Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the Obama administration's legal representation in the Supreme Court's health care debate, has had better days. From the beginning on Tuesday — the second day of the Court's oral arguments — the hearing did not go well. Verrilli's opening statement was interrupted multiple times and he never was able to get comfortable before being steamrolled by Justice Samuel Alito.
Verrilli was instantly thrown on the defensive, when Justice Alito asked him if he thought there was a market for burial services. Verrilli, almost masochistically, said, “Yes, Justice Alito, I think there is.” He may as well have walked into a brick wall. It was over at this point.
Alito went on to give a scenario of informing random people at lunch in D.C. that they were financing their burial services at that very moment since they would eventually die anyway, that the only way to avoid passing the “cost on to someone else” would be to have burial insurance since “somebody is going to have to pay for it.”
Before Verrilli could finish defending himself, Alito came back for more saying, “I don’t see the difference ... Most people are going to need health care ... Everybody is going to be buried or cremated at some point. What's the difference?”
Verrilli tried to explain that the cost doesn’t shift to other market participants, but Alito would not have it.
“Sure you do,” Alito said. “if you don't have money then the state is going to pay for it ... Or a family member is going to pay.”
Though Verrilli would go on to say that Congress is trying to address the “many billions of dollars of uncompensated costs” being transferred directly to other market participants” because “health care providers charge higher rates in order to cover the cost of uncompensated care,” Justice Alito made his point and his mark on the hearing. Verrilli would never recover and the rest of the day would prove even more disastrous.