The Affordable Care Act: What’s the Right Thing to Do?

Industry Insights from Paul Meade, M. Sc, MPH

The United States Supreme Court finally rendered its ruling on 2010’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), finding that its so-called mandate was indeed constitutional, inasmuch as the government is free to place a tax on U. S. citizens. While many thought that resting on the power of the federal government to control interstate commerce was the legal approach to move this law forward, the justices deemed that while the mandate was not a valid use of this power, the government can impose any tax it deems appropriate.

Unfortunately, all of this amounts to jockeying by our duly-elected officials in Washington, as they play election-year political football with subject matter that is of critical importance to the citizens of this country. The nine justices are even getting into the election game by suggesting that the government’s insistence upon everyone being covered by some form of health insurance can be implemented by imposing a tax on those that refuse to abide by the law. This ruling, especially in the manner that Chief Justice John Roberts articulated his concurrence with the majority opinion, easily permits the Act to be used as a target in the coming election by having either party debate the issue of a tax. Almost everyone is missing the point of this and other reforms in the healthcare space, even the set of reforms that Mitt Romney seems to have forgotten about championing during his time governing Massachusetts.

Providing health insurance to a nation’s citizens is actually a mandate in many countries, and almost the entire free world, and most people around the world see it as a right, not a privilege. Almost every country’s leadership recognizes that by keeping citizens healthy, you improve overall productivity, and your nation thrives economically. The United States, on the other hand, has nearly 50 million people living without health insurance, and many millions more that are underinsured to meet today’s healthcare standards.

So, I ask, what is the right thing to do for our country?

Well, I will tell you what is definitely the wrong thing to do, and that is to use the political system to play a horrible game with the lives of its citizens. Both parties will go into this election period arguing over whether the Affordable Care Act is a tax or not, and whether the government has the right to tax its people in the midst of a terrible recession. I am certain no one will talk about the millions and millions of uninsured and underinsured in this country. No one will argue what is truly the right thing to do for its people. “We the people” has faded to “me the politician.”

And some politicians, heck, maybe even most of them, will do whatever it takes to win their seats in Washington. They will say whatever they have to say to disguise the real issue, for the sake of a victory. And all this time, I thought we elected our officials to represent our needs, not cater to some minority interests with deep campaign contribution pockets.

Let’s not get distracted from the real issue during this election. This country is in dire need of changes to our healthcare system. And it has to start somewhere. Let’s not use the Affordable Care Act as a political football to fight an election. Let’s all speak with one voice on behalf of the people of America to do the right thing. Let’s begin to make a difference for our future generations.

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