The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act last Thursday predicated a firestorm of news and opinions. Some of it was flat-out wrong, saying the court "killed" ACA when it did just the opposite. We were somewhat surprised that a largely conservative court—the same one that handed big business carte blanche to fund elections via its 2011 Citizens United decision—upheld the decision.
Chief Justice John Roberts made some interesting choices that may take years to sort out. The individual mandate was constitutional, but the federal government's threat to penalize states that decide not to comply wasn't. The feds can't take away all of its Medicaid support if a state decides not to expand its program.
President Barack Obama's televised message after the opinion was to the point. Obama campaigned on the promise of getting health-care reform passed, and has spent considerable political capital pushing through reforms where other presidents, from FDR to Clinton, had failed.
"It should be pretty clear by now that I didn't do this because it was good politics," he said after outlining how the act had already made a difference in many lives and has the potential to do even more "I did it because I believed it was good for the country. I did it because I believed it was good for the American people."
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's comments followed, and like clockwork, he began by saying he would act to repeal the bill on his first day in office. Romney's statements perfectly toed the Republican line.
Despite the bluster of Republican responses, however, no president has the power to simply throw out a law. If the GOP achieves an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress in November and figures out to retain the popular parts of the bill—ending coverage denial because of pre-existing conditions, for example—to gut just the parts they object to, they'll create an unbelievable mess.
Disabling the law through fiat—simply denying promised funds—represents high political risk.
We would all do well to remember that this law is the exactly what Republicans wanted—right up until the time the Democrats adopted it. The proposal's first appearance was in a 1989 brief from the Heritage Foundation—a conservative think tank. It spelled out that the federal government should require Americans to have health insurance. It was the GOP's antidote to the reform President Clinton proposed in 1993, and they wrote it into their anti-Clinton health-care bill, signed by leading Republican congressional representatives. The Heritage plan guided former Gov. Romney's health-care plan for Massachusetts.
America is tired of this fight, and its citizens deserve better than unnecessary partisan bickering. We deserve a government that cares more about the welfare of its citizens than winning the next election. Demand more than inflammatory talking points from our leadership.