Democrats Sees Bad Signs At High Court For Healthcare Reform Law

Healthcare reform will be decided by the justices of the Supreme Court, particularly Chief Justice Roberts and his conservative allies.

With at least much of the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc “spoken for,” a pair of Democratic strategists say that they are not as optimistic as perhaps the Obama administration appears to be that the healthcare reform law will survive this week’s legal challenge at the high court.

Oral arguments began this week at the high court in a number of cases brought against the landmark two-year-old law. The court could rule for or against all or part of healthcare reform as early as June.

“Conservatives have made national health care a partisan issue because it was such a signal accomplishment by President Obama,” says a statement issued Monday by Robert Weiner, former senior White House spokesman, and national Democratic strategist; and Richard Mann, senior policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates. “An overriding national need for health care can be determined as part of the Constitution’s ‘general welfare’ clause and Congress’ right to legislate funding.”

Weiner and and Mann note the existing rightward tilt of the court.

“Most of the conservative bloc — Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — could be called ‘spoken for,'” they say.

Even Justice Anthony Kennedy, who once had been a “swing vote” on the court, has increasingly sided with the court’s right, they add.

Much of the issue with the reform law is its individual mandate provision, which says that starting in 2014 nearly all Americans will have to have some form of health insurance, or face paying a penalty.

“The whole law is at stake. Striking down all or part of it would take benefits away from people, but far more is at risk with a total overturn,” Weiner and Mann contend. “Without the mandate, the law could continue to cover citizens with pre-existing conditions, allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, block lifetime benefit caps and expand Medicaid.

“Howard Dean, a physician and former Democratic Chairman, has said that the mandate is only 4 percent of the law.” Weiner and Mann add. “While the mandate helps pay for the other provisions, the health insurance companies are making hundreds of billions in profit, continually increase premiums anyway, and can and should absorb the cost of actually providing health care.”

Blocking Benefits Americans Already See?

Still, Weiner and Mann say it is “hard to imagine” the court blocking those reform benefits already underway:

•Children’s care through age 26 (2 1/2 million have already received);
•Cheaper and free drugs for 45 million seniors
•Pre-existing conditions coverage
•No lifetime coverage caps
•No being thrown off insurance if Americans become sick;
•Free prevention including mammograms and colonoscopies
•Overseeing insurance companies’ premiums and assure 85 percent go to people’s benefits
•Saving $200 billion hospital costs from previously uninsured people formerly costing all premium-payers $1,000 — the lack of insurance made millions of Americans die sooner;

They say that “the Administration seems oddly confident that the Supreme Court will take its side on the mandate and the rest of the law. Don’t bet the farm.”

They point to the Justice Department statement that “there have been similar challenges to other landmark legislation, such as the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and all of those challenges failed,” and the department’s assertion, “We believe the challenges to the Affordable Care Act will also ultimately fail and that the Supreme Court will uphold the law.”


Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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