The Supreme Court and Health Care

When the Supreme Court ruled that Cherokee land couldn’t be ripped off, Andrew Jackson supposedly said, “The judges have made their decision; now let them enforce it.” President Obama didn’t go quite so far in dissing the Court, but came close in suggesting it would be somehow illegitimate to overturn Congressional legislation. Isn’t that exactly what we have a Supreme Court for? The Administration has now clarified that, yes, the Court does have authority to hold laws unconstitutional (Marbury v Madison, 1803). And Obama once taught constitutional law. Shame on him.

Liberals keep bleating that the Court is partisan (click here for a typical example). Alan Chartock, head of the local NPR station, loves saying the justices are “bought and paid for.” Shame on him.

Here again we see refusal to accept that opponents are acting out of sincere conviction as to what’s right. Of course, it’s only the conservative justices who are partisan or “bought and paid for.” The liberal judges act according to their liberal philosophy; why can’t liberals accept that conservative judges act according to their conservative philosophy? And that it’s an honest and legitimate point of view?

I recently discussed here Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind, and linked to William Saletan’s Times review. Saletan deemed the book a wake-up call that liberals need to hear, showing how they fail to understand the conservative mind, and that conservatives actually utilize a broader spectrum of moral ideas than do liberals. Predictably, Saletan’s review provoked a flurry of furious letters from liberals, arguing basically that those conservative moral principles are not moral at all. As ever, they don’t see legitimate or sincere disagreement but, rather, virtue against vice. Shame on them.

It’s said we have a government of laws, not men. But men (and women) make the laws, and interpret them. The Supreme Court is made up of human beings too, whose decisions are affected by their human differences. I don’t always agree with them (the latest, on strip searches, I hated; the Obama administration supported it), but I solemnly respect the process, in which they struggle with hard issues and strive for what they see as the right answers. And they have to justify their answers in written decisions whose quality of argument is closely scrutinized. The judges are judged, and will not sacrifice their reputations to serve someone else’s agenda. That’s the virtue of the Supreme Court, and it took humanity a long time to develop institutions like this, that do give us a society of law. Those who attack the institution’s integrity play with fire, and undermine one of the bulwarks of our way of life, at a time when there is already too much cynicism about governance.

If Obamacare is struck down, it will be because it’s an unprecedented stretch of federal power. Quite simply, if even in this constitutional republic of purportedly limited government, it can force you to buy a product you don’t want, then what limit is there on the government’s power after all? And this liberals don’t think is at least a legitimate issue?

 Our health system is fubar, and unfortunately Obamacare will do little to fix it, and may well make it worse. Do you know about the “Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight” created by the bill – a monster new bureaucracy to rule on requests for mandate waivers, with no accountability. Surely a recipe for influence peddling, political manipulation, and special interest corruption. Already it has doled out billions worth of waivers for labor unions while rejecting requests from business organizations. (Talk about “bought and paid for.”)

My review of The Righteous Mind noted the key problem afflicting American health care – it doesn’t function like a market where providers have to vie for customers through price, quality, and service. Most people don’t have to shop around, and the system in fact makes shopping around impossible. Even with insurance, we actually often wind up paying part of the tab, but just try to find out in advance of a procedure how much you’ll pay. And when the bills arrive, they are an incomprehensible mess, and the amounts don’t pass a sanity test. No competitive business could get away with such high-handed nonsense. (Oh, I forgot. The free market is evil. Sorry.)

Meantime, our whole concept of health insurance is cockeyed. As Haidt’s book observed, you don’t make a claim on your car insurance for a routine oil change. Insurance was invented to protect people from rare catastrophic costs they couldn’t afford, by pooling risk. Applying it to all health care just serves to screw up the market.

And it gives us the idea that our health care is something we basically shouldn’t have to pay for. But why not? Isn’t it fantastically beneficial? Someone in my family takes a medicine that literally makes the difference between a crappy life and a happy life. And modern health care gives us lives twice as long as a century ago. Isn’t all that worth paying for – paying quite a lot for?

Of course, it does have to be paid for, by someone. Why do most of us think it should be someone else?

Or is paying one’s own way another of those quaint conservative moral values that liberals disdain?

5 Responses to “The Supreme Court and Health Care”

  1. Uncle Andy Says:

    You pegged it exactly – people think they shouldn’t have to pay for healthcare. People think it is some kind of natural right. Liberals actually tell you that healthcare is a right. Unfortunately, it is not. One cannot invent rights for oneself and stick someone else with the tab for it.

    [FSR comment: Thanks. Clarification: I don’t think people who can’t afford care should be left to die. However, for those who can afford it, why shouldn’t they pay?]

  2. Gregg Millett Says:

    As always you make me reflect. Just seems to me that we do indeed all pay for essential public services — and to me access to health care should be equal for all. Big problem, getting worse by the day, is the cost of health care. It doesn’t seem to me that this should be a profit industry.

    [FSR comment: There you go again, you old commie. What is the problem you guys have with the idea of “profit”? Profit is what motivates people to provide you the things you want. Must I quote again Adam Smith’s famous line about butchers and brewers providing your dinner not out of benevolence but rather their own self interest? Profit is what makes the health care industry want to provide you with service. What muddles it up is that the users of service mostly aren’t the ones who pay. I would much rather see a system where most health care is purchased directly by the user, which would get the industry’s incentives straight; you’d see much better service and prices if they had to really compete for your dollar. But if a business provides me with something I want and value, I don’t begrudge paying for it, and letting them profit for their efforts.]

  3. Bruce Ryan Says:

    I think your point about the original intent of health insurance is important. The notion of billing insurance for every little stubbed toe is what impedes a reasonable health care cost. By the time the doctor has had a billing person do the paper work for an inexpensive task its no longer inexpensive. Direct pay for all but major medical costs would streamline a lot of the costs out of medicine.
    Second, the costs for malpractice insurance must be an ever increasing burden.

    Those two issues might go some distance in getting to more reasonable medical costs.
    As it stands insurance seems to be forcing the costs of care higher while restraining amounts paid to doctors. So doctors might be inclined to inflate an issue for billing.
    How inserting the Government into the process would lower costs is above my pay grade.

    Importantly, thanks for the words on our Supreme Court. A bit of fresh air.

  4. Gregg Millett Says:

    I just don’t think profit is what motivates me to do what I do or you to do what you do! And from the slaves and the serfs, the mozso and Women! the great struggle has been to spread power and wealth more evenly. And, yes, I do believe that the race for profit is currently destroying the world — even though I do agree with you that a majority of humanity is much better off now than we have ever been.

    [FSR comment: Wow — the world is being destroyed, but we’re better off than ever. The great struggle is not to spread wealth, but to create it.]

  5. WSmith Says:

    I have spent more money on transportation than on health care, and I am a cancer survivor. If I am entitled to health care based on my needs, then I am certainly entitled to be provided with transportation based on my greater need. Please, not a Volt.

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