Posted by Daniel Moran
I am sure it is of no surprise at this point to anyone that the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” was recently ruled constitutional by the United States Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote. I actually got the news when I was listening to NPR during work, where they originally had said that it had been struck down. Apparently, CNN and Fox did the same thing, and President Obama was watching both of those.
The Affordable Care Act barely passed through Congress and was eagerly signed by President Obama in March of 2010. Key aspects of the ACA were to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, letting children stay on their parents’ healthcare plans until they turn 26, mandating that everyone in the country obtain healthcare or face a penalty, and much more.
The mandate was the centrepiece that was decided on today. Is it constitutional to mandate that Americans have a form of healthcare in order to prevent emergency room visits that our tax dollars go towards covering? According to Chief Justice Roberts and four other justices, yes.
However, it is not because of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which President Obama and Congressional Democrats used as a justification for the mandate, saying that because healthcare is a business that crosses state lines, the federal government can regulate it. It is because of the Taxing and Spending Clause, of all things. The logic behind Roberts’ decision was that the federal government does have the authority to tax people who do not have health insurance. They essentially replaced the word “penalty” with “tax,” which some conservatives are upset about, saying they are playing political, word tricks and legislating from the bench.
One surpsising thing about the ruling was that Justice Kennedy, who 95% of the time (which is no hyperbole) sides with the majority, was in the minority on this very important decision, along with Justices Thomas (who has ties to health insurance companies that opposed healthcare reform), Scalia (who often complains about politicised judges, even though he is by far the most politicised judge in the Supreme Court), and Alito (not much to say about him).
The left, especially President Obama, is very pleased with Supreme Court’s ruling, obviously, calling it a “victory for all people over this country.” The right is extremely unhappy (which is a severe understatement), and Mitt Romney, John Boehner, and many others in Washington are saying that the only remedy now is to repeal “Obamacare.” Of course, conservatives are crying that the Supreme Court is legislating from the bench or being purely political and not being Constitutional in their rulings, because they did not rule in their favour (even though liberals do the same thing, probably just as much).
Romney only wants parts of it repealed, leaving the parts about staying on a parent’s plan for longer, not denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, and more. At that point, nothing will really have been repealed but the mandate, which conservatives in Congress proposed as a replacement for the president’s original plan of having a public option. Their reasoning was that healthcare companies would be able to make up for the loss in profits with the now 30 million new customers, and companies were fine with having that tradeoff.
Boehner and the Congressional Republicans want all of it repealed, yes, even the parts that are clearly beneficial. They immediately called for a measure to repeal the law once the news broke. That vote will take place in the House in a months time. It may pass the conservative House (most likely), but it may not be able to pass the just barely Democrat controlled Senate, and especially not a presidential veto.
This does not settle the issue of healthcare. This was just one stepping stone on the way to a single-payer system. House Democrats even said, if the Affordable Care Act was ruled unconstitutional, that they would propose a universal healthcare system for the United States, what they called “Medicaid for all.” This would more than likely fail in the Republican controlled House. One can only hope come 2012 that true progressives and liberals are put into office and America can finally put forth real, universal healthcare that will benefit everyone. That may just be wishful thinking by a bleeding heart liberal.