Thursday, March 29, 2012

Supreme Court Reviews Obama's Health Care Reform: A Question of the Character of A Nation

by Nomad
Supreme Court Nomadic Politics
As the Supreme Court begins a long review of the health reform plan with a final decision sometime around June, many on the Right are already predicting trouble for Obama. In particular, the justices are giving special attention to the constitutionality question of the individual mandate, a key feature of the program. Without a mandate, the problem of the uninsured citizen will likely continue. As author Rick Newman, writing for USNews, reports:
At the eye of this gathering storm is the "individual mandate," a key part of the law that will require most Americans to buy a minimum level of health insurance by 2014, or ask the feds for an exemption. Those in violation will have to pay a penalty fee that could be as high as the annual premium on a basic insurance plan. The mandate, which some people consider highly intrusive, generated court challenges almost as soon as Obama signed the law, with the Supreme Court now due to decide whether it's constitutional. If not, the whole reform scheme could unravel.

Mandate Disinformation
GOP tactics and disinformation campaigns have proved surprisingly effective. Fox News has droned on and on about Obama socialism and talk radio has tirelessly talked about fascism and stirred up as much ignorance as possible on this subject. 
The truth of the matter is that mandate, no matter what Fox News may want you to think, is hardly mandatory at all.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, for example, predicts that 80 percent of the 272 million Americans subject to the individual mandate requirement will have some form of health insurance in 2014, when the law goes into effect. So no government thugs will be hassling them about failing to comply. Another 48 million or so are automatically covered by Medicare, so nothing would change for them, either. Out of roughly 322 million Americans in 2014, that would leave about 54 million out of compliance with the individual mandate.
One reason that many Americans dislike the health care reform is the idea of being forced to buy insurance. For many part-time workers whose employers are not obligated to provide health insurance, buying health insurance privately is simply unaffordable. (many families barely make enough to keep their heads above water now.) In their point of view, they are trapped between insurance premiums that they cannot afford and a government forcing them to buy into that system.

It's easy to overlook that whether a person has insurance or not, the cost of health care does not change. Somebody will have to pay. That somebody is both the government and the insurance companies- which in turn passes it back to the consumer in the form of higher premiums. Over the past decade, health insurance premiums have risen three times faster than wages have in the United States.

Another point that few on the Right have not bothered to mention is that there are built-in exemptions in the reform plan.
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 40 percent of the uninsured would qualify for an exemption from the individual mandate, for a variety of reasons. Their income could be too low, for one thing, or the cost of insurance could exceed 8 percent of their income, or they could qualify on religious or hardship grounds.
And that's not all.
Many of those people would qualify for subsidies set up under the law, which are meant to encourage people to buy insurance and help them pay for it. Some of them, no doubt, would do what the law says, and buy health insurance. So the number of Americans truly subject to penalties for violating the mandate would be less than 10 percent of the population--perhaps far less.
Certainly it's not a perfect solution but the situation demands some kind of action. And without a solution to the health care crisis, there can be no solution to government spending- something every Tea Party member supposedly demanded.

Bankruptcy and Special Interests
One study found that approximately 41 percent of working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt. And compared to other developed countries, American health care is far too expensive. According to a report released in 2010, Americans spend approximately twice as much as residents of other developed countries do on health care.

According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States.  Of those bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved individuals that actually did have health insurance.

Even if one excludes the individual, the present system is bankrupting the nation as a whole. The United States spent 2.47 trillion dollars on health care in 2009. It is being projected that the U.S. will spend 4.5 trillion dollars on health care in 2019.  

In the eyes of a few, things are just fine the way they are. According to the Sunlight Foundation, in the second quarter of 2010, more than 40 organizations lobbied Congress, the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services on this issue. (Only two were patient advocacy groups.) Estimates about how much has been spent to defeat this reform vary but the figure is astronomical. Hundreds of millions, at least. A single health insurance company, Aetna, has contributed more than $110,000 to one legislator, Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), in 2009. (Nine Americans were thrown in jail when they confronted Lieberman about the issue.)

Look at this graphic it is clear to see where the battle lines are drawn. It is big business against the public. Your money or your life. They have found a foolproof way of extorting money and they are going all out to protect their gold mine.

Meanwhile the system is pulling down the economy and taking the middle class with it. Between the two parties, nobody argues that the American health care system is falling apart but only the Democrats seemed willing to do something about it.

How the court proceedings will eventually turn out, it is too early to tell at this point. Even before the case came before the courts, progressive groups Common Cause and Alliance for Justice were calling for three justices, Thomas, Kagan and Scalia, to recuse themselves from the case, citing conflicts of interest. (Congressional oversight authority of the Supreme Court is limited to impeachment for "high crimes and misdemeanors" and not for failure to recuse due to a partiality or bias.)
A Moral Issue
The late Edward Kennedy wrote a final letter to President Obama shortly before his death in which he thanked him for his tireless work on behalf of the American people. Here is an excerpt from that letter:
There will be struggles - there always have been - and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family's health will never again depend on the amount of a family's wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will - yes, we will - fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.
It is a sad comment on the present state of politics in America that the Republicans are only interested in seeing Obama-care collapse. The Republicans really have no alternative to the proposed reforms but with single-minded determination they seem interested in wrecking the achievements of the president. 
It is pure spite and they will have their way, even at the cost of the citizen and the nation itself.
So what do you think about the health care reforms? I am always interested in reading your comments.