Thoughts on SCOTUS Obamacare Decision of June 28, 2012

1) It was unexpected. I thought the Supreme Court would strike down the mandate and hand Governor Mitt Romney a major campaign issue in the fall election.

2) I had encountered some punditry that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr might effectuate a Kennedy-less majority and rule in favour of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (March 23, 2010). Yet most speculated, if it were to pass constitutional muster, that Justice Anthony Kennedy would join them. We can now put to rest the glorification of  the seventy-five year old Kennedy as a reincarnation as a swing-vote successor to Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. He was willing to send millions of Americans to death’s door without any access to health care.

3) It pays to read the majority opinion: CNN and FOX news initially reported the mandate that requires most Americans–Native Americans, prisoners, undocumented immigrants and certain low-income people are exceptions–to purchase health care was unconstitutional based upon a violation of the Commerce Clause of the 1788 Constitution. FOX News’ Megyn Kelly, an attorney and moderate, was the first to make an on-air correction and explained the error in a very thoughtful manner. In the beginning of Roberts’s opinion, he slyly states the mandate violates the Commerce Clause–a constitutional provision that permits Congress to regulate basically business that is interstate–but later on in his meandering opinion, he states the mandate is a tax and since Congress can tax, satisfies the Constitution. An opinion of the Supreme Court should not initially declare a law or a portion of a law unconstitutional and then indicate it is constitutional for other reasons; if there has to be a sequence it should be in reverse. The rhetoric here is less efficacious than one would anticipate from a chief justice to issue in such an important case. I recognise its significance and the chief justice’s supprising “empathy” in upholding such significant legislation.

4) Obamacare does not insure all Americans. It does not eliminate for-profit health care. It does not guarantee coverage. It is not socialised medicine; it does not extend Medicare to all. Yet it is an improvement over preexisting policy and time will tell how successful it is. The Supreme Court ruled the government cannot remove Medicaid funding from states that refuse to implement the enhanced 133% federal poverty level Medicaid eligibilities. The ruling after a few years of federal government paying for the extra coverage, could be a problem for the poor if states are not coerced into covering more of their citizens and paying 10% of the new total. Who will insure the poor? I insure revolution if this results in more capitalistic exploitation of the people.

5) I am a college professor and am delighted so many of my students, who come from working-class backgrounds, have a better chance of being insured now. The Affordable Care Act already is successful in allowing Americans up to the age of 26 to remain covered under their parents’ health care. It will outlaw preexisting conditions as grounds to refuse coverage, remove annual or lifetime caps, allow some preventative care and lower prescription drug coverage for seniors struggling under Medicare’s doughnut hole.

Let us hope the Roberts Court will continue along this path of providing constitutional protections for the American people and not merely the 1% or those who graduated from Yale and Harvard law schools.

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