Good Legal and Healthcare News Missed From 2020

2020_Good_Legal_Healthcare_News

As we gaze back on 2020 and say “good riddance” it might help to focus attention on some good news from last year lighting our way forward.   This may be difficult since there were so many losses but here are a some that might not have received enough attention.

  • Rapid Development of Vaccines. In health care news, while COVID-19 ravaged the U.S. and the world, scientists, the long neglected professionals, developed new vaccines to combat the virus in record time.  Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines are now approved and distribution has begun while other new vaccines are awaiting approval.  It bears mentioning that, while America has over the past several years failed to recognize or even follow the ”experts”, it is the experts including scientists like Dr. Fauci who have led the way toward longer term solutions, something that was not possible during the 1918 pandemic with which the COVID-19 experience is often compared.  Despite this action by the scientific community and their supporters, over 350,000 Americans have died and also distribution problems for the vaccines continue as of the time of this writing.  Hopefully with the vaccines and masks and social distancing this will be resolved in 2021 based on the work and sacrifices of the people who have gone before.
  • Dedication of Healthcare Professionals. We can never fully appreciate the extent of dedication of our healthcare professionals, doctors, nurses, LPN’S, CNA’s, nursing home and hospital workers and others who labored on through extreme conditions to care for the victims of COVID-19.
  • PPP Loans and Stimulus. While not nearly enough to cope with the enormous disruption to the economy, unemployment and the need for help for small businesses, there were legal responses that eventually were approved and signed into law.  The CARES Act and other legislation that provided initial stimulus payments to many Americans and supplemental unemployment benefits and deferrals did  begin to move the country out of the initial catastrophic effects of the pandemic.  A second stimulus of $600 for many Americans finally passed Congress by the end of the year but has not been distributed at the time of this writing.  Extensions of mortgage and rent deferrals hung in the balance at the end of the year but were finally approved.
  • The Supreme Court began to adopt a practical approach to legal problems. While the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsberg from the Supreme Court had devastating effect and questioned balance in the Court, decisions in at least a few of the newly reconstituted Court seem to evidence a practical approach to problems.  The case of California v. Texas, argued before the Court in 2020 attacking the validity of the Affordable Care Act has yet to be decided but comments made during the arguments by some Justices seemed to imply that the Act is likely to continue.  While it is a State case, with the Court not appearing anxious to overturn the law and with a new Biden administration to be supportive of it, it seems likely the law will continue to stand.  The Affordable Care Act matters from many perspectives.  It continues the prohibition against denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions and allows parents to claim adult children on their insurance coverages up to age 26.  For states that adopted Medicaid expansion it provided healthcare coverage for large numbers of residents who otherwise would have been uninsured.  The latest challenge to the Act argued that removal of a taxing provision meant it could no longer be affirmed specifically under the power of Congress to tax.  The States’s standing was questioned but another issue considered is the practical effect of massive numbers of Americans losing their health care coverage.

One other case seems to raise the possibility that the Supreme Court with its newly constituted membership is considering practical implications.   A 2020 Supreme Court decision found that the administration’s decision terminating DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy of the Obama administration which allowed some persons brought to America as children to apply to remain was reviewable and was arbitrary and capricious.  In this case the Court also considered the practical consequences since to find otherwise would likely result in massive deportations.

About the Author Janet Colliton

Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.

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