Houstonians Try To Predict Supreme Court On Health Law

The Supreme Court now has three options: uphold the law, throw out the entire thing, or just overturn parts of it, like the individual mandate to obtain health care coverage.

Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business says the Justices seemed to be leaning his way:

“We hope and think there are five votes to end the mandate and I think the general discussion was that if they do that, then they’ve driven a stake through the heart and soul of this thing and therefore as a consequence the whole thing needs to be turned down.”

Hammond says the law could set a dangerous precedent for even greater government regulation of business, and that businesses will end up paying for the law in the end. 

“Because business pays 62 percent of all the costs of all government. We don’t accept the premise that if the government does it, it doesn’t cost us money. We either pay for it in debt or taxes.”

But Dr. Andrea Caracostis heard something different from the Supreme Court.

She runs the Hope Clinic, which serves the uninsured in southwest Houston. 

She says the law now has a momentum that can’t be stopped.

“I feel optimistic about it. I think that what people don’t realize is that there has been already a lot of change in health care. And I think that also expectations have been raised. I hear from my patients all the time ‘Oh we’re going to have insurance, we’re going to be covered.’”

Pauline Rosenau is a health policy expert at the UT School of Public Health.

She says that unlike Dr. Caracostis, not all doctors support the law.

And, she says that not all businesses oppose it.

“The business community is not a single entity. While small businesses and the Chamber of Commerce were distinctly against it, other businesses were either neutral or quite happy to have that. I think of the businesses in the health sector. I don’t think very many of them were opposed and the health insurers were very, very happy to have their potential market increase by 17 percent in terms of having lots more patients be insured.”

Mark Armstrong is a Houston attorney who represents health care clients on both sides of the issue.  

He says his clients aren’t going to stop planning for the law quite yet.

He also cautioned against reading anything into what a particular Justice said, or didn’t say.

“The Supreme Court Justices don’t necessarily ask questions because they need an answer to it, they may ask a question because they want somebody else to hear an answer on the bench. And we can’t always decide from an oral argument as to what direction the Supreme Court are going just based upon the questions that they ask at oral argument. So really at this point it’s a wait and see.”

Most observers expect the final decision in June.

From the KUHF Health and Science Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.

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