Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Supreme Court and Health Care

by Richard Crews
There are (or soon will be) four epic Supreme Court errors.

First: In 1857 in the infamous Dred Scott case the Supreme Court ruled that no one of African descent could be a citizen of the U.S.--once a slave, always a slave. Dred Scott entered the Court a free man and left a slave. This has echoed through history as the worst decision the U.S. Supreme Court ever made.

Second: In 2000 the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to George Bush although Al Gore had won the popular vote by a million votes and probably would have won the electoral vote as well if the Florida recount had been allowed to proceed--the Supreme Court stopped it. The disastrous results of Bush's presidency are incontestable.

Third: In 2010 the Supreme Court ruled in "Citizens United" that a corporation can spend unlimited, secret funds to influence an election. This disastrous reversal of campaign-finance laws moves us ever closer to having "the best government money can buy."

Fourth: In a few months the Supreme Court will probably rule that aspects of the health-care program enacted in 2010 are unconstitutional--specifically, the requirement that a citizen make a purchase (health insurance) from a private company violates the Constitution's allowable limits on trade governance.

This restriction would destroy the financial viability of the health-care program. Insurance companies can only afford to sell insurance to sick people if they have a large field of well people (that is, not-yet-sick people) to average out the costs. That is the essence of the insurance business. (As things stand now, about 1/3 of the premiums paid for health insurance go to pay for care for the uninsured; this cost would be cut in half if these people had insurance that let them go to scheduled clinics rather than use emergency services--and they would get better care.)

Happily this problem can be overcome by reawakening the "public option" and offering people a non-private source to buy insurance from. People can still opt to purchase from a private company, but a non-private source would be available.

Whether our politically driven and gridlocked federal government will have the wisdom and capacity to solve this problem is uncertain.