By Matthew E. Milliken
June 26, 2015
And now, I continue the story of my trip to the eye doctor…
When the examination was complete, the doctor walked me over to the spectacle showroom. I heard him asking two assistants (opticians? I dunno) who was up; one replied that neither was. “You’re not the only one in this office with a sense of humor,” I said to the doctor as he left. We both smiled, as did the optician (technician?).
Looking at the frames on display, I was quickly drawn to a pair that closely resembled the ones I’m wearing now. I didn’t like the fact that they had Nike swooshes on the side, but after perusing two or three whole cases, they were the spectacles to which I was most drawn.
Some of the rectangular frames were attractive, as were some that lacked rims on the bottom of the lenses, but I was afraid they’d look goofy on me. And so I went with the first — really, the only — pair that I’d picked.
I paid for the exam and the new eyeglasses, which will be ready in a week or two; I also scheduled an examination for June 2016. I walked out of the office with an appointment reminder card, a business card and a refrigerator magnet. (I wanted to have the latter two so I could call the doctor in case of emergencies; I put the information they bear into my cloud-based contact database in the afternoon.)
I realized that I needed to drive to the ATM. This was going to be a simple enough trip, since just turning right out of the parking lot would bring me by my bank.
I turned on the car, adjusted my windows to obtain my preferred driving configuration and switched on North Carolina Public Radio, WUNC 91.5 FM. Based on the discussion that was taking place on the Diane Rehm Show, I deduced that the Supreme Court had ruled for the government in King vs. Burwell. The ruling ensuring that the individual health insurance subsidies would be distributed nationwide, as the designers of the Affordable Care Act had intended, despite a sloppy drafting error that Obamacare opponents argued should severely limit the availability of these funds.
This lawsuit against health-care reform (known as Halbig in one of its incarnations) had always seemed to me to be rather flimsy. The case relied upon an extremely circumscribed reading of a single statutory provision; in order to succeed, judges had to ignore both other provisions that directly conflicted with this small portion of the text and the stated intent of the law.
Moreover, had the plaintiffs won the day, it would have created a great deal of turmoil. Forget the fact that the withdrawal of subsidies, especially if done suddenly or retroactively, would plunge the health-insurance market into chaos. Such a ruling would likely result in significant harm to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans. In a joint brief filed in January, dozens of public health experts and the American Public Health Association warned the Supreme Court that the loss of subsidies could result in nearly 10,000 extra deaths per year. (The projection was based on this study of Massachusetts health-care reform.)
But that wasn’t going to happen. For the second time in three years, the Supreme Court had upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional, and this time, the vote in favor of the law was 6-3. I know that Obamacare isn’t perfect, but this outcome seemed to be quite desirable.
This was an excellent way a start off Thursday: A good report from the eye doctor and a positive result from the Supreme Court. Little did I know what would emerge the following morning…