By Michael Yudell
So . . . I think that there are three possible explanations for Roberts' vote on the legality of President Obama's health-care overhaul:
Until shown otherwise, we should probably take Roberts at his word, as unsatisfying as that may be. He said he believed that the law was constitutional under the federal government's taxation power.
Though Savage and Fischer are pretty unhinged in their speculation, they do bring up an interesting point. Perhaps Roberts' seizures and possible epilepsy did, in fact, play a role in his vote. University of Pennsylvania professors Ezekiel Emmanuel and Theodore Ruger speculate as much in the New York Times: "Remember his unexplained seizure soon after he became chief justice? If he did not have employer-provided insurance and had to get his own coverage on the individual market, he would be denied health insurance coverage at almost any price. Maybe the appreciation for his precarious insurance status made Chief Justice Roberts more sensitive to the need for the Affordable Care Act and its requirement that insurance be available to all of those with pre-existing conditions."
I'd like to think the chief justice is a fan of AMC's Breaking Bad, a drama that offers one of the most twistedly compelling arguments in favor of not just something like the Affordable Care Act but of the inhumanity and potential repercussions of not providing healthcare for all. Watching Walter White (the show's main character) descend from mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher to brutal drug kingpin might be enough to send even Antonin Scalia to a free medical clinic in France. Diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and unable to afford the best care for his disease, White uses his superior skills as a chemist to synthesize and sell crystal methamphetamine to support his treatment and provide for his family. So begins a depraved journey for White—each of his decisions have grave consequences for his family and friends, as well as for complete strangers, and we bear witness to what happens when one desperate chemistry teacher lacks the healthcare he needs to peacefully live out his days.
Whatever the reason, as someone with one heck of a pre-existing condition (I am a survivor of a rare and sometimes deadly form of lymphoma), I am really glad that Roberts and his four compatriots on the court did what they did. Despite the fulmination on the right, we are all the better for it.
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