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Care to Wager on the Supreme Court’s ACA Ruling?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Some people can’t wait for the U.S. Supreme Court announcement of its ruling on the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act (aka health care reform law), so they are betting on the outcome.

Intrade, a popular online trading exchange, provides a platform for people to wager on whether or not future events will happen. More than 21,000 people have put money on the following: “The U.S. Supreme Court to rule individual mandate unconstitutional before midnight ET 31 Dec 2012.” As of this writing, Intrade gives a 74.4 percent chance that the mandate will be struck down.

The Dublin-based site lets individuals buy shares if they think an event will happen and sell if they think it won’t. Events have defined end points. For example, if the Supreme Court rules the individual mandate unconstitutional, all shares will jump to $10 each and shareholders will be paid. If the opposite ruling is handed down, the shares will settle at $0. The site posts a probability of an event happening by converting share prices into a percentage. When shares of the Court’s ruling were selling at $7.81 per share, the probability was 78.1 percent.

The Supreme Court ruling event is one of the most active on the site this week. Other hotly traded markets are “Barack Obama to be re-elected President in 2012,” a corresponding market for Mitt Romney, and “Will the U.S. economy go into recession in 2012?” The site goes beyond politics, too, speculating in categories such as climate and weather. For example: “Arctic sea ice extent for Sept. 2012 to be less than 4.3 million square kilometers.” Entertainment is fair game as well: “The Dark Knight Rises to gross OVER $175.0M in opening weekend.”

Bettors on Intrade took a stab at the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in 2008, predicting electoral college votes almost exactly: They missed one of Nebraska’s votes, and forecast that McCain would win Indiana and Obama would take Missouri.* The two states each went to the opposite party, but their electoral vote tallies canceled out and InTrade’s prediction was nearly spot on. The site also boasts 97.89 percent prediction accuracy for the 2012 Academy Awards. For the movie industry’s big night, bettors traded almost $1.3 million and the winningest individual made $22,133.

Will the site’s Affordable Care Act prediction hold true? Less wager-happy spectators can simply await the court’s decision.

Image: Dice via Wikimedia Commons

*Correction (06/26/12): The original sentence was edited after posting to correct an error.

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About the Author: Marissa Fessenden is an intern at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @marisfessenden.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. fyngyrz 2:53 pm 06/26/2012

    Sure. ACA will go through, as is. Why? Because almost all SCOTUS rulings that affect corporate interests, favor corporate interests — citizen’s united and the recent Montana reprise, the approval of government stealing property under eminent domain for corporate use, the amazing overreach of surveillance and record keeping and marketing and classing and insuring access thereto. It’s all about the money. Cui Bono, eh?

    Bottom line here is that the ACA, instead of being the single payer operation we elected Obama with the “hope” of getting done, is a huge gift from heaven to the insurance companies and the entire medical and near-medical section of the economy. That tells you where the companies are lobbying, and that in turn tells you how the vote will most likely go.

    SCOTUS, in recent years, has been trampling the constitution left and right, and in *this* case, they don’t really have to even step outside previous rulings. Like the legislature, they do what they do because of factors entirely outside their oaths to support and defend the constitution. It may not be how they rule 100% of the time, but it’s so close as to always be the way to bet.

    Commerce clause? Inverted. Ex post facto laws, explicitly forbidden to both state and federal operations? No problem! We can do *anything* to a felon! 4th amendment? Let’s quibble about what “reasonable” means (even though its defined for them right there in the text of the 4th.) Unless you’re within 100 miles of the US border. Then “reasonable” doesn’t even apply, because, uh, well, yeah, your mama.

    Our government: out of control.

    Link to this
  2. 2. SiaraDelyn 3:38 pm 06/26/2012

    5-4 Conservatives (big stock holders like the justices on the SC) preserve current system. Oops– did I say “conservative”? Of course the SCOTUS is above politics.

    Afterwards, FAUX TV announces that this is a big victory for America because business executives will make more money. The issue of public health is barely even considered.

    Link to this
  3. 3. bucketofsquid 3:15 pm 06/28/2012

    While I agree that our government is essentially disconnected from the people they exploit, the ACA was primarily upheld by the SCOTUS. Only 1 portion was thrown out. After the elections in November a slightly altered Congress will have to fix it.

    Link to this

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