In one of the most highly anticipated rulings in recent history, the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Obviously, this decision has huge implications for almost everyone. The court understood the high stakes and held an historic three days of oral argument back in March. Since then, the talking heads have done their best to predict what the court would do. I certainly couldn't have predicted that Chief Justice John Roberts (conservative George W. Bush appointee) would side with the four liberal justices and that he would write the majority opinion.
The legal analysis has only just begun, but Chief Justice Roberts concluded that the individual mandate is legally valid under Congress's power to impose taxes. The court also ruled that Medicaid can be expanded but that the states cannot be stripped of their Medicaid funds if they decided not to expand Medicaid.
As a personal injury lawyer, I'm interested in this opinion for a couple of reasons. First, I am a small business owner and I'm hopeful that the health care law will allow me to provide my employees with affordable health insurance. Second, I represent many injured people who have been injured in accidents, who do not have health insurance. If all of my clients had health insurance, they would have access to better medical treatment and have less anxiety about how to pay the bills.
My clients are often caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to getting medical treatment. They have been injured as a result of someone else's negligence and the negligent party and his/her insurance company should pay for that medical treatment. However, the negligent party's insurance company is not going to pay until settlement or judgment. So, that leaves my client with trying to figure out how to pay for medical treatment that ultimately should be and will be paid by the wrongdoer. Further, my clients who have health insurance usually net a larger settlement because health insurance was there to pay medical expenses using their lower negotiated rates. Obviously, my uninsured clients are sometimes at a disadvantage when navigating the process of bringing a personal injury claim, but as their attorney I can also negotiate to get the lower rates for them.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Large parts of the law do not take effect until 2014, so we have some time until any big changes take place. In the short term, look for the political rhetoric to heat up. Mitt Romeny declared this morning that his first item of business as President would be to repeal Obamacare. A lot could change between now and 2014.