July 05, 2012

By Yussuf J. Simmonds

Co-Managing Editor


The Law, the President, the Congress and the Court


The controversy that is raging – especially by the conservative elements in and out of government – seems to have missed a very important point, that all three branches of government – the President who initiated the legislation (the Executive); the Congress that passed it in 2010 (the Legislative); and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling (the Judicial) – have passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it becomes the law of the land. 


President observers, law school professors, government and court watchers have all said that since FDR was in office, presidents have been trying to get healthcare reform passed and not until 2010, has a president been able to get it through the Congress (the House and Senate).  Therefore healthcare reform never became law to be tested by state courts to be able to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.  (Notwithstanding, there had never been a president in the history of the nation who has/had been a constitutional law professor … until President (Professor) Obama ...  and that helped.


Furthermore, prior to the ruling, 19 out of 21 constitutional law professors, who ventured an opinion – on the most-anticipated ruling in years – said that the (U.S.) Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent … and only one professor said that the court is very likely to uphold the insurance-coverage requirement.


 “The legal precedent makes this a very easy case,” stated another law professor, and the justices did uphold the ACA law, in a five-to-four ruling.  Most notably, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the Court’s four liberal-leaning justices to the frustration of the ‘repeal-bound’ conservative elements outside the Court.




The Individual Mandate


The constitutionality of the individual mandate of the ACA was among the most eagerly waited for and watched portion of ruling.  And though experts called it the ‘individual responsibility’ clause – a term that conservatives claim to relish, except in this instance – it exposes their anti Obama obsession. About two decades ago a conservative foundation had proposed a healthcare law with an individual mandate component and it had total Republican support until now that it was incorporated into President Obama’s health-care law ACA.  Nevertheless, it is precisely the individual mandate that the Democrats particularly, need to explain to the public – in addition to the part of the ruling dealing with non-denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and also where parents can keep their children on their health care coverage until they (the children) are 26 years old. 


A survey of recent university graduates, those about to graduate and those who are aggressively looking for work, they were all elated with the law knowing that they can now remain on their parents’ health care policies while struggling to start their own lives and contend with, among other things, bulging student loans.  




The Anti-Obama Climate


Considering the anti Obama climate that permeates the nation’s capitol and the core of the ACA, there’s something very sinister at work here.  And looking back at the history of healthcare reform in the nation, the voices that are vociferously stating that they are going to repeal the law seem less concern about the merits of the law and are more “teed-off” because it is President Barack Obama who got it passed.


Besides the Congress, not passing a healthcare law since the time of FDR, the ACA is clearly the biggest overhaul of the U.S. health-care system since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 which was touched on in the ACA ruling which is conservatively (sic) designed to extend coverage to at least 30 million uninsured Americans and would reshape an industry that makes up about 18 percent of the U.S. economy.




The Historical Significance and Impact


The ACA ruling, like the Brown decision of 1954, has far-reaching implications way beyond the realm of healthcare, notwithstanding the intensely negative responses it has generated by its opponents.  Chief Justice Roberts, like the Chief Justice Earl Warren is now the target of some most vitriolic verbal assaults.  Traditionally Supreme Court justices have been the legacy bearers of the presidents who appointed them; but have been exceptions – though not very many.  Chief Justice Roberts’ decisive role in the ACA ruling have placed him at odds, not only possibly with the president who appointed him (President George W. Bush), but also with the entire conservative community.   (Some of the exceptions have been: Warren and Eisenhower; Stevens and Ford; Souter and H.W. Bush).




The White House Statement:


The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act ensures hard-working, middle class families will get the security they deserve and protects every American from the worst insurance company abuses.  This law was also specifically designed to give States the resources and flexibility they need to tailor their approach to their unique needs.  With the uncertainty about the Court’s decision behind us, it’s now time to focus on implementing this law in a smart and non-bureaucratic way that works for the middle class. 




Category: Health