Supreme Court hears 'Obamacare' arguments

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Correspondent- | Last updated: Apr 5, 2012 - 11:20:38 AM

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Photo/graphics: MGN Online
WASHINGTON ( - The Supreme Court concluded three days of historic hearings on President Obama’s health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act March 28, the first time oral arguments on one case were held for three days in more than 30 years.

The court will now decide whether to strike down the key provision requiring most Americans to buy health insurance and determine whether the rest of the law can stand. A decision is not expected until June.

“You have to be optimistic about this,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said about the upcoming Supreme Court decision in response to a question from The Final Call on a conference call. “I have to be optimistic about this that the Supreme Court is not going to rule against the Affordable Care Act.

“Once again, this bill, this law now is providing health care coverage, even already—before all of the provisions have kicked in—for more Americans. It has equalized or is beginning to equalize access to health care. That to me—and I’m not an attorney on this—but I have to say that, to me, appears to be Constitutional because that’s equal access, equal justice under the law,” she continued.

Republicans on the other hand, have demonized the signature legislative accomplishment of the Obama presidency—labeling it “Obamacare”—arguing that the legislative “cure” is worse than the old lack of health care “disease” which plagued this country before the law was passed. But the idea of health reform in this country is not new. Presidents, lawmakers, policymakers, and others have proposed various ways of overhauling health care many times during the past 100 years.

Since the legislation was signed into law on March 23, 2010—two years and three days before the historic Supreme Court hearings—the political arena has been torn with incendiary and destructive rhetoric from Republicans who have vowed to repeal the ACA by any and every means at their disposal, even when it has meant denouncing provisions they originally championed. Republicans are also “not being truthful with regard to health care in this country, according to Congressional Democrats.

“If you remember, the affordable care act was premised on the concept of personal responsibility,” Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said in response to a question from The Final Call in a conference call with reporters. “That each of us is responsible for securing good healthcare, keeping ourselves well, and therefore not only making sure we’re cared for and our family is cared for, but that we’re not costing our fellow Americans more in taxpayer money for emergency care services. So it’s premised on this notion that we all have to take personal responsibility for our health.”

That was historically a Republican argument, before it became a lynchpin of the ACA. “Remembering also that the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that allows its families to go bankrupt for seeking health care, and that we pay more per person for health care than any other country in the world, to have this law overturned would simply be so expensive for us as taxpayers, because we’re gonna see our fellow Americans continue to seek health care, and they’ll now be once again routed back to the emergency rooms,” Rep. Becerra continued..

“Much will be done over the years to recognize that asking everyone to take on their own responsibility in making sure health care throughout this country can work, is not only constitutional, but it’s what we need to go so we can compete with the rest of the world. So I think that the far-reaching ramifications of a overturning of the healthcare law, is something I hope the justices understand goes way beyond their pay grade and I hope they recognize that the Constitution clearly would accommodate something like this historic health reform law of 2010.”

Black families will be disproportionately affected, some argue. “A Supreme Court decision striking down President Obama’s entire health care law would keep seven million African-Americans from getting insurance,” Perry Bacon Jr. wrote for following the last day the Court heard oral arguments.

“In hearings on Wednesday, the court’s conservatives seemed poised to issue a ruling in June that would invalidate the entire law. And that would have a major impact on African-Americans. An estimated seven million of the 30 million who would eventually get health insurance under the law are Black.

“While much attention has been focused on the law’s requirement that people purchase insurance, its expansions of Medicaid (the insurance program for low-income Americans), is perhaps just as important,” Mr. Bacon continued. “Under the law, because of expansions of federal funding for Medicaid, an estimated 16 million low-income Americans, many of them Black, would get coverage.” Under the new law, Medicaid would cover most families whose income is below $29,000 per year, he pointed out.

“As chairman of the House Ways and Means committee in 2009, I introduced the health care reform bill,” Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “I then stood proudly with President Obama on March 23, 2010, as he signed the legislation into law. Today, I continue to stand with President Obama knowing full well that the preservation of health care reform is vital to the health of millions who live in our great country. I strongly believe that we are on our way to improving our nation’s collective health by expanding health care coverage to the millions of uninsured who reside here.

“Until now, however, we did not have a comprehensive health coverage plan that works. Now we do,” Mr. Rangel said.

“And when you expand coverage for everyone, where 50 million people did not have coverage, this to me, is only fair and just,” Rep. Lee said, “and I cannot see how the Supreme Court could rule that this is unconstitutional, because then we would—I do not believe we would go back to square one, but we would have to of course, come up with legislative strategies to make sure that American people have access to affordable and accessible health care.”

“Unless ACA is protected from repeal, Republicans will take our nation back to the days in which one could be denied health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions,” argues Rep. Rangel. “Patients with chronic medical conditions - heart disease, diabetes, end stage renal disease, cancer, AIDS - all could be once again denied coverage. (Republicans) will take our nation back to the days in which college students under the age of 26 must go without health coverage after being dropped from their parents’ insurance plans.

“Back again will be the days in which women were subjected to ‘gender rating’ by most states and charged higher health insurance rates than men. These same women will be once again denied contraceptive coverage by their employers. Healthcare costs will rise because socio-economically disadvantaged patients will be unable to afford expensive co-pays for preventive care, this resulting in more costly treatments for health conditions that could have been addressed if detected earlier,” he continued.

“The list of harmful and deleterious effects of the potential rollback of healthcare reform is almost catastrophic to even imagine! Now is not the time for complacency. We must remain vigilant and aware that the possibility of losing all of our hard-fought healthcare reform gains is here and it is real,” said Mr. Rangel.

“So, this is a time, I hope, for the Supreme Court to drop its political tendencies, to recognize that this is not the 17th Century, and to make a decision that we all have to be personally responsible for moving our families forward, but moving our country forward as well,” said Mr. Becerra.

Related news:

GOP rollback of health care reform would hurt Blacks, says advocacy group (FCN, 11-08-2010)

Bridging the gap in health care coverage for children (FCN, 06-27-2010)

Congressional cowards and health care reform (FCN, 07-07-2009)