An Election About Something Concrete And Fundamental

I haven’t yet read the Supreme Court opinions issued on the constitutionality of the “health care reform” act.  From news reports, I understand that the 5-4 majority characterized the individual mandate as a tax and therefore within Congress’ constitutional power.

Because I haven’t read the opinions, I can’t comment on their merits.  One result of the Court’s action, however, is that the stakes for the upcoming election will be both heightened and sharpened.  Almost immediately after the ruling, I received emails from the Democratic Party and its candidates lauding the decision and the act it upheld.  From the Republican side of the aisle came commitments to repeal the statute and expressions of concern about the increasing role of government.

Since the days of the Revolutionary War, American history is full of debates about fundamental questions that were resolved through the political process and at the ballot box.  I’d rather have the focus of this year’s election be on the role of the federal government and the merits of the “health care reform” statute than on ginned-up issues like the investments made by Bain Capital when Mitt Romney worked there.

Voters now know far more about the “health care reform” statute than we did when it was being pushed through Congress in a process characterized by hastily written language, backroom deals, and votes cast by members who hadn’t even read the bill before them.  We’ve seen actual actions taken by the federal government pursuant to the statute — including the regulations that have upset the Catholic church and other religious groups — and we know the funding mechanism for the statute is properly viewed as a broad tax.

As a result, the debate to come will be far more concrete than the debate that occurred several years ago — and the voters will decide who wins that debate.  That is a good thing.

Waiting On The Court

Deep in the marbled chambers of the majestic Supreme Court building, members of the High Court and their clerks are hard at work on the opinion — or more likely, opinions — to be published when the Court decides the constitutionality of the “health care reform” legislation.  The opinion(s) will be issued within the next week or two as the Court wraps up its work for the year.

The issues swirling around President Obama’s signature legislative achievement have dropped off the public’s radar screen recently, but you can bet that they remain front and center at the White House, the Romney campaign headquarters, and on Capitol Hill.  Whether the Supreme Court upholds the statute, or strikes it down in whole or in part, its decision will be like a bomb going off in the middle of the presidential campaign.  I can’t remember another situation like this, where the Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of major, controversial legislation — and do so only a few months before a presidential election in which the Court’s decision itself will almost certainly be an issue.

The timing of the Court’s decision will be interesting for two reasons.  First, both carefully scripted campaigns will be knocked off message, for a few days at least, and will be required to respond on the fly to the Court’s decision and the stated rationale for that decision.  The unpredictability of the Supreme Court’s decision means we might just get an honest, candid reaction from a candidate or a Congressman for a change — before the talking points get drafted and everyone adheres to the accepted party line for their side.

Second, and more important, Supreme Court opinions are serious documents written by serious people.  The Justices know their opinions will be carefully read and critiqued, for their intellectual and legal merit, immediately and for decades to come.  They will be working to make those opinions as persuasive and carefully reasoned as possible.  The opinions will address fundamental issues about the structure of our government and the extent of federal power, taking into account the language of the Constitution, the history of our republic, and the decisions of prior Courts.  They will grapple with those issues in a sober, respectful manner, with the majority and dissenting opinions acknowledging, and responding to, each other.  What a refreshing change from the shouting, bullet point blather that passes for political discourse these days!

This will be an exciting time for our country and our Constitution.  It’s another reason for us to step back, admire the foresight of the Framers, and see that our 225-year-old Constitution still works, and works well.

Close to Home

Bob and I have probably blogged the heck out of the health insurance issue, but here’s a story that hits close to home.

The other night at dinner I sat next to my nephew who happens to run his own pizza shop here in Columbus. He doesn’t have the luxury of working for a big corporation with a group insurance plan or a mid-size business that might offer their employees health insurance. He has four employees who are young like he is and don’t want coverage cause they are all healthy, but he has to carry his own insurance, because he is not quite twenty five and has a pre-existing condition called crohn’s disease.

Currently he pays $350 per month, that’s $4,200 a year for medical coverage that is not all that great and they keep raising his premiums. So he is trying to do what any smart businessman would do, try to find better coverage at a lower cost to reduce his out of pocket expenses.

Unfortunately he is not having much luck because when he puts down crohn’s on his health questionnaire  so far each and every insurance carrier will offer him medical coverage with an attached exclusion that no claims related to his crohn’s disease will be covered even though he is taking medication to control his condition. I could tell he was visibly frustrated by this.

He asked me if I knew what the age was for dependents to be covered under their parents plan with the passage of the Health Care Reform Act and I told him it was twenty six so he has asked his mother if she would call and add him to their policy.

There will be no cost to his parents because their two daughters are currently covered and they have family coverage through his dad’s employer. By doing this he said it will give him more time to try to find better coverage as opposed to paying the high premiums for his current plan not to mention saving the premiums he would have to pay for the next year or so.

I’ve read Bob’s blog about the government statistics being unrealistic, however having been a medical underwriter for many years for a large insurance company here in Columbus I don’t agree with Bob’s conclusions. Most people are probably not aware that height and weight are a major reason why people can’t get health insurance and it has been mentioned recently that by 2015 three out of four Americans will be over weight.

Another condition which makes it hard for a very large number of individuals to get medical coverage is high blood pressure. It’s estimated that 65 million Americans have high blood pressure and from my experience most are not even aware they have this condition.

Of course being America everyone is entitled to there opinion and Bob to his, but I saw an article on the internet the other day that census bureau statistics through 2009 showed 50.7 million Americans with no health insurance coverage and in my mind there is just something terribly wrong with that.