Giving the Supreme Court a little more credit on health care

I stopped watching TV news in the 1980s after two stories I had firsthand knowledge of were presented in a way that completely twisted reality.  The one that really got my goat was a piece on sexual assaults that were supposedly taking place on the campus of my university. A couple of misguided, narcissistic students had taken to interrupting campus tours for prospective students and parents, in order to proclaim that there were dozens of rapes occurring on campus every month and that the college administration was covering them up. I was editor of the college newspaper at the time, and was well aware that the two students were basing their claims on unverified national reports about the incidence of date rape. They had no actual examples of victims or cover-up’s at our school.

When the local TV news got hold of the story they constructed an exciting, visual montage for their viewers. I still remember them showing a clip of a public safety (i.e., university police) car driving down the street on a rainy night with its lights flashing, as though in hot pursuit of a rapist. In four years, I never saw a public safety car using its lights, so the TV cameraman either got very lucky or asked the officer to stage the scene.

All of this is a much too long way to write that I’m skeptical of what I see or read. In yesterday’s post, I reported on an Associated Press article about how the Supreme Court may not fully grasp the essence of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), aka ObamaCare. The article quoted plaintiff’s attorney Michael Carvin saying that wellness, prevention and contraceptives are things a 30 year-old would never need. That perspective is demonstrably false.

It occurred to me that a Jones Day partner selected to argue the case of the decade before the Supreme Court is unlikely to be a fool, so I emailed him to ask about the veracity of his quote and whether it was taken out of context. Here’s his reply:

“The quote is somewhat out of context. My point (and exact quote) was that the Bronze Plans do not protect against the catastrophes that render healthy people unable to pay their medical bills, but provide for services that are routine and are usually fully compensated absent any insurance, i.e., entail no cost-shifting.”

(As a legal scholar he italicized i.e., since it’s Latin. I can respect that.)

So the issue is a bit more complex than described in my post. The Bronze plans have some characteristics of a catastrophic plan –in that they have high deductibles– but also have some of the elements of comprehensive plans, in that they cover routine services.

It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court justices understand the nuances of PPACA. But despite the impression provided by the AP article, I now have no doubt that counsel does.

April 12, 2012