Kill ACA, government for the people dies too
Last week, The Tartan carried an exceptionally long opinion piece by staffwriter Kyle Henson. The length mainly has to do with the fact that Henson spends the majority of the piece accurately and usefully describing some of the basic aspects of the Affordable Care Act, and the implications of the upcoming King v. Burwell case.
I recommend reading the article, as it explains — in detail I do not have the space to get into here — how the states that failed to create their own healthcare exchanges and instead used the federal ones will lose access to the federal subsidies. But suffice it to say that if the Supreme Court decides to interpret the law in the strictest literal way possible, Obamacare — as the ACA is referred to, thanks to the concerted effort of the Republican Party and right wing pundits — will crash and burn spectacularly.
Henson saw this as a cause for some celebration, since defeating the ACA, regardless of the tangible benefits it has for many American citizens, is a major GOP policy goal. The motivation for fighting it is ostensibly rooted in a philosophy of minimizing government regulation and spending.
Personally, I’m convinced that partisanship without regard for the welfare of living, breathing Americans was an at least equal motivator, and when last week’s article caught its breath after delivering pertinent facts, it started showcasing the mindset that has led to the least effective Congress in all of American history.
One of the reasons that Henson argues that the ACA should be struck down, over what is regarded by many commentators and lawmakers as a typo, is a contradictory set of feelings about intent. The letter of the law, Henson argues, along with the precedent it sets, is what matters most. The intent of the lawmakers should not matter, he asserts. Afterward, he puts in a quote from Jonathan Gruber, a contributor to the bill, discussing the clause the case hinges on and how it will lead to the predicted “Health Insurance Death Spiral” in states that failed to set up their own exchanges.
It doesn’t matter if the “Death Spiral” is part of a grand political scheme on the part of its writers or some sort of political dead man’s switch to protect the ACA as a whole. By Henson’s argument that is immaterial, since policy should not be based on the intent of the writers. Authorizing a ruling against the federal exchanges could actually hurt the GOP in the long run, since the subsidies will remain in place for states that did manage to create their own exchanges, as James Surowiecki points out for The New Yorker.
Later on, Henson also grandly declares that Justice Roberts will likely side with the conservative members of the Supreme court, since he tends to favor rulings that “reflect the intent of the Framers of the Constitution to have a government of laws, not a government of people.” Why the widely-interpreted intent of men with wooden dentures who used shots of whiskey for anesthesia should matter more than the stated intentions of modern lawmakers (apart from Gruber, whose malicious intent is worth caring about) should matter on issues of modern healthcare is unclear.
This is an especially mystifying statement since the first Republican president declared the Founding Fathers intended us to have “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
The government, being for the people, should probably not actively harm the people. It’s unclear what negative precedent upholding the use of the Federal Exchanges would set. While there is some cause for fear that a more liberal interpretation of any law could be dangerous, adhering to the spirit and not the letter is often the right choice, regardless of the way the political fallout might blow. This is especially true when upholding the letter will lead to direct and present economic, social, and physical harm for residents of 34 states.
Instead of rooting for the potentially fatal ramifications of this court decision, we should be calling for the Supreme Court to make the choice that won’t actively hurt many Americans in nearly every sphere of life.
Henson closes his argument by telling those hoping to become doctors to reconsider their career path in light of the complexities the revocation of federal marketplaces might bring — a poignant reminder of Right Wing attitudes toward healthcare.
The implication is that you should avoid a career in medicine because it might be complex and confusing, and it may not be as lucrative as it once was. Why would anybody want to enter a field where they can save lives and improve other people’s health and wellbeing as a result of studying subjects they likely find fascinating if there’s a lot of annoying paperwork and not immense money involved?