It now looks like the Supreme Court will do what the rest of the country has been doing for a hundred years -- kick the health care can down the road. If the Court -- as it now appears it will -- rules the individual mandate unconstitutional, but also rules that the mandate is severable from the entire act, then the country is left with health care reform legislation but no way to pay for it.
In less partisan times, the next step would be for Congress to figure out a way to pay for the law that it had passed. But the Republicans have made it very clear that they are going to do nothing to revive this law, and seem dead set against any sort of meaningful health care reform. Even in the best of times, it would be unlikely that any revision of the law could be passed before the November election.
So where does that leave health care reform? The answer: Squarely in the hands of American voters. Which is where it ultimately belongs. For too many years, the politicians, along with the insurance industry and its lobbyists, have buried health care reform beneath a blizzard of greed, ideology and self-interest. All the while, American voters have pretended that everything was fine, even as medical costs and insurance premiums skyrocketed, and 40 million uninsured Americans were getting health care paid for by the rest of us. We bought their baloney, and we've been paying through the nose for it.
Our institutions have clearly failed us. Beginning with the timidity of the president, the stalement in Congress and the indecisiveness of the Supreme Court, none of the branches of government have served the people on an issue that is crucial to the survival not only of our health care system, but also of our nation, which depends on a healthy and secure population for everything from economic viability to national security.
It does no good to blame one or other of the political parties for this crisis -- there is plenty of blame to go around. But the path forward is very clear. The Republicans have announced that they want nothing to do with real health care reform and will block any attempts to save our health care system. As long as they control the House, the health care crisis will get worse. If the Democrats can take back the House, then at least the country will have a shot at reforming health care, and perhaps even salvaging some of the credibility of our government institutions.
So the election this November is critical, not just in electing a president who is committed to health care reform, but in bringing real change to the Congress. After years of trying to negotiate with Republicans on the most critical issues confronting our country, it is now absolutely clear that they have become captives to the extreme right of their party. That means that Republican control of the House will result in governmental gridlock even beyond what we have already experienced.
If ever there was a test for democracy in America, it will be the election this November. With the arguments this week in the Supreme Court, it seems obvious that none of the institutions of our government are prepared to step up and meet the challenges we face as a nation. In the end, it will come down to the voice of the American people. Now is the time for those voices to be heard.
Follow Hoyt Hilsman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HoytHilsman