“The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause, that Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.” –Chief Justice John Roberts June 28, 2012 Majority Decision
Today is a truly momentous day for Democracy. The United States Supreme Court has upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on a 5-4 vote and the individual mandate on a 6-3 vote. Here is a New York Times overview of the Healthcare bill:
In March 2010, Congress passed a sweeping health care bill pushed by President Obama. The law put in motion the creation of a nationwide insurance system that would sharply reduce the number of Americans without coverage, a goal that Democratic presidents had unsuccessfully pursued for 75 years.
Passage came by the narrowest of margins and without a single Republican vote. In 2012, the law survived a second test, when the Supreme Court largely upheld it after considering a series of challenges to several of the law’s key provisions.
The most important court challenge centered on the so-called individual mandate, a requirement that all Americans obtain health insurance or pay a fine. Republicans challenged it as an unconstitutional expansion of federal power; the government, they said, could regulate commerce but could not force people to participate in it. The Obama administration argued that it was needed to fix basic flaws in the insurance marke and that it was crucial to provisions like the requirement that insurers accept all comers without regard to pre-existing health conditions.
In March, the court held three days of hearings on the challenges, which included arguments over whether the case should not be heard until the mandate went into effect in 2014, whether the law’s expansion of Medicaid was too coercive to the states, which administer the program, and whether the entire law should be thrown out iffif the mandate is.
It was one of the most significant cases heard by the court in decades, with implications for the presidential race as well as the future of health care coverage. The decision is also likely to be a major factor in shaping the legacy of Chief Justice Roberts, as well as Mr. Obama, whose signature domestic initiative was on the line.
During the hearings, the Obama administration’s views faced sharp questioning by justices in the court’s conservative majority.
The benefits of the Affordable Care Act are abundant. The law will extend healthcare coverage to 40 million uninsured Americans in 2014, but here are a few of the laws benefits that Americans are already enjoying today according to The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society:
- The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will provide $5 billion in immediate federal support for a new program to provide affordable coverage to uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions.
- The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will create immediate access to re-insurance for employer health plans providing coverage for early retirees.
- The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will require insurers to permit children to stay on family policies until age 26.
- The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will prohibit group health plans from establishing any eligibility rules for health care coverage that have the effect of discriminating in favor of higher wage employees.
- The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will require coverage of prevention and wellness benefits and exempt these benefits from deductibles and other cost-sharing requirements in public and private insurance coverage.
It is unfortunate that because of today’s political polarization there are only winners and losers in politics, everyone must choose a side and stick to that side no matter how far out of the mainstream the views of their sides are, and this goes for both political parties. Today’s healthcare ruling lets stand the first (nearly) universal healthcare law enacted in this country. For the first time, millions of Americans will not have to worry about getting sick and being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, that is something all Americans should be able to cheer for. Is the law perfect, no, but like Social Security and Medicare before it, it lays the foundation for a better tomorrow.