Headlines from the Hill

It’s difficult to believe that 2 years have passed since President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. March 23, 2012, marked the 2-year anniversary of this historic legislation. ANA took part in a week-long celebration recognizing all of the patient protections now in place because of the law. Those protections include closing of the “donut hole,” preventing insurers from denying coverage due to preexisting conditions, allowing children up to age 26
to stay on their parents’ health insurance, and providing real, affordable health coverage to millions of Americans. ANA used social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, to share information on these important achievements in our healthcare delivery system.

Tell it to the judges

While the ACA celebrated its 2-year anniversary, the Supreme Court was preparing to hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of the law. The Court set aside 3 days, March 26 to 28, to hear oral arguments. At the heart of the constitutionality argument is whether or not the individual mandate is “a permissible exercise of Congress’ powers under the commerce clause in Article 1 of the Constitution.” The Constitution’s commerce clause gives Congress the authority “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” Opponents of ACA argue that the individual mandate, which requires virtually all legal U.S. residents to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty starting in 2014, is an overstep of the powers Congress was granted under the commerce clause. It has long been the Supreme Court’s role to weigh in on perceived oversteps by Congress and the executive branch. Legally speaking, many constitutional law experts believe the individual mandate was within the purview of Congress’ authority granted under the commerce clause and the mandate will be upheld. The Court also heard arguments on the final day about the issue of severability, which will answer whether, if the individual mandate were found unconstitutional, the rest of the law would survive and be implemented without the mandate requirement.

Leading up to the hearing, ANA submitted an amicus brief with the court in support of the law. In a show of support on March 26, ANA CEO Marla Weston, PhD, RN, conducted several radio interviews at a site near the Supreme Court to discuss the importance of ACA and ANA’s role in supporting it. Accompanying her were ANA nurses and staff who spent time outside the Supreme Court informally speaking to the crowds about the importance of ACA for both nurses and their patients.

In preparation for the week-long celebration, ANA launched an updated version of its Health System Reform site at http://nursingworld.org/healthcarereform, adding new documents and information on ACA and its implementation. In order to get the word out to grassroots supporters, ANA created a three-part email series highlighting the anniversary and what ACA means to you, and allowed supporters to sign a “virtual” petition in support of the law. The response was incredible, with more than 3,000 participants—double the number from the previous year. ANA sent an electronic copy of the petition to the House and Senate leadership as well as to the White House. ANA also was involved in White House events commemorating the anniversary, in which previous supporters of the law were recognized for their work. ANA past President Rebecca M. Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR, FAAN, was in the audience and was recognized for all the work ANA has done in making ACA a reality.

ANA staff once again used social media to share information with nurses about the importance of upholding the law, including a live Twitter chat to discuss questions about the court proceedings, ANA’s positions, and what the Court’s ultimate decision could mean. All in all, it was an exciting 2 weeks for the ACA. The Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision in June. ANA will monitor the case and will provide updates as they become available.

Jerome Mayer is a senior political action specialist at ANA.

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