Its been nearly two years since the Affordable Care Act became law. Contrary to some dire predictions, the sky has not fallen. Nor have death panels emerged to drag Grammy, kicking and screaming, to an early grave.
Last week and lets note the now historic date of June 28, 2012 the Supreme Court upheld the ACA as Constitutional. So add that to the list of predictions that were incorrect. So now, critics need to find other adjectives to describe this progressive law that eluded U.S. presidents and legislators since before World War II because unconstitutional, jobs-killing and catastrophic are plainly untrue.
Lets look at the economy. Its certainly in recovery. For sure, the 1.9 percent growth rate reported last week is not nearly as strong as wed like, but it is progress. Perhaps the law has led to job losses, but if thats so weve yet to hear about it. Meanwhile, the expectation is that expanded health care means more jobs created in the medical, insurance and high-tech fields, maybe more.
Chief Justice Roberts, a darling to conservatives since his appointment to the bench under then-President Bush in 2005, became a pariah June 28 as he stunned supporters by siding with the courts liberals in the 5-4 decision upholding the ACA. However, Roberts is as shrewd as he is intelligent and threw the political right a bone by comparing the laws requirement that citizens have health coverage (in most cases through an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor) to a tax.
But its not a tax.
A tax is something imposed on wage earners and property owners to fund public services, such as the military, police and schools. No one has to pay the penalty that will now, barring unlikely repeal, take effect in 2014. Only those who fail to comply with the requirement of health coverage, a requirement that stresses personal responsibility so the greater public doesnt have to bear the cost of subsidizing the irresponsible through higher premiums and direct care costs, will be penalized.
Just like youre penalized if a cop pulls you over for driving too fast or you claim tax deductions youre not entitled to or sell alcohol to someone under the age of 21.
And lets clear up another popular misconception right here: If you are already covered by health insurance, this does not affect you other than the likelihood of gradually lower premiums, co-pays and other costs, according to Congressional Budget Office projections. You may even get a rebate from your insurance provider if it was able to lower expenses through more efficient practices, as encouraged by the ACA.
The extreme right of the countrys conservative wing, embodied in the tea party movement, reminds us of the Mr. Potter character in Its a Wonderful Life. Their contempt for the president is like Potters irrational hatred for the benevolent Baileys and their beloved building and loan company.
Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in 2010 vowing to repeal the ACA. Here we are, two years later and numerous challenges in lower courts led to last weeks ruling in the highest court in the land. Now its time to move forward and concentrate on issues such as the economy and, yes, tax reform.
Just as agitated, but apparently ill-informed, recipients not long ago stood up at town hall meetings to say keep your government hands off my Medicare. Someday, in a similar setting, similar protests will be heard about the ACA.