Is the Obamacare ruling good news?


Chief Justice John Robert’s atypical alignment with the left of the bench today led the Supreme Court to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act—a move generally lauded by liberals. But we spoke with a number of progressives who see Obamacare’s victory as solely a victory for the corrupt health insurance industry, and just another step off the path to a successful single-payer solution.

“This bill was written by and for the health insurance industry,” Clark Newhall,a physician and lawyer who is executive director of Utah’s Health Justice, told us. “It’s always been a bailout. It creates a huge new market of people who are forced to buy a shoddy product from a smarmy industry.”

Newhall said insurance industry execs constantly get $200,000 bonuses while health insurance premiums increase two or threefold. The industry found “accomplices in Obama and the Democratic Congress to do its bidding. It creates a government subsidy for these people so in essence this is simply a transfer of government money to the private insurance industry, similar to the bank bailout,” he said.

Many left-of-center Democrats, in fact, called on the Court to strike down the individual mandate that requires all Americans to either have health insurance or pay a penalty—the penalty the Court determined to be a tax, and thus Constitutional.

“Obama said this is the only way to cover everyone,” Russell Mokhiber, the founder of Single Payer Action who joined with 50 doctors to file an amicus brief with the Court rejecting the individual mandate’s constitutionality based on the Commerce Clause. “There are Constitutional ways to cover everyone. Single-payer already exists in Medicare for those over 65 and Medicaid for poor people. There’s a simple fix, which most of the western industrialized world has. The only way to control costs and cover everyone is single-payer,” he said.

According to Mokhiber, millions of people will still be left lacking insurance. He pointed to his electrician, a 63-year-old postponing a major operation until he can get Medicare in two years. “One hundred and twenty Americans die every day from lack of insurance,” he said.

Twenty-six million people in the country are currently uninsured, and the number is expected to grow even with the upholding of individual mandate, physician and congressional fellow Margaret Flowers told us. Although the ACA includes federal subsidies for some low-income people, many don’t make the cut. For example, employers with more than 49 employees are required to provide affordable care -- but only for individuals and not their family members. In turn, the family members are no longer eligible for government subsidies, because a member of their household receives insurance from his or her place of work.

The SCOTUS’s rejection of the portion of Obamacare that took federal funds away from states that refused to expand Medicaid further places a burden on low-income Americans. “Upholding the requirement that individuals buy private insurance while allowing states to opt out of Medicaid expansion is the worst possible outcome,” author Gwendolyn Mink told the Institute for Pubic Accuracy today. “Achieving universal coverage by compelling low income Americans to purchase private insurance may beef up health industry profits but at the expense of people most in need of health care for all."

Over at the Daily Kos, blogger Armando says the nature of the Roberts opinion could have more long-term detrimental effects on federal power in the future. In fact, he said, it’s “a shot across the bow to the Supreme Court's New Deal jurisprudence that underpins our modern national government.” Rather than simply explain why the individual mandate qualifies as a tax, Roberts additionally took care to describe why it does not fall under the Necessary and Proper Clause or the Commerce Clause.

“Such a conception of the Necessary and Proper Clause would work a substantial expansion of federal authority," warned Roberts, causing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to question why he should “strive so mightily to hem in Congress’ capacity to meet the new problems arising constantly in our ever developing modern economy.”