Monday, April 2, 2012

While We Were Out...

Last week, while our staff was working on other projects and taking a bit of time for sightseeing, the news just kept coming, and Paul continued to publish fantastic new cartoons. In case you missed his great work on everything from the Trayvon Martin case, to the sad tactics of the Nebraska GOP against Bob Kerrey, to Paul's take on 'pink slime', Mitt Romney as an anchor for the GOP, or even the Supreme Court debate over health care insurance, we highly recommend you click around, and see all the great cartoons you might have missed.

While all of those topics are still technically up for debate, it won't surprise our long-time readers that the controversy over health care insurance is what we're doubling back and covering today, one more time.

In case you were also on vacation while we were out, here's a quick recap on the health care fight that went on last week. A week ago today, the Supreme Court began holding a record three day series of hearings debating four key pieces of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama's major piece of legislation to help make health insurance affordable for all Americans.

The first day, the arguments were over the Anti-Injunction Act of 1867. This testimony asked if the penalties included in the new ACA are really a penalty or a tax. If they're found to be a tax, none of the other pieces matter, and the Court won't argue the ACA again until 2015. The second day, the arguments were about the Individual Mandate, the part of the ACA that says all Americans must have health care insurance, or otherwise pay a penalty. This is also the part of the ACA that forces insurers to cover ALL Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions. On the final day, the lawyers argued the idea of Severability - that the Supreme Court can strike down part of the ACA, without striking down the whole law. On the final day, they also argued the part of the ACA that expands Medicaid to cover significantly more Americans.

Even though the justices of the Supreme Court already made their initial decisions on all four of these measures at the end of last week, they have from now until the end of June to release their official final rulings - which means the members of the Court have nearly three months to try and convince their fellow justices to change their minds.

Long and short, the Justices appeared to blow off the first day's question - legal or not - because they want to tackle this major issue of health care insurance reform. The last day's two questions leaned heavily on the answer of the second day's question, regarding the Individual Mandate.

Lest anyone forget, the Individual Mandate has always been a conservative idea, the right-wing answer to the left's idea of a Single Payer health insurance system - which the Court did find constitutional, in the course of their arguments.

What's left is truly a single question: Is any American, who lives in U.S territory, truly able to opt-out of the U.S. health care system? As we and others have pointed out many times before, medical professionals in the U.S. are not legally allowed to deny care to anyone who needs it. So if someone needs health care, and can't pay for it, who will pay?

We all do, through our taxes, and higher insurance premiums. Which means every American is already part of the health insurance system in America, whether they want to be or not.

The question that remains before the Court isn't really whether the Individual Mandate is constitutional. The policy of a government mandate is already in use in other places in our federal government, so its constitutionality is fairly solid. The real questions that remain before the before the Court are these: Does the Roberts Court want to be extremely activist, and lose all legal and ethical credibility by throwing out part of the ACA? Or do they - especially  Justices Kennedy and Roberts himself - actually care about the law, and the future of their own institution?

We'll all find out in the next ninety days if justice really is blind to politics and reality - or if the selfishness and political ideology of some Supreme Court Justices will end up in a massive wreck for all Americans.

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