I was talking to a local Democrat the night before last about Obama’s chances. He’s the former county chair, now retired. He said he was done with politics when he retired, said he was going to spend time with his grandchildren and follow Notre Dame football and to hell with all of us, but he didn’t mean it, because he still calls me all the time. He’s (generally) a pessimist, a dour person, although I recently borrowed his car and the one and only CD he had in there was called something like “Silly Songs for the Very Young”. Now I imagine him cruising west on I-80 towards Indiana, huge sedan full of his tiny grandkids, singing merrily along. I don’t “know” anyone, really.
Anyway, he worries about things I forget to worry about, and he’s fretting about the health care lawsuit. He told me it’s “bad for Obama”. I thought about that, and I’m not sure that’s right. I think the health care lawsuit carries risk for both sides.
Why is it assumed that 5 judges repealing the Affordable Care Act is good for conservatives, politically? The polling isn’t at all conclusive, despite what we’ve been told. This isn’t a slam-dunk. Republicans support repeal, and Democrats oppose repeal.
Conservative lawyers and donors are asking the Supreme Court to throw out the whole law, which is of course consistent with their long-held principle of judicial restraint. But, conservative lawyers and donors (and federal judges) have health insurance, and if they win this ideological battle they’ve draped in legal garb, 2.5 million young people who are now covered under the Act will get very, very nervous.
And, conservative lawyers and donors aren’t just suing on Obamacare. They’re gunning for Medicaid, which of course has huge implications for those people who are dependent on Medicaid. Conservatives mischaracterize Medicaid. Medicaid is a program for old people, children, and disabled people. And, you wouldn’t know it to listen to the pundits chatter, but Medicaid is actually very popular with Real Americans.
It’s a program for poor people without insurance, yes, but many more people fall into that category than you might realize. There are, first, the working-age Americans, along with their children, for whom Medicaid provides basic health insurance. And then, there the elderly and the disabled, for whom Medicaid provides supplemental coverage (to pay for the deductibles in Medicare, for example) or long-term care insurance (most famously, to pay for nursing homes). In many cases, these are people who were not poor until they needed long-term care, spent down their savings, and eventually became eligible for Medicaid once they ran out of money.
While 5 judges overturning Obamacare and chipping away at the legal foundation for Medicaid may be popular with the conservative base and complicate Obama’s campaign message and chance at re-election, I think it’s safe to say that 5 judges throwing 2.5 million young Americans off health insurance, knocking the pins out from under Medicaid, and destroying President Obama’s signature domestic achievement will also complicate Mitt Romney’s campaign message.
Conservatives have nothing to offer on access to health care for the uninsured. They’ve spent the last thirty years avoiding the subject altogether, hoping the uninsured would go away and quit bothering them. Mitt Romney is going to run around celebrating the fact that 2.5 million Americans just lost their health insurance, by judicial fiat? Mitt Romney is going to be cheering as all the states that are putting Obamacare into practice are ordered to STOP? Romney’s going to come out and crow that we’re now back to the status quo on health care? It’s morning in America! The Supreme Court got rid of any chance you had to get covered under Medicaid or purchase affordable health insurance, and, oh, by the way, I plan to end Medicare too? Is that Mitt Romney’s winning message?
There’s going to be political repercussions on both sides no matter what the outcome of the court case, and I don’t know that conservatives benefit, automatically and inevitably. They certainly didn’t benefit from the S-CHIP battle. They were left defending denying health care to children. They lost.
On the flip side, if the law is upheld, what is going to be the reaction of the perennially angry and vindictive Tea Party faithful? First they were told a House majority would overturn the law, and then they were told that 5 judges would overturn the law. The House majority didn’t repeal the law, because one chamber can’t repeal a law in America, despite what they were told. What if the 5 conservative judges let them down too?
Seems to me there’s political risk on all sides. Seems to me conservatives might want to have waited and repealed the law the old-fashioned way, by winning elections.