By Marge Faville
---- — In arguably its most consequential decision so far this century, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. In affirming the law's constitutionality, the court freed the Obama administration to move full steam ahead to implement the law, which could provide affordable health care to as many as 32 million Americans.
The ruling opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts determined that the act's individual mandate-- the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance, or face a penalty — was constitutional. It was the right decision.
Yet pundits across the political spectrum made much of the fact that the ultra-conservative Roberts, a Republican, sided with the four moderate Democratic-appointed justices. The real focus, however, should be on what this now means for average families.
Along with the expansion of care to millions, there are very real, tangible, meaningful benefits, including consumer protections from insurance company abuses, creation of competitive marketplaces for individuals to purchase lower-cost insurance, and quality of care improvements.
For example, individuals and families will no longer have to worry about getting sick and running up against a lifetime cap on insurance coverage. The law ends the practice of letting insurance companies charge women 50 percent more just because they're women. Seniors will save hundreds of dollars a year on prescription drugs and have access to life-saving preventive care. Equally important, children can stay on their family insurance until they're 26, and a "pre-existing condition" like diabetes or asthma will not compromise their insurance coverage.
Those are but a few of the benefits citizens will reap as a result of this landmark decision. Over time it will also curb the growth in health care cost by providing for more competition in the marketplace and mandating more efficient medical practices ranging from less duplication of services to incentivizing more efficient cutting-edge technology and practices.
Still, no sooner had the Supreme Court ruled than Republicans and their prospective presidential nominee Mitt Romney start criticizing the decision and vowing to repeal it.
In fact, the extremist House Republican leadership scheduled a repeal vote for July 11. This charade will go nowhere, of course, because the Democratic-controlled Senate will not even consider it. But it may serve to further stir up the rabid Republican base.
If nothing else, the decision by the court and reaction to it by the Democratic and Republican leaders is instructive. On one side stands President Obama, the Democrats, and, I believe ultimately, a majority of Americans who believe that in a civil and modern society all people, regardless of financial circumstances, have a right to affordable care in order to protect and preserve the health, dignity and well-being of their families.
On the other side with Romney and the Republicans are those who object to almost any action taken by the federal government to ensure that citizens are treated fairly and that businesses are held accountable for their treatment of consumers and employees.
I stand with our President and the American people.
About the author: Marge Faville of Muskegon is registered nurse and president of SEIU Healthcare Michigan, the state's largest union of healthcare workers.
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