Well, that was much ado about nothing, literally.
The three-year effort by 18 Republican states to strike down the Affordable Care Act based on the most ridiculous of legal pretenses met an appropriate end last week when the U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-2 ruling tossed it, basically saying, "You gotta be kidding."
OK, those were not the exact words of Justice Stephen Breyer when writing the court's opinion in "California vs. Texas," but pretty close.
Thus ended the third attempt by Republicans to use the Supreme Court to sabotage the ACA, all unsuccessful. Of course, in 2016, Republicans won control of the House, Senate and presidency on a platform that included the promise to repeal and replace "Obamacare" with "something terrific," in the words of former President Trump.
The Republicans failed and should stop trying to use the courts to achieve policy goals.
Their latest effort, pursued by Republican attorneys general, focused on the individual mandate. The ACA originally contained a provision requiring Americans to obtain health insurance or face a tax penalty. It was a good policy. People should have health insurance. Getting more young and relatively healthy people into the pool spreads risk and lowers premiums, for everyone.
This individual mandate was a major focus of the Supreme Court's 2012 ruling upholding the ACA as constitutional. In supporting the mandate, the court pointed to Congress' power to levy taxes.
In 2017, the Republican-controlled Congress cut the tax to zero, ending the encouragement to get insurance. Texas and the other states that joined it then argued that you can't have a zero tax, its beyond the authority of Congress. The high court should reverse its 2012 decision, the attorneys general argued, and declare the whole darn law unconstitutional, leaving the tens of millions of people who rely on the law's subsidies and regulations for their insurance out of luck.
The politics was as bad as the legal argument. It allowed Democrats in the 2020 election to note that Republicans wanted to leave millions of Americans without insurance, because it was true!
The Supreme Court didn't consider the merits of any of this, finding the states bringing suit didn't have standing because they were not legally "injured." You can't file a lawsuit to repeal a law that does nothing to you or require anything of you.
Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative justice and no fan of the ACA, wrote in his concurring opinion, "There is a fundamental problem with the arguments advanced by the plaintiffs in attacking the act — they have not identified any unlawful action that has injured them."
Can Republicans please consider doing something that would actually help the lives of Americans and work together on policies that will make health care more affordable and available? The clock has run out on running against Obamacare.
How about lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55? This would help Medicare by expanding it to younger and relatively healthier individuals, though of course its overall costs would go up. And it would help private insurers control premiums by getting more of those oldsters off their policies.
Expand Medicare to include dental care. The connections between good dental care and overall health are clear. And there is the matter of quality of life. Don't leave people to suffer with bad teeth in this, among the richest of countries.
Get a handle on prescription drug costs by giving the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to negotiate pricing for Medicare-covered drugs directly with the pharmaceutical industry. And partner with other countries that have found ways to cap these prices. Big Pharma won't like it, but Americans need the help.
Republicans have been criticizing Obamacare and vowing to kill it for more than a decade, and all they have to show for it are these losing cases. Enough.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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