SCOTUS Consideration A ‘Pyrrhic Victory’ Regardless of Ruling

By Gregg A. Masters, MPH

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!

A P/Y/R/R/H/I/C victory is defined by Wikipedia as:

(/ˈpɪrɪk/) is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.

An army of professional, neo-professional and outright ‘amateur’, including skin in the game patients and consumers, healthcare insiders, ‘pigs at the trough’ (of $2.8 trillion ‘healthcare market’) channel partners, and a vast stakeholder constituency with ‘interests’ in the outcome of the SCOTUS decision, are minimally scrambling to position themselves for what’s to come, if not attempt to influence the Court’s ultimate ruling.

As noted in a previous post, 75% of Americans believe the SCOTUS process will be influenced by ‘politics’ vs. the ‘legal merits’ of the arguments submitted to the Court. Ergo, the battle has now entered a new phase to shape the national narrative and ultimately position the consumer friendly public perception of ‘the Act’, or as pejoratively tagged, ‘ObamaCare’ by those less inclined to read vs. deploy cute sound bytes for public consumption.

In an updated post, I will supply some credible contextual pieces to support the following claim:

The President has already won the narrative regardless of the Court’s ruling. We are where we are perceptually for political not legal reasons. Yet, the nature of the malady is apolitical, it is fundamental and structural.

Any attempt to rule in whole or in part the Act as ‘unconstitutional’ will face severe narrative “head winds” and political fallout as very popular line item provisions of ACA are repealed or otherwise diluted.

Meanwhile, a tasty morsel of consumption is offered here c/o Chas Roades, Chief Research Officer of The Advisory Board, titled: ‘Five Quick Reactions to the Supreme Court Hearings.’


Join the Conversation


  1. You write: 75% of Americans believe the SCOTUS process will be influenced by ‘politics’ vs. the ‘legal merits’ of the arguments .

    Agree. The process has become hotly politicized.

    Ironically, though, aren’t you throwing fuel on this very fire when you write further:

    I will supply some credible contextual pieces to support the following claim: The President has already won the narrative regardless of the Court’s ruling.

    Hey, don’t complain that the process is politicized and then go politicize it some more. 🙂

    1. Hi Vince!

      Thanks for your comment, and may I say ‘busted?’

      Ok, here’s how I see it:

      The legal challenges are political, nearly all of the plaintiffs are via red states with Republican Governors, and their appointed AG’s. The leading edge of this waste of tax payer dollars is none other than the State of Florida, led by the ‘neo-criminal’ as in the architect of record fines paid by Columbia/HCA under the leadership of then CEO now Governor Rick Scott. So the correlation between political agenda’s and SCOTUS agreeing to hear this case has guaranteed its underlying DNA as a de-facto culture war.

      However, the bottom-line is the Republican alternative to ACA is Paul Ryan’s faith based do nothing and let the market, enabled by HSA’s, HDHP’s correct the excesses. Seriously can you look at your mother, grandmother and their cohorts and actually think they can become ‘prudent buyers’ of healthcare? That they as individuals can negotiate better deals with docs, hospitals, imaging and surgery centers than a health plan with 100s if not millions of members under their plan? No way Jose. This is a myth.

      Perhaps over time, the empowered consumer will build and assert a tipping point that will somehow restrain and reduce the cost of healthcare and physician services to ‘fair value’, but don’t hold your breath.

      So this is a war of narrative. Given its complexity and vocal opponents with mind numbing sound bytes of misinformation have held the upper ground on a law that most American love when presented with the line item details of consumer benefits, it needs foot soldiers to chop wood and carry the water of facts. So count me in as someone who willing to show up and do his part against this disingenuous campaign of dis and misinformation!

      Thanks again for your comment. Always welcomed!

  2. I can imagine the court cutting off our collective noses to spite the President in this chess game. However, I also see enough people losing coverage, should the law be overturned, to form the content of political TV ads for the Democrats. Ultimately, the system, as Chas Rhoades aptly described, is broken and cannot be sustained. I think if the Act is toppled, the Democrats will be in a better position to advance universal, single payer healthcare the next time around. Really.

    1. Hi Carmen and thanks for chiming in!

      So agree! It’s kind of like, watch what you pray for. Getting ACA to SCOTUS was a monumental political achievement. If, and how the law is compromised if not repealed in part will have real world impact on a lot of people who actually vote. As has been reported elsewhere the ACA is essentially built upon some rather traditional republican principles. The problem was it was offered by President Obama. If ACA is compromised it will put single payer back on the table in a big way.

      Thanks again for your thoughts…

  3. Greg,

    A though-provoking piece, thank you.

    I agree that the process is highly politicized, though not sure that Obama has already won the rhetorical war. the nations still seems divided, and the polls don;t tell me a whole lot at this point.

    I honestly think that the current legislation, while unquestionably not without many positive features, does not go nearly far enough. Perhaps this semantic skirmish over tax or not will end up pushing the next iteration toward single payer. Or maybe it is just my naive hope.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you for the comment Marya.

      I agree with you and will extend my thinking behind the claim via another blog post. For now, I simply rest on the fact that there is ‘no, there there’ as to ‘Republican alternatives’ to PPACA. Faith based reliance on ‘market fairies’ and Atlas Shrugged remedies to reverse market excesses are pure fantasy.

      The process from start to finish at the Senate Finance Committee was nothing short of theater of the absurd as the very moderate Max Baucus in essence crafted a bill drawn from historically proffered Republican principles. The sole difference is the bill was presented for consideration under Obama’s request for the Congress to reason out pathway to reform the market short of the public option or worst yet ‘single payer.’ This ill advised opposition will only accelerate the movement towards single payer and I don’t believe that is their agenda. Ergo, the ‘watch what you pray for’ admonition.

      Thanks for your thoughts (an encouragement!!).

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