Archive for December 13th, 2010

Federal Judge Strikes Down Federal Health Care Law

Monday, December 13th, 2010

By LARRY O’DELL, Associated Press Larry O’dell, Associated Press 20 mins ago

RICHMOND, Va. – A federal judge declared a key provision of the Obama administration’s health care law unconstitutional Monday, siding with Virginia’s attorney general in a dispute that both sides agree will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is the first federal judge to strike down the law, which has been upheld by two other federal judges in Virginia and Michigan. Several other lawsuits have been dismissed and others are pending, including one filed by 20 other states in Florida.

Hudson rejected the government’s argument that it has the power under the Constitution to require individuals to buy health insurance, a provision that was set to take effect in 2014.

“Of course, the same reasoning could apply to transportation, housing or nutritional decisions,” Hudson wrote. “This broad definition of the economic activity subject to congressional regulation lacks logical limitation” and is unsupported by previous legal cases around the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

The lawsuit was filed by Virginia Republican Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli in defense of a new state law that prohibits the government from forcing state residents to buy health insurance. The key issue was his claim that the federal law’s requirement that citizens buy health insurance or pay a penalty is unconstitutional.

“This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution,” Cuccinelli said in a statement after the ruling.

Hudson, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush, sounded sympathetic to the state’s case when he heard oral arguments in October, and the White House expected to lose this round.

Administration officials told reporters last week that a negative ruling would have virtually no impact on the law’s implementation, noting that its two major provisions — the coverage mandate and the creation of new insurance markets — don’t take effect until 2014.

The central issue in Virginia’s lawsuit was whether the federal government has the power under the constitution to impose the insurance requirement. The Justice Department said the mandate is a proper exercise of the government’s authority under the Commerce Clause.

Cuccinelli argued that while the government can regulate economic activity that substantially affects interstate commerce, the decision not to buy insurance amounts to economic inactivity that is beyond the government’s reach.

North Texas Hospitals Among Leaders In Profit Margin

Monday, December 13th, 2010

By JASON ROBERSON / The Dallas Morning News

Hospitals are still making money, especially in North Texas.

The recession may have threatened to put the nation’s hospitals on life support, but they managed to post a 5 percent profit margin in 2009.

That ties their 25-year average profit margin, according to an analysis from Modern Healthcare magazine.

Last year, the nation’s hospitals earned $34.4 billion in profit on $691 billion in net revenue.

The report, based on data from the American Hospital Association, said hospitals’ efforts to control expenses more than made up for their sluggish patient revenue. Hospitals slowed the expense growth to 5 percent, compared with the 25-year average of 7 percent.

Few regions exemplify hospital financial health like North Texas. Some of the nation’s most profitable hospitals are based here.

Baylor Medical Center at Frisco has the highest operating margin among full-service hospitals in North Texas, with 29 percent, according to the American Hospital Directory.

A hospital’s operating margin is its operating income divided by revenue. It is an important measuring stick for ranking efficiency among competitors.

A higher operating margin tends to indicate a lower cost of running a hospital. It means the hospital can deliver health care to patients more cheaply than competitors and still make money.

However, high operating margins also are used when deciding where to place blame for health care cost increases.