Standing with the Capitol as his backdrop, Mitt Romney delivered a brief address Thursday afternoon regarding the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the centerpiece of President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Romney highlighted his "Repeal and Replace" agenda, stating that while the law may be constitutional, it is bad policy and needs to be undone.
You would have expected Romney to follow with an outline of what his replacement would look like. He offered no such plan. Instead, he said only that a responsible plan would allow those with pre-existing conditions to receive care, and would ensure affordable health care for all.
He failed to mention that Obama's Affordable Care Act already accomplished those goals. The individual mandate, which requires all Americans to purchase insurance and was the main issue before the Court, is the only logical way to make health care affordable if you require coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Unfortunately, the Chief Justice, while still upholding the mandate, failed to highlight the reality, only allowing Romney's flawed arguments to prevail.
While Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the mandate on separate grounds, he failed to recognize the reality of how health care functions. He stated that under the Commerce Clause, which allows the government to regulate commercial activity, the mandate cannot stand, because it "compels" people to enter a commercial activity.
But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a separate opinion, refutes that claim. To her, "the market for medical care is one in which all individuals inevitably participate." In reality, whether you purchase insurance or not, you will require health care at some point in your life. Because hospitals are required to administer care even to those who cannot afford it, an estimated cost of $43 billion goes uncompensated, which is ultimately shifted onto those who have insurance.
In short, as Ginsburg argues, "because any uninsured person may need medical care at any moment and because health care companies must account for that risk, every uninsured person impacts the market price of medical care and medical insurance." In other words, human beings are engaging in a commercial activity whether they purchase insurance or not.
This is, of course, all legal theory with little practical application. Although Roberts missed a chance to uncover the blatant fallacy of Romney's attacks, at least he upheld the visible aspect of the law. Aside from the legal question, the Supreme Court had a simple, more tangible, question to answer: Should we uphold the law and ensure millions of Americans will receive care, or strike it down and allow discrimination back into the health care market?
Romney's hypocrisy, Obama's newfound legitimacy and a newly energized Republican base will certainly have political consequences. But ultimately, the Chief Justice made this ground-breaking moment in history what it should be -- a moral decision, instead of a strictly legal or political decision -- and for that, we are all winners.
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