Labor says nation’s health at stake in Supreme Court battle

The labor movement and its allies are saying that the right wing’s use of the Supreme Court to try to destroy President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act endangers not just the new law itself, but the very health of the American people.

“On nearly every global yardstick that measures life expectancy and health,” wrote’s Sam Pizzigatti today, “the just-published Annual review of Public Health analysis shows the U.S. now ranks either last among major developed nations or close to it.”

Mike Hall, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, said today, “Although the Affordable Health Care Act is not perfect and working family advocates are working hard to make sure it is implemented fairly, it’s a milestone on the path to guaranteed high-quality health care for all and has helped millions of families.”

Republican lawyers and attorneys general from 26 states have converged on the Supreme Court this week, vowing, nevertheless, to kill the law.

“More than 2.5 million young people now have coverage on their parent’s insurance and more than 350 community health centers created by the new law are bringing care to 50 million Americans in underserved areas,” said Emily Oshima, a policy expert at the Center for American Progress who, in an interview, defended the law. “More than 86 million people,” she added, “32.5 million Medicare recipients and 54 million with private insurance have received preventive health care services and some 5.1 million seniors have saved $3.2 billion in prescription drug costs.”

As the oral arguments got underway inside the High Court building in the nation’s capital, the Health Care for America Now Coalition, a conglomeration of labor and community groups, began round-the-clock vigils and demonstrations outside the Court.

The Alliance for Retired Americans is in the process of staging more than two dozen events around the country to spotlight new Medicare benefits connected with the President’s law and to educate seniors on where their elected officials stand on the issue of health care reform.

“The Affordable Health Care Act is helping seniors across the nation better afford to see a doctor and fill prescriptions. The 3.6 million seniors with the highest drug costs have already saved an average of $600 on their prescriptions,” said Barbara Easterling, president of the alliance.

The Supreme Court began what will be three days of oral arguments on the President’s health care reform law this morning.

Right-winger’s want to use the provision of the law that requires people to purchase insurance to shoot down the entire law.

The government’s case is that Congress has the authority to regulate interstate commerce and that the mandate in the health care law is doing just that by regulating how health care is financed. Health care, says the government, represents almost a fifth of the nation’s economy and therefore constitutes interstate commerce.

Today’s arguments before the Court, however, are over whether the right-wing lawsuits against the government can even proceed, because the 1867 Anti-Tax Injunction Act prohibits lawsuits against taxes until they have been imposed.

Tuesday afternoon the court will hear the bigger argument that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority with the new law’s requirement that most people either buy insurance or pay a fine.

Photo: Health care supporters rally outside Supreme Court. March 26. Health Care for America Now (HCAN).


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York. Along with being labor editor, Wojcik is a co-editor of