Supreme Court ruling means mom’s life or death

A California mother of two in the crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court defending President Obama’s health care reform law says she would not be alive today were it not for the Affordable Health Care Act.

S.D. Ward, in an impromptu press conference on the steps of the Court, said the health care reform law is the reason she is now getting treated for her stage-three breast cancer.

This morning the justices inside began their third straight day of hearing arguments on the legal challenge from 26 Republican attorneys general to the Affordable Health Care Act.

Ward was uninsured when she was diagnosed last year. “If you have a pre-existing condition,” she said. “There’s no private health insurance company that’s going to welcome you aboard and take care of you.”

One of the provisions of the new health care law already in effect is the creation of a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan.

“One of my friends discovered the plan,” said Ward. “Ten days after applying I had health insurance and I am in treatment for stage-three breast cancer. Because President Obama signed the Affordable Health Care Act, I get to keep my house, I won’t go bankrupt, my kids are going to go to college and I’m going to live.”

Labor, its allies and a wide range of groups supporting health care reform are angry that the Supreme Court deliberations now underway will not weigh the problems faced by Ward and millions of others like her. They are also angry because many of them backed the Affordable health Care Act, rather than a single-payer “Medicare for all” plan in order to win support from Republicans who wanted to keep private health insurance companies involved in the delivery of health care in America. They are angry because those same Republicans have now turned against the individual mandate they once supported in order to kill health care reform altogether.

Yesterday potential Supreme Court swing voting justices, asked questions in the first hours of oral arguments that, by their skeptical nature, buoyed Republican opponents of reform. “Do you not have a heavy burden of justification,” Justice Kennedy asked Solicitor General B. Verrilli Jr., “to show authorization under the Constitution?”

But later in the day Kennedy asked questions that made supporters of the law happier. He seemed to accept an argument critical to the Obama administration’s case: that people who don’t buy health insurance are still in the health-care market, because they will need care at some point. “They are in the market in the sense that they are creating a risk that the market must account for,” Kennedy said. Prior to that some conservative justices had said that while Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce it di not have the power to create such commerce for the purpose of regulating it.

Some of the Republican-type partisanship coming from other conservative justices, however, led observers to believe that conservatives on the court, as was the case in the Citizens United ruling and in the ruling where they gave an election to George Bush over Al Gore, simply don’t care how much they damage the reputation of the Court, as long as the Right Wing prevails.

“If the Affordable Care Act goes down – especially if it suffers the same schismatic 5-to-4 blow sustained by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law in the Citizens United case,” wrote Politico today, “critics will accuse the Roberts Court of rigging the game and covering their power play with constitutional doublespeak. The case is also a critical test of Robert’s role as the leader of his own court: In decades past, chief justices have labored mightily to secure something approaching consensus on major decisions.”

Photo: Lisa Dowling rallies in front of the Supreme Court in Washington in support of the Affordable Health Care Act.   Charles Dharapak/AP


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