Within the next two days, The Supreme Court will argue whether or not President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is constitutional. And although the court will likely reach a decision, it then retreats to take several months’ deliberation time, which means Americans won’t know the outcome of their decision until late June.
In short, the Supreme Court will make be making two decisions: Whether Congress can require Americans to carry health insurance. If they say ‘yes,’ the whole health care law stands. And if they say no, the second decision to be made is whether or not the rest of the reform can survive without the mandate.
An article in the New York Daily News states that “if the law stands without the mandate, it will cost more to insure fewer people.” According to a study conducted by Rand Corp, it’s estimated that by 2015, 27 million Americans would have health insurance coverage under the law with an individual mandate, as compared to 15 million Americans without the mandate. This leaves 12 million fewer insured, but it would cost the government more.
The biggest concern with the constitutionality of the law? The fact that it would mandate all Americans to get insured. And if the law gets struck down, the justices seem to be in agreement that two other provisions should also be thrown out. The first bans insurance companies from refusing to cover people with preexisting conditions. And the second limits when insurance companies can charge higher rates.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that the government should not be empowered to require people to purchase health insurance against their will. If they do, he and other challengers of the act argue that there’s no limit to what the federal government’s power could rise to. It could even require people to buy broccoli and join gyms.
However, the potential harm remains that if nothing is done and people continue on without health insurance, they will inevitably become sick or injured, won’t be able to afford their hospital bills, and thus continue to shift that cost onto other Americans. So, if it fails, another approach to the health care problem will have to be made. One speculation is that there would be a gradual shift toward the Medicare eligibility age moving down, the age of SCHIP coverage for children rising, and access to Medicaid widened to include to include more income groups.
What some Americans may not realize? Although we pay more for health care in the U.S. than any other developed country, we are statistically in worse health. And some have speculated that this could be in large part due to the fact that we’ve allowed close to one-fifth of the population to go uninsured.
DietInReview.com’s Registered Dietitian, Mary Hartley, RD, believes the plan could have potentially positive effects on the health of Americans if it were passed. “Presumably, people with medical insurance will have more access to care, and so somewhere along the line they will be screened and treated for nutrition-related diseases,” she says. “Without insurance, those people will probably not present for care. In addition, by entering the health care system earlier, problems may be caught when they are more treatable.”
Clearly there are pros and cons to both sides of the argument. But with the Supreme Court decision out until June, the fate of the American health care system will remain in limbo until then.