Today, by a margin of 6-3, the Supreme Court decided to allow health care subsidies as part of the Affordable Care Act.
After a heated debate in and outside of Washington, the U.S. government is permitted to offer tax subsidies that help poor or middle-class people to buy health insurance.
Do you agree, or disagree, with this decision? Please let us know in the comments below.
While I have leanings towards "universal" medical coverage, the Supreme Court (SC) seems to have twice put on their political hat when addressing Obamacare. I watched a law professor's jaw on Fox Business News almost drop when the decision came. He sure looked stunned. He had just previously stated that there was pretty much no way that the short magical sentence could be mis-interpreted by the SC. He did try to recover some credibility later by saying that when the law is "vague" that the SC has been known to defer to the affected government department.
I got a big kick out of Judge Scalia's dissenting opinion that stated that words do have meaning and that this decision represented "SCOTUS Care" - interpretation of this term is that this is law made by the Supreme Court of the US.
It seems that the traditional interpretation of the role of the SC is to strictly interpret the law as written within the context of the Constitution has now moved on to the political interpretation of the law which has the danger of removing one of the critical balancing factors between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the US Government.
Bad turn for the credibility of the SC? Good turn for millions of previously uninsured people? Conclusion??????
I think the Supreme Court followed precedent. They tried to figure out what Congress was intending to do, and not split hairs on the particular words. They were influenced by the intent of the law, which was to subsidize health insurance. Originally, the law was drafted so that the states would all run the exchanges, and later somebody realized it might be too difficult for some states. They forgot to revise one part of the bill to include that change, and opponents of the entire idea tried to kill the whole thing based on an error. In my mind, it increased the credibility of the Supreme Court. I might be biased. I am in favor of everybody having real health insurance, and consequently, I support Obamacare. Health insurance that you pay for yourself is a step towards personal responsibility. It's something we all need, and it's a common good to subsidize it for the working poor.
The only thing that I know about the SC is the only impression that I took away when I had an elective course on American Constitutional Law way back in the last century. The impression was that over time the SC changes its mind on key issues. Maybe this is one of those changes taking place right in front of us.
On the matter of Obamacare (OC) and health coverage, I hesitate to say that OC is what we deserved even if we favor health coverage for many. Some of the features like eliminating the pre-existing condition trap, removing lifetime limits (this could turn into a nightmare if we allow doctors to generally prescribe very expensive treatments with little long-term benefit), allowing young adults to stay on their parents plans (they might tend to skip coverage do to youth's immortality complex), and a few more. I personally start to seriously squirm when I see subsidies for families making $90,000 and taking some of the cost out of Medicare. I see that Congress is trying to remove the medical equipment tax which is funding a lot of OC. Maybe some of the other "features" can be improved also.
Just to raise your awareness, it has become very clear to us that pre-existing condition checking is still strongly in force for Medicare supplemental insurance. Just have a serious condition, corrected or not, and most likely you will not be able to ever change to another supplemental plan to gain savings or better coverage due to insurance company underwriting. Does anybody besides us feel a bit offended by this "oversight" in health care reform?
The true irony is that the strongest supporter and first advocate of nationalized health insurance was Richard Nixon. He was instrumental in convincing LBJ of its importance, resulting in the passage of Medicare. The news stories about impoverished seniors reduced to eating dog food because their uncovered medical expenses had bankrupted them, helped unite both liberals and moderates politically.
Medicare, btw, was pretty much the final insult to the Southern right-wing Democrats. Although Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond remained nominally Dem (changing parties would have lost them all their plush seniority perks and a great deal of political power), the rank and file fled to the Republicans and eventually became the Tea Party wing.
Since almost all experts agree that the 'three little words' was a mistake in drafting the law, what SCOTUS upheld was precisely what was said - the INTENT of the Congress. This follows a well-established pattern by Chief Justice Earl Warren, who consistently ruled against segregationist laws starting with the 1954 Brown decision, because he believed they lacked elemental justice; e.g., that neither tradition nor doctrine should be allowed to deprive people of justice.
I disagree with JerryD that this is a "bad turn for the SC credibility." On the contrary, I remember there were experts in the '50's suggesting that SCOTUS was irrelevant and no longer a factor in the balance of power between the President and Congress. Warren changed that, and for the better, I believe.
It is interesting to watch the dynamics as Justices Kennedy and Roberts face today's social issues. I have no skin in the game on the ACA. But I have watched my self-employed friends struggle with the cost of insurance. I know that the ACA has helped them.
I worked in insurance for over 15 yrs. To get the best rates and widest availability, you need the largest possible pool of policyholders. They will not write insurance if they think the risks are too large or too nebulous to estimate. They are conservative and one of the biggest special interest lobbyists, if not THE biggest, in the U.S.
If it takes mandatory sign-up to get people to buy insurance so that insurers can say, "Aha! Now we can define the market and start pricing it", then the realpolitik is that's what needs to happen - hence the ACA.
In mild defense of the statement: 'I disagree with JerryD that this is a "bad turn for the SC credibility." '.
I believe that some would say that the SC doesn't need to address "intent" only what the Congress said. If Congress erred then the SC should have pushed it back to them to be corrected and NOT to "interpret" the law's intent. Of course, that would have been difficult to do since the Congress is now Republican and they never had anything to do with creating this huge law that is almost beyond human understanding (I guess Nancy Pelosi should have read it closer, no?) and would prefer to scrap or change it. That should not be a concern for the SC in its Governmental function. The people have spoken on representation and that should not be modified by SC word-engineering or SCOTUS legislative action.
Congress passes complicated laws all the time. The Dodd-Frank debacle is a far better case in point than ACA. SCOTUS has always been intended to interpret the law. That's what they (and all appeal courts) were created for.
Just to be clear, "SCOTUS has always been intended to interpret the law" in the CONTEXT of the Constitution.
Yes, but with the knowledge that the founding fathers couldn't anticipate every possible situation.
Legislators should not receive more benefits than those they represent. To argue against medical security is hypocritical. It is not perfect, but the Affordable Care Act is a good first step. It is time to stop the divisive temper tantrums and instead focus on enhancing and expanding this mandate. I got mine, now you get none was not acceptable in a 20th century democracy and is way beyond defending in the 21st.
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