Jun 282012

My prediction about today’s Supreme Court decision was wildly off the mark, but I’m thrilled with the final result. We’re still trying to parse the Court’s ruling on the Medicaid expansion and what it means for Minnesota. The Court treats the expansion as an entirely new program that exists separately from Medicaid: Original Flavor. Frankly, it’s a weird result and the reasoning seems shaky at best. I don’t think any legal scholar can articulate how the Court will distinguish between a non-coercive expansion of an existing program and the creation of a new program that is independent of the parent program. But, whatever. Most, if not all, will likely participate in the expansion because of the big carrot the federal government is offering in the form of federal funding.

So, a busy summer lies ahead for me. And in a couple months, I can start worrying about the fall election. My professional life is a series of cliffhangers.

Jun 252012

My prediction for Thursday: Chief Justice Roberts hands out thick rolls of papyrus to all reporters in the courtroom. The reporters must then figure out that the papyrus contains the decision written in invisible ink. After holding the manuscript over a candle flame, reporters must then decipher the revealed hieroglyphs to read the opinion. Experts in dead languages will have to be called in.

Jun 192012

Dear Supremes,

Can you please just issue a ruling on health care reform already? I’m wasting far too much time reading opinion pieces speculating on how you might rule and what it will all mean for the election, the Democrats, the Republicans, the health care system, the country, and possibly even the fabric of reality itself. I should be enjoying my summer, not obsessing over the import of comments made by one of your brethren at some lecture. Seriously, just do what you’re gonna do so I can get my back to my typical evening routine: check e-mail, check social networks and RSS feeds, blog, scour Internet for new fishnet-themed erotica with a single-minded drive usually reserved for overcaffeinated grad students pulling an all-nighter in the library.



Mar 282012

Today, the Court’s conservative bloc seemed to seriously entertain the idea of overturning the entire Affordable Care Act. Justice Kennedy, in particular, mused that striking down the entire law might show more “restraint” than allowing the rest of the law to stand. In other words, a majority of the court may view the evisceration of meaningful health care reform legislation as a mercy killing.

I still don’t think that’s the likeliest outcome, but at this point, nothing the Court does would surprise me. Some believe that a Court decision striking down the ACA would be a boon for the President’s re-election chances. I’m not interested in scoring political points. I’d rather have some assurance that people like this woman have access to affordable health care coverage. And I’ll spend the next three months hoping that the Court will provide that assurance.

Mar 272012

While Jeffrey Toobin may be proclaiming the death of the individual mandate after today’s Supreme Court arguments, I’m not going to start drinking (in misery or celebration) until the actual decision has been published. As I’ve said repeatedly over the last few months, the outcome hinges on Kennedy and today’s events only reinforce that notion. As Jonathan Bernstein points out, trying to predict Supreme Court rulings is a fool’s game and I refuse to play. June will be here soon enough.

Meanwhile, a new Times poll shows that a majority of respondents want to overturn the mandate or the entire Affordable Care Act. But they absolutely love the law’s provision that requires insurers to make coverage available to everyone regardless of whether they have a pre-existing condition. I don’t expect most Americans to have a deep understanding of health care policy, but I still wonder if Obama and the Democrats could have done a better job of explaining how the mandate is the scaffolding that supports the rest of the law. Then again, perhaps Paul Waldman from The American Prospect is on to something when he writes:

I know this is going to sound elitist, but there are times when a country’s leaders need to accept that the public is never going to fully understand the critical details of a policy debate, and it’s up to them to just figure out what the right thing to do is, and do it. The people who have done such extraordinary journalism over the last few years on health care can keep pumping out those articles, but the impact is going to be marginal at best, while Sean Hannity can go on the radio and shout “death panels!” to his millions of listeners (which he still does regularly, by the way), and they’ll nod their heads and grumble about big government. If you believe that the policy is a necessary one, you have to just forge ahead, even if it means a majority of the public won’t come around to support it for a long time.

Mar 262012

Today’s arguments before the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act were something of a necessary formality, involving arcane jurisdictional issues that likely won’t prevent the Court from ruling on the key questions regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. Those arguments are still to come and should provide plenty of fodder for pundits and bloggers attempting to divine how the court will decide the case. But despite the perfunctory feel of today’s proceedings, they possessed far more substance than anything that came out of Rick Santorum’s mouth¬†as he was grandstanding on the courthouse steps.

Mar 192012

As expected, the Supreme Court won’t allow live broadcasting of next week’s oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act. Audio will be available at the end of each day (assuming the Court’s servers withstand the onslaught of requests). I probably don’t need to see footage of Clarence Thomas scowling for six hours, so this decision is probably for the best. And I expect the legal blogs will be replete with accounts from observers on which attorneys were sweating and which justices seemed to be particularly annoyed. For the legal community, the oral arguments are something akin to the Super Bowl, so expect to see lots of pre-game coverage across the web in the coming week. I’ll do my best to spare you from my pontificating until arguments are actually underway.