Monday, October 28, 2013

In Review: Unprecedented - The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare

It's not everyday that a friend and law school classmate publishes a book that overlaps with my profession. In fact, I don't think it has ever happened before. So, I guess you could call it . . . wait for it . . . Unprecedented! <- See what I did there. My Mason Law classmate, Josh Blackman, published Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare.

Unprecedented tells the tale of the 2012 blockbuster Supreme Court case, NFIB v. Sebelius (aka the constitutional challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare"). Prof. Blackman takes us from the casual conversations that spawned the strategy for the litigation, to the scramble of state attorneys general to initiate the litigation, to the lower court decisions, and ultimately to the Supreme Court case itself.

Prof. Blackman does a particularly good job of explaining the context of the litigation, and the history of health care reform leading up to the ACA. Readers will learn about the Reagan-era (yes, Reagan) legislation that made the individual mandate a necessary component of the ACA, the early conservative (yes, conservative) mandate proposals, and the similar flips and flops from prominent liberal proponents of the ACA (including a trip down not-so-distant memory lane of Obama's opposition to "Hillarycare's" mandate).

I thoroughly enjoyed Unprecedented from beginning to end. Prof. Blackman was present for a number of "behind the scenes" events, which provides a personal touch to a sometimes-sterile topic. Although I have greater familiarity with the law in this area than most, I still think it is accessible and understandable to laypeople (or attorneys who have only the vaguest understanding of it). The book strikes a nice balance of providing in-depth coverage while not getting bogged down in minutiae.

I don't think Blackman's ideology is any secret (I mean, he once had a John Galt license plate). That said, I think his commentary stayed pretty objective, although he did include some critical analysis of the law and the courts' decisions. I think people of all political stripes will enjoy Unprecedented and learn about health care reform along the way.