(Mint Press) – According to documents released Friday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Obama administration worked in close consultation with the pharmaceutical industry in order to pass The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The $150 million dollar advertising campaign was augmented by an additional $70 million dollar lobbying effort by two separate Political Action Committees (PACs), helping to sweep “Obamacare” into law in 2010.
The documents show close ties between the Obama administration and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the largest pharmaceutical lobbies in the U.S. The constitutionality of the divisive Health Care bill is set to debated by the U.S. Supreme Court before the close of this session, with a verdict expected later this month.
National health care debate
The unprecedented release sparked calls for greater transparency in the Obama administration by GOP lawmakers. Speaking about what many Republicans are calling “hypocrisy”, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the House subcommittee that conducted the investigation, issued a statement saying, “President Obama promised the most transparent administration in our history and railed against third-party advertising. We now know that Obama pressured the pharmaceutical industry in secret meetings to fund third-party advertising in support of Obamacare.”
However, White House spokesman Eric Schultz was quick to respond saying the document release was politically motivated. “Republicans, who previously admitted this is not serious and merely a partisan effort to distract the president’s reelection campaign, are now attempting to recycle [an] old story that was well covered during the original debate three years ago… this House Energy and Commerce Committee has spent over $1 million in taxpayer dollars and the past 16 months making baseless, politically driven allegations — but has done almost nothing to move legislation that would create jobs or grow the economy,” Schulz added.
While the sides spar over the collusion between big pharmaceutical companies and the Obama administration to pass the Affordable Healthcare Act, the broader debate over the legality of specific mandates in the healthcare law remain central to the national discourse on the issue.
Mandating healthcare unconstitutional?
The key complaint of those opposed to the Afford Healthcare legislation is a mandate for U.S. citizens to purchase coverage by 2014, or face a financial penalty. The contention by the opposition regards the ability of Congress and the president to issue “mandates” forcing Americans to purchase a good or service.
According to national polls, Americans remain highly divided over the law, with 50 percent disapproving according to a March 2012 CNN/ORC International poll. Forty-three percent approve of the law, while the remaining 7 percent remain undecided.
Support for the bill has improved by 6 percent since its passage, with many independents and undecided Americans deciding to support the landmark health bill in recent months. Complicating the matter further is a large number — 47 percent saying they want specific provisions of the health law to be overturned but not the entire bill.
These highly divided national opinions were reflected in the earlier Supreme Court deliberations held in March. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking in support of the law, said, “Those who don’t participate in health care make it more expensive for everyone else. It is not your free choice to stay out of the market for life.”
However, the more conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy said the federal government “is telling an individual he has the obligation he must act and purchase insurance.”
The central question alluded to by both justices — “Does the Federal Government have the right to regulate the economic ‘inactivity’ under the Commerce Clause of the constitution?” That is to say, can the government use the commerce clause to mandate an individual to purchase something? The Commerce Clause, found in Article I, Section 8 clause 3 reads, “Congress shall have the right to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian Tribes.”
Even if the item in question is healthcare, a necessary service that virtually all Americans will need at some point in their lives, millions have answered the question with a resounding, “No.”
The Supreme Court is expected to render a verdict later this month. However, UnitedHealth group, one of the largest insurance providers, announced on Monday that it would voluntarily keep elements of Obamacare in a company statement. Throughout the debates on the constitutionality of government regulation, a central problem remains unaddressed: the growing number of Americans without health insurance.
Fifty million uninsured? In America?
Indeed the healthcare issue remains unresolved as more than 50 million Americans are uninsured. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 6 Americans lack any healthcare coverage according to 2010 figures. Millions more fall into the category of being “underinsured”, meaning they have some medical coverage, but lack essential access to complete healthcare.
These figures, not surprisingly correspond closely to rising poverty levels across the U.S. More than 14 percent of Americans now live in poverty as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is up from the 11 percent of Americans living in poverty during the 2000 census.
Since the 2008 economic downturn, an increasing number of young Americans have become dependent upon their parents for healthcare coverage. According to the Commonwealth Fund, 13.7 million Americans ages 19-25 rely on their parents’ health care plan. The Fund, which analyzes health care issues, also reported that if not for the Affordable Care Act, 6.6 million would likely not have been able to join their parents’ plan because they were part-time students or had already graduated from a degree program.