I was guest anchoring on NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin while she was away when the Supreme Court announced its decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This is President Obama’s signature legislation that makes health care insurance mandatory. (Or face a fine, as an individual or business.) The mandate is also the focus of the criticism. Opponents accuse the federal government of imposing its will on individuals, trampling on our rights by forcing us to buy coverage. Half the states and other organizations filed a lawsuit that went all the way to the highest court of the land.
Both sides admit ACA or Obamacare (as critics and the Administration refer to this law) is imperfect. This “agreement” reveals how difficult it is to offer health care to all Americans and control skyrocketing costs. Although most of the law doesn’t go into effect until 2014, some who will benefit are those with pre-existing health conditions who can no longer be denied insurance, the young who can stay covered under their parents’ plans until they’re 26, and Latinos, the largest ethnic group without health care insurance. According to this infographic by the civil rights advocacy group The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), if the ACA in its entirety were in place today, six million Latinos would gain coverage through a combination of employer plans, Medicaid, and private “non-group” plans.
But at what cost? Critics say the Supreme Court didn’t stop what they consider an overreach of both a Democratic President and Congress (when the law was passed in 2010). Jennifer Sevilla Korn, the executive director of the conservative non-profit Hispanic Leadership Network, writes on the website:
“This law endangers quality private coverage for families, while robbing $500 billion from seniors to help pay for it. As it stands, this law puts the financial security of countless Hispanic families at risk and irresponsibly places the burden of debt on our children and grandchildren--jeopardizing the American dream.”
The person responsible for the Supreme Court’s decision is Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush, who sided with the liberal justices. Why? Some analysts suggest that he punted back to the American people with this message: if you don’t like it, then elect leaders who will craft legislation that won’t end up in the Supreme Court for us to fix. This theory is confirmed in his opinion where Roberts writes, "It is not our [the Supreme Court’s] job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices."
It appears Chief Justice Roberts has put the ball squarely in the court of American citizens who have the power to become informed, register to vote, and cast ballots, and through these actions, control the direction of our country.
This post appears in Latina Magazine where I am a regular politics columnist as Election 2012: The Supreme Court and Your Vote.
To read more of Viviana’s politics columns in Latina, click here.Both Republicans and Democrats say this decision has fired them up – with Mitt Romney vowing to repeal it if he is elected and President Obama promising to protect it if he is re-elected. Will this issue push you to go to the polls? If not, what does?