As we all should know by now, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” in a five to four ruling. This issue is proving to be one of the most controversial topics in American history. When this bill was originally passed in 2010, the debate over the Affordable Care Act was focused on the actual proposal at hand: healthcare reform. Fast-forward to June 2012 and the debate doesn’t seem to be about the real issue anymore. It’s election season, and all politicians, media commentators and congressional leaders are choosing to focus on what this means for campaigns instead of what this means for the people.
The minute America got word of the ruling, people of all political affiliations were quick to comment on the fact that Chief Justice Roberts sided with the majority opinion. Roberts was considered to be a conservative justice up to this point in his tenure. However, this left-leaning decision sent the Republican Party and other conservatives into a fit. Several leaks regarding Roberts’ change of heart on the issue appeared all over the web, adding more fuel to the dialogue over his decision.
Another element of the decision that seems to be the biggest topic of discussion is the “penalty” v. “tax” issue. According to the Supreme Court, it is constitutional for Congress to impose a tax on people who are not purchasing health insurance. There has been a great deal of debate over whether or not this was a “penalty” as a part of the healthcare mandate. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been at the center of scrutiny for flipping between calling this fine a tax or a penalty. Originally, one of Romney’s top aides claimed that the presidential hopeful believed it to be an unconstitutional penalty. However, in an interview with CNN this past week, Romney called the mandate requirement a tax.
This debate over terminology and the clashing of conservatives, along with overall outrage from the right wing, has taken the discussion on Obamacare down a route that is increasingly polarized and politicized by campaign efforts. We need to be reminded that this shouldn’t be an issue of who said what or what terms were used. This shouldn’t about who is more conservative or what website leaked a story about Roberts first. This is an issue that will affect millions of Americans of all ages across this country.
News agencies, blogs, and political commentators make it easy to get caught up on the small things. Within hours of the decision’s release, we saw more clips of people threatening to move to Canada than actual coverage and discussion of what was upheld. In the days following the decision, the media began playing the game of “Which republican called it a penalty?” And of course, in the midst of the election, everything in this decision seems to be about the campaign.
Instead of crying over spilled milk, we need to inform ourselves on what this decision means for the general public. We need to look past the partisan spins on the ruling and the campaign speeches on the issue and focus more on what the Supreme Court upheld.
A few basic aspects of the law include: insurance companies will not be able to deny health care coverage due to pre-existing conditions; young adults can now stay on their parent’s health insurance policy until 26 years of age; new health plans must offer preventive and screening procedures such as mammograms at no cost to the patient; small businesses with less than 25 employees will get help in providing for the health coverage of their workers; people with low income will be provided help in attaining health coverage; and 80 cents of every dollar being paid into a health insurance policy must now go to direct medical services.