IAN HEDGES, News Editor
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Twenty-six state attorney generals and an independent business advocacy group are arguing that the federal government overstepped its authority by requiring a mandate that all Americans have to purchase health insurance. The court is taking the issue shortly after the two-year anniversary of President Obama signing it into law. The proceedings will be six hours long and spread over three days.
Many analysts are questioning what the outcome will be with four traditionally liberal judges and five conservative leaning judges on the U.S. Supreme Court. There is little doubt that the four liberal judges will rule in the Obama administration’s favor, but the bigger question remains whether one of the conservative judges will be persuaded that the PPACA serves in the country’s national economic interests and does not violate the Constitution’s commerce clause. The Obama administration is hoping that either Judge Anthony Kennedy or Judge Antonin Scalia will be the deciding votes, and mainly concentrating their arguments based on past commerce decisions in which they have sided with the federal government.
The federal government’s argument hinges on a 2005 case, Gonzales vs. Raich, in which Justices Kennedy and Scalia agreed that Congress had the authority to criminalize marijuana cultivation, even for medicinal purposes, because it served in the country’s national economic interests to do so. The Obama Administration believes that since healthcare is 17 percent of the U.S.’s GDP—wasn’t Congress just regulating the country’s national economic interests rather than overstepping their authority?
The Obama administration is optimistic that the law will be upheld because it is incredibly rare that a president’s legislation is overturned while the president is still in office. The Obama administration believes this type of judicial restraint will be supported by Kennedy and Scalia when it comes time for them to decide.
Polls show mixed results for the general public opinion on health care reform. The majority of Americans believe that the U.S. healthcare system should be fixed. However, when pollsters ask specifically about Obama’s healthcare reform law, the majority oppose it in many polls.
Furthermore, the White House knows that there are many negative consequences if the law is ruled unconstitutional—especially in an election year. If Obama’s signature piece of legislation is overturned, this could provide an opening for Republicans to defeat the president in November.
All last week, top White House officials were sent out as surrogates to promote the healthcare law’s current benefits that have been enacted. These benefits include eliminating discrimination based on pre-existing conditions in health insurance plans and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.
The Obama administration has continually argued that if the law is fully implemented, it will provide health insurance to 30 million Americans who did not previously have health insurance.
To learn more about PPACA, please visit http://healthreform.kff.org/The-Animation.aspx.
Sources: Huffington Post, NPR