Highlights of the Supreme Court Arguments on Obamacare

us supreme court buildingWednesday concluded Day 3 of oral arguments in the Supreme Court over the constitutional validity of the individual mandate portion of Obamacare. At issue: Is Congress authorized under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution to demand that all Americans purchase a product or service, regardless of whether or not the want it or even use it? 

In comes the slippery slope argument. After all, if the government can force you to purchase health insurance, what else can they force you to do? Buy a Chevy Volt tin can on wheels that sometimes sets itself on fire? How about terrorism insurance?

It’s been entertaining to read the transcripts from the Supreme Court, because the justices not in favor of the individual mandate have been asking the same questions I’ve been asking since Obama first mentioned health care reform. What can the government force you to buy?

Justice Alito asked Solicitor General Verrilli (basically, he’s the lawyer defending Obamacare) if the government could force someone to buy burial plots:

“Suppose that you and I walked around downtown Washington at lunch hour and we found a couple of healthy young people and we stopped them and we said: You know what you're doing? You are financing your burial services right now because eventually you're going to die, and somebody is going to have to pay for it, and if you don't have burial insurance and you haven't saved money for it, you're going to shift the cost to somebody else.”

Chief Justice Roberts asked if the government could make you buy cell phones:

Well, the same, it seems to me, would be true say for the market in emergency services: police, fire, ambulance, roadside assistance, whatever. You don't know when you're going to need it; you're not sure that you will. But the same is true for health care. You don't know if you're going to need a heart transplant or if you ever will. So there is a market there. To -- in some extent, we all participate in it. So can the government require you to buy a cell phone because that would facilitate responding when you need emergency services? You can just dial 911 no matter where you are?

Justice Scalia (my personal favorite!) wanted to know if exercise club memberships should be mandated, since, you know, exercising is good for your overall health:

"The something else is everybody has to exercise, because there's no doubt that lack of exercise cause -- causes illness, and that causes health care costs to go up. So the federal government says everybody has to -- to join a -- an exercise club. That's -- that's the something else." 

The right-leaning justices say they are prepared to strike down the entire boondoggle of a law. Sure, we have a health insurance problem in our country. The way to fix it is not to mandate health insurance – that will only make it worse. Heck, even professional Democrat James Carville thinks striking down the law is a good idea: 

"I think that [an overturn] will be the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic party because health care costs are gonna escalate unbelievably," Carville told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in his characteristic southern drawl, adding "I really believe that, this is not spin."

Maybe once Obamacare is officially out the door, we can start the real work of reforming health care: Untangling the government from what should be private purchases of professional services by free citizens.  


Image via Phil Roeder/Flickr

barack obama, health care, law, politics, supreme court, taxes


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count... countrygirl670

Hey Procrastamom- As you know, I'm a Liberal and I am not happy about "Obamacare" as I see it as a giveaway to our already ravenous health insurance companies.  I think a better plan would be to either:

(1) Require all citizens to buy into Medicare which has lower administrative costs compared to private insurance.  This would also put a lot of lower utilizers of healthcare into the pool with higher utilizers (the elderly) and help shore up the system.  Or:

(2) The government should offer lower cost/high deductible, catastrophic health insurance.  Then younger folks can pay as they go, but still have the security of knowing serious health problems won't bankrupt them.  My husband (also a health care professional) thought this sounded crazy, until I pointed out to him that we are currently paying about $12,000/year for our entire (healthy) family of five for what amounts to an average of 7 to 8 doctor visits per year. 


count... countrygirl670


One thing that cannot work is any longer is for people to "choose" whether they have health insurance or not.  I have had this argument with one of my Libertarian acquaintances who insists that he should not have to purchase any health coverage.  As I told him " The problem is that when you do acquire some life-threatening illness, rather than either paying for your healthcare out of pocket (too broke!) or taking to your bed and dying as you should, you would sign up for some of that "socialist" Medicaid.  And because Americans are a compassionate people, we would let you.  Which puts everyone on the hook to pay for your "choice".

Jenna Ervice

One of the very under-reported issues of the ACA is that when some of its core issues are parsed, namely, 1) coverage for pre-existing conditions, 2) closing the Medicare "donut hole" and 3) tax credits to small business, no less than 72% of Americans support each provision (72% was the lowest percentage of support for each provision among Republicans; for Democrats it was higher). More importantly, the ACA became a singular issue for the "Don't Tread On Me" Tea Partiers, who in near entirety are organized and funded by the Koch brothers--for all intents and purposes, sworn political enemies of President Obama. Practically a supermajority of Americans support what the Act does; what we disagree on is how to make it happen. It's disheartening to watch political theater performed at the expense of Americans who so desperately need care.

zandh... zandhmom2

This country truly needs health care reform but not the way that Obama did it.  I don't see why as a country we can't take it in small steps and deal with the issues one at a time.  To me the biggest problem was how this was passed.  Behind closed doors and without anyone in our government actually reading the entire bill.  Usually when someone tells me "Just trust me" it makes me actually trust them less.

Oh and for the Chevy Volt, there were problems with more than just one of them.   Chevy actually halted production because there were so many problems!

SwePea SwePea

We need to take the insurance company out of our health. I understand why a mandate would be necessary. I didn't at first but now I do. In order for this to work, the insurance companies need to bring in more than they pay out. But this isn't ok. Not when it comes to our health! No one should have to get a utilization review! It's drs paid by the insurance companies to determine usually why not to approve doctor ordered procedures!! I can't stand the argument that there's a shortage of doctors. Wow so only those who can totally afford private insurance are entitled to see doctors? PA's, Nurse Practitioners & midwives can also treat patients& cheaper! Duh! I cringe when the media starts showing stories of medical malpractice in places that have UHC. I was a medical mal practice paralegal and I got calls about potential cases (horror stories) from people with PRIVATE INSURANCE! I can't stand the scare tactics. We're not fools. We ARE all entitled to medical care!

nonmember avatar Dad

@SwePea - seriously?? Better off with Universal Health Care?!!? You do realize that this means a tax increase on EVERYONE so the govt has a way to "pay" for it all, right? Look at the tax rates for the "progressive" countries that have some form of UHC...their citizens are taxed into oblivion and in return have to wait 6 months for something like an MRI...no thanks.

@countrygirl670 - "One thing that cannot work is any longer is for people to "choose" whether they have health insurance or not." - So I can't choose whether I have health insurance or not because YOU think I don't deserve to make that choice. Who are you to decide what freedoms I get and which ones I don't get? Who died and made you king of me? I don't remember asking you a GD F'NG thing about your opinion regarding MY decisions on health care and health insurance!!! -- I bet you feel the same way when someone tells you they don't think you deserve the choice to have an abortion.

nonmember avatar Dad

@SwePea - also one more thing - you said "we are all entitled to medical care!" - please provide a reference in the Constitution which CLEARLY AND CONCISELY outlines and describes this entitlement.

LoveM... LoveMyViolet

The individual mandate was a conservative idea that President Obama adopted to preserve the private market in health insurance rather than move toward a government-financed, single-payer system. What he got back from conservatives was not gratitude but charges of socialism — for adopting their own proposal.

Lizzi... LizzieSparrow

I love how people say "Obamacare" like it's a bad thing....LOL! Better than "Romneycare", where, hey, if you're uninsured and have never been able to afford insurance but have a pre-existing condition--SCREW YOU. Too bad---so sad. DIE. Sorry--can't get coverage because of pre-existing condition? Tough. You'll just have to die like a dog in the street. So much for our "first-world-country" status. 

Destiny Hall Lewis

I have news for all of you who think Obamacare, socialized medicine and or UHC is viable option... I posted the other day on a topic about the issue and it being overturn with "I pray for a repeal. period. Deabug (or something like that) posted if it is overturned her husband dies. I didn't respond at that time, I just didn't know what to say to a person in that situation. My heart just about broke for her. My situation is polar opposite. My sister who is a dependant of an ACTIVE duty AF member cannot get the care she needs currently BECAUSE of this law it's long reaching arms, and the cutbacks we have already seen

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