Advocates wait to see if work was worth it

Published in POLITICO

In less than 24 hours, the health care advocates whose lives have revolved around the health reform law will know whether the law has a future.

As they wait for word from the Supreme Court, they’re all finding different ways of saying the same thing: They’re a bundle of nerves.

Families USA’s Ron Pollack described himself as “nervous.” Former HHS exchange boss Joel Ario said he’s “on pins and needles.”

And MIT health economist Jonathan Gruber, who advised the Obama administration on the health care law, said it is “pretty nerve racking, but I think the best way to describe it is sad.”

“I’m just sort of depressed that we’d end up in a situation where defeat is expected,” he said, later adding: “This should be the kind of outrage that followed other politically motivated decisions multiplied. But instead of the outrage you saw after Bush v. Gore, I’m afraid what you’re going to see is more like ‘Yeah, isn’t that a shame.’”

But even though many ACA supporters are bracing for a defeat, some aren’t being kept up at night.

One of those is NAIC consumer advocate Tim Jost, who’s known for his speed at digesting and translating the reams of regulations published by HHS. He’s not losing sleep, he said, because “I never sleep.”

Another is John McDonough, a former staffer for Sen. Ted Kennedy who helped craft the ACA and the Massachusetts reform plan. He said he was “fine” because “there’s nothing to do [except] just kind of get ready,” which he did Wednesday afternoon with a hot-yoga class.

The American Cancer Society’s Stephen Finan said his “blood pressure’s normal,” but that’s because he has experience with defeat. “I’ve been punched before,” he said.

But former CMS Administrator Don Berwick sounded upbeat Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m an optimist by nature, so I’m maintaining optimism,” Berwick said.

And Health Care for America Now’s Ethan Rome expressed the same kind of confidence that Obama administration officials have been meticulously maintaining in their public comments.

“I’m feeling confident because I think that this is too big for this court to play politics with, and I think that they will uphold the law because it’s constitutional,” he said.

But a supporter of the law with one health care organization said they’re prepared for whatever happens.

“We have our little fridge stocked with champagne and sangria and beer, and at 10:30 tomorrow we’re going to be drinking no matter what happens,” the advocate said.

Brett Norman contributed to this report.

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