Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reflections on the Supreme Court Decision of Health Care

First of all, I'm very glad that this Court majority to uphold the health care law was not an ideological one.  With Chief Justice Roberts joining the four liberal justices, you have a committed conservative crossing the ideological line that tends to bifurcate the Supreme Court.  And that gladdens my heart, because I'm a big believer in being open-minded about matters, such that if the facts point away from your ideology, then sometimes the facts need to rule while the ideology gives way.

The Court held that the 'individual mandate' was constitutional under the taxing powers of the Constitution, though not the 'commerce' powers.  In doing so, the Court wasn't looking to strike down Congressional legislation but instead was looking to support the Congress in its legislative function if at all possible, which is important in a republic and a democratic form of government, where the people rule through its elected representatives.  Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, and because of that, they need to use their power sparingly and very carefully, lest it be abused.

Now, the ball bounces back into the political realm, where the Republicans are still going to try and undercut or eliminate this health care legislation by elected Mitt Romney and a Republican-controlled Congress.  So the battle is not over, but it shifts back to the election later this fall.

As for me, I've never believed that the Obama health care legislation was perfect or ideal.  It is rather a work in progress, the result of compromises all over the place in an attempt to provide health care coverage to most Americans while getting health care costs under control.  I've come to believe that health care is more like education than it is buying a car or a house. Health care is so important to life that we need to find a way to provide some kind of minimal universal coverage, just as we did earlier in our nation's life for elementary and high school education.

The nation already provides coverage for the majority of Americans, through Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans health benefits, federal government employee health care, etc. So in some ways, this issue is moot; it is already decided. Now we need to find our way forward to cover every citizen in a careful, fiscally responsible way. And that is going to be a huge undertaking in the years to come. We've only just begun.

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