Briefs on the battle over health care reform were submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court initiating what will become a landmark decision. The Department of Justice in its first brief filed with the Supreme Court defended the federal health reform law arguing that Congress acted “well within”” its constitutional powers to pass the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. The brief may be found at the DOJ’s website.
The DOJ’s briefing stated that the United States Constitution provides Congress with significant powers to regulate economic activity and address a health care market “”crisis”” adding “”That was a policy choice the Constitution entrusts the democratically accountable branches to make and the court should respect it.””
According to the brief the mandate is an element in a law that is necessary to break the cycle of cost shifting – a process that raises health insurance premiums for all citizens. The brief stated “”The uninsured shift tens of billions of dollars of costs for the uncompensated care they receive to other market participants annually.”” It added “”That cost shifting drives up insurance premiums which in turn makes insurance unaffordable to even more people.””
In the meantime Florida’s Attorney General Pamela Bondi and representatives of 25 other states also filed the first of their briefs with the Supreme Court challenging the mandate. The brief argues that the entire law must be invalidated if the court finds the individual mandate unconstitutional. Also more than 100 congressional Republicans signed an amicus brief – filed by the American Center for Law and Justice – asking the Supreme Court to strike down the entire law if the court declares the individual mandate unconstitutional.
More than 100 economists also joined in a separate brief which the American Action Forum filed arguing that the mandate is not severable from the rest of the law. The brief additionally stated that the cost of the reform law would increase dramatically without the mandate and that lawmakers likely would not have passed the overhaul without the measure.
No matter what the outcome of the law the high cost of health care will inheritably remain as some of the increases in health-care costs are due to uncontainable trends such as new technological innovations in medicine and an increasingly aging population. In addition several aspects of the law will survive even if the law is overturned such as the levels of annual benefits coverage for preventive services according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force coverage for young adults and a few others. Market forces will cause insurers to continue providing many of the benefits that were mandated by the law.
It is now anybody’s guess as to the timing of the Supreme Court’s decision and it may be both beneficial and hurtful for President’s Obama re-election campaign as it allows him the opportunity to praise some popular aspects of the law but at the same time it opens the doors for opponents to attack the law and argue that if it’s being heard by the courts there must be fundamental problems with it. Our islands will be honored with the visit of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Maria Sotomayor on Jan. 25 – 30 and perhaps she could shed some light as to the timing of the ruling during the several conferences that she will attend. We understand that attorney Rodney Jacob will be making a presentation at one of the conferences on the impact of the law to the territories and especially Guam.
Ironically early Republican primary results indicate that former Gov. W. Mitt Romney responsible for signing the Massachusetts legislation that was the first in the nation to provide near-universal health insurance access via subsidies will possibly become the Republican presidential nominee and face President Barack H. Obama. And this may quash any Republican arguments against the law. The Supreme Court hearing in March is approaching and we will be attentively looking at the outcome.
– Frank J. Campillo is the Health Plan Administrator for Calvo’s SelectCare. He may be contacted at [email protected] The views in this article do not reflect the views of Calvo’s Insurance.