Perhaps the Justices Will Do America a Favor

I wasn’t behind the closed doors when President Obama made a deal with the health care industry but I think I can guess what happened. Being the reasonable man that he is he probably agreed not to go for a single-payer system if the industry would help work out an arrangement providing affordable health insurance for all Americans.

Naturally, the industry double-crossed the President. They took the deal and then poured billions into an all-out war against it. The resulting confusion helped give birth to the Tea Party and spawned a convoluted health care reform law that is now being judged by the United States Supreme Court.

I don’t know whether the law – or at least the individual mandate on which it is based – is unconstitutional. I would imagine not as states require their residents to buy car insurance and at least one, Massachusetts, mandates the purchase of health insurance. I would think a precedent is well established.

However, this is a conservative court. And it is a radical court. Just look at the justices’ astonishing ruling that deems corporations to be people and allows them to spend unlimited amounts on  political advertising. It should surprise nobody if the majority of justices voted to strike down the health care law in an effort to discredit President Obama and give the Republicans a boost in November’s elections.

If they do that, they might be doing Americans a favor.

The way I see it, the President would have been smarter if he had simply expanded the exisiting Medicare-Medicaid laws to include everyone.  Of course, the premiums would have to be set a a rate that would sustain the program. But it would provide a defense against the excesses of the for-profit health insurance industry.

It seems strange that the private insurers are so afraid of competition from the government. How many times have we heard that government is by definition incompetent and that private enterprise is far more cost effective?  And the government system would bear the extra burden of insuring the least profitable citizens – those with pre-existing conditions, for example.

Surely, those efficient private insurers would be able to compete against the government and still make a healthy profit?

I think that solution – known as a “sngle-payer” system in the political jargon of the day – would be more elegant than the cumbersome legislation now before the Supreme Court. For one thing, enforcing the myriad rules in the existing law will be at least as challenging as herding cats. I think it would be better to let the market decide what’s best but provide a government-run alternative to keep the private insurers honest.

If the existing law – dubbed Obamacare by its opponents-  is ruled unconstitutional, the November elections would most likely be fought on that issue.  And this time, the President could go for the single-payer alternative.

I can imagine how desperately the health insurers will fight it, and how many billions they will contribute to the Republicans’ campaigns. I can hear the lies now, the sophistry, the “spin.” The slick con artists will be out in force, and the President – in the words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem – “will hear the words he’s spoken twisted by knaves to set a trap for fools.”

 But the choice is so clear, the stakes so enormous that I can’t see the American voters being taken in. Not this time.

You know what they say, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”

For Robert Reich’s take on the topic. click here.