By Christopher Porter Editor
June 28, 2016
Washington -- The U.S. Supreme Court will rule sometime today on the constitutionality of the major health care reform promoted by President Obama, in an eagerly anticipated announcement that has the potential to split the nation.
The stakes are surely high: what the justices conclude will have a short term and long range effect on all citizens, in how they receive doctor and hospital care, and also in the area of medicine as big business.
According to a recent poll, thirty-seven percent of all Americans say they would be happy if the present medical care laws are termed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Twenty-eight percent would be happy if the Affordable Care Act is termed constitutional, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey proved, compared to thirty-five percent who said they would be unhappy if the courts approved.
But almost four in ten Americans polled said they would be on the fence if those same justices rejected that law. The poll of one-thousand adults was conducted in late June of this year.
Past polls have shown that people who oppose these laws feel that way because they think it is too limiting.
The law in question, called "Obamacare" by most, is the best known legislation of the Obama presidency.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, gave a speech to his supporters in Virginia on Tuesday: "If Obamacare is not deemed constitutional, then the first three and a half years of this president's term will have been wasted on something that has not helped the American people."
Romney, whose opposition to Obamacare has been a main issue of his campaign, continued: "If it is deemed to stand, then I'll tell you one thing. Then we'll have to have a president -- and I'm that one -- that's gonna get rid of Obamacare. We're gonna stop it on day one."
In a speech to Democrats in Atlanta this past Tuesday, Obama staunchly defended Obamacare as the best way for all Americans.
"They understand we don't need to re-fight this battle over health care," he said. "It's the right thing to do that we've got 3 million young people who are on their parent's health insurance plans that didn't have it before. It's the right thing to do to give seniors discounts on their prescription drugs. It's the right thing to do to give 30 million Americans health insurance who didn't have it before."
Presidential spokesman Jay Carney said to reporters Tuesday that the Obama presidency is "confident that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, in keeping with decades of precedent under the Commerce Clause. We continue to implement the law accordingly, and we are ready for the Supreme Court's decision, whatever it may be."
In its decision Thursday, the Supreme Court could strike down the entire law as unconstitutional, or disallow certain portions of the law while allowing other parts to stand.
The justices heard three days of impassioned arguments in March on the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, an eagerly awaited but polarizing act passed by a Democratic Congress despite fevered Republican arguments.
The opposition zeroed in primarily on the law's requirement that most Americans are required to buy health insurance or be subject to fines.
Supporters of this law claimed the "individual mandate" is required for the plan to hold water, while detractors claimed it is unconstitutional and intrusive.
Four separate federal appeals courts listened to arguments to various parts of the law before the Supreme Court ruling, and the result was three very different decisions. Courts in Cincinnati and Washington upheld the law, while the appeals court in Atlanta struck it down.
A fourth panel, in Richmond, Virginia, postponed its ruling until fees for not insuring go into effect in two years.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed Congress in a partisan manner two years ago, after a long and impassioned argument highlighted by extreme opposition from the health lobby and conservative Republicans. When the president signed the bill, he termed it historic and claimed it heralded a "new season in America." Though it was not the all encompassing national health care reform Democrats eagerly wanted, supporters claimed the law could lessen health care bills, widen coverage and protect Americans. Health care and the main issues: What the justices are considering.
The law details a careful sequence of reforms over the next few years, which include preventing insurance companies from withholding coverage from clients with pre-existing medical issues, stopping insurers from having a ceiling on insurance payouts, and making it mandatory for them to offer preventative insurance at no added cost to their clients.
It will also make it mandatory for people to possess health insurance, either with their employers or the state, or be subject to a fine starting in 2014.
Supporters claim a separate mandate is necessary for the ultimate success of the bill, because it widens the collective group of people paying for insurance and ensures that other clients do not avoid purchasing insurance until they need it.
The opposition says the bill gives the government an excess of power over what rightfully should be a person's own decision.
Twenty-six states, including Florida, say people should not be forced by law into buying health insurance, something they might not need or have a desire to purchase. And according to these states, if any part of the bill is proven to be unconstitutional, then the entire law must must be eliminated.
The Supreme Court argued that because every citizen will require medical care sometime in their lives, people are not in the position of choosing whether or not to purchase health insurance. Congress is prepared for the court's decision -- but it's not easy.
The partisan arguments surrounding such a massive bill has covered almost every usual hot-button issue: abortion funding, state's and citizen's rights, federal deficits, senior citizen care, and the economy in general. Based upon arguments made in March, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the law essentially "changed the relationship between the government and the individual in a profound way."
Chief Justice John Roberts claimed that we would all be facing an impossible situation as to federal government authority if Congress was given the authority to preside over health care in the name of big business. Other liberal justices said people who avoid paying into the health system by buying insurance make care far more pricey for most others.
"It is not your free choice" to stay away from the market forever, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg claimed during rebuttals. "I think the justices probably came into the argument with their minds made up. They had hundreds of briefs and months to study them," said Thomas Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSblog.com and a well known Washington lawyer, although he admitted that "the oral arguments (in March) might have changed their minds around the margin."
The law, which helped to create the entire tea party movement, will probably be the focus of the upcoming presidential campaign. The bill signed by the president totaled 2,700 pages, nine major sections and about 450 provisions. The initial lawsuits against the health care reform began hours after Obama signed the legislation.
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