Politics aside, Obamacare should survive

By Amy Fried,
Posted March 27, 2012, at 3:51 p.m.

A stab of sadness hits me when I see them, those posters advertising a supper or some other fundraiser for a sick child needing a bone marrow transplant, or a parent who needs surgery.

My religion teaches that to save one life is to save the entire world. Each of these lives holds a place in their families and communities and, if lost, leaves a hole not easily healed.

No one knows when tragedy will strike but strike it will. Lack of insurance coverage delays diagnosis, monitoring and treatment, and can create devastating effects for the 53 million uninsured.

And when accidents and illness descend, financial stress is all too often a huge burden, with over 60 percent of bankruptcies in our country due to medical bills. Meanwhile, everyone bears the financial burdens of a health care system that delivers emergency care to the uninsured but not less expensive ongoing care. Each year, $60 billion in uncovered costs are passed along, raising premium costs by $1,000 per family with insurance.

Critics, untroubled by a lack of health care, spread untruths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). A new endlessly repeated lie is that the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, now estimates Obamacare costs will be far higher than originally projected. But it’s actually the opposite, with CBO Publication 43104 reporting, “The estimated net cost of the insurance coverage provisions is smaller than estimated in March 2011 … about $50 billion less” for the same 10-year period.

Other critics fret about the freedom of employers to tell employees what health insurance should cover. If employers have this right, your boss’s religious principles should be able to dictate how you spend your salary, restricting what food you buy and movies you watch. Since contraception lowers health care costs, with pregnancy and birth far more expensive than birth control, there’s no financial rationale. And what about employees’ freedom?

Considering the Heritage Foundation invented the market-oriented health policy model of an individual mandate, along with subsidies for the uninsured and insurance exchanges, it’s hard to find a logical, nonpolitical reason for why conservatives now consider these threats to freedom.

Moreover, opponents’ assurance that the Affordable Care Act is clearly unconstitutional is not widely shared by legal experts. Again, the opposite prevails. In a poll of experts by the American Bar Association, 85 percent believe the law will be upheld completely and 15 percent think just part of it will be struck down. Why? Congress has the constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, health care’s economic effect is clear and precedents go back to the 1941 case Wickard v. Filburn.

Reagan appointee Judge Silberman, who has received awards from the conservative Federalist Society, wrote in upholding the ACA, “the health insurance market is a rather unique one, both because virtually everyone will enter or affect it, and because the uninsured inflict a disproportionate harm on the rest of the market as a result of their later consumption of health care services.” The mandate limits people’s choices “no more so than a command that restaurants or hotels are obliged to serve all customers regardless of race.”

This week the Supreme Court is hearing challenges to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Without a well-tuned crystal ball, one can’t predict what the court will do. Lately it has been comfortable with upending accretions of legal precedent, as in the Citizens United case on campaign finance laws. Purportedly conservative judges have been quite activist, discarding laws passed by democratically elected officials.

Whatever the court decides, the law, however imperfect, marks the promise of escaping some human-caused tragedies. Overturned or retained, health needs and health care policy and politics will remain.

Several years ago, my dear friends’ teenage daughter died from leukemia. Her parents will never be the same, but even as their child fought to recover, they and their friends and relatives did not have to go hat in hand to raise money.

No American should suffer the pain that comes from care delayed or denied due to financial circumstances. Obamacare, like every policy, is not perfect. But surely the child whose face shines forth from a poster tacked on a bulletin board deserves every chance for medical care that might give her a full life.

Amy Fried is a professor of political science at the University of Maine. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ASFried and on her blog, pollways.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/03/27/opinion/contributors/politics-aside-obamacare-should-survive/ printed on December 19, 2014