Chief justice John Roberts angered his conservative colleagues on the U.S. Supreme Court with a last-minute switcheroo, according to CBS News, when he joined the high court’s liberal wing in upholding the healthcare reform law.
The 4 conservatice justices – Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas – were so put out by the defection that they refused to join Roberts even on issues they agree on, according to the news channel.
Kennedy led a "desperate," month-long campaign to entice Roberts back into the fold, according to "2 sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations."
"He was relentless," 1 source told CBS. "He was very engaged in this."
Roberts was initially prepared to rule the individual mandate unconstitutional, but changed his mind at some point between the close of oral arguments in March and June, when he presented his opinion on the historic legislation requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.
The chief justice may have been swayed by the spate of media coverage in May containing dire warnings of the repercussions should the court strike part or all of Obamacare, the news channel speculated. Roberts is said to be acutely sensitive to public perceptions of the court and its place in history.
"It was around this time that it also became clear to the conservative justices that Roberts was, as one put it, ‘wobbly,’ the sources said," CBS News reported.
The chief justice found a way around his view that the individual mandate is unconstitutional by framing it as a tax, thereby giving Congress the power to enforce it. Now Republicans are planning to use that as their club to beat back Obamacare, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Should those efforts fail, the government is facing a heavy-duty load of deadlines to implement healthcare reform. Some doubt that the deadlines can be met, according to Kaiser Health News.
"Except in a few states, it’s impossible to do this in the time allowed – it’s going to have to slip," Joseph Antos of the conservative American Enterprise Institute told KHN.
"I believe we’re on schedule to implement the Affordable Care Act in the manner in which the statute contemplates," countered Mike Hash, interim director of the federal Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight.
For their part, physicians in an informal poll conducted by heartwire were largely pleased with the Supremes’ ruling.
"I think the ACA decision is a win for patients and, in the long run, a win for healthcare. We need to move toward a healthcare system that provides health insurance for all in this country. And we need to evolve away from fee-for-service payment and toward one that promotes longitudinal high-quality and efficient care. In the short run, this will create challenges for physicians, hospitals, and others to adapt to this new system, but it moves us in the right direction. The ACA decision is just the first step down the right road," Dr. Eric Peterson of the Duke Clinical Research Institute told the website.