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How Not To Write About Tomorrow’s Supreme Court Decision

Earlier today, the Chicago Sun-Times accidentally posted a pre-written story on tomorrow’s pending Affordable Care Act decision in the Supreme Court, which included ready-to-go intro paragraphs for several possible outcomes:

if whole law is struck down

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a historic decision Thursday, struck down President Barack Obama’s signature legislation commonly known as “Obamacare,” dealing a huge election-year setback to the president and calling into question health-care options for millions of Americans.

if part of the law is struck down

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a historic decision Thursday, struck down part of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation commonly known as “Obamacare,” dealing an election-year setback to the president.

if whole law is upheld

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a historic decision Thursday, upheld President Barack Obama’s signature legislation commonly known as “Obamacare,” handing the president a huge election-year victory — and giving Republican opponent Mitt Romney and other Republicans a target for the rest of the presidential campaign.

It is, of course, mildly interesting to speculate upon how tomorrow’s decision could influence whether a man who currently lives in a luxurious house in Washington will continue to live there for several more years or will instead be forced to move to a different luxurious house in Chicago. But you know what matters a whole lot more? Whether the Supreme Court decides to strip millions of Americans of their future access to health care.

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Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans file bankruptcy because they cannot afford their medical bills. Thousands more are locked into jobs their hate because they cannot risk losing their employer-provided health insurance while they have a preexisting condition. According to one study, about 45,000 people die every year because they do not have health insurance. So, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court is deciding tomorrow whether to allow tens of thousands of people to die every year until Congress is able to pass another health care bill. Something, by the way, which took seventy years to accomplish the first time around.

That’s a bit more important than whether or not Barack Obama is slightly more or slightly less likely to keep his job.

Look, the outcome of the presidential election is important. Millions of lives will change for the better or for the worse depending on who occupies the White House next year. But the Supreme Court is not deciding Romney v. Obama tomorrow. They are deciding whether to eviscerate Congress’ single most life-saving accomplishment since the 1960s. That needs to be the lede in any story reacting to tomorrow’s opinion.

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