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 Post subject: EUGENE ROBINSON: THE BIGGER PICTURE
PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:33 am 
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THE BIGGER PICTURE

The political impact of Thursday’s stunning Supreme Court decision on health care reform is clear—good for President Obama and the Democrats, bad for Mitt Romney and the Republicans—but fleeting, and thus secondary. Much more important is what the ruling means in the long term for the physical and moral health of the nation.

All but lost in the commentary about the court’s 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. unexpectedly joining the majority, is that the Affordable Care Act was intended as just a beginning. We have far to go, but at least we’re on our way.

Obama’s great achievement is not any one element of the health care reform law—not even the now-upheld individual mandate compelling individuals to have health insurance or pay a fine. The important thing is the law’s underlying assumption that every American, rich or poor, should have access to adequate health care.

In the rest of the industrialized world, this simple idea is taken for granted. When Obama took office, however, about 50 million Americans lacked health insurance. Many low-income families, especially the “working poor” who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, were faced with impossible decisions: Take a sick child to the doctor or pay the rent? Buy medicine or buy groceries?

Those who cannot afford health insurance do ultimately receive care, of course—but often in hospital emergency rooms, where treatment is much more expensive than in a doctor’s office. Our system is thus both callous and extravagant, costing much more than it should while delivering substandard results.


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