Win or lose this November, Pres. Obama, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, have perhaps already made their most significant achievement as politicians: the passage of sweeping health care reform. Though many Americans are steadfastly against the still ill-defined health care legislation, it is expected to provide health care insurance for millions of people who would otherwise not be able to afford it. And, very importantly, help guarantee medical care for the sickest of all patients. Far from being a step in the direction of communism, the health care reform bill protects Americans from profit driven healthcare insurance companies.
However, another potential battle is shaping up in the form of legal challenges to the constitutionality of the healthcare law and major corporations are already looking for ways to circumvent new regulations.
For example, it was recently announced on CNN.com that large companies, such as McDonald’s, would be acquiring, “waivers”, for the purpose of keeping “mini-med” plans for their employees. The health care law intends to raise the amount covered by health care plans to around $2 million by 2014, thus doing away with health care plans which provide little while raking in profits. Health care costs can be high and an employee working at McDonald’s might be just as likely to get breast cancer as one working in the federal government.
However, McDonald’s in essence threatened to do away with their health care plan if they were forced to pay for better coverage for their employees, so McDonald’s and 30 other companies got a special waiver meaning that their employees get to keep their skimpy coverage. Obviously, the execution of the new health care law, was not thought out very clearly.
Apart from finding, or in McDonald’s case creating, large loop holes, the very constitutionality of the health care legislation is being challenged.
The big enchilada is whether the feds can require citizens to buy healthcare insurance. In many, if not most states, drivers are required to buy some form of auto insurance and this isn’t something which is very controversial. However conservatives and Republicans, looking for a wedge issue to divide independent-minded voters, are filing legal challenges against the federal government to cut this new requirement from the healthcare overhaul. Without it, Democrats contend that won’t be a sufficient pool of people buying health care insurance to be able to afford health care for the sickest patients.
Recently, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that the federal government does have the power to compel people to buy healthcare insurance. This power, like many others, comes from the constitutional authority of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce- which you can imagine includes a plethora of activities.
However, there are roughly 15 to 20 instances of lawsuits brought against the federal government concerning the new healthcare legislation. And it is likely that the issue will be resolved in the appeals court or perhaps the Supreme Court. Even though, it seems unlikely that the Supreme Court would vote to declare the new health-care legislation unconstitutional.
Nonetheless, even if Republicans cannot repeal the healthcare law, or pieces of it, it is possible that the law could be turned into a piece of, “zombie legislation”, which while being on the books is weakened due to a lack of federal dollars to implement and enforce it. As about $100 billion of appropriations for the health care bill need to be passed by Congress in the coming years, it is entirely possible that Republicans could grind the process to a halt making the legislation far less effective than it is meant to be.
While the legislation has passed, liberal voters should realize that the opposition to health care reform is alive and kicking and is still capable of circumventing, or even grinding to a halt, the legislative process which is expected to bring health care to tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans.
While some republicans have expressed deep reservations about their party’s prospects repealing the entire health, especially given that President Obama will be in office at least until 2012, no doubt health care insurers have thoroughly analyzed the legislation and they will pick their battles carefully in the years to come.