Dissecting the Supreme Court’s “Obamacare” Decision

by on June 28, 2012 · 0 comments

in Health, Politics

In writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts is careful to note that upholding the act is not the same as endorsing it.

The Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative accomplishment of the Obama Administration in a 5-4 decision, a majority that included conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.  This is a big day for the Obama Administration, and for Democrats nationwide.  This was the day that the Affordable Care Act—an imperfect law with definite shortcomings, but a good start toward healthcare reform nonetheless—was ratified as the law of the land once and for all.

Since day one Republicans have assaulted the Act as unconstitutional on several grounds, spreading lies and misinformation about the Act in a propaganda campaign to ensure public opinion is squarely against it.  Lies such as calling it a “government takeover of healthcare,” or excoriating the “death panels” that the law supposedly contained, or that those who already had insurance through their employer were going to lose it, or railing about the trillions of dollars it will add to the budget deficit.

None of those things are even remotely true.  In fact, they’re all demonstrably false, but that hasn’t stopped the right wing from passing it all off as gospel.

In the 2010 midterm election, Republicans swept into power largely on the strength of their propaganda campaign against “Obamacare,” a sweeping piece of reform legislation modeled directly after the healthcare system in Massachusetts.  That system, which included the controversial “individual mandate,” was taken directly from the hard right wing Heritage Foundation, who first published the concept in 1993 in response to the Clinton Administration’s attempt at a massive overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system (which, of course, failed).

The individual mandate is the proviso that everyone who didn’t already have health insurance through their employer and can afford to purchase healthcare must do so.  Those who cannot afford to purchase insurance would receive government subsidies based on their level of need in order to help them do so.  Those who still could not or refused to buy insurance would be levied a fine in the form of a tax to be collected by the IRS (with incredibly weak enforcement provisions, I might add).

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee (unofficial) and former Governor of Massachusetts, implemented this very system as governor.  In 2009 Romney went on “Meet the Press” and specifically endorsed the idea of an individual mandate on a national basis.  In 2007, Romney praised the Massachusetts law as “a model for the nation.” In fact, since they helped write the Massachusetts law, former Romney staffers were brought in to consult on the Affordable Care Act.

Upon the ACA’s passage in 2010, it didn’t take long for Republican state Attorneys General—26 of them, to be exact—to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law on two primary fronts:  That the individual mandate itself is unconstitutional, as is the requirement to expand Medicaid programs or face the loss of federal funding.

Today, albeit by a narrow decision and one that would normally be the subject of much consternation and bring more charges of extreme partisanship upon the Supreme Court, the Republicans were nearly completely rebuffed in their assertions.

For the rest of this analysis, please visit the San Diego Free Press.

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