After a recent blog, I really thought that the Supreme Court/health care discussion was gone until a decision, possibly in June, but the topic seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. First, I’m delighted that the progressives have taken over the formerly pejorative term “Obamacare.” After the president’s speech in which he said that “Obama does care,” I think of that every time I hear the word and hope that everyone else does.
Personally, I’m one of those people opposed to Obamacare because it doesn’t have single-payer universal coverage; insurance companies make too much money from the watered-down law that Congress finally passed. When I look at the polls, I wonder how many people opposed to Obamacare agree with me. It seems that a Republican attorney general in one of the 26 states that filed a lawsuit against Obamacare agrees with me. Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell opposes Obamacare for the same reason that I do. “Insurance companies are the absolute worst people to handle this kind of business,” he said. “I trust the government more than insurance companies.” Caldwell endorsed a single-payer health care system, saying it’d “be a whole lot better” than Obamacare.
The plaintiffs (those 26 states) conceded that a universal health insurance program would be constitutional if the government taxed the people and then refunded it to people who have insurance. I don’t understand the difference, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor didn’t either. Declaring Obamacare unconstitutional would mean that the justices just didn’t like the language in the Affordable Care Act.
Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia seemed to have worried more about whether Obamacare was fair to everyone than whether it was constitutional. During oral arguments, Scalia used an early legislative complaint about Sen. Ben Nelson being offered money for his state if he voted for Obamacare, an action called the “cornhusker kickback.” He showed his ignorance by assuming that this was in the act although it was never approved. As former Reagan Solicitor General Charles Fried notes, this language is straight out of the Tea Party guerrilla manual that was written during the battle to prevent Obamacare from becoming law in the first place.
Justices seem to prefer legislating instead of judging. Alito talked about unfair insurance costs for the young while Chief Justice John Roberts worried about whether parts of the law would stand if others were done away with. As Eugene Robinson said, Roberts sounded more like the House Whip or a lobbyist than the top judicial figure in the country. Fortunately, the so-called “judicial activists” reminded Roberts that “the merits of the bill” belong to Congress and not the court. Sotomayor asked what the problem was with leaving as much discretion as possible “in the hands of the people who should be fixing this, not us.”
The conservative justices, however, just kept on with the strange hypotheticals that legislators had already worried to death. For example, they asked, if they allowed the government to force purchase of health insurance, were requirements for burial services, cars, and broccoli far behind? Despite the fact that broccoli and health insurance have no similarity, it’s something that conservative legislators–and now Supreme Court justices–obsess about.
Roberts went back to warring against women. When he talked about people being required to pay for coverage they would never use, he used the examples of “pediatric services” and “maternity services.” I’ve noticed that no man has ever used prostate surgery and medical remedies for erectile dysfunction when giving examples of coverage that not all people require.
Again and again, the so-called liberals point out that the conservatives introduced the need for universal health care during the late 1980s. As Stuart Butler, of the highly conservative Heritage Foundation, said, “If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street, Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance. If we find that he has spent his money on other things rather than insurance, we may be angry but we will not deny him services–even if that means more prudent citizens end up paying the tab. A mandate on individuals recognizes this implicit contract.”
Twenty years later, conservatives take the position that people should let others die rather than requiring them to pay for health insurance. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick wrote, “This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms. It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another . . . the freedom to ignore the injured” and to “walk away from those in peril.”
If the Supreme Court can overturn the health care act, it can probably do away with public education and safety. Republican presidential candidates already want to wipe out any federal involvement in education. Imagine this scenario regarding your safety. When you call the police or fire department because of a prowler or other safety issue, the person at the other end asks for you for your public safety number. If you haven’t paid into public safety insurance, they might then request a credit card number to verify that you can pay for the police or firefighter to come to take care of your problems. Conservatives would define this as “small” or “limited” government that also subjects women to thousands of laws on our bodies.
Massachusetts (with its successful Obamacare) has a 4.9 percent rate of those without health insurance while the rate in Texas is at 27.6%. That percentage compares with 17.1% of all people in the United States who lacked health insurance in 2011. Therefore, with a population of 25.7 million, Texas has over 7 million uninsured people, over 13 percent of the over 53 million uninsured people nationwide. Texas is an example of conservative, “limited” government—people in poverty without insurance. That is what can happen to the United States if the Supreme Court decides to do away with the provisions in Obamacare.
Until June all the young people under 26 on their parents’ health insurance plans, the seniors saving money on their prescriptions, the people with pre-existing conditions who could lose their insurance, and everyone else now benefiting from Obamacare can wonder about their fates. Meanwhile, start saving money in case we have to purchase public safety insurance.