Friday, March 6, 2015

ObamaCare and Supreme Court – Questions and Angst

Well, the first day of King v. Burwell is over. There are no solid clues on how the 9 justices will vote. But based on what the Justices’ questions, there is still plenty of angst on both sides of the aisle.

The challengers feel good about the thrust of the questions, but so do the proponents.

The challengers say it’s a narrow, open and shut, black and white case.

The proponents says it must be interpreted as a whole rather than on the basis of 4 words. It’s wide open and full of shades of gray.

In other words, both sides see in the proceedings what they want to see. Both sides hope the decision is decisive, all pro or all con. Liberals pray King will be dismissed on the technicality that the plaintiffs have no standing. Conservatives dream they will be the only ones left standing.

I have no clue how it’s going to go. But I have just read 10 articles of opinion on the first day of proceedings and come away with these conclusions. No one has a clue on how Justices Roberts and Kennedy will vote. Their votes are “in play.” Roberts did not play his hand. The other justices are split and fixed in their positions . The heat of the debate is tangible. The editors of the New York Times feel the whole exercise is absurd but is disturbed the fate of the American health system rests on the outcome. The editors of the Wall Street Journal feel the case is about federalism, the balance of power between the states and the federal government, and favors the state wielding more of that power. The writer for Bloomberg Views, Megan McArdle, has an interesting position, viz. the outcome of the case is not likely to be life or death. Peoples’ health, life, and death may not depend on government but what people do for themselves. Studies offer scant evidence that giving people insurance save increases people’s overall health or saves significant numbers of lives.

Whatever the merits or faults or effectiveness, or costs of ObamaCare , until the Court rules in June, plenty of angst, those feelings of dread, anxiety, and anguish, will remain. The questions will still be: Is centralized government our savior , where should the balance of power reside - between Washington and states, between government and markets?

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