Unless you were under a rock yesterday, you have probably heard by now that the Supreme Court held up the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act also known as “Obamacare.” This legislation has been at the forefront of the Republicans’ efforts to discredit just about everything that President Obama has done since being elected. Detractors claimed that the legislation’s requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance went against our personal freedoms. Ironically, a lot of these detractors were politicians who receive major donations or have a stake of ownership in insurance companies.
In addition to mandating the purchase of insurance, the Affordable Care Act prevents insurance companies from refusing to insure people with preexisting medical conditions and forces employers of over 50 people to offer healthcare coverage. It allows parents to keep their children on their insurance plans until they turn 26–a move that is undoubtedly popular among the 23-25 year olds who were required to have their own policies under previous legislation.
The most surprising detail about the Supreme Court’s ruling was the breakdown of the votes. Chief Justice John Roberts ended up siding with liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan instead of going along with fellow conservatives Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. He based his decision on the notion that the mandate on healthcare coverage could be considered a tax.
There are still plenty of detractors–mostly Republicans–who feel that it is unfair that the government is mandating a purchase. Michelle Bachman even claims that “for the first time in the history of the country, Congress can force Americans to purchase any product, any service.” Although I am not well-versed on the legal nuances, there are plenty of purchases that have been mandated before. All drivers must be covered by auto insurance. (Try getting pulled over by the police without auto insurance and see what happens.) All physicians must be covered by malpractice insurance. Physicians have been complaining about this for years. This of course doesn’t attempt to include the many governmental services that come out of our Federal, State, and Local taxes.
At least the battle over the Affordable Care Act will have to shift away from the concept of constitutionality to the real issue that his been masked all this time–lack of adherence to conservative ideology. Conservatives tried to disguise their overall dislike for the measure by claiming that they were doing this country a favor by preventing a measure that violates our civil liberties. Now that the Supreme Court has made its ruling, these conservatives are forced to say “We just don’t like the Affordable Care Act because we don’t think the government should have the right to tell us what to do and how to spend our money
even though we have no problem defining marriage by our religious ideals and spending a lot of tax revenue on military expenses.” (Actually it would be more accurate to say “We don’t like the Affordable Care Act because the Obama administration is backing it even though it is remarkably similar to legislation that passed in Massachusetts while our Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney was governor.”)
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s decision should be viewed as a major victory for the Obama administration. After all, detractors have lost their ability to criticize his policies based on constitutionality alone. It is now virtually impossible for detractors to label President Obama as a socialist without inadvertently criticizing the Supreme Court’s ability. Given that the majority of the justices on the Supreme Court have conservative leanings, I am doubtful that any of President Obama’s opponents would see such criticism as wise. (Then again, “wise” is not a word that should be used to describe a lot of political maneuvers.)
For now, I expect the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act to give President Obama a much-needed boost in his efforts toward reelection, but we’ll just have to wait and see what other things Mitt Romney and the Republicans are able to come up with (meaning throw at him) between now and November.
For more information, check out this article from CNN.com.