Einstein Marks Constitution Day 2021
Each year Einstein celebrates Constitution Day on September 17. As an institution that receives federal funding, our offices of legal counsel and of grant support offer members of the Einstein community an opportunity to learn about the document that frames our nation’s democracy. This year we have selected two recent academic papers discussing how the U.S. Constitution affects health equity in the United States:
- Sara Rosenbaum & Sara Schmucker, Viewing Health Equity through a Legal Lens: Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Vol. 42, No. 5, October 2017.
- Scott J. Schweikart, How to Apply the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act to Promote Health Equity in the US, AMA Journal of Ethics, March 2021, Volume 23, Number 3: E235-239.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives federal funds or other federal financial assistance. These journal articles discuss how, in the 2001 case Alexander v. Sandoval, the Supreme Court held that Title VI does not authorize individuals to file suit alleging that federally funded programs are acting with discriminatory impact. The articles also discuss the effect the Supreme Court’s ruling has had on the provision of healthcare in the United States.
We invite you to read the papers and to consider your own thoughts on the following issues. If you’d like a free copy of the Constitution to aid you in understanding the portions of the document addressed by these considerations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. These will be provided to all interested parties on a first come, first served basis while supplies last.
Amend the Constitution?
The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee a right to healthcare. But the Constitution can be changed, through the procedure for amendment described in Article V of the Constitution.
Should the Constitution be amended to guarantee a right to healthcare? What would a right to healthcare look like? And could advocates for such an amendment garner the support necessary for ratification under Article V?
Pass Federal Laws to Improve Healthcare?
Congress can make laws based only on the limited powers given to it in the Constitution. Congress has some authority to regulate healthcare, as it has with Medicare, Medicaid, HIPAA, and the Affordable Care Act, for example. Should Congress pass new laws, or amend existing laws, to improve healthcare?
Congress also has authority to pass anti-discrimination laws. For example, Congress passed Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pursuant to its authority under the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause (in Article I, section 8). These laws prohibit certain types of discrimination in public accommodations and employment.
Congress has the authority to place reasonable restrictions on the use of the funding it provides as well. For example, in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Congress prohibited discrimination in federally funded programs “on the ground of race, color, or national origin.” Should Congress amend the Civil Rights Act to better prevent discrimination in the provision of healthcare?
“Overrule” the Supreme Court?
Congress has no right to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court. As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in Marbury v. Madison, the famous 1803 Supreme Court case, courts have the power to “say what the law is.” Therefore, when the Supreme Court says what a federal law means, Congress cannot change that interpretation.
But Congress can change the law itself. For example, shortly after the Supreme Court held that the federal laws under which a longtime employee named Lilly Ledbetter sued her employer did not entitle her to win her claims of pay discrimination, Congress amended the law to allow plaintiffs like her to prevail.
Along similar lines, Congress could amend Title VI to allow this sort of lawsuit with regard to the provision of healthcare. But Congress has not made this change in the 20 years since Alexander v. Sandoval. Should Congress do so now?
Not So Trivial Questions; Win Prizes!
The first five individuals to send correct responses for all five trivia questions below will receive $40 in gift cards. Please email email@example.com, indicating #s 1 through 5 and your answers by no later than Monday, September 20. (Hint: The answers can be found in the articles and in the Constitution!)
- Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin by any entity receiving this from the government.
- Which Congressional Act is Title VI a part of?
- Which Constitutional amendment provides an individual equal protection under the law, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, nation of origin, gender, sexual orientation, or religion?
- The absence of socially unjust or unfair health disparities is referred to as what?
- Which branch of government can restrict the effects of Title VI and the Fourteenth Amendment, through its interpretation of the laws?
Posted on: Friday, September 10, 2021