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Rocky road ahead for Obamacare

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Friday, December 17, 2010
Posted: 10 am ET

Health care reform suffered a legal setback this week when a federal judge in Virginia sided with state opponents who claim that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate requiring all Americans to obtain health insurance beginning in 2014 is unconstitutional.

In contradicting two prior opinions, Federal District Judge Henry Hudson ruled that the keystone provision of health care reform exceeds the powers granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause and opens the floodgates to an unprecedented expansion of federal authority.

Despite voiding the individual mandate, Hudson denied a plaintiff motion to suspend implementation of the act pending appeal, thereby allowing health care reform to roll on.

Hudson's ruling was a welcome win for Republican and Tea Party forces in Congress who have vowed to "repeal and replace" the historic overhaul of the health insurance industry. All eyes quickly turned to Florida yesterday, where District Judge Roger Vinson began hearing similar objections in a 20-state lawsuit.

To date, legal rulings on the act have split along party lines, with two Democrat-appointed judges backing the act and Hudson, an appointee of George W. Bush, the lone dissenting voice thus far. Vinson, a Reagan appointee, has previously signaled he may side with the states on some issues.

While political pundits and legal scholars will likely pay for their beach houses by parsing the greater implications of every twist and turn of this rocky road to Obamacare, my sense is that this protracted legal battle will ultimately amount to a not-very-entertaining Punch & Judy show staged for the benefit of the easily led and those who elect them.

As Wendell Potter, former PR chief with health giant Cigna, recently shared with me, the individual mandate is virtually a done deal because the very forces that have railed the loudest against  health care reform are the very guys who want it: big health insurance.

I tend to agree with Wendell, in part because the act delivers the greatest windfall of new policyholders that big health insurance has ever seen, and in part because Potter doesn't have a dog in this hunt.

Oh, there will be lots of piñata bashing ahead, plenty of posturing for the 2012 elections and bellicose belly-bumping amongst the Balkan states. But in the end, 32 million Americans who couldn't afford it otherwise will have health insurance.

That's well worth the bumpy road ahead.

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9 Comments
Ryan G
December 19, 2010 at 10:13 am

I only see 2 comments, where are the other 3?

VistaView
December 19, 2010 at 9:05 am

I find this constant attack on the Health Care Plan amusing that is short lived when I consider my own history. I understand that certain types of employment will defend the breadbasket they own rather than allow reason to prevail BUT.

1975 - Radical Knee Surgery - reconstruction from a skiing mishap.
Costs exceeded $ 6,500.00 for the surgeon at that time this amount was equivalent to a years income in many households.

So my next visit I questioned the surgeon on this extravagant bill.
He informed me that typically only 1 of 2 patients pay a doctor. Therefore my billing reflected both my surgery and someone who skipped. When I contacted the insurance company they were fully aware and stated that my premium was set in accordance doctor billing.

So explained in money terms I paid twice the premium one for me and one for the skipper. This practice continues to this day behind closed doors.

So one must ask if the other guy doesn't pay ..who gets to...the insurance company knows how to make money...bean counters get financially rewarded to accomplish this...so regardless of what they say ..... you pay if someone does not choose to do so....either in insurance premiums or through taxes paid to care for non-insured individuals.

Hospitals cannot refuse treatment and no one with injuries or severe illness should be left to die...and typically they are not....folks we are paying for the uninsured no matter.

So if you relish in this judge's ruling... they are picking your pocket with your consent.......... Good Luck in you Future and the continual increases to premiums ad-infinitum

Meg Webb
December 18, 2010 at 9:34 pm

My daughters and I have new insurance under ACA. When my husband died, one child and I were able to get individual coverage but my other child was denied for a minor problem. I've had insurance for her under my state's high risk pool but it has been rapidly becoming unaffordable. We now have coverage together. I can agree with Lysander on one issue, favorable tax treatment of group plans caused much of this. If tax treatment of individual policies was fairer, people would carry their own insurance and have it through their job.

Jay MacDonald
December 18, 2010 at 5:13 am

And your solution would be?

Lysander
December 17, 2010 at 6:35 pm

The "Bumpy Road Ahead" is what happens when major policy is formed without a
clear mandate. We've had eight decades of failed government interference in
the marketplace, so how could anyone believe that health care "reform" would be
any different? Government-mandated solutions to what really is not a "problem" to begin with is classic "crony-capitalism": the feds get more power, corporations
supported by bankrate.com get more business, the taxpayer gets fleeced and the
health care customer pays far more than we would in a free market.