The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments March 26-28 concerning President Obama’s signature domestic achievement: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, derisively known as “Obamacare” by its opponents.
As summarized by The New York Daily News, the 2-year-old law aims “to provide health insurance to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans, while trying to restrain costs and prevent disruptions to the majority already with coverage.”
Opponents contend, however, that the requirement that Americans purchase health insurance is unconstitutional.
The three-day oral discussion, untelevised or broadcast in any way, started on March 26, with a 90-minute argument about whether court action is premature, since no one has paid a fine for not having health insurance yet, according to The Daily News.
The following day, March 27, covered the most controversial issue of the act in a two-hour argument upon whether requiring most Americans to have health insurance by 2014 or pay the penalty was, as the plaintiffs claim, unconstitutional.
The March 28 argument was twofold, with a 90-minute session upon whether the act could remain intact even if the individual mandate to require health insurance was taken out, then another hour apportioned to discuss the threat to cut off federal aid to states that don’t comply with the expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program for low-income people.
Although the justices aren’t expected to rule until late June, the L.A. Times sought the opinion of a few constitutional law experts to see what they predict to be the court’s conclusion.
Henry T. Greely, Stanford professor of health law and policy, stated that, from his point of view, “It looks like there are clearly four justices in favor, three opposed and [Justice Anthony M.] Kennedy somewhere in between, and Chief Justice [John G.] Roberts with leeway to go either way.”
Greely also said that he thinks the individual mandate is more likely to survive, while Adam Winkler, UCLA constitutional law professor, said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the individual mandate were struck down, but that it is “less likely that [the entire law be struck down] as that would be a clearer case of aggressive judicial activism. The law has thousands of different provisions, many of which have nothing to do with the individual mandate.”
Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, an organization described by the L.A. Times as a “libertarian think tank,” also agrees with Greely that the individual mandate is not likely to be struck.
Neither Dr. James Fuller, dean of the graduate school at Indiana Wesleyan University, nor Dr. Keith Newman, executive vice president of IWU, believes that the PPACA will have an effect on the development of the university’s health sciences initiative. The establishment of the initiative began in response to the needs of the economy, and the health care act hasn’t changed those needs, so Fuller and Newman said the school’s plans will not be affected, regardless of whether the court rules in favor of the act or not.
The Sojourn reported in October 2011 that IWU’s health sciences initiative is the planned development of a new science and nursing facility on IWU’s Marion campus, with the eventual establishment of a college of osteopathic medicine, which will not be built on the university’s Marion campus, though its location has not been determined.
“The need for nurses, therapists, and doctors is great, and it will continue to be a challenge to educate enough of these health professionals,” said Dr. Henry Smith, president of IWU, in an email. “Statistics show there are serious shortages now and will get worse in the coming years.”
With health care services making up one-sixth of the American economy, a recent study found by the Chicago Tribune stated that “more than 250,000 additional public health workers would be needed nationwide over the next 12 years.”
Michael Borowitz, senior health policy analyst for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said the United States is “the only wealthy country that does not have universal access,” meaning that not all citizens are under a partially or fully publicly funded health system, according to the PBS “NewsHour” webpage.
According to the Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine site, 57 of the 92 counties in Indiana are considered medically underserved.
Restating that the development of the health sciences initiative is in response to the needs of the economy, Newman refuted the idea that the initiative was created in response to IWU’s recent decrease in traditional undergraduate enrollment.
“I don’t think anyone looked at the health sciences initiative and said this is the magic bullet to solve our enrollment challenges,” Newman said.
Newman did say the university anticipates an increase in enrollment based on the health sciences initiative. Though IWU is only in the first phase of its 10-year plan, new programs will be offered throughout this period. Newman projected that, by the year 2020, there would be another 1,500 graduates and another 700-1,000 undergraduates at IWU.