When the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate later this year, the Republican-dominated court will either decide the case on its merits or it will play politics and vote to kill the mandate with a party line vote intended to help Mitt Romney, the putative Republican presidential nominee, get elected in the fall.
If the Republican justices rule based on the merits, it’s likely they will find that the mandate is constitutional, just as the GOP-dominated D.C. Court of Appeals did in November.
If the Republican Supremes vote their party line — as they did in Bush v. Gore, in 2000, with disastrous results — they will certainly help Romney get elected, which will achieve their political goal of ensuring a GOP corporatist majority on the court for a generation or more.
But, as with Bush v. Gore, a party line vote against the ACA by the Republican justices will produce dire consequences for the American people. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, if the Affordable Care Act is overturned, it will force another 10 million Americans into the ranks of the uninsured, raising the number of people without health insurance coverage in the United States to 60 million — which is roughly the population of Great Britain.
The paradox here is that the individual mandate is an invention of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank to which the Republican justices have ties. In fact, Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife Ginni is the Director of Executive Branch Relations for Heritage, a fact that came to light last year when it was revealed that Justice Thomas “forgot” to disclose $686,589 in compensation Ginni had received from Heritage over the five years ending in 2011.
In 2009, when health-insurance reform was being debated, the moneyed interests that run the right-wing’s noise machine spent tens of millions of dollars convincing the GOP’s tea party base that the Heritage mandate — which would deliver tens of millions of new customers to the private insurers — was somehow “socialism.” This wasn’t done on principle, obviously. The mandate was a Republican invention. It was done solely as an effort to weaken Pres. Obama politically.
As a result, Heritage quickly got in line by renouncing its role in creating the individual mandate. And, of course, Romney, who deployed the Heritage mandate in his Romneycare insurance reforms when he was governor of Massachusetts — and who praised the ACA just two years ago — now vows to repeal the law when he is elected.
What should never be forgotten here is that this crisis was created by the giant health-insurance corporations, who have systematically reduced their risk pool in order to boost profits — and, make no mistake, these mega-corps are making billions in record profits.
The insurers have calculated, rightly, that it is more cost effective to hire armies of lobbyists and buy off members of Congress — and maybe a Supreme Court Justice or two (or five) — than it would be to fulfill their industry’s true mandate by providing unfettered access to health care that every American can afford.
The bottom line is that it is more likely than not that Chief Justice John Roberts and his fellow Republicans on the court will vote to overturn the mandate in order to help their party win the White House. If so, they will make the crisis of the uninsured much, much worse.