President Obama, since his 2008 campaign has called for a national health care program to help insure the over 45 million uninsured Americans. The second law Obama signed into law as President was a bill that expanded children’s health insurance dramatically and he called it a “down payment”on his commitment to get all Americans insured. In his first speech to congress, he called on them to pass national health care legislation that provides insurance for all Americans. A year and a half later, after many ups and downs and months of debate, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Needless to say, healthcare reform was a priority for him.
The Affordable Care Act (known in the streets as ObamaCare) provides health insurance for 32 million Americans. Costing over a trillion dollars, it is paid for through cuts to Medicare and a variety of tax increase (so it actually is projected to reduce the deficit). The law gives tax credits to help small businesses offer coverage. It immediately prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to children who have pre-existing conditions. It makes preventative care free and eliminates lifetime limits on care. It allows children to stay on their parents plan until they are 26 years old (one of the more popular features). And in 2014 it makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny people because of their preexisting conditions.
This last provision, while for many sound great on the surface, is extremely controversial. This is because in order to make it illegal for insurers to deny people insurance, the government mandates that everyone purchase health insurance (there are subsidies to help people afford care). The law says if you do not get insurance by 2014, the government will fine you a “shared responsibility payment” of $695 . Here-in lies the constitutional challenge.
Conservatives say this “individual mandate” (the gvm’t forcing you to buy health care) is not constitutional because the constitution does not give the federal government the right to force individuals to buy a product. They insist it has never been done before and see it as a broad overreach of federal power. 26 states have sued the federal government for it. After nearly two years of hearings in lower courts, the case made its way to the supreme court. Now the fate of the entire health care law is resting in the hands of the 9 supreme court justices.
Monday March 26th, the court began hearing arguments from both sides. And while the states have said the law is unconstitutional, the Obama administration defends the mandate and the law by saying:
- You cannot prohibit insurance companies from denying people with pre-exisiting conditions unless you require that everyone purchase health insurance. If you don’t people would then not get insurance until after they are sick, which would bankrupt the system.
- A person can still decline to purchase private insurance, they would just have to pay a fee. This is because if that person who decided not to purchase health care gets hit by a bus (and lives–for example), he still would receive emergency care (even if he can’t afford it), at the taxpayers expense. The “shared responsibility payment” (or fine) balances that problem.
- Everyone uses health care at some point in their life, therefore the federal government has the authority to regulate the purchase of it. (The gist of the “Commerce Clause” argument)
The hearings will continue through March 28th. Shortly after the hearings, the Justices will go into private conference and take a preliminary vote. They will then draft opinions, circulate and edit them amongst themselves, and then take a final vote. The court is expected to release its decision in June.
As you may expect, politics are at play in the Supreme Court. Currently, the court “leans conservative”, automatically making it an uphill climb for the Obama Administration. The court’s four liberals (2 of which the President appointed) are expected to vote in favor of the law. This leaves the five conservatives, who don’t always stick together. Justice Anthony Kennedy is commonly referred to as the “swing vote” because in close decisions, his vote usually sways the entire court. Judicial analysts watching this case suggest that Chief Justice John Roberts and Judge Anthony Kennedy are “winnable.”
If just one of the conservatives are convinced of the law’s constitutionality, the law will stand. If not, the law will be ruled unconstitutional and deemed void. Both scenarios would have implications for President Obama and his re-election campaign.
If the justices uphold the law, Democrats will frame it as the definitive end to the health care reform controversy. Obama and his allies will urge the states to move forward with implementing the law and encourage Republicans to stop complaining about the legislation.-Politico Article: READ HERE
If the court rules the law unconstitutional, however, political observers say it will prove to be a major embarrassment for President Obama, who touts Health Care Reform as one of his signature domestic achievements. The law- the mandate specifically- remains unpopular in the public, and the Supreme Court’s negative decision would not help change that. It would give Republicans more ammunition against Obama who they say has had a “failed presidency.”
Whatever the outcome, this case will affect virtually every American. It will also clarify the power of the federal government and the extent to which it can regulate Americans. And trust me, this ideological battle of the role of the federal government will not go away anytime soon.
So what do YOU think? Is the health care law constitutional? Will Obama survive if his signature legislation is struck down? Comment Below!!!