By: Tony Best
The illness is serious and the medicine is powerful.
Just as important, its effects will take time to relieve the pain of the affected souls. The ailment, if you will, is the inability of more than 30 million people in America to get health care insurance coverage that would prolong life and allow them to get much needed care. The medicine is the Affordable Care Act, ACA, a historic measure on which the U.S. Supreme Court pronounced a week ago, giving it a much needed constitutional green light that would allow it to proceed unhindered by the slings and arrows of Republicans and Tea Party adherents.
By a 5-4 margin, the judges who sit on the nation’s top court told the world that President Barack Obama and the lawmakers who backed the Affordable Care Act had acted properly when they approved the measure in 2010 and sent it to the White House for the President’s signature.
By upholding the constitutionality of what is often called Obamacare, the judicial branch of America’s rulers left in place the individual mandates – the requirement that all Americans have or buy health insurance beginning in 2014 and pay a penalty of about one per cent of family income; forces insurance companies to provide coverage for the children of clients they insure up to the age of 26; prevent insurers from denying coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions; offers coverage to millions of people across the country; offer a panoply of health information about the choices available to us; actually lower the cost of care, especially to the poor; bar insurers from limiting the coverage provided to children under the age of 19; and established health insurance exchanges that offer coverage to anyone seeking it; and offers a financial helping hand to make insurance more affordable to poor people.
All of these provisions have a simple goal: to keep people alive by making access to care easier and more affordable.
Still, they are but tentative steps towards universal access while controlling costs to governments, employers and individuals.
Asked to comment on the ruling, a Caribbean immigrant in Queens put it all into perspective when he quite rightly directed his gaze onto the opponents but insisting that “after all the sound and fury of proposed elimination, the nation’s top court has put an end to the pseudo constitutional attacks on Obamacare and that’s vital for people like me and my relatives in need of health care services.”
At first glance that reaction my seem deeply personal to him, but his response mirrors the situation facing at least 30 million who didn’t have insurance but who can now get it, thanks to Obamacare. Quite frankly, it boggles the mind that so many people were either opposed to it outright or were lukewarm to its vital provisions.
A commentator put it in perspective when he noted that unless you belonged to the “tiny class of wealthy Americans who are insulated and isolated from the realities of most people’s lives, the winners from the Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with – and very likely, you.”
In essence, almost every person in the country stands to reap some kind of benefit from the measure. Yet, we have some public figures, elected representatives at federal, state and local government levels who wish to deny the benefits to people who put them in office. They simply wanted to pursue their misguided notions of the need to control the size of government and allow the free enterprise system to function according to their own rules.
Some things are clear about Obamacare. The first is that as we go along with its implementation, gaps will emerge that must be filled. The reforms must as done as expeditiously as possible. In other words, it’s not a perfect model. Secondly, by seeking to rein in costs while making care affordable to framers of the Affordable Care Act showed that they were a responsible lot. Third, it was the only game in Washington when the President first put it on the table. The Republicans, whose main aim was then and remains today to deny President Obama a second term failed to come up with an alternative that would expand access to care. The callous, almost unscrupulous nature of ACA opponents was a clear indication that the needs of the average American weren’t a blip on the radar screen of those who masquerade as representatives of the people.
What’s shameful about the whole thing is that far too many elected officials simply ignored the realities of life in the country. They pay lip service to democracy and to the nation’s greatness but they would sacrifice the well-being of their neighbors to satisfy misguided notions of the importance of reducing the size of government while preserving the welfare of a handful of rich persons.