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Obama's health reform hangs in the balance


22 May 2012

If the Supreme Court strkes down Obama's health care reform, it would be its most infamous decision since Bush v Gore, says Professor Lawrence Gostin .
If the Supreme Court strkes down Obama's health care reform, it would be its most infamous decision since Bush v Gore, says Professor Lawrence Gostin .

With hospital bills the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the United States, a dilution of President Obama's healthcare reforms by the Supreme Court would be its worst decision in more than a decade, says the Director of the World Health Organisation's Collaborating Centre on Public Health Law.

"If the court strikes down the President's signature domestic achievement it would be the most infamous decision of the Court since the election-deciding Bush v Gore," says Professor Lawrence Gostin from Georgetown University, in Sydney for the Sydney Law School's Distinguished Speakers Program.

His address tomorrow - President Obama's Health Care Reform: The Supreme Court and the Future of the American Health System- will examine a policy hanging in the balance and certain to be a key issue during this year's presidential campaign.

The Supreme Court is considering whether the individual mandate in the President's Affordable Care Act, requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance, is a breach of the US Constitution. It is also considering the constitutional validity of requiring states to accept an expansion of Medicaid, America's health program for the poor.

"If the Court strikes down the individual mandate or the Medicaid expansion, it will have to decide whether to let the rest of the extensive health care reform continue, or whether it would strike down the whole Act," Professor Gostin says. "This case is the most important Supreme Court case in the history of American health care. If the court strikes down all or part of the act there may not be any health care reform for many years to come."

A long-time campaigner for health reform, and a leading member of President Clinton's Health Care Reform Task Force, Professor Gostin says the Affordable Care Act is both constitutional and indispensable but further praise is measured: "In my view the reform does not markedly lower the cost of health care and it does not improve quality very much. Its biggest advance is to have America join the civilised world in providing affordable access to health care for virtually everyone."

The Supreme Court's weighing in on the Act has a huge bearing on an election campaign where health is likely to be top of mind. "The Republicans are running hard against the health care law. If the Court strikes it down they will say President Obama acted unconstitutionally," says Professor Gostin. "If it upholds the law, the Republicans will make it the key factor, after the economy, in the campaign."

Professor Gostin is the Linda and Timothy O'Neill Professor of Global Health Law, Georgetown University, Washington DC, where he directs the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. He will be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Sydney during his visit, on 25 May.


Event details

What: President Obama's Health Care Reform: The Supreme Court and the Future of the American Health System

When: 6 to 7pm, Wednesday 23 May, followed by a cocktail reception

Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus. See map and directions

Cost: $25, Sydney Law School alumni $20, University of Sydney students $10

Book now online


For more information, visit the Sydney Law School website.


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Media enquiries: Jocelyn Prasad, 02 9114 1382, jocelyn.prasad@sydney.edu.au