Of Stars and Proper Alignment: Scanning the Heavens for the Future of Health care Reform
But as this is written, in March 2011, the Affordable Care Act’s future, and the future of health care reform more broadly, is far from certain. Two federal district courts have ruled that what many regard as the Act’s keystone provision, the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, The first court concluded that the offending provision can be excised from the law and the remainder left intact; the second held that the provision is so integral to the overall legislative scheme that the entire law must fail. Since three other district courts have already rejected challenges to the Act’s constitutionality, it is virtually certain that the Supreme Court will ultimately review the Act. If the case takes the traditional route through the courts of appeals, then it should reach the Supreme Court around the time of the national elections in November 2012. On a parallel track, the newly installed 112th Congress has begun to consider a repeal of the law. Despite the formidable obstacles that a repeal attempt would have to overcome—unlikely passage in the Senate and a likely presidential veto—the winds of opposition are blowing so strongly that a repeal is at least within the realm of possibility. Setting aside these challenges and assuming the Affordable Care Act survives, it is an open question whether the Act can deliver on its very ambitious promise to secure basic health care coverage for almost our entire population without bankrupting the nation’s health care financing system or reducing the quality of care those who are now covered enjoy. Clearly the road to universal health care is a difficult one for the United States. Like previous trips, this one may again prove to be a road to nowhere.
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William M. Sage