April 10, 2012

AP, In Essence, on Individual Mandate: ‘Those Dumb Supremes Don’t Understand’

At the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar is floating the notion (saved here at host for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) that members of the Supreme Court who seem inclined to strike down ObamaCare might do so without fully understanding it. Translation: Those dummies.

The AP reporter makes a claim which reads like a desperate talking point from Team Obama (and maybe it is). The essence of the “argument” is that if you have a required minimum plan design which includes many items individuals and families would never use and would never buy if left to their own devices, and you force them to purchase a health insurance policy with that design (or possibly better), it really isn’t a bad thing any more if you allow some choice in copays and deductibles.

Of course, Alonso-Zaldivar was able to quickly find several people to back up his assertion that certain of the Supremes might be “misunderstanding” the situation, while almost completely avoiding the core Commerce Clause-violating idea that not buying is not an option. Excerpts follow (bolds, including the four bolded words — “that may be true” which nuke the asinine argument being made, are mine):

Supreme Court misunderstanding on health overhaul?

A possible misunderstanding about President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul could cloud Supreme Court deliberations on its fate, leaving the impression that the law’s insurance requirement is more onerous than it actually is.

During the recent oral arguments some of the justices and the lawyers appearing before them seemed to be under the impression that the law does not allow most consumers to buy low-cost, stripped-down insurance to satisfy its controversial coverage requirement.

In fact, the law provides for a cheaper “bronze” plan that is broadly similar to today’s so-called catastrophic coverage policies for individuals, several insurance experts said.

“I think there is confusion,” said Paul Keckley, health research chief for Deloitte, a major benefits consultant. “I found myself wondering how much they understood the Affordable Care Act. Several times the questions led me to wonder how much (the justices’) clerks had gone back into the law in advance of the arguments.”

Monthly premiums for the bronze plan would be lower, and it would cover a much smaller share of medical expenses than a typical employer plan.

… The scope of the mandate was one of several key issues argued before the court.

“If I understand the law, the policies that you’re requiring people to purchase … must contain provision for maternity and newborn care, pediatric services and substance use treatment,” said Chief Justice John Roberts. “It seems to me that you cannot say that everybody is going to need … substance use treatment or pediatric services, and yet that is part of what you require them to purchase.”

That may be true, but the law’s bronze plan isn’t exactly robust coverage. It would require policyholders to spend thousands of dollars of their own money before insurance kicks in. That’s how catastrophic coverage works now.

… On the surface, the minimum benefits requirement does seem to mandate comprehensive coverage. But another provision of the law works in the opposite direction, and the two have to be weighed together.

Seriously, Ricardo, your “that may be true” concession shows that Roberts completely understands the fundamental issue of the mandate, which is whether it should exist, not what its scope might be. The fact that there are different deductibles and copays in a so-called “bronze” plan really isn’t relevant if the mandate can’t exist under the Constitution in the first place. And no, the two items you raise (mandated comprehensive coverage, and there’s no “seems” about it — just try not buying at all — vs. a mixture of possible deductibles and copays) do not “have to be weighed together.” You only worry about the latter if you get past the former. Based on their questions and concerns, it looks like the justices involved never got past the former. Therefore, they don’t need to think about the latter.

This doesn’t have a flippin’ thing to do with “misunderstanding.” What it seems to relate to is another cowardly attack on the credibility and authority of the Court, for which Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar is dutifully carrying the water.

At the very end, AP quotes a National Federation for Independent Business spokesperson who gets it right:

(Michael) Carvin says he stands by his statement in court that the law prohibits anyone over 30 from buying any kind of catastrophic insurance.

“The bronze plan is not catastrophic coverage,” said Carvin, who represents the National Federation of Independent Business.

“It’s got all the minimum essential benefits in it,” he added. “It’s got to have wellness, preventive, contraceptives — all kinds of things a 30-year old would never need. It’s not remotely catastrophic.”

What it represents is a government requirement to buy insurance you may not want or need. The AP and its reporter never even made it clear that the fundamental and overriding issue in ObamaCare’s “insurance requirement” is whether the requirement itself in any form is constitutional.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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