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Miller: Embracing Obamacare

This is indeed a big week for the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” The stakes are high, the rhetoric on both sides even higher and all eyes are on the Supreme Court. One hopes the Court stands by legal precedent and rejects the challenges to the Act’s Constitutionality, but in these days of a highly partisan court driven by right-wing idealogues (“Citizens United,” anyone?), nothing is for certain.

It’s a thorny issue, no doubt, compounded by the complexity of the Act itself. Does anyone really understand enough about all it entails to say for sure whether it’s all good, all bad or something in between? I lay no such claim, but I will note a few things I really like about Obamacare – things that make me cringe in anger when I hear people like Mitt Romney say the first thing he’d do in the unlikely event he becomes president is kill the whole thing.

> For starters, as the parent of grown-up children trying to make their way in a tough landscape of outrageously high college tuitions and an uncertain job market, I’m quite pleased to be able to now keep them under the protection of my health insurance until they’re 26. Any politician suggesting they’d like to remove that benefit does so at at the risk of angering parents regardless of their political affiliation.

> It’s a good thing that, finally, insurance companies can’t screw people at will, be it because they have a “pre-existing condition,” have maxed-out their benefits due to a terrible illness or in any of the other sinister and creative ways the industry has found to deny coverage over the years.

> When you’re paying something like $10,000 a year in health-care costs for a family, it’s good to know that, at minimum, you can have some things included in all that, such as preventative care, birth control, cancer screenings, EKGs and the like.

Another thing I like – and which is related to what the Supreme Court is confronting this week – is the mandate that everyone pay into the system. This, of course, is a signature Republican idea promoted in the past by the very conservative think tanks and politicians that now decry the mandate for clearly partisan and political reasons. But think about it: Everyone needs health care, so why should I have to pay higher premiums and costs because some segment of the population is getting it for free? That sure sounds like a “personal responsibility” issue Republicans are usually behind, but again, due to politics, not this time. As it relates to the argument over the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, I’ll leave the best summation to noted legal scholar Jeffrey Toobin, writing in The New Yorker this week:

“The main argument that opponents of the health-care law have come up with is that the mandate regulates economic inactivity-i.e., not buying insurance-and the Commerce Clause allows only the regulation of economic activity. In the first appellate review of the law, last summer, the Sixth Circuit demolished that argument. The court pointed out that there are two unique characteristics of the market for health care: “(1) virtually everyone requires health care services at some unpredictable point; and (2) individuals receive health care services regardless of ability to pay.” Thus, there was no such thing as ‘inactivity’ in the health-care market; everyone participates, even if he or she chooses not to buy insurance. Indeed, the choice to forgo insurance imposes a direct cost on the taxpayers, who wind up footing the bill. Those choices by consumers, especially in the aggregate, represent an economic matter that Congress may decide to regulate.”

Again, sounds like something your typical Republican would get behind (i.e., not tolerating freeloaders), but again, not in this case.

As Mr. Liddick points out in his column, we have a lot to fear from the outcome in this case, but only if the Court determines that something clearly Constitutional is not, and exposes itself yet again as a judicial body more concerned with partisan gamesmanship than an objective interpretation of the rule of law. By June or so, we’ll know if the Court has managed to salvage its damaged credibility by allowing the Affordable Care Act to proceed as planned.

Summit Daily editor Alex Miller can be reached at or (970) 668-4618.