A Good First Step

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  • The U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” sent conservatives scrambling Thursday.
    Conservative blog sites ConservativeBytes and Vision to America each posted a story with a headline that read as if Chief Justice John Roberts had abandoned conservatives: SCOTUS Rules ObamaCare Lives! Roberts Joins Liberal Left!

    The Republican-controlled House plans to launch a second attempt to repeal the law.

    In a statement released after Thursday morning’s ruling, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote, “The president’s health care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire. Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety.”

    By mid-afternoon, Patriot Depot was hawking anti-Supreme Court bumper stickers calling for secession from the “United Socialist States of America” and declaring, “SCOTUS Sold Us Out!”

    Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney declared he would rescind Obamacare “on Day One” of his presidency and ticked off a list of costly problems with the health care law.

    Unfortunately for Romney, much of what he said was either untrue or an exaggeration.

    According to FactCheck.org, Romney has used faulty math to assert claims that the federal government would “constitute … almost 50 percent” of the U.S. economy when the new federal health care law takes full effect – a charge that was debunked more than a year ago when Rep. Michele Bachmann made similar claims.

    FactCheck said that the health care law, if fully implemented, would constitute “a relatively minor expansion of the government’s share of health care spending, which was already large and rising due to the aging population.”

    In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, reporters scrambled to explain what initially seemed to be a compromise ruling.
    Amy Howe on the site Scotusblog, which covers Supreme Court rulings in live time, however, broke it down swiftly.

    “In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters.

    “Because the mandate survives,” Howe wrote, “the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.”

    Interestingly, though, an infographic from the Center for American Progress shows how many people will benefit from what is commonly called “Obamacare.”

    Proportionately, black, Latino and young Americans are the most un- or under-insured, but in sheer numbers, more than 23 million white Americans are uninsured and would be insured in some form or fashion under the Affordable Health Care Act and insurers would not be able to reject anyone because of pre-existing health conditions after 2014. That protection currently is extended to children under the law.

    Dr. Cedric M. Bright, president of the National Medical Association (NMA), the oldest and largest medical association representing 50,000 black physicians and their patients, said in a statement that the NMA had supported the Affordable Care Act from the beginning and that many black Americans have already seen the benefits of the measure.

    “The ACA is working. More seniors can now afford their meds. Young people can stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. Insurers no longer deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or drop people because they get sick. We are doing a better job of coordinating care, and we now have better prospects for preventing chronic disease,” Bright said.

    “This is our best opportunity in a generation to overhaul our health care system. We look forward to working with the States and the Administration to ensure that the reforms are fully implemented,” he concluded.

    Earlier this year at a racial healing conference sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Asheville, N.C., health care experts said the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided opportunities that could push communities of color past the disadvantages posed by social and economic issues.

    “There are over three dozen provisions in the law that address language and disparities in the law,” Dennis Andrulis, senior research scientist at the Texas Health Institute, said during a workshop.

    Andrulis, with help from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, examined the law’s implications for populations based on race and ethnicity, from expansion of Medicaid eligibility to small business assistance and quality improvement and cost containment measures that are specific to underserved populations.

    Andrulis said money was becoming available to assist community health centers, school-based health clinics, primary care extension programs and health professions training, as well as funding for prevention programs, including community grants, personal responsibility education and target money to reduce certain behaviors, including smoking and obesity. There is also funding to bolster health insurance programs at home.

     The law “represents a significant advancement in the effort to repair the deeply broken U.S. healthcare system and promote equitable opportunities for good health for all,” said Ralph Everett, Joint Center president said in a statement. “As long as its provisions are fully funded by Congress, the law will improve access to health insurance for more than 32 million Americans, prevent insurance companies from cherry-picking enrollees and denying claims because of pre-existing conditions, and incentivize more health-care providers to work in medically underserved communities.”

    While President Obama’s supporters hailed the ruling, some admitted to a few butterflies in the stomach before the high court released its decision.

    “In my heart I was thinking it’s constitutional; it’s the right thing to do; it’s the moral thing to do,” Dr. L.Toni Lewis, healthcare chair for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “But I was in Wisconsin (where government workers lost the right to collective bargaining) a couple of weeks ago and I was just in a space of saying this is the right thing to do.

    “Am I joyous about the ruling? Absolutely. It means a chance for health care justice for our community…there’s stuff in there training the health care force to be culturally competent, putting money into community centers in the center of our communities that know us well and treat us right.”

    Lewis said what people realized was that health care costs previously were expensive because of “hidden taxes” built into the premiums of the insured to cover the under- and uninsured.

    The Affordable Care Act, Lewis said, is a “good first step” to ensuring the kind of health care coverage communities of color deserve, but it also is important to remember that it all could go away depending on the outcome of the national election in November.

    “We’ve got power in our vote and we’ve got a big election coming up. We need to exercise that power,” Lewis said. “We need to get (Obama’s) back and be clear about that and move things forward.”
     

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