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The volume of coverage of the Supreme Court's review of the Affordable Care Act dropped off precipitously last night and this morning, a day after the final hearing. None of the networks covered the healthcare debate at all last night, and the rest of the White House press corps focused on President Obama's remarks regarding oil industry subsidies. This morning's print tends towards rather dry descriptions of the court's procedures and timelines, rather than analysis of the political or policy implications.

What commentary there is ranges from the contention from Rep Steve King (R-IA) that if the court "finds this unconstitutional, there is more risk that President Obama will be re-elected," to NBC's Chuck Todd argument, made on MSNBC's Hardball (3/29, Matthews), that Republicans "already won" because "if it's upheld, they get to then run against it as a piece of legislation." Todd said, "Either way, this is a win" for Republicans.

The AP (3/30, Sherman) reports, "While the rest of us have to wait until June, the justices of the Supreme Court will know the likely outcome of the historic health care case by the time they go home this weekend. ... The justices will vote on the fate of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in under an hour Friday morning," and "no one else will be present."

USA Today (3/30, Wolf) adds, "That initial decision may be altered as drafts of majority and dissenting opinions are written, circulated and rewritten, often many times. It might even be reversed during the lengthy writing process if one or more justices switch sides," but "for most of the next three months, only the justices and 39 law clerks...will be privy to the ruling. And even in an age of Twitter and YouTube, it won't leak."

Robert Barnes, in the Washington Post (3/30), says, "It will be interesting to see how the court's final decision matches the tone of the oral arguments, which split largely along the court's ideological divide. The questions at oral arguments are usually pretty true indicators of the justices' leanings. But there are cases -- especially those involving major constitutional issues -- in which the tone can be misleading."

According to McClatchy (3/30, Doyle), "The judicial utterances during this week's lengthy oral arguments left a common impression that the conservative-led court might strike down some or all of the 2010 health care law," and, "unfortunately for the White House, these kinds of impressions can be valid clues." McClatchy goes on to report that "a University of North Carolina political scientist...examined 8 million words spoken by justices over 30 years to conclude last year that 'when the justices focus more unpleasant language toward one attorney, the side he represents is more likely to lose.'"

The Wall Street Journal (3/30, Bravin, Subscription Publication) describes Justice Kennedy as the only real question mark, though the Journal notes Chief Justice Roberts asked what were considered surprisingly sharp questions of the lawyers representing the ACA's opponents.

Linda Feldmann, in the Christian Science Monitor (3/29), said that "at a breakfast Thursday with reporters, the Obama campaign's pollster, Joel Benenson, declined to speculate on whether a defeat in the Supreme Court would hurt or help Mr. Obama -- or both. Instead, he sought to portray the president's effort to reform the American health-care system as rooted in principle." Feldmann says Benenson "cited the high cost of health care to families and businesses, 'discriminatory' premiums for women who pay more than men, and insurance company practices that left sick people without coverage."

Dan Balz, in the Washington Post (3/30), says Republicans have "reason for optimism that" the ACA "could be heading for a legal defeat," but asks if that will translate into "political success for the party" considering that "many of the provisions of the current law are enormously popular." Balz says, "A party that has built its health-care message on the phrase 'repeal and replace' would immediately come under pressure to reach consensus on how to reform the health-care system. Second, Republicans, who benefited from a sizable enthusiasm gap in the 2010 midterm elections, could face a Democratic opposition deeply angered and newly motivated by its setback in the high court."

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, on CNBC's The Kudlow Report (3/29), claimed that "the reason that the President is not talking about the two-year anniversary of Obamacare, or the Supreme Court review of the constitutionality of the case, is because it is deeply unpopular with the American people. So I think his view is, 'the less said about it, the better.'"

NBC political director Chuck Todd, on MSNBC's Hardball (3/29, Matthews), said Republicans "already won" the debate over healthcare reform because "they got it in front of the Supreme Court." Todd continued, "They've called it into question. It is a coin flip. ... If it's upheld, they get to then run against it as a piece of legislation...either way, this is a win." The National Journal's Major Garrett agreed that "it was not a good two and a half days for the White House or for this law."

Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan's Future In Doubt. Arthur Delaney, in the Huffington Post (3/29), says the "new government program for the uninsured called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan" created by the ACA is "open to any US citizen with a medical condition who has been uninsured for at least six months." According to Delaney, "The program has not performed well, enrolling fewer people and costing more money than expected." Delaney adds that the Administration "has described PCIP as just a 'bridge' to 2014, when the health care law bans the insurance industry's discrimination against adults with pre-existing conditions," but "if the Supreme Court strikes down the law, the PCIP may be a bridge to nowhere."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (3/30, Teegardin) reports, "Studies of the law's potential impact in Georgia predict that about 800,000 Georgians may remain uninsured even if the law is implemented. How many Georgians are ultimately enticed to comply with the mandate and buy insurance...will rest on two important factors. Will most consumers opt to pay for coverage to avoid getting hit with a penalty," and "will the state-based insurance exchanges...offer consumers health plans with affordable prices and quality coverage?"

Reprinted from the NAHU Newswire is a digest of the most important news selected from thousands of sources by the editors of Bulletin Healthcare. The National Association of Health Underwriters.

Neither Bulletin Healthcare nor the National Association of Health Underwriters is liable for the use of or reliance on any information contained in this briefing.

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