The Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the individual mandate, and the Affordable Care Act, is a huge victory for all Americans. The ruling ensures the survival and implementation of the new healthcare law -- along with its many benefits -- and is a major milestone in the century-long quest to guarantee health coverage for all. The United States is now on track to join every other advanced democracy in ensuring that nobody is denied access to quality care because they can't afford it.
The individual mandate is crucial to ensuring affordable coverage for all, by compelling healthy Americans to buy into insurance pools and thus subsidize the healthcare costs of less healthy Americans. While far from perfect, the mandate reflects the highest ideals of social insurance: That we -- individuals, business, and government -- are all in this together and have a mutual obligation to look out for each other. By upholding the mandate, the Supreme Court not only keeps the U.S. on the path to universal coverage, but also ensures that other benefits are fully implemented. Among these are: No one will be denied health coverage or charged a discriminatory premium due to a pre-existing condition; people with major health problems will be protectedagainst lifetime or annual limits in how much care their insurance companies will cover; young adults can stay on their parents' health plans until they are 26; and a major gap in prescription drug coverage under Medicare will be closed.
And while the constraints the Court placed on Congress' use of its spending power to expand Medicaid are concerning and reflect a departure from precedent, the core of the decision is a victory for healthcare equity at a crucial moment. That millions of Americans currently lack health insurance in the richest country in the world is striking evidence of how unequal our society has become. The Affordable Care Act cannot, by itself, reverse the trend toward greater inequality; but it is a big step in the right direction.