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Justice Roberts's Health Care Stewardship


  • Len M. Nichols

  • Len M. Nichols, “Justice Roberts's Health Care Stewardship,”


The issues before the Supreme Court, arising as they did out of multiple cases and divergent appellate court rulings, were quite complex, and its final decision will be parsed rather differently by lawyers, health policy wonks, and economists (or metaphysical philosophers, in Chief Justice John Roberts's memorable phrase). This essay will focus on one singular element: did the final ruling enhance or detract from our collective power to exercise stewardship over our health care resources?

Clearly Americans diverge on key features of a desirable society and on the wisdom of using government to achieve even mutually desirable goals. But before politics settles the fate of the Affordable Care Act (and perhaps also the federal role in health policy for the foreseeable future), we should focus on what the Court has allowed us to consider: if we want it to, federal power may constitutionally be marshaled to compel insurers to end discrimination against the sick and to offer more transparent products so the marketplace will better serve consumers.