From March 26 to 28, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments regarding the constitutionality of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, referred to by critics of the legislation and the media as “Obamacare.”
Here’s what happened over the course of the three days:
In the first day of arguments, the justices had to decide whether or not they could even proceed with hearing the case.
According to the Anti-Injunction Act from the 1800s, a lawsuit cannot be brought before a court if its purpose is to restrain the collection of a tax.
The health insurance mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act, whose constitutionality is being brought into question, would impose penalties on those who refuse to purchase health insurance by 2014.
Both parties – the Obama administration and the lawyer representing the 26 states that oppose the health care law – argued that the case can be heard.
The second day of arguments had Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., the administration’s lawyer, being asked tough questions from the Court’s four conservative justices on whether the federal government can essentially force its citizens to buy health insurance.
This was where we encountered what I would like to call “Broccoli-gate” (although I am sure someone else has already called it that). Justice Antonin Scalia seems to think that if the federal government could force Americans to buy health insurance, then it could make them buy broccoli.
I beg to differ.
Not buying broccoli doesn’t make it unavailable to those out there who want to buy it (I’m not one of them, I must confess).
However, the current fractured state of the American health care system makes insurance unaffordable – and as a result, unavailable – for those who really need it.
On the final day of arguments the justices focused on the following question: if the individual mandate is struck down, what other parts of the law would have to be struck down as well?
Scalia said that the whole law had to go because the individual mandate is “the heart of the statute and the statute cannot survive without the heart.”
I pick on Scalia because he compared reading the 2,700 page document to “cruel and unusual punishment” when asked if he or any of the justices had actually read the document prior to the hearings.
As someone who has been following the health care reform debate since Obama first proposed it, even I have not read the entire document.
I have, however, read a few hundred pages of it and was part of a phone conference with the Department of Health and Human Services.
You know what? I understand why Scalia thinks it’s funny that someone would ask him that question. He is a justice on the highest court in the United States, after all, so I imagine that he is kind of busy. However, a simple Google search would have provided some insight on exactly what is in the legislation – and what is not.
That is right – the “Cornhusker kickback” he was talking about to Paul Clement, the attorney for the 26 states, is not in the final version of the Affordable Care Act.
While other justices held different positions on what additional provisions should be struck down along with the individual mandate, the Obama administration made a suggestion to the Court.
If the mandate is struck down, the administration says the provisions that prohibit insurers from declining coverage or charging higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions must also be struck down.
That’s where I started to get scared.
Not mandating everyone to buy health insurance is one thing, but to remove those provisions is certainly something I would not want to happen.
The health care law is more than just an individual mandate.
It allows young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.
The lifetime caps that insurance companies place on the amount of care they will cover will no longer be allowed.
Preventative services like visits to the OB-GYN and birth control will be offered free of charge.
Women will not be charged more than men for the plan, which happens in many states across the nation.
And if Scalia has his way, this could all be gone.