With Minor Reservations, Court Should Uphold Healthcare Law

Sometime in March, the Supreme Court will listen to a whopping five hours of arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act, better known to us as the 2010 healthcare law.

By June, the Court is expected to hand down their decision over whether the entire law, or parts of the legislation, are constitutional, unconstitutional, or unable to be interpreted until certain provisions of the act go into effect.

Headline-grabbing controversy over the hotly-contested bill didn’t end when President Obama put his hand to the law in 2010. Since then, PPAHA has met no shortage of legal challenges in nearly every federal district court. Some judges have upheld the law, while others took issue with it, especially when it came to the so-called individual mandate embedded in the act, where every citizen will be required to have health insurance or else pay a yearly penalty in the form of a fine to the IRS.

Healthcare reform’s architects (incumbent, aspiring, or otherwise), won’t hesitate to emphasize how their respective plans for mending or preserving the American healthcare system will bring the greatest benefit to as many citizens as is humanly, or, even better, politically, possible.

But speaking as students who will definitely (not just rhetorically) be affected by the full or even partial enactment of PPAHA, we want to say a few things on behalf of ourselves.

First of all, a healthcare overhaul was a long time coming. Stamping out the onerous and unjust practice of having insurance companies dole out coverage based on preexisting conditions was a commendable achievement on the part of the Obama administration. This was especially impressive considering that, though the majority of industrialized countries and even some states of our union provide a more comprehensive medical safety net to their denizens, the lawmaking opposition stalwartly insisted that improved patient rights, greater insurance oversight, and fairer access to medical converge was un-American.

And while we also, and maybe even especially, appreciate the automatic extension of family coverage to dependent children up to the age of 26, at the same time, we’re a bit unsettled by the virtual legal compulsion to purchase a health insurance plan.

The foolishness of deciding to be medically uninsured is not lost with the Foghorn staff. And we can recognize both the individual mandate’s aim of stabilizing the insurance pool and how much of a better idea the $695/year penalty is better than the Republicans’ “Do or Die” alternative to the mandate (look it up). Yet, even knowing there are no easy answers, we’re wary of essentially being forced by law to buy something, not in order to do anything like drive a car, but for just, well, living.

When the parties for and against the law present before the Court four months from now, we’ll be routing for PPAHA, imperfect as it is. Our sharply split political scene and unfavorable economic climate forces us to evaluate which messy compromises we can embrace and which we cannot. In the Foghorn’s view, this law belongs to that first category.

7 thoughts on “With Minor Reservations, Court Should Uphold Healthcare Law

  1. With great interest I read the Foghorn staff’s editorial entitled, “With Minor Reservations, Court Should Uphold Healthcare Law”. I expected that such a collective effort by students of varying disciplines would produce coherent and compelling reasons for the constitutionality of PPACA’s individual mandate. Unfortunately, the staff’s articulation appears sloppily executed; although I have carefully read the editorial, it is still unclear what exactly the Foghorn’s “minor reservations” to PPAHA might be. In fact, it seems that the staff simply wants the health care reform upheld on the basis that it IS health care reform and nothing more. Most dissapointingly, the staff makes no appeal on the basis of any established jurisprudence or on the Constitution itself.

    Since it would be achingly tedious to point out all the faults of the article, I will address the heart of the editorial. The Foghorn hails the passage of PPAHA as an all the more “impressive” and “commendable achievement” since, “though the majority of industrialized countries and even some states of our union provide a more comprehensive medical safety net to their denizens, the lawmaking opposition stalwartly insisted that improved patient rights, greater insurance oversight, and fairer access to medical converge was un-American.”

    Besides the disingenuous use of a straw man generalization to demonize the political opposition (as if all Republicans were some monolithic mob of exactly-minded robots), the appeal to the practices of a “majority of industrialized countries” and of other American states fails basic scrutiny. In general, the internal practice of other nations should have little, if any, bearing on American domestic affairs unless the United States is party to a relevant treaty (pursuant to Article VI of the Constitution). Neither can the practice of several states be held as a compelling justification for the Federal government to adopt similar measures; a plain reading of the Tenth Amendment should remind the Foghorn of the sovereignty of the states within our Federal system. The political opposition’s quarrel lies not with the actions of states but with the actions of the Federal government, and accordingly, invoking state policies here is a non sequitur.

    It seems that the staff simply considers the compulsion to buy insurance just one of the “messy compromises” that all Americans must swallow for the sake of reform, as if the Supreme Court must either uphold or strike down PPAHA in whole. We know that, ever since Marbury v. Madison (1803), courts may strike down some provisions of one law and affirm the rest. Furthermore, the 11th Circuit Court upheld that the individual mandate is severable from the rest of PPACA; for this reason, the Supreme Court will only consider the individual mandate and no other provision of PPACA.

    Like the staff, I find the greater part of the proposed reform “commendable” and agreeable; I cannot, on the other hand, easily dismiss the individual mandate so easily as does the Foghorn, especially since it is the centerpiece of the constitutional controversy.

    The matter before the Supreme Court (as stated in the grant of certiorari dated 14NOV2011) is: “Whether Congress had the power under Article I of the Constitution to enact the minimum coverage provision.” In other words, the Court must determine if the individual mandate is a prescription “necessary and proper” to Congress’ exercise of the Commerce Clause. The full answer is beyond my pay grade and I will not presume to predict the outcome of what may be another 5-4 decision. That the Court dedicated a record and “whopping five hours of arguments” to this case underscores complex nature of the problem at hand; the Foghorn would have done better to take even half that time to more accurately discern the details and nuances of such a polarizing issue before emabarking on another one of its poorly executed editorial endeavors which, sadly, have become more the norm than exception.

  2. “Achingly tedious?” Can you be any more pretentious? And the law wasn’t passed because other countries have better healthcare (although this does point to the fact that most developed nations have proved that universal healthcare can be effective and low cost). I suppose that you would have us sink to the bottom, to endeavor to be the only industrialized nation that lets its citizens die and go bankrupt as a result of things they do not control? America is truly exceptional in the shockingly low amount of sympathy its citizens have for one another. The fact that some oppose the death penalty has nothing to do with what other countries do. It has to do with the fact that state-sponsored murder is patently unethical, especially when the state is executing innocents like Todd Willingham.

    Speaking of straw mans, the editorial never addresses the phantom argument that the Supreme Court must uphold every part of the law (although, in my opinion, the cost saving measures wouldn’t really work without the mandate.) So sorry, it’s obvious that you’re making up arguments to which you can bloviate on and on about while portraying your tenuous grasp of the constitution. Please stop acting like you know what you’re talking about (see this week’s editorial.)

  3. Those arguing against the health care bill are either completely devoid of their own solutions to rapidly rising health costs or give fixes like Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” which would decrease benefits drastically. So I’m sorry for assuming that your argument against health reform implied this, but I can’t really see any other conclusion.

    And the death penalty was an example of a point I was trying to illustrate on taking note of how other first-world nations treat their citizens. I understand that as Americans we think we’re so different from everybody, but we’re only exceptional in our inability to learn from our mistakes. Our stubborness is blocking our ability from what has become one of our nation’s most pressing problems.

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