Today, I and the rest of the Rock the Vote interns were lucky enough to be on the steps of the Supreme Court as the decision on “Obamacare” came down. Despite the maelstrom of protestors that engulfed First Street and the reports of conflicting decisions, eventually the news came to light. A 5-4 decision upheld the majority of Obama’s signature piece of legislation, including the crux – the individual mandate – while the provision that would have expanded Medicaid was watered down in terms of its enforcement.
Probably the most surprising fact of this decision was how the votes broke. As was expected, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan voted in support of the law while Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas voted in dissent. The shocking result came from the vote of the two remaining Justices – Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted for the law, and Anthony Kennedy, who voted in dissent. In fact, it was Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, who pushed the reason that the individual mandate was upheld. Chief Justice Roberts was the one who said that the individual mandate was a tax, which has backing in American history, and therefore under Congress’ jurisdiction under Congress’ power to tax. The tax ruling comes from the fact that people would have to pay a penalty if they do not have health insurance.
This ruling came out of nowhere. Republicans believed that they would win and Democrats believed that they would lose. This was evident on the steps of the Supreme Court, with the conservative and Tea Party protesters much louder than their liberal counterparts. As the actual verdict came to light, the dynamic flipped and the liberal protesters began to cheer as the conservatives stood firm, trying to grasp a plan to reverse the decision.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has already scheduled a vote to repeal the law once again, set to occur on July 11. Governor Romney stoked the partisan fire in his response to the decision, standing behind a podium that said “Repeal & Replace Obamacare.” “What the court did not do on its last day in session is what I will do on my first day if elected President of the United States,” he said. “And that is I will act to repeal Obamacare.”
Romney structured his argument around the fact that he believes Obamacare is “bad policy” and “bad law” due to its economic shortfalls, such as increasing taxes, killing jobs, and adding to the deficit. Romney said that he would keep some parts of the law, such as maintaining insurance for people with preexisting conditions.
He framed the upcoming election as a referendum on the President and his health care bill, offering an ultimatum of whether Americans want an era of bigger government or a return to past times.
“Our mission is clear,” he said. “If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we must get rid of President Obama and our mission is to do exactly that.”
President Obama’s speech was more in tune with the non-partisan ruling, highlighting the parts of the bill that are almost universally well-liked. He mentioned that young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ plans until the age of 26, that over 5,000,000 seniors have saved $600 each on prescription drugs, and that “no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin.”
“Today’s decision was a victory for people all across the country whose lives will be more secure,” he said.
Obama then responded directly to Romney’s speech and its partisanship.
“What we can’t afford to do now is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to where things were,” he said.
The President also stated his reasons for passing the bill, saying “I didn’t do this because I thought it was good politics. I did it because I believed it was good for this country.”
Putting partisanship aside, this bill has a lot of good in it. It helps insurance companies and it helps the American public. The expansion of health care is paid for, according to Massachusetts Governor Duvall Patrick, “because it is a public good.” It will allow over 33 million Americans to get health insurance and cover preventative care such as checkups and mammograms. It will keep costs down by not forcing those with insurance to subsidize emergency room care for those without and will establish universal standards.
Here’s what it does for you:
- If you’re under 26 and on your parent’s insurance you can stay covered.
- All insurance plans will still have to offer preventive care, including free birth control.
In 2014, young people will have even more access to health care:
- Health insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against those with a pre-existing medical condition.
- Those who earn under $43,000 a year will receive tax credits forpurchasing health insurance.
- Those earning under $14,000 a year will have access to Medicaid, iftheir states choose to expand access.
This ruling allows the law and its benefits to stay in place while allowing its shortfalls to be reevaluated and perhaps redone. Politicians should move beyond the contentious politics and take the example of Chief Justice Roberts and the Supreme Court and do what is right for the country’s health.