Think President Obama will win re-election come November? Don’t bet on it—well, at least literally. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is reportedly expected to ban U.S. traders from betting on the 2012 election, the New York Times reports:
The Dodd-Frank Act... mandated that the agency ban event contracts tied to terrorism, war, gambling and other matters contrary to the “public interest” ... the agency on Monday is expected to say that election derivatives, while a novel idea, have the potential to improperly affect election results. One problem, the agency argues, would arise if a candidate’s supporters bought huge positions and drove public opinion in their favor.
The ruling could scuttle the plans of one Chicago-based derivatives exchange to offer futures contracts on the election results. It’s “unclear” whether the new law will also apply to Americans betting on the Ireland-based Intrade, the Times adds.
The Atlantic’s Matt O’Brien had the smart idea of looking at how Wall Street reacted to this week’s Supreme Court hearings on the health reform law. And it seems that markets are betting on one of two outcomes — either the law will be allowed to stand or be repealed entirely.
Insurance companies have predicted that one possible outcome — in which the court strikes the mandate, but allows the rest of the law to stand — could lead to doomsday. If there was no penalty for not buying insurance, the thinking goes, only those who expect high health care costs would buy policies. That would likely mean the cost of health insurance would spike. More expensive premiums would, for insurance companies, likely mean fewer customers and less revenue.
Coming out of this week’s argument, however, health insurance investors actually look incredibly bullish on the Affordable Care Act’s future. O’Brien points out that Aetna’s stock soared in the 24 hours since oral arguments wrapped up. And that actually looks to be true for the five largest health insurance companies, all while the Dow Jones average has remained pretty flat:
This could, as O’Brien points out, be really good news for Obamacare — or really bad.
Reader Robert Howard asks, “If ACA’s individual mandate is repealed, could Romneycare be challenged/repealed as well?”
The short answer is: No, it couldn’t. The question in front of the Supreme Court is whether the federal government can require most citizens to carry health insurance. Even if the justices decide the federal government cannot do that, Massachusetts will still have a law on its books requiring all Bay State residents to buy coverage. That law will not be touched by a Supreme Court decision.
Don Berwick spent 18 months as the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, making him the point man for the Obama administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Later today, he’ll announce his first post following his service in the White House: Berwick will join the Center for American Progress as a senior fellow.
We spoke yesterday afternoon about how the Affordable Care Act has changed our health-care system, what challenges it faces in coming years and why Berwick’s time as Medicare administrator may be his only stint in government service. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for grammar and clarity:
Sarah Kliff: The Affordable Care Act is hitting its two-year anniversary. Tell me a bit about how you think it’s changed the health-care system over the past two years.
Don Berwick: It’s profoundly changed the conversation for the good. The momentum in the country towards an expansion of coverage is underway. I think people have an understanding of how important that is, to have insurance be accessible. The second part of that, the improvement of our health-care delivery system, is going to be slower for people to notice. It will take time to build and have people understand how it’s changing.
It’s also not only the programs contemplated within the law that are changing and gaining momentum. I definitely see reflections of what we want to see in health care. There’s faster progress in the private sector. I think the Affordable Care Act has changed the mentality of the nation, towards one where we realize we can provide better care.
Politico’s Josh Gerstein has one of the more comprehensive — and more entertaining — run-downs of the case law that the Supreme Court will rely on when it opens oral arguments on the health reform law Monday:
No previous Supreme Court case is a perfect match for the Obama health care law, but a 70-year-old ruling about an Ohio wheat farmer comes closest.