"Handle with Care" - Jenny Lewis
Great cover of the Tom Petty - Traveling Wilbury's song. I've been busy as hell, but also trying to get a little distance from the cacophony of the last few days, especially the obsessive coverage of the Supreme Court health care argument and the Trayvon Martin killing. But somewhere in the standard blogging contract I believe that each of these subjects must be addressed and so here goes:
- I am trying to decide how much to read into the oral argument on the Affordable Care Act. I know Jeffrey Toobin's already consigned the law to the ash heap of history, but I feel a little more hopeful. Oral argument is often a bit of a sideshow in any Supreme Court case, a last chance for the justices to test the arguments of the parties and themselves. A line of questioning does not necessarily foretell where a given justice may be going with the case. (Note: I do wish the Solicitor General didn't choke during the argument, which I'm pretty sure he did, although others disagree.)
Having said that, I am obviously concerned that a Court cursed with so much right wing arrogance could really overstep and strike down the most important piece of social legislation passed since the mid-1960s.
The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. It's a bit of a jury-rigged mess, overly complex, not easily explained, it keeps many of the worst features of American health care delivery -- for-profit insurers, an over reliance on employer-based coverage, and its roll out was designed to be painfully slow. But let's be clear -- and I wish bloggers like Atrios would actually engage with this fact -- it was the best legislation that could be achieved given the structural impediments and enormous vested interests that stand in the way of change in the health care arena. Tens of millions of people who are currently uninsured will receive coverage through expansions in Medicaid, subsidized insurance available through the new exchanges, and from greatly expanded community health center programs. This is not some abstract point, it is a concrete reality that will improve peoples lives. Additionally, the law prescribes truly meaningful minimum coverages that have to be extended to the insured -- with no annual or lifetime maximums permitted, certain basic services that must be provided without cost sharing, allowing children up to age 26 to stay on parental policies, and, of course, most meaningfully, the elimination of pre-existing condition conclusions.
Should the Court strike down the law it will show incredible contempt for the elected branches of government -- in a fashion not really seen since the early New Deal era. In the end, such an act would bring tremendous discredit on the Court, particularly since I don't foresee any opportunity to address this issue again in a meaningful way for a period of many years, possibly decades. A reversion to the status quo will be disastrous -- employer coverage will continue to erode, costs will continue to soar, the ranks of the uninsured will continue to swell, and problems with uncompensated care will continue to plague many hospitals. And solutions -- even imperfect, compromised solutions -- will not be forthcoming. The Republican Party is no longer a party interested in solutions and will act to block anything aimed at alleviating these problems.
Let's hope that the justices avoid the temptation to hubristic recklessness. I actually think they will.
- I haven't commented on the Trayvon Martin killing because I find that criminal cases can often make those who jump to quick conclusions look foolish. I've been a bit turned off by the degree to which MSNBC in particular has made the case a kind of 24/7 cause celebre, one which seems to shed a whole lot more heat than light. But I must say it has been revealing in terms of bringing to the fore the barely concealed racism that animates so much of the right wing. God the ugliness that lies just beneath the surface with these people is astonishing. And so they turn the case into a partisan matter, one in which some poor 17-year old who had the bad sense to be black and wear a hoodie and got into some trouble at school obviously deserved to die. Somebody's child was shot to death in highly dubious circumstances -- you'd think the gravity of that basic fact might make them all little but circumspect -- but alas, no.
What's eating you?