A newly released CBS News/New York Times poll concluded that nearly 70 percent of Americans want the Supreme Court to overturn either all of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) or declare the individual mandate unconstitutional. In the poll, 41 percent think that President Obama’s healthcare law should be overturned, with another 27 percent saying they want the court to keep the law but overturn the mandate.
Nearly 25 percent of respondents want the entire law upheld. The margin of error was three percentage points.
The percentage that wants to see the entire law declared unconstitutional has risen since April when 37 percent said they wanted the court to overturn the full law; 29 percent said the mandate should be overturned; and 23 percent wanted the law upheld. The new poll shows that Republicans are much more likely to want the entire law overturned than Democrats, with 67 percent wanting the law to be overturned compared to just 20 percent of Democrats. While 42 percent of Democrats say they want the entire law to be upheld, 42 percent of Independent respondents want the Supreme Court to throw out the law entirely. Tea Party members want to see the entire law overturned — 70 percent back that.
Writing in the Washington Post, Ezra Klein says that “Bottom line: If you’re Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts, and you want to rule against the individual mandate but you’re worried about a public backlash, this poll calms your fears.”
The most anticipated Supreme Court ruling in years, it has the potential to impact the presidential race between Obama and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney. If elected, Romney has promised to repeal “Obamacare.” Obama says the law will provide insurance to nearly all Americans, and cut medical costs over the long term.
Of course, public opinion is not the only driver in the high court’s decisions. But the justices certainly are aware of the fact that Americans keep expressing their dislike of the ACA. The court will base its decision on the strength of legal arguments and the justices’ interpretation of the Constitution. The justices wouldn’t allow themselves to be influenced by popular opinion, would they? Dahlia Lithwick, who covers the court for Slate, isn’t so certain. According to Lithwick, “If public opinion was strongly in favor of the Affordable Care Act, I don’t think this law would be in question right now. But because public opinion has been so muddled – polls even this week suggest that some people like some parts of the law but most people don’t like all of it – I think it might even embolden the Court to take that step of striking it down.”
Merrill Goozner, writing for MedCity Times, takes a more optimistic view, believing that the ACA will survive even if the individual mandate is thrown out. According to Goozner, “It was deemed necessary to make the private marketplace for individual and small group insurance policies more efficient and affordable. It worked by expanding the pool of participants, which would lower insurance costs for everyone. How does that work? If families that buy insurance have to pick up the tab for people without coverage when they fall ill, the cost of every policy goes up. Estimates for uncompensated care provided to the uninsured range as high as $116 billion a year–enough to cost the average family $1,000 a year in higher premiums, according to the brief to the court submitted by the Obama administration.
“Supporters of the Affordable Care Act have passionately endorsed the individual mandate, largely based on those economics. Jonathan Gruber, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist who helped Romney design the state law that became the model for ‘Obamacare,’ claims the mandate makes all the other insurance reforms in the law possible. In particular, it enables the requirement that insurance companies sell policies to everyone no matter what their health status – known as guaranteed issue – at rates that do not discriminate based on health status – dubbed community rating. Without a mandate, young and healthy people, knowing they could sign up at any time, even if there was a late enrollment penalty, ‘would take their chances… rather than sign up for insurance that they don’t fully value,’ Gruber wrote recently in a brief for the Center for American Progress. ‘As these young and healthy individuals leave the (state) exchanges (where policies will be sold), they will raise prices for those left behind, causing even further exit – and potentially unraveling the entire market.’”