Health Care Reformers Celebrate As Obama's Affordable Care Act Is Upheld
In a joint press conference held by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Health Care for America Now (HCAN), SEIU President Mary Kay Henry described the scene in Washington before and after the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“There was an incredible tension in the air and a lot of anticipation, and then there was this thrilling kind of ripple through the crowd when we understood that the Supreme Court had decided to uphold the law," Henry said. "We broke into tears and started jumping for joy and there was one part of the crowd that started chanting ‘U-S-A, U-S-A!’”
Henry, along with HCAN Executive Director Ethan Rome, celebrated this monumental decision that qualifies health care to nearly 30 million uninsured Americans, some of whom will have insurance for the first time in their lives.
The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as "Obamacare," includes major provisions such as guaranteed coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, allowing young adults under 26 years old to stay on their parents’ plans and a ban on lifetime coverage limits. Its most important component, the individual mandate, was ruled constitutional as it was deemed a tax. The mandate would require all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty.
Congress called the payment a penalty rather than a tax, the Associated Press reported. Chief Justice John Roberts said that among other indications it's a tax, "the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation."
Those, among other benefits the act will bring, gave cause for celebration over a Republican agenda, according to Rome.
“Today wasn’t just a victory for the working and middle class families but also a victory for families and small businesses in the face of extraordinary attacks from the Republicans and their corporate sponsors," he said. "We were outspent 3 to 1. The folks who took us to the Supreme Court spent millions and millions of dollars to try to take down this act.”
Republicans have already vowed to repeal the Supreme Court decision on July 11, with presidential hopeful Mitt Romney leading the pack. In a press conference after the ruling, Romney called Obamacare a “bad policy yesterday” and a “bad policy today,” labeling the law a “job killer.”
Henry and Rome acknowledged that the opposition will come full fledge to battle Obama’s health care plan but they are looking to shift their attention to creating jobs and reaching the American people.
"In the next 24 hours, SEIU members just like me are going to be out in our communites to inform Americans," said nurse advocate Cathy Glasson. "We are going to continue educating our patients and reach out to our families and friends and our fellow Americans about the importance of this decision."
Rome said that while the Republicans pour their dollars into repeal, his reformers will focus on the people that matter.
“There are a hundred million people who are already benefitting from the law and it’s going to change the lives of millions and millions of people, and today that was just given the stamp of approval by the highest court in the land and it doesn’t get much more complicated than that.”