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Supreme Court Hears Health Care Bill Arguments

The pending United States healthcare law was taken to the Supreme Court last week. The nine justices heard arguments from the Solicitor General, representing the defense, and Paul Clement, Florida Attorney General, representing the plaintiff.

President Barack Obama’s Health Care Reform Bill, enacted in 2010, intends to aid Americans in obtaining and paying for health insurance. It is expected to expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured, according to CBS News. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage of children based on pre-existing medical conditions. Those here illegally are not eligible to purchase medical coverage, even if they pay fully on their own.

However, the individual mandate states that by 2014 those who do not have medical insurance will be fined an annual fee of $695. There will only be exceptions made for some low-income people. The debate for the individual mandate was held on Tuesday, March 27. The Solicitor General’s argument for the mandate was weak, believes Dr. Gregory Bordelon, rofessor of political science and pre-law advisor.

“Honestly, the solicitor general did not perform well on Tuesday for the individual mandate argument. He seems to pick it up a little bit with the taxing clause argument and his rebuttal, but that was a hot topic in the news that day and on Wednesday – whether his seemingly slow pace agitated the justices and whether Paul Clement’s forceful advocacy (on behalf of the state of Florida) will be a factor in the justices’ conference decision,” he said. Bordelon also believes that Clement did well in comparing the health care bill to the case of McCulloch v. Maryland in terms of interstate commerce. “Had the federal government in McCulloch forced people to put their money in the then-newly created bank of the United States, you may have had a different situation than what happened in that case.”

This law is expected to be a close and continuous race in terms of approval or denial. Opinions in this case are diverse and controversial, according to Bordelon. “The decision will be close and the opinion-writing will be mammoth,” he said. The significance of this case is outstanding and almost intimidating to approach, believes Bordelon. “My law school alma mater finally has a clerk in the Court this term (for Justice Clarence Thomas), and I was telling one of my colleagues that it’ll be more work than any bar exam, any brief, any trial (I think) to have to write a draft that encapsulates the importance of this case – in policy terms, in historical contexts and in my field, in justifying the proper role of interstate commerce clause precedence.” He predicts a five to four decision with varying opinions.

College students are already required by New Jersey state law to have some form of health care, according to Kathy Maloney, Director of Health Services. The new health care law would dictate the amount of coverage college students’ need, which is becoming more and more costly. “What this means for students is that they will be required to possess health insurance that meets the federal guidelines. As the quality of the insurance programs increases, so does the insurance premiums. That is why, for the Monmouth University Student Health Insurance plan, the premiums have gone up, but so does the quality of the coverage. However, in the next three to four years, as the maximum benefit limits are lifted, the premiums will be several thousand dollars,” said Maloney. “The current premium is $649. This is an issue for not only four year college students, but two year as well. The community colleges are looking at insurance premiums in excess of the student’s tuition”

First-year student Shannon Yingst expresses concern as well over the increasing insurance rates. “It’s worrisome that when I graduate I’ll have to pay so much for healthcare on top of college debt,” said Yingst.

As for Obama, the publicity of this law and whether or not it is passed will be imperative to the outcome of his chance at reelection, said Bordelon. “As to the November election, the President has more to lose if the law gets struck down than the other way around. Given how de-sensitized many voters have become and how much fringe groups of the two major parties tend to exacerbate the “sound byte” effect of politics in this country, the holding (if overturning the healthcare law) could be detrimental to the president,” he states. Bordelon believes the decision to be made in June will be taken eagerly by the presses and exposed to its full potential.

Media plays no small role in politics, and Bordelon provides an example of the “sound byte” effect in the health care case. “The health care cases before the Court have also played out in the media last week when the president seems to criticize the federal courts’ power of judicial review (and some media outlets took that out of context – once again, the “sound byte” effect) and the responding edict by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston ordering the Justice Department to give a statement on the executive branch’s position on the power of federal courts to review the constitutionality of federal laws.”

The glare of such media exposure often blinds citizens to what’s really happening in any particular case and does not allow time for a case to fully develop before exposing it to the public, believes Bordelon. Such is the case with Obama’s health care law. “I think these back-and-forth playing out in the media take away from the very important work of our real courts, and that work takes time.