Not allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good, progressives should be happy that the Supreme Court dealt the Neanderthal right a huge blow by upholding the constitutionality of health care reform. Now 30 million more Americans will have access to health care, parents will be allowed to keep their adult children on their policies longer, and those with pre-existing conditions can no longer be excluded from coverage among other good results. This is a real, tangible win for scores of Americans, but not all of us.
On the political front, years of insane ranting about death panels, the end of American liberty, and creeping socialism got slam dunked by a conservative judge who joined the liberals in affirming the lion’s share of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. This will not stop the bullshit machine at Fox News and elsewhere from cranking out more lies, but it will most likely help more than hurt Obama’s campaign for a second term. With no alternative to offer, all the right has, as Paul Krugman wrote last week, is prevarication and cruelty. Not an attractive combination even when being presented by the ever-so-suave Mitt Romney.
The great irony of this victory is that, as opposed to what the loonies on the right claimed, Obama’s huge win is an even bigger triumph for the corporate health care industry. Far from putting the President side by side with Eugene Debs in the pantheon of American Socialist heroes, the Supreme Court’s ruling made health care stocks soar on Wall Street.
As Stephanie Mencimer observed in Mother Jones the ruling is a loss for the Tea Party but a win for the Chamber of Commerce. Why? Those in the health care industry are quite happy with the Affordable Care Act minus the public option as it will compensate for whatever financial losses they will take from carrying people with pre-existing conditions by including the individual mandate which will bring them millions of new customers.
Indeed, as Mencimer reminds us:
When Obama and congressional Democrats cobbled together the deal to pass the Affordable Care Act, they were largely successful in getting all of the deep-pocketed key players on board, offering various sweeteners to get the pharmaceutical, medical and health insurance industries to back the bill. That’s probably the only reason that the law passed in the first place. Healthcare reform, in turned out, could be good for business . . .
Conservatives seem to have forgotten that part of the story when they took the law to the Supreme Court and challenged the insurance mandate—and that’s likely why they lost, too. The conservative challenges to the Affordable Care Act are notable for how little support they’ve received from deep-pocketed industry players. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry’s main lobbying arm, filed a brief with the Supreme Court, but it only argued that if the court did find the mandate unconstitutional, it should overturn the rest of the law as well . . . Basically, AHIP and its allies wanted to make sure that if they had to cover sick people, they also got the mandate.
Like the AHIP, the US Chamber of Commerce did not oppose the ACA, nor did the hospital industry or big Pharma. As rational actors, they saw that their profits were not just safe but would be enhanced without the real competition that the public option would have created and hence they could stomach the way the ACA modifies our still profit driven healthcare system.
Thus, with the Chamber standing on the sidelines, the tea baggers got dealt a blow at the hands of a corporate Republican Chief Justice who stuck to the issues at hand, ridiculous socialist hysteria be damned. Business, after all, is business.
What is missing from much of the liberal victory lap analysis, however, is the fact that 27 million people will still not be covered. That was ensured when Obama was forced to dump the public option without support from Republicans or key conservative Democrats who were in the pocket of the health care industry. He could have stood and fought for it, but he didn’t, preferring instead to feather the nests of the health care industry in exchange for their support.
So, Democrats, please stop calling this a victory for “universal health care” as that is a lie that stands in the way of much-needed further progress.
Republicans? Just find a sound-proofed room and go scream about socialism and stomp your feet until you pass out. I also recommend bashing your head against the wall until you see stars (and stripes of course!). Now you won’t be denied health care even if it can be shown that your dementia was a pre-existing condition.
But seriously, while the Supreme Court decision is a good turn, real justice will only be served if efforts to push the envelope further by establishing some variety of single payer on a state-by-state basis or by renewing the push for the public option at the national level. And every indicator would seem to point to this not happening any time soon because, despite the incessant loony raving about big government on the right, Obama has proven loathe to buck his corporate friends as the Affordable Care Act amply illustrates. Thus the events of last week represent a big step in the direction of becoming a more civilized society, but we are still yet to arrive.