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[September 13, 2012]

Implications of the Affordable Care Act to Be Explored at SUNY Downstate September 20

The John Conley Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities at SUNY Downstate Medical Center will present a lecture on the United States Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Thursday, September 20, 2012, at 4:00 pm.

Guest speaker David Orentlicher, MD, JD, will talk on “Broccoli, Medicaid, and Mandates: Implications of the Affordable Care Act,” a reference to the key objections raised by critics of the Act. If the federal government can require people to buy insurance because it would be good for their health, then, it is said, the government can require people to buy all sorts of things that are good for their health – like broccoli. Similarly, if the federal government can force states to spend billions of Medicaid dollars to address the health care needs of their residents, it can force states to spend billions of dollars on other social programs.

According to Dr. Orentlicher, the Court's 5-4 vote was a strong counter to these arguments. “Affordable Care Act critics greatly exaggerated the implications of the Act for federal power,” he says. “Allowing the Act to largely go forward preserves the ability of Congress to regulate on behalf of the public welfare while presenting no new threats to individual liberty or state autonomy.”

But what about the Court’s holding on the Medicaid expansion portion of the Act?  Didn’t the justices recognize that Congress was trying to deny states their rightful authority over healthcare policy? “Even though the Court ruled that the Medicaid expansion was optional, it will be surprising if any states actually refuse to participate,” says Dr. Orentlicher. “Rather than putting ‘a gun to the head’ of the states, Congress made an offer that’s too good to refuse.”

As the Presidential campaign moves into full swing, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and healthcare law are certain to be center stage: Dr. Orentlicher's lecture promises a lively framing of the issues.

Dr. Orentlicher, a frequent commentator on health law for The New York Times, CNN, and other media, is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor and co-director of the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He was a member of the Indiana House of Representatives from 2002 to 2008, and has also served as director of the Division of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association.

This event is co-sponsored by the Brooklyn Free Clinic and Physicians for a National Health Program at Downstate. The presentation will take place in Lecture Hall 1–A, Health Science Education Building, 395 Lenox Road, Brooklyn, NY 11203. For more information, call 718-270-3780.   


SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.

SUNY Downstate ranks eighth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.