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Resuscitation of Care Act a win for all

June 29, 2012

by Clive McFarlane
(c) Worcester Telegram & Gazette

The nation’s Affordable Care Act is still standing, despite several well-funded opposition campaigns designed to wipe it off the books and to ensure that the person held most responsible for its creation, President Barack Obama, would be a one-term president.

The latter outcome is still a possibility, but the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday affirming the central tenet of the law — the mandate that all Americans who can afford health insurance get it — pretty much means Obamacare, as the law is commonly called, will be a lot more difficult to uproot.

“I know there will be a lot of discussion today about the politics of all this, about who won and who lost. That’s how these things tend to be viewed here in Washington,” Mr. Obama said in his response to the ruling. “But that discussion completely misses the point. Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.”

That is not to say the opposition is likely to go away anytime soon.

If you recall, opponents led by the tea party promoted the now-debunked “death panels” theory — that the law contained provisions that would allow the government to counsel some elderly Americans to end their lives rather than seek expensive medical care.

That was followed by the claim that the law was a major part of Mr. Obama’s road to socialism, and although the death panels claim has mostly subsided, the definition of the law as an organ of socialism is still very strong.

These lines of attack, along with the allegation that the law will greatly increase the nation’s debt despite several reports to the contrary by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, will increase in intensity as we moved toward the presidential elections in November.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was quick to reiterate his pledge to repeal the law if he wins the presidency, and Sen. Scott Brown noted in a statement that “The federal health care law may be constitutional, but it is wrong for jobs and the economy.

“In Massachusetts, we had already dealt responsibly with the problem of our uninsured without raising taxes or cutting care to our seniors,” Mr. Brown said.

Like most supporters of the law, Sen. John Kerry saw the court’s decision as a vindication of the enormous political capital the president and Democrats spent in securing passage of the Affordable Care Act.

“For the past three years, opponents of health reform did everything they could to distort and deceive,” he noted in a released statement.

“They tried to scare the American public with outright lies about ‘death panels’ and ‘socialized medicine.’ When that didn’t work, they came up with a new strategy: claim that the individual mandate the Republican Party itself had invented was unconstitutional. Today, the conservative Roberts Court put an end to that debate.

While it would seem reckless and irresponsible for Congress to now scrap the law and take us back to the unsustainable status quo and pre-law health care climate, that is still a real possibility and that is why the Obama administration can ill-afford to relax now.

Indeed, having made the mistake of allowing opponents to define the particulars of the law following its historic passage, Mr. Obama and his supporters should now use the court’s constitutional print of approval to clearly spell out for Americans what the law really does.

Frances M. Anthes, president and CEO of the Family Health Center of Worcester, is among those hoping supporters will do a better job in shaping the debate on what the law is this time around.

Ms. Anthes noted how the Massachusetts health reform law, on which the Affordable Care Act is largely fashioned, has put this state far ahead of others in the country in offering health care to a majority of its residents.

In addition to covering millions of Americans who are currently uninsured, the Affordable Care Act, she noted, contains provisions that provide free preventive care, allow young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26 years old, stop insurance companies from denying health care to individuals with pre-existing health conditions, and from dumping individuals who have maxed-out their coverage.

“I believe health care is a right, not a privilege and we owe it to ourselves to take care of each other,” she said. “It is a major reiteration of the major principles in which we believe in this country.”

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