The United States Supreme Court took the world by surprise Thursday, June 28, in its bold 5-4 decision to validate President Barack Obama’s signature achievement — the Affordable Care Act — during his first term in the White House.
Chief Justice John Roberts, in declaring Obama’s health care law constitutional and providing the swing vote in a presidential campaign season, instantly helped to solidify President Obama’s legacy. Opponents of the health care law reminded us during debates that defeating the health legislation would mark the beginning of the end for President Obama. In the words of Republican Senator Jim DeMint, “if we defeat Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo.”
For a conservative chief justice appointed by former president George W. Bush to rise above the chasms and naked partisan politics that have shaped the court and defined it in the eyes of public opinion took a lot of nerve from Roberts.
Certainly Roberts’ decision to validate the most important domestic decision of this historic presidency is a slap in the face of those — and the extreme right — who brought the suit to the court.
The conservative Washington Times screamed in its front page headline the morning after the ruling, “Roberts Court Stuns Nation,” an affirmation of the extent to which the ruling has dealt a blow to the Republican Congressional leadership and its accompanying Tea Party.
But if the opposition and those who were skeptical were reading Roberts’ writings and paying attention to his interviews in the past, they should have seen this coming.
Because not only was Roberts, in casting the deciding vote in the Affordable Care Act tried to shape his own legacy as the administrator of the court, despite his role in the disastrous Citizens United decision, he was sending a message of deference to electoral power to which Obama is the embodiment.
In his preview interviews Roberts warned that the court should not usurp the power of elected officials and must give deference to the decisions made by
those voted into office by the people. He noted that members of the Supreme Court are not elected, thus limiting their power to sometimes override the decisions of those elected. In essence, the court cannot be an activist court as Antonio Scalia personifies in his personal, intense dislike of President Obama and his decisions.
However, what is amazing is that the discussions around opposing the law are not centering on the millions of people who will have access to affordable care.
It is disappointing to see how talking heads beating the drum of repeal are framing the ruling and not focusing on how this health law will save lives, especially those with preexisting conditions.
“The decision was good news for consumers and the health care system. The Affordable Care Act establishes comprehensive insurance market reforms that will guarantee access to health care and protect Americans from catastrophic medical costs,” said Tom Buchmueller, the Waldo O. Hildebrand professor of risk management and Insurance at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.
Marianne Udow-Phillips, lecturer at the U-M School of Public Health and director of the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, a non-profit partnership between the U-M Health System and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan also applauded the Supreme Court rule.
“The Affordable Care Act is not a perfect law. But it is so much better than what we have without it. The court’s decision and careful deliberation affirms that our form of government works, balancing competing views in a fair and thoughtful manner. It is, indeed, a remarkable day in health care,” Udow-Philips said.
The impact of this new law could not be more impactful anywhere than in communities of Color, such as the African American community, where there is a health tsunami.
Clover Campbell, head of the National Newspaper Publishers of America, known as the Black Press of America, underscored the ruling.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday upholding the constitutionality of the historic Affordable Care Act is not only a victory for President Obama, but a major win for all Americans, especially African-Americans and other people of color. The uninsured rate for Blacks is 28.8 percent and 30.7 percent for Latinos, compared to only 11.7 percent for Whites. Although it’s not perfect, the Affordable Care Act will reduce the racial, ethnic and economic health disparities in the U.S. and help our country shed the shame of being the only industrialized country in the world without a national health insurance program,” Campbell said.
“The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) realizes that even with the Supreme Court ruling, this fight is not over. Our 200 publishers are prepared to remain in the fight to make sure that health care is affordable and available to everyone who needs it.”
Nancy Schlichting CEO of Henry Ford Health System, one of the largest health care systems in the country, is among health care leaders in Detroit praising the high court ruling and calling it “a win-win” for patients and the country’s health care system.
“This ruling allows health systems like ours to continue making positive reforms to the country’s health care system that was on an unsustainable track prior to the passage of the Act,” Schlichting said. “We’re thrilled for the nearly 500,000 uninsured people in Michigan who will now have access to affordable health care, many for the first time, which in turn will bring much needed economic relief to Henry Ford and other health care providers that have been coping for years with the growing cost of uncompensated care.”
Schlichting said Henry Ford’s uncompensated care has doubled in the past eight years, from $111 million in 2003 to $210 million in 2011.
Whether they accept it or not, the highest court in the land has sealed the deal, and opponents of President Obama and those rooting for him to fail need to separate their personal dislike of the man from his health policy that will help millions.
Will they also call Chief Justice Roberts a socialist for giving the ultimate blessing to the historic health care legislation that now mirrors what other European nations have done in assuring health care for their people?
Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president who championed a similar health program as governor of Massachusetts, has been forced to tip-toe around this same issue and contradict himself.
A disappointed Romney said he will repeal the law once elected.
It will be interesting to see how this law impacts the election.
Bankole Thompson is editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part book series on the Obama presidency. His book, “Obama and Black Loyalty,” published in 2010, follows his recent book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty” with a foreward by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. His forthcoming books in 2012 are “Obama and Jewish Loyalty” and “Obama and Business Loyalty.” Thompson is a political news analyst at WDET-101.9FM (NPR affiliate) and a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” Sunday evening roundtable on WLIB-1190AM New York and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut.
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