About that health care ruling…

As sporadically as I’ve been posting, I could not pass up the chance to gather some thoughts about the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act.

I need to spend more time with the opinion and the dissents, but a couple of things are clear: Chief Justice Roberts deliberately obfuscated the Commerce Clause argument in order to find the individual mandate exceeded that authority. He’s a smart man. He knows that the market being regulated is the health care market, not the health insurance market. He knows that inactivity in the health care market is not, and can never be, an individual decision. Any person, however young and healthy, can end up in intensive care at any moment. And except for a very few of the wealthiest Americans, no one can guarantee, absent health care insurance, that they can pay for their care.

Thus requiring every American to have some sort of insurance is a necessary and proper application of congressional authority in an area in which it has clear constitutional authority to regulate.

Roberts refused to admit that. He also, thankfully, refused to further tatter the Supreme Court’s reputation by overturning on such specious grounds the signature legislative achievement of a duly elected American president and Congress. So he plodded through a torturous line of reasoning, holding that the penalty could be construed as a tax. “The payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy health insurance; the payment is not limited to willful violations, as penalties for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation.” While he refused to acknowledge that Congress has the authority to compel the purchase of health insurance, he did grudgingly admit that it does have the authority to tax those who do not buy insurance.

The second thing that’s clear is that Republicans will continue to lie about a law they were determined to kill, not because they disagreed with the need for health care reform or the law’s approach to it (which, let us not forget, was modeled after the Massachusetts’ law championed by none other than Mitt Romney), but because they wanted to deny President Obama any victory, even a victory that benefited tens of millions of Americans. Romney continued to lie, calling the Affordable Care Act a job killer (even though the number of health care jobs has increased dramatically since it was passed and estimates are that the only impact it will have on employment is prompting some people to work less because they won’t have to work as hard or as long to afford health care). He said it increased the deficit, though it actually decreases it. He said it cuts Medicare, when actually it only cuts Medicare’s rate of growth. He said it does nothing to lower the cost of health care, even though everything in the bill is aimed at lowering the cost of health care — and even though health care costs have risen at their lowest levels in decades since the bill was passed.

Republican lies have been effective. Most Americans don’t like Obamacare, polls show. But polls also show that — except for the individual mandate, which is what makes Obamacare fiscally feasible — Americans love the individual components of Obamacare. They love that their children can remain on their insurance policies until age 26. They love that insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or put lifetime caps on coverage.

So Republicans will continue to lie, and they will continue to talk about repealing and replacing Obamacare. And they will continue to be extremely vague about what they would replace it with. Because their goal is not to do anything about the mess that is the American health care system. Their goal is the political defeat of President Obama, and affordable health care for all Americans is acceptable collateral damage in that fight.

The conservative reaction to Obamacare has been completely at odds with the actual content of the bill. They foam at the mouth about how it’s a socialist takeover of one-fifth of the American economy — even though it is an extremely moderate (even conservative) free market-based approach to reform filled with measures that Republicans not only once embraced, but ones that conservatives developed, including the much-maligned individual mandate.

Americans need to ignore the political bluster and focus on what the law actually does, and the benefits it will actually provide. Then they need to ask why one party is so hell bent on taking those benefits away and mischaracterizing the legislation that provides them.

It is not about liberty, because Obamacare detracts from no person’s liberty. It is not about policy, because Obamacare is filled with policies that conservatives agreed with. It is about partisan politics and the lust to regain power, by any means necessary.

Such lust should not be rewarded in November.




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