I was seated on a mahogany pew inside the Supreme Court's chamber on June 28 as Chief Justice John Roberts began to announce the majority's decision on the Affordable Care Act before 400 tense, expectant observers. Many there that day hailed from Capitol Hill, K Street, and the boardrooms of United Healthcare, Aetna and Merck. They came to gauge the ruling's impact on their financial stake in America's $2.6 trillion health care monolith. Only a few were ordinary people like me with sick loved ones whose future health and financial security was riding on the outcome.
We did not have copies of the opinion or our smartphones to fast-forward to the bottom line, so we rode an emotional roller coaster as Justice Roberts slowly unveiled the fractured outcome. The mandate was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, but Congress has the power to charge a penalty under the taxing power, so it passed muster. Justice Ginsberg had the last word. The law had survived "largely unscathed," she proclaimed.
For the next five minutes, I breathed in the victory for all who will benefit from the Affordable Care Act. My children and 100 million others with pre-existing conditions would sleep better that night knowing that in 2014 insurance companies will be required to sell health insurance to them at the same cost as healthy people. Women will no longer be charged higher premiums, and they'll receive preventive care without co-pays or deductibles. Seniors will also get free preventive care, as well as relief from the dreaded prescription drug donut hole.
Then I walked outside into throngs of Tea Party protesters in a full-blown angry roar. Enraged Republicans had already erupted into their "Repeal and Replace" mantra and had let loose their familiar flood of lies.
It was apparent at that moment that our nation's health care war will rage on forever, or at least so long as our elected representatives put corporate profits and bonuses before the health and financial well being of working Americans.
A few things are clear as we head toward November:
Romney and Republicans have a health care plan. House Republicans are poised to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But they won't introduce a replacement plan, as Speaker Boehner was forced to admit by CBS's Norah O'Donnell.
The reason is obvious. Republicans don't want government involved in health care. Their health care plan is to give free rein to for-profit health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and medical providers to charge you the highest prices the market will bear. They have no intention of protecting people with pre-existing conditions, eliminating annual and lifetime caps, or requiring insurers to allow kids to stay on their parents' policies to age 26. Under the Republicans' plan, insurance companies will decide for themselves whether to grant those protections.
Republicans are also ready to dismantle Medicare and transform it into a voucher program to benefit private insurance companies. We know how this will turn out for seniors who will be left holding the bag.
Republicans aren't concerned with health care for the poorest working Americans. Thanks to Fox News Chris Wallace's surprising, slamming probe of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- which is worth multiple views -- we also know for a fact that Republicans aren't worried about health care for the poor.
Rick Perry and other Republican governors are jumping at the chance to turn down billions of federal dollars allocated under the Affordable Care Act to fund more than 95 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid to 17 million of our poorest working Americans. When that's done, they want the Feds to give Medicaid money to the states with no strings attached so that they can hand over the program to private insurance companies.
Your Health Care Up for Sale. If Republicans win big in November, they'll have a wealth of riches to distribute. Health care special interests know who their friends are. They've stepped up big time to fund a public campaign to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and they're pouring millions into Romney's and Republicans' election efforts.
For our collective health and financial well being, let's hope the America people are the winners.
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