Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2012

Supreme Court appears split by ideology over health care

March 29, 2012


— Concluding three days of fervent, public disagreement, a Supreme Court seemingly split over ideology will now wrestle in private about whether to strike down key parts or even all of President Barack Obama’s historic health care law. The justices’ decision, due this June, will affect the way virtually every American receives and pays for care.

The court wrapped up public arguments Wednesday on the overhaul, which is designed to extend health insurance to most of the 50 million Americans now without it. The first and biggest issue the justices must decide is whether the centerpiece of the law, the requirement that nearly all Americans carry insurance or pay a penalty, is constitutional.

Wednesday’s argument time was unusual in that it assumed a negative answer to that central question. What should happen to other provisions, the justices and lawyers debated, if the court strikes down the requirement? If the justices are following their normal practice, they had not even met to take a preliminary vote in the case before all argument concluded.

Questions at the court this week showed a strong ideological division between the liberal justices who seem inclined to uphold the law in its entirety and the conservative justices whose skepticism about Congress’ power to force people to buy insurance suggests deep trouble for the insurance requirement, and possibly the entire law.

The divide on the court reflects a similar split in public opinion about the law, which Congress approved two years ago when Democrats controlled both houses. The justices’ decision is sure to become a significant part of this year’s presidential and congressional election campaigns, in which Republicans have relentlessly attacked the law.

Both liberal and conservative justices appeared on Wednesday to accept the administration’s argument that at least two important insurance changes are so closely tied to the must-have-coverage requirement that they could not survive without it: provisions requiring insurers to cover people regardless of their existing medical problems and limiting how much those companies can charge in premiums based on a person’s age or health.

Less clear was whether the court would conclude the entire law, with its hundreds of unrelated provisions, would have to be cast aside.

The justices also spent part of the day considering a challenge by 26 states to the expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program for low-income Americans — an important feature which alone was expected to extend coverage to 15 million people and which no lower court has rejected.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. took a few seconds at the end of the Medicaid argument to make a final plea for the court to uphold the entire law, which he said would “secure the blessings of liberty” for millions of Americans by providing them with affordable health care.

Verrilli told the court that Congress had made a policy decision to fight the high cost of medical care through the new law. “I would urge the court to respect that judgment,” he said.

Paul Clement, the lawyer for the states challenging the law, retorted that it would be a strange definition of liberty to make people who may not want it buy health care insurance. And he called Congress’ threat to cut all Medicaid funding from states that refuse to expand the program “a direct threat to our federalism.”


kugrad 2 years ago

It is sad that this case will likely be decided on politics and not the rule of law.


Paul R Getto 2 years ago

Should be an interesting 5-4 vote one way or the other. If they go 'activist' they will have to overturn lots of precedents, but they did that with Citizens United. Perhaps this is an activist conservative court after all?


Cait McKnelly 2 years ago

"The GOP Healthcare strategy: pray a lot." I fully expect this to go down 5 to 4 along party lines just as Citizens United did. Then Clarence Thomas' wife will get a big fat bonus check and they will go buy another vacation home. Ironically, Scalia bi***ed about reading the 2700 pages of the AHA. This came in from a friend: "Many lawyers like myself worry that the Supremes will have to revive precedents dating to 1937 and 1942 to overturn the AHA. Google "Wickard v. Filburn" to see how much Right-Wing Extremists say about Wickard. They Hate It, which shows you how Extreme they really are."


Windemere 2 years ago

I like the idea of a safety net in the abstract. And am not an expert on this bill or the complicated issues of health care & insurance. But seems to me that a lot of people have legitimate fears about 1) how Obamacare opens the door to increased power of the federal govt to affect our personal lives and choices 2) how easy/cheap it is for individuals to pay a fee and skirt the system (and still get "free" healthcare when they need it, since no one is turned away at emergency rooms) 3) how there simply is not enough of an incentive for people to lead healthier lives, and Obamacare makes that problem worse (I have a problem paying for the healthcare of people who chose unhealthy habits and to the extent that Obamacare leads to that, it's bad) and 4) that our country has not yet tried to makes changes that could allow a more free market-oriented solution to work, e.g. allowing insurance companies to sell policies freely across state lines. When one makes something "free" demands goes up and often supply goes down. And when one introduces more competitiion to a market, usually prices go down. Can't we get back to fundamentals and try to have a less heavy-handed, Federal govt top-down way to addressing health care?


Rancho 2 years ago

Why did the Senate take out the Sever Ability Clause? Either they were playing chicken with the Courts, or they were they were so full of themselves they thought they could do no wrong.


FalseHopeNoChange 2 years ago

This just "HAS" to pass!!

The Flexible Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, that said, "if he had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon", Is a "constitutional scholar" for crying out loud. It just has to pass with that kind of intellectual firepower.

Maybe council from Bidens Dr. Pepper could add the needed fizz to the presentation.


its_just_math 2 years ago

You have to remember too, that Obama wanted even more radical healthcare overhaul, let alone what was passed in the end.......this is troubling to many, including the SC justices.

"The court will effectively render judgment on the leadership of the president. It was Obama who, at every turn during the original health-care debate, pressed for a more ambitious package that required Americans to purchase insurance."


its_just_math 2 years ago

Wonder if the SC discussed "death panels"? Another one that we had to pass the bill before we knew what was in it category.


Richard Payton 2 years ago

If the bill fails what's next a bill for more medicare additions. Now that would be socialized medicine wouldn't it?


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years ago

This case has more to do with hardball politics than it does ideology. That's why there is so much discussion about taking the whole thing down, not just the mandate-- an idea originally put forward by Republicans through the Heritage Foundation.


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