October at a Glance
By: Mark Anliker
This past month, an integral part of the Affordable Care Act, perhaps one of the most significant legal undertakings of the Obama administration, was put to the test. On October 1st, healthcare.gov, the website through which Americans must enroll in their healthcare plans, went live. Since going online, the site has been criticized for its functionality – many say the site runs too slowly and has been subject to many technical errors. In a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius responded to the complaints of the shortcomings of the website apologetically, acknowledging that the site’s launch has been disastrous and that the process of purchasing healthcare online has been a “miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans.” During this hearing, Sebelius also encountered stern, bipartisan criticism regarding the predicted cancellation of millions of insurance policies under the law due to minimum coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Also this month, the Supreme Court agreed to consider the case of Hall v. Florida. This case involves an intellectually challenged man sentenced to the death penalty in Florida, stirring up the decision of the 2002 case Atkins v. Virginia which established that the “mentally retarded” cannot be sentenced to death. The question that has arisen out of this is who exactly has the medical and scientific clout to define and stipulate intellectual disabilities. Some states, such as Florida and Texas, have opted to define intellectual disability using measures and methods that have received disapproval from some voices in the medical community. On October 21st, the motion to proceed in forma pauperis and petition for a writ of certiorari was granted.
This month in Texas, a federal judge struck down part of the state’s recent abortion legislation, HB 2, that would have made the operation of abortion clinics more difficult. The stricken provision would have required that doctors secure admitting privileges at hospitals within the vicinity of the abortion clinic where they perform abortion procedures. This portion of the law was struck down because it “places an undue burden” on women seeking abortions. Though this particular portion of the ruling has been viewed as a victory for pro-Choice advocates, the other provisions of HB 2, which could be just as disruptive to abortion clinics in the state, were upheld.