The Affordable Care Act survived the Supreme Court, but its true fate — and the fate of the millions it will insure — will be decided in November.
That was a shout of joy followed by an enormous sigh of relief you just heard. And a tear you can’t see in my eye. Today the Supreme Court refused to sign the death warrant for tens of thousands of people. And tomorrow a Koch brothers-funded group called Americans for Prosperity will put up $9 million in TV ads in swing states attacking the law.
When I sat in Nancy Pelosi’s box on March 21, 2010, watching the House enact the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I felt an enormous sense of peace. After 100 years of failing, and after a quarter-century of organizing in my own life, the United States had finally made a government guarantee to health care the law of the land. At the time, the last thing I was going to do was look ahead to the roadblocks that would be encountered between then and 2014, when the sections of the law that would make that guarantee real kicked in. I simply wanted to celebrate and believe that, as I’d been telling people all around the country for the two years since we launched Health Care for America Now, the moral arc of the universe can be bent towards justice if we pull hard enough.
But it turns out the ACA had to get around more than roadblocks — more like two big landmines. The first was the Supreme Court, where the right mounted a challenge that surprised constitutional scholars in its vigor. What had seemed like a frivolous lawsuit gained enormous momentum, powered by the right-wing and corporate media, political ads, and relentless messaging. Even after two very conservative appellate judges upheld the law, questioning at the Supreme Court oral arguments made it look like the first landmine would be triggered. But by one huge and surprising vote, Justice Roberts took us around that deadly obstacle.
Let’s not kid ourselves; the biggest danger remains on November 6th, and the right will do everything it can to make these elections a mandate to kill ObamaCare and with it, legislation that will demonstrate to Americans that government can be a powerful force for security and opportunity. Since the president signed the law, opponents have spent $235 million attacking it, while a fraction of that, $69 million, has been spent on its defense. Remarkably, Mitt Romney – who by passing RomneyCare paved the way for ObamaCare – has the chutzpah to now be championing his opposition.