March 26, 2012
Neal Katyal, who as acting US Solicitor General defended the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s flagship health reform in lower courts, has warned in an interview with AFP of “grave” and “profound” consequences if the Supreme Court accepts a challenge to the law.
Q:) Experts say that this Supreme Court challenge is historic. Why so?
A:) The case that’s coming before the Supreme Court which challenges Congress’s Affordable Care Act is undoubtedly a significant case. It’s rare for a president’s signature initiative to come before the Supreme Court and be challenged as unconstitutional.
Q:) The requirement for each individual to have health insurance coverage is central to the president’s reform. Can the law survive without that measure?
A:) It’s a hard thing to imagine that the law, that all of the rest of the law would survive if the individual mandate is struck down, because Congress when they passed the Affordable Care Act, said: ‘We want to get rid of discrimination against those who have pre-existing conditions to make sure that insurers are going to insure everyone at a fair cost’. And if you get rid of the provision that says everyone has to carry insurance, then you’re really effectively undoing the logic of the ban on discrimination of those with pre-existing conditions.
Q:) In what way could the individual mandate by judged “unconstitutional”?
A:) The challengers to the reform say that never before has the government forced people to buy a product. We’re not forcing you to buy a product. Health care is something all Americans consume, and you don’t know when you’re going to consume it. You could get struck by a bus, you could have a heart attack and the like. And if you don’t have health insurance, then you show up at the emergency room. The doctors are under orders to treat you — as any Western, any civilized society would do. And who pays for that? Well, ordinary Americans pay for that. They’re the ones who have to pick up the tab for those who don’t have insurance. We are not regulating what people buy, we’re regulating how people finance it.