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Yesterday was not a good day for the Obama administration, namely Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, or for the Affordable Care Act. Toobin of CNN gives a great rundown of why it was so bad but here is as the Washington Post described it as well,
The Supreme Court’s conservative justices appeared deeply skeptical Tuesday that a key component of President Obama’s sweeping health-care law is constitutional, endangering the most ambitious domestic program to emerge from Congress in decades. In an intense interrogation of the government’s lawyer, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the justices posed repeated and largely unanswered questions about the limits of federal power. At the end of two hours, the court seemed split on the same question that has divided political leaders and the country: whether the Constitution gives Congress the power to compel Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. The answer is likely to come from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy or perhaps Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Both men fully joined in the rough 60 minutes of questioning for Verrilli. But they indicated that the case might be a closer call for them than for their colleagues.
Portugal was the third European Union member to seek a bailout. As with Ireland, Portugal’s woes are considerably less than those of Greece and yet its austerity measures it had to implement to achieve its bailout, and avoid bankruptcy, are no less painful. And the austerity measures’ effect on the publicly financed health system is interesting. In an admittedly poorly written piece The Guardian newspaper attempts to attribute a rise in mortality figures for the early part of this year to cuts in the health system’s budget.
[O]pposition politicians blame budget cuts for a thousand extra deaths in February, 20% more than usual.
“They hiked the fees in January…Now a visit to the emergency room costs €20 instead of €9. A consultant costs €7.50. People are angry.”
In the meantime, the government blames flu and cold weather for February’s surprise jump in the mortality rate, but newspapers have begun to publish scare stories about people who claim to have been priced out of the public health service.
Not knowing the specifics it would be difficult to attribute recent cuts to a 20% increase in the monthly mortality rate. That said it isn’t difficult to imagine austerity and cuts in services significantly influencing people’s access to healthcare in countries like Portugal and Greece and Italy and Spain.