It feels like a miracle that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. And it was Chief Justice John Roberts — a George W. Bush appointee! — who joined with the four more liberal judges? Incredible.
Here’s what this means: President Obama’s first term was not a waste of time. The president used up just about all his political cache, all of his mandate, all of the good feelings his Hope and Change candidacy generated to get the ACA passed back in March 2010. It was monumental and historic that he could get universal healthcare coverage passed, something that had eluded Democrats for 30 years or more. But the repercussions were heavy.
The Democrats, frightful of the growing reactionary Tea Party movement, became too timid to use their majority to pass much legislation. Republicans, meanwhile, had seemed so lost after the 2008 election, but were now suddenly galvanized. They used the ACA — which they derisively labeled Obamacare — to crush the Democrats in the 2010 Congressional elections, and worse, believed their victories meant Americans wanted them to oppose the President at every turn, no matter what was at stake. But now the Supreme Court has upheld the ACA in a 5-4 vote, and perhaps they are taking a hint that whether we are liberals or conservatives or Jewish or Muslim, we want our government to be functional.
Here’s what else this incredible verdict means: Millions of young adults who were able to remain on their parents’ healthcare, thanks to ACA, will be able to stay on it. Insurers will not be able to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Preventative services like counseling on sexually transmitted infections, domestic violence screenings and breast-feeding support will be provided by insurance companies. So will well-woman doctors visit and HPV counseling. All of these services will provide a great boon to Black women, to poor women and to all women. Conservatives are already tearing out their hair, I’m sure.
Mitt Romney will certainly use this decision to rally his troops, who want to repeal ACA. But for President Obama, it’s a greater victory than he could have imagined, brought about in a way that he likely never imagined. He should be sending Justice Roberts a thank you note right about now.