Supreme Court Should Allow 'Obamacare' To Stand
Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act in order to solve a dire problem Americans face. Health care in this country is abysmal, and the United States arguably offers its citizens the costliest and least effective health care among the developed countries of the First World. Life expectancy in the United States is a pathetic 50th in the world. In addition, the United States is the only civilized nation that does not guarantee all of its citizens health coverage of some kind.
While Obamacare is a flawed law, it is still an important first step to addressing the health care crisis in this country. The law features an “individual mandate,” which requires the noninsured to purchase basic insurance or face a fine from the government. This provision would eventually ensure that for the first time in its history, the United States would have full health care coverage for every single citizen. Yet it is also the individual mandate that is currently being debated by the Supreme Court.
Many believe that the mandate is an unconstitutioinal overreach by Congress. Such proponents of the law’s overturn claim that Congress does not have the right to force American citizens to do anything. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia compared forcing Americans to buy health care to forcing Americans to eat broccoli.
This comparison, however, is completely ludicrous. The constitution grants Congress the right to provide for the common good of the country and to regulate large commercial enterprises. Congress certainly has the right to regulate health care coverage, but the individual mandate does pose some problems. The constitutional legality of a mandate is dicey at best, and one’s interpretation of a mandate depends on one’s overall view of the Constitution itself.
The very ambiguity of the constitutionality of the individual mandate is why the Supreme Court needs to let the law stand. Congress has taken action to finally solve a pressing problem in this country, and the Court needs to respect the actions that Congress has taken. If a future Congress feels that the law should be overturned, then it is up to that Congress to pass a subsequent law to undue the effects of the Affordable Care Act. But the prospect of nine unelected judges systematically dismantling the work of elected officials is frightening.
The American public greatly desired health care reform and subsequently elected officials to Congress who would follow through on that promise. If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, the progress finally made to our health care system will be irrevocably set back.
With the poisonous atmosphere currently in Washington, it is foolish to think that a replacement bill will reach a President’s desk any time soon. Do we really want to go back to the days where people with pre-existing conditions could get dropped on a whim by their health care provider? Do we really want to stop the march toward universal healthcare coverage for every single citizen?
Republicans have turned Obama’s law into a caricature of some evil, socialist plot. But the reality could not be further from that myth. The truth is that the Affordable Care Act is an extremely moderate proposal, much more moderate than most liberals in Congress would have liked. Conservatives originally proposed the individual mandate as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s health care plan while Bill Clinton was president. The fact that Republicans are now attacking the individual mandate as an affront to liberty is laughable and speaks to their desire to simply oppose anything favored by President Obama.
If the Supreme Court cares a lick about its credibility, it will do the sensible thing and let the Affordable Care Act stand. History will judge the law’s merit, and if it turns out that down the road the law needs to be replaced, a future Congress can take up that task. It is not the job of nine unelected justices to negate the work of members of Congress elected by we the people.