Promising to consider the constitutionality of Obamacare, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear five-and-a-half hours of oral arguments to decide the fate of President Barack Obama’s heath care overhaul legislation signed into law March 23, 2010. While the law’s full provisions don’t go into effect until 2014, Obama’s opponents have launched a broad assault to prevent the bill from implementation. Barack’s health care overhaul bill is slated to insure about 30 million uninsured Americans, with strict provisions denying plan coverage to illegal aliens. Parts of the legislation have already gone into effect, extending the age insurers covering dependent children to 26 years-of-age. Insurers opposed Obamacare because they fear serious damage to profit margins, historically guaranteed by denying coverage or rating up premiums for subscribers with pre-existing conditions.
Insurance companies have denied coverage or rated up coverage for individual health insurance plans. Obama’s plan, in effect, ends the distinction between individual and group insurance, where group insurance offers subscribers no proof of insurability, regardless of medical conditions. Arbitrarily excluding or rating up subscribers forced into individual plans has been a reliable way for insurers to assure whopping profit margins. With conservatives ruling the High Court 5 to 4, it’s difficult to say which way swing voter Associative Justice Anthony Kennedy will go. Conservatives object to Obamacare’s mandate, penalizing non-subscribers on the 2014 tax returns. Two appeals courts, one in D.C. and the other in Cincinnati, upheld Obamacare, rejecting arguments that it violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. In two other appeals courts, one struck down the mandate provision, the other refused to rule.
Conservatives object to the idea of mandating individuals to carry health insurance, much like they do with auto insurance. Obama’s bill penalizes individuals for not seeking coverage either individually, through one’s employer or a government program. Proponents contend it’s the mandatory feature that generates the volume needed to bring down premiums with substantial benefits. Insurance industry objects to standardized provisions to Obmacare that make coverage, deductibles, waiting periods and co-payments standardized based on existing federal health insurance policies. Conservatives don’t want the government meddling in the health insurance industry, despite the vast need for better benefits and coverage. So many of today’s insurance policies rob subscribers of the necessary outpatient and inpatients coverage, features that differ from standardized health plans.
If the High Court tosses out provisions of Obama care, it’s likely to rule only against its mandate feature. Without the mandated feature, administration officials argue that the sheer volume hopes to bring down health insurance premiums. Since Obamacare only goes to U.S. citizens or those with legal status, it won’t solve the problem of emergency rooms or hospitals failing to get reimbursed from services to illegal aliens. If the Supreme Court strikes down the mandate provision next June, it could hurt the president heading into November’s election. On the other hand, if the Court upholds Obamacare, it could put a wind at Barack’s back. “This in no only an issue of whether or not the bill is constitutional, or what is the best public policy,” said Harvard Sociology professor Robert Blendon. “It’s an issue about judgment of the president,” referring to Obama’s leadership.
Political implications aside, the High Court must put away partisanship and coldly determine the constitutional issues. It’s doesn’t matter what partisan hacks want on either side of the aisle. What matters only is whether Obamacare runs afoul with the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, enabling the government to impose federal mandates on carrying health insurance. There’s nothing that different about mandatory payroll deductions for Medicare and Social Security. No U.S. workers, legal or otherwise, can refuse to pay Medicare or Social Security tax. When Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), nixed Medicare-for-all in 2010, Obama was force to pivot and adopt a comparable health insurance bill signed into law April 12, 2006 in Massachusetts by former GOP Gov. Mitt Romney. Instead of getting sucked into the nation’s partisan divide, the High Court must apply objective constitutional standards.
When the Supreme Court decides the constitutionality of Obamacare only four months before the next presidential election, Barack will either get a push or a kick in the rear. While no one has a crystal ball, the conservative majority should prevail on tossing out the mandatory requirement, a key feature to funding the legislations. Democrats face sobering news about reliable national polls showing that an overwhelming majority of voters favor scrapping the plan. White House officials rolled the dice pushing national health care at a time of economic woes. Whether or not ultimately Obama helps the economy is anyone’s guess. Most voters today see jobs, not health care, as their top priority. Forcing the highly partisan issue at a time of economic peril showed liberal zealotry but tone deafness to political realities. If the Supreme Court strikes down the law next summer, it doesn’t help Obama’s cause.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.