Business Rountable and other organizations whose primary concern is to reduce the cost of medical care for America's citizens and businesses.

     The greatest criticism of the proposed health care legislation is that while it does a good job of extending health insurance coverage to the uninsured, it does not do enough to reduce the high cost of medical care.  Here are some previous postings regarding projections of costs and recommendations for cost containment by CMS, the Commonwealth Fund, AHIP, CBO, and the Brookings Institute

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Slavery and Human Trafficking

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 14, 2009

     It is difficult to comprehend, but slavery and human trafficking are still widespread and common.   Below are links to information about the incidence of slavery and human trafficking as well as federal laws prohibiting these practices.

     On June 16, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made these remarks at the time of the issuance of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (85) Advertising for Prescription Drugs

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 13, 2009

     The Congressional Budget Office recently published a study on the cost of prescription drug advertising showing that drug companies spend more on promotion than they do on research and development.   Does this advertising raise or lower the cost of drugs?

     The CBO study, entitled "Promotional Spending for Prescription Drugs," was released December 2, 2009, and it confirms that a substantial portion of the budget of drug manufacturers is spent on advertising and free samples - in fact, they spend almost as much on these promotional activities as they do on research and development. 

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Mary and Tom Huhn

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 12, 2009

     Today's posting is about my parents and how they influenced the way I look at politics and law.

     My mother's birthday is today.  She would be 91 years old.  She and my father are both gone now, but I thought to explain a bit about their influence on me.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (87) New CMS Report Shows Higher Expenditures for Health Care Because More People Will Be Enrolled on the Exchange

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 11, 2009

     Yesterday the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released this report estimating the effect of the original Senate health care bill submitted by Majority Leader Harry Reid on the federal deficit and on projected health care expenditures.  This post concerns how the new CMS report differs from the previous report prepared by the Congressional Budge Office (CBO) scoring the bill.

     It  is difficult to compare the CMS and CBO projections for two reasons.  First, the two reports break down spending and savings into different categories.  I have tried to be careful in adjusting these figures so that we are comparing apples to apples.  Second, each report contains information that the other does not.  The CMS does not attempt to estimate the major revenue portions of the bill; the CMS is solely concerned with predicting how the bill will affect the cost of medical care to the government and to consumers.  The CBO does not attempt to measure the effect of the bill on the overall cost of medical care to consumers; it is concerned solely with the effect the health care bill on the federal budget. 

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Employment Law Issues

By Lynn Published: December 11, 2009


The U.S. Department of Labor has several online sources meant for employers and employees that provide easy-to-understand information about federal employment laws.

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John A. Bingham, Ohio's Best Choice

By Diana Published: December 11, 2009

The following post comes from Michael K. Curtis, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Law.

GREENSBORO, N.C.: A group of Ohio lawmakers has been looking to replace the statue of former Gov. William Allen, which sits in the nation's Capitol. Allen is known for his permissive attitude toward expansion of slavery and opposition to President Abraham Lincoln. To replace Allen, the group has considered a wide range of famous Ohioans from inventor Thomas Edison to comedian Bob Hope.

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Heath Care Financing Reform: (86) The Dorgan Amendment - Reimportation of Drugs from Canada

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 11, 2009

     Once drugs that have been manufactured in America have been shipped out of the country, federal law currrently forbids their reimportation.  An amendment to the health care bill being offered by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) would lift the ban on reimportation.  The amendment enjoys broad popular support, and according to the Congressional Budget Office it would save Americans billions of dollars, but is it a good idea?

     Senator Byron Dorgan intends to offer S. 1232, the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act, as an amendment to the health care reform bill pending in the Senate.  Here is a press release from Senator Dorgan explaining the amendment and setting forth his arguments in favor of it.  Dorgan states in part:

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Utopian Economics

By Stefan Published: December 10, 2009

On my drive to the law school this morning I started listening to John Cassidy's "How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities".  Cassidy is a staff writer and blogger at the The New Yorker.  Early on in the book, Cassidy introduces the term "utopian economics"--which he uses to describe, as I understand it, the belief that unregulated markets work perfectly.  Upon arriving at work I did a web search for the term and found a review of the book posted on Bloomberg today.  James Pressley, the Bloomberg reviewer, writes:

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Richard Cheney and American Exceptionalism

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 10, 2009

     In a recent interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News, former Vice-President Richard Cheney referred to President Barack Obama as "this guy who doesn't fully understand or share that view of American exceptionalism that I think most of us believe in," and stated that it would give "aid and comfort to the enemy" to try accused terrorists in federal court.  As Al Smith used to say, "Let's look at the record."

     In charging the President with "giving aid and comfort to the enemy," Cheney was quoting the Constitution - specifically, Article III, Section 3, Clause 1, which states:

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High Court Rules that Orders Adverse to Attorney-Client Privilege Are Not Immediately Appealable as Collateral Final Orders

By Bernadette Published: December 9, 2009

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday, in Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Carpenter, that court orders finding a waiver of the attorney-client privilege are not immediately reviewable under the collateral final order doctrine.  In so ruling, the Court continued its focus on the "importance" of the interest at stake, noting that, to qualify as an immediately appealable collateral order, the interest must arise to a "substantial public interest" or constitute a "particular value of high order."

Incidentally, Mohawk is the first opinion authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  In the opinion, Justice Sotomayor continues the trend of limiting appealability under the Court-made collateral final order doctrine.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (84) The Commonwealth Fund Believes that the Reform Bills Will Achieve Substantial Savings in Health Care Expenditures

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 9, 2009

    The most intractable problem that we as a nation face is to reduce the overall cost of health care.  There is good news on this score from the Commonwealth Fund.  A new study predicts that the proposed legislation will substantially reduce the growth rate of health care expenditures, largely as a result of modernization of health information and billing systems.

     A report released December 7 by the Commonwealth Fund predicts that the pending legislation will achieve substantial savings, and will reduce the annual increase in health care expenditures from 6.4% to 6.0%.  The report, entitled "Why Health Reform Will Bend the Cost Curve," authored by David Kutler, Karen Davis, and Kristof Stremikis, identifies several aspects of the legislation that should help to reduce the cost of medical care.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (83) Medicare for All and Ben Nelson's Abortion Amendment

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 8, 2009

     Two big developments today: a proposal on Medicare for All and another abortion amendment. 

     Carrie Budoff Brown of The Politico, always on top of new developments concerning the public option, posted this article in which she states that liberals are now willing to drop the public option contained in current bills in return for a change to Medicare that would allow persons 55 and older to purchase Medicare health insurance.  This would in fact be the simplest form of public option.  In previous years this had been proposed by Senator Ted Kennedy and others under legislation called "Medicare for All."  Sam Stein and Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post provide additional information about the Medicare buy-in proposal in this report, as does Brian Beutler in this post from TPM.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (82) Karen Ignagni on Reducing the Cost of Health Care

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 7, 2009

     Karen Ignagni, President of AHIP (America's Health Insurance Plans), has issued a clarion call to reduce the overall cost of health care in the United States.

     On December 3 AHIP, the trade association for health insurance companies, posted a number of entries on its blog quoting experts who criticize the pending health care legislation on one fundamental point - that while the proposed laws would extend access to health care and lower the expected federal deficit, they do not reduce Americans' overall spending on health care.  I have made this point as well in previous postings, here, here, and here.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (81) A Potentially Big Development from Moderate Democrats on the Public Option

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 6, 2009

     Carrie Budoff Brown of the Politico reports that the Senate moderates may have achieved a breakthrough on the "public option."

     Carrie Budoff Brown of the Politico reported last night that moderate Democrats in the Senate may have hammered out an alternative to the public option.  She states:

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How Private Is GPS Data?

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 5, 2009

      Justin Elliott at Talking Points Memo published this post yesterday entitled "Police Tapped Sprint Customer GPS Data 8 Million Times in a Year."  Just how private is GPS data?

     Elliott reports that Paul Taylor, Sprint's Manager of Electronic surveillance, revealed that Sprint "turned on" a feature allowing police to access GPS data, and that the tool has "caught fire" with law enforcement.  Taylor reportedly said:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (80) Results on Yesterday's Amendments, News on Amendments to Come

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 4, 2009

     Carrie Cudoff Brown of  The Politico posted an informative article yesterday evening on the state of the health care reform bill in the Senate: two amendments passed, two failed, and three important ones on abortion, the public option, and the "donut hole"  are in the works.

     In yesterday's post I described the four amendments that were at stake.  Brown reports that the two Democratic amendments to the health care bill passed and the two Republican amendments failed.  No surprise there.  There was some limited crossover voting on the amendments.

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Congress Considering Reporter Shield Law - Some Want It to Shield Bloggers Too

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 4, 2009

     Should Congress adopt a "shield law" for reporters?  Should the new law protect bloggers, too?

     On March 31, 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 985 (the link is to the relevant page at, the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2009,"  introduced by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA).  If enacted this law would protect professional journalists from having to disclose information or turn over documents to federal authorities except in limited circumstances.  The House bill differentiates between two types of situations.  Where there is no confidential source or where the authorities are not seeking information that could lead to the discovery of a confidential source, the journalist would have to disclose information or produce a document in the journalist's possession if it is "critical to the investigation or prosecution" of a criminal case or "critical to the successful completion" of a civil case.  In situations where police, prosecutors, or the courts want information about a confidential source or that could lead to the discovery of the identity of a confidential source, the journalist could be required to divulge the information only in four limited situations: (1) cases involving terrorism; (2) to prevent imminent death or significant bodily harm; (3) cases involving the disclosure of trade secrets, health information, or confidential consumer information; and (4) cases involving the disclosure of classified information. 

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Is the economy getting better or worse?

By Lynn Published: December 4, 2009

We know what is reported in the media.  The Financial Times of London reports that the United States is facing our longest recession on record.   Some major newspapers like the Wall Street Journal  and New York Times, have special topic pages devoted to monitoring economic conditions.  What does the Federal Government say about the economy? 

Who is responsible for this mess? Is it the government's fault, Wall Street's fault or everyone's fault?  One report places the blame on everyone including the American public.  Read on for the explanation.

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Milton Friedman v. The Buddha

By Stefan Published: December 3, 2009

There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal recently about the economist Arthur Cecil Pigou (1837-1959).  The article describes Mr. Pigou as an economist 'whose intellectual legacy is being rediscovered, and, unlike those of Messrs. Keynes and Friedman, it enjoys bipartisan appeal.'  This bipartisan appeal may be a reflection of the fact that Mr. Pigou's appreciation of markets was apparently tempered by a recognition of their limitations:

But what I'm really interested in is this idea that one can in fact neatly separate centralized government and the private sector.  And this is where the Buddha comes in.  Buddhism, as I understand it, includes a belief that 'all existences are not discrete and separate but are interdependent.'

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Health Care Financing Reform: (79) Today's Amendments to the Senate Bill

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 3, 2009

     Donny Shaw of OpenCongress.Org has posted a story about the four amendments to the health care reform bill being considered by the Senate today.  The Amendments are not online, but Shaw provides links to the websites of the four Senators who are offering the amendments.  Details below.

     Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is offering an amendment that by its terms would expand coverage for preventive health services for women from those recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) to those also recommended for women in comprehensive guidelines of the Health Resources and Services Administration.  In a previous post I discussed how the USPSTF had decided not to automatically recommend mammograms for women until after the age of 50, and then only on a biennial basis.  Mikulski issued a statement saying that under her amendment,

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Health Care Financing Reform: (78) The CLASS Act and Its Costs

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 1, 2009

     One of the health care reforms that Ted Kennedy was most eager to enact is a bill that would would fund in-home living assistance services for elderly and disabled Americans.  The idea is to enable people to live independently as much and as long as possible so that they do not have to move into group homes, nursing homes, or assisted living centers.  Senator Kennedy's bill - the "CLASS Act" - has been incorporated into both the House and Senate health care reform bills.  Details below.

     I confess my bias.  Our oldest child is developmentally disabled.  He cherishes his independence, and with a little assistance he is able to live in his own apartment.  It is not necessary for him to live in an assisted living center or a group home.  Not only is home health care all that he wants and needs, it is the most cost effective alternative.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (77) Congress' Power Under the Constitution to Adopt Health Care Reform

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 1, 2009

     There has been an ongoing debate on the Jalk Balkin's blog balkinization on the question of whether Congress has the authority under the Constitution to require individuals to purchase health insurance.  Ruth Marcus at Real Clear Politics has written a clear and concise essay concluding that Congress does indeed have this power under Commerce Clause and the Tax and Spending Clause.

     Here is a link to Balkin's blog - scroll down to his posting on November 24 entitled "More on the Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate for Health Insurance," from which you can link to earlier installments of the debate.  And here is Ruth Marcus' article of November 25, in which she concludes that both the Commerce Clause and the Tax and Spending Clause confer authority upon Congress to require people to have health insurance.  I have nothing to add to Marcus' analysis - I don't think that there is any serious doubt about this question.  The only additional information you might wish to have is the language of the each of those provisions of the Constitution.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (76) CBO Estimate of Effect of Senate Bill on How Much People Will Pay for Health Care

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 1, 2009

     Yesterday the CBO released an extremely important report estimating the effect of the Senate health care bill on how much people will pay for health care.  The report is incomplete, but it provides a wealth of valuable information. 

     Here is a link to the November 30, 2009 CBO report, entitled "An Analysis of Health Insurance Premiums Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."  Here is my summary of the most important findings contained in the report:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (75) The Senate Bill Would Not Increase Budget Deficits in the Long-Term

By Wilson Huhn Published: December 1, 2009

     One of the principal objections that has been voiced against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act under consideration in the Senate is that it "front-loads" revenues and "back-loads" costs, which will lead to long-term budget deficits.  I don't believe that this is an accurate charge, but here is the evidence: judge for yourself.

     In its report of November 18, 2009, the CBO estimates that the Senate version of health care reform will substantially reduce the federal deficit over the next decade, and that in the ensuing decade the bill would still lower budget deficits, but only by a small margin.  The CBO states:

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