It was a blow to Republicans and tea party members all over the country when the Supreme Court upheld most of President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
Mitt Romney immediately denounced the decision and vowed to fight "the liberal agenda," making it a top priority to get rid of health care reform as soon as he is elected president. (Never mind that so-called Obamacare is modeled on the policy Romney enacted when he was governor of Massachusetts.)
Other Republicans are still reeling in shock from their betrayal by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted to uphold the law.
After all, the idea that health care reform was an unconstitutional socialist plot hatched by an illegitimate president has become a cornerstone of right-wing politics. When the law was upheld, it was almost like saying the president isn't a Kenyan revolutionary who faked his birth certificate in a devious effort to undermine the very foundations of freedom.
Still, the lunatic right is undeterred.
The ruling will "energize" voters to turn out against Obama, vice presidential hopeful Marco Rubio of Florida declared, because now "Americans know what's in this law."
And what is in it, exactly?
The president summed it up succinctly in a speech from the White House after the ruling:
- Insurance companies no longer have unchecked power to cancel your policy or deny you coverage.
- Americans can't be denied care because they have cancer or another preexisting condition.
- Preventive care will be covered free of charge.
- Millions of Americans will get a rebate because their insurance company spent too much of their premium on administrative costs or CEO bonuses.
- 5.3 million seniors will save $600 a year on prescription drugs.
- 6.6 million young adults will stay on their family's plan until they're 26.
Why, exactly, voters would go to the barricades to defend insurance companies' right to deny people care, or prevent young adults from staying on their parents' health insurance plans, is a little opaque.
True, the individual mandate, which requires all Americans to either get insured or pay a fine, offends Republicans' notion of freedom. And Roberts, while upholding the mandate, described it using the dreaded word: tax. But so many Americans have had such a tough time getting affordable health care, it's hard to imagine that a demand to keep our same broken, expensive, inadequate system is going to stir a big following.
Gov. Scott Walker is, of course, leading the charge . Walker declared that he would not follow the timetable for implementing the law until November, in the hopes that Romney will win and kill off the Affordable Care Act.
Opposing affordable care fits in perfectly with Walker's agenda so far.
Last year, the federal government prevented Walker from kicking more than 29,000 Wisconsin children off BadgerCare. But he was able to curtail eligibility for adults who make more than 133% of the poverty level, and charge new premiums that drastically affect a lot of low-income Wisconsinites, starting this month.
Besides threatening to turn away millions of dollars in federal money that would cover most of the bill for low-income people's health care, the Walker administration plans to make further cuts.
"[The Wisconsin Department of Health Services] is still seeking federal approval of a proposal to create a plan with much higher co-pays and more limited benefits, which would cover families with income over the poverty level," the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families reports. "If it is approved, the Alternative Benchmark Plan would adversely affect more than 300,000 BadgerCare participants."
The Affordable Care Act is a long way from a comprehensive solution. Sadly, Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress took single-payer health care off the table when they came up with the current plan.
It institutionalizes the same insurance industry that has done such an expensive, inefficient and neglectful job of providing health care up to now. It doesn't offer nearly enough, especially to young, single people, who have to pay in but get little in return. But it takes some significant steps to provide needed coverage and correct some of the most egregious problems with the current system.
Most of all, it shows that the Democrats actually have something to offer the majority of Americans who are not rich, as opposed to the Republicans, whose only idea seems to be to throw the poor and uninsured to the wolves. That could make a big difference in the coming election.
Who knows, now that the Supreme Court has ratified his most significant accomplishment as president, maybe Obama will even run on it.
Ruth Conniff is the political editor of The Progressive.