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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act has left the law’s most ardent detractors with not much more than a hospital gown for cover.

King v. Burwell may be the last legal assault on “Obamacare,” the right wing’s bête noire. If the Republicans still hope to quash the president’s health care reform, they’re going to have to elect a Congress and a chief executive to “repeal and replace” it.

In the upcoming elections, Republicans will have to make a convincing claim that they have a better plan to supplant Obamacare. (Spoiler alert: They don’t have any plan at all, and they probably won’t by November 2016.) Sure, they will continue to throw darts at Obamacare, but they will be hard pressed to demonstrate that they are more interested in uplifting the quality of health care for all Americans than in playing political games.

It’s clear that Republicans consider the high court’s 6-3 decision a bitter defeat. In the hours after it was announced, Republican frustration was palpable.

GOP presidential candidate and former U.S. senator Rick Santorum, in a statement echoed by his colleagues vying for the nomination, called the ruling “yet another reminder that if we are to rid our nation of Obamacare once and for all, we need to elect a conservative president prepared to lead on day one.”

Mississippi governor Phil Bryant, a Republican, sputtered about a “socialist takeover of health care forced down the throats of the American people.”

Three years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts’ Court upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare’s individual mandate feature. Now, the Court has given its blessing to the intent of the Affordable Care Act.

The case turned on some erroneously drafted language that appeared to limit federal subsidies to people in those states that had set up insurance exchanges. That clause, read in the context, contradicts the intent of the law.

Writing for the majority, Roberts wrote: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

Roberts acknowledged the law’s “three-legged stool”: regulations on insurers (such as requiring them to cover pre-existing conditions without jacking up premiums); a mandate that all individuals must buy coverage; and a subsidy to those who can’t afford coverage. With all the legs in place, the reform has a chance to succeed; take one leg away and insurance markets will go into a “death spiral.”

Universalizing and strengthening insurance coverage remains a vital priority. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 36 million Americans — 11.5 percent of the population — remain uninsured. Others still face costly generic prescriptions, high deductibles, and scant access to reliable basic care. Unforeseen medical costs are still the major reason that families declare bankruptcy, sometimes even when they are insured.

The Supreme Court’s ruling clears a major hurdle toward achieving maximum coverage. Had the Court ruled for the plaintiff, it would have gutted the Affordable Care Act and sent the nation back to square one. At least now the nearly 17 million Americans who gained coverage will be able to keep it.

The question is where Obama’s antagonists go from here. More than one observer has noted that Roberts saved the Republicans from themselves. An adverse ruling would have caused a major disruption in health care markets. Yanking chemotherapy and dialysis treatments from the recently insured would have left the Republicans in a bad odor at election time. The Court’s decision permits the GOP to keep fulminating throughout the upcoming election season about the savage injustice of Obamacare without proposing a concrete alternative.

That conservatives were willing to cause a health care cataclysm speaks volumes about their true intentions. Don’t expect Republicans to propose health care reform that puts people’s interests before corporate profits. And thank John Roberts’ Court that we don’t have to watch them go through the charade of doing so.

(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO. 64108-1413, or via email at [email protected]

File photo: The president and White House Staff react to the House of Representatives passing the Affordable Care Act on March 21, 2010. (Pete Souza via Wikicommons)

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  • Eleanore Whitaker

    The End of the “ME” Era for Greedheads. As Edward R. Murrow once said, “All things as they were, except…you are there!”

    • TZToronto

      Actually, it was Walter Cronkite, at least on the television version.

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        I stand corrected. Cronkite…Murrow, Edwards…weren’t they the quintessential journalists back in those days?

        The saddest thing I ever saw was when Cronkite had to announce the death of JFK. He started to speak and then his voice cracked slightly before he went on with the announcement.

        • TZToronto

          Murrow would have been a good choice, too. Perhaps Cronkite was a better “entertainer” than Murrow. However, I don’t know what could have been more entertaining than Murrow’s beat-down of McCarthy. Douglas Edwards was also a first-rate newsman. I remember the days when the evening news was 15 minutes (Edwards), and it was all news, no entertainment. Of course, those were the days when the news division wasn’t controlled by the entertainment people. Those were also the days when Cronkite, the most trusted man in America, could state explicitly on the evening news that the U.S. was not going to win in Vietnam and not be labeled a traitor. Where are the news people we can trust? Where are the ones with the guts to tell truth to power? Sadly, or maybe not so sadly, it appears to be the “jesters” who can say it. But hasn’t it always been thus?

          • Eleanore Whitaker

            Like you, I also miss the “good old days” when bias wasn’t part of every newscast. I think, for me, the realization that those days are over came when Rupert Murdoch, stood in NY City about a decade ago and when asked why his media was “biased,” he stated: “It’s my media. They will print and broadcast what I tell them to.”

            When I was in Alberta in 2000 and read the National Post and Calgary Sun, I was quite impressed with the style of journalism. I loved that news was presented in such an organized, matter of fact manner without having to read between the lines.

          • plc97477

            Thank you for a lovely step back to a more pleasant time.

  • The lucky one

    That we are in a “ME Era for Greedheads” seems true enough but what makes you think its ending?

  • Carolyn1520

    “That conservatives were willing to cause a health care cataclysm speaks volumes about their true intentions”

    Their intentions have been pretty clear since obstruction and making Obama a one term president came to light as their only goals.

    • plc97477

      And of course they couldn’t even do that right.

      • Carolyn1520

        Ain’t that the truth. As much as Obama has accomplished in spite of them just shows how really dismal they are at everything.

    • Fartrell Cluggins

      It’s disgusting that they can get away with intentionally obstructing, basically refusing to do the job they were elected to do just because their guy didn’t get elected. Sour grapes elementary-brained little men.

  • highpckts

    We did and still know what the GOP’s intentions are!! They will not change as long as there is a Democrat in the Whitehouse! Sorry asses!

    • Siegfried Heydrich

      Well, a black democrat, at least . . .

  • TZToronto

    Don’t expect the Republicans to come up with anything that looks like an improvement to the ACA. Let’s say (not gonna happen) that the Republicans proposed real improvements to the ACA in the next year. Then a Democrat gets elected to the Presidency, but the House stays Republican. The real Republican improvements to the ACA would be sitting there, waiting for a vote in the House and Senate, but the Republican House leader would not bring it to a vote, knowing that the darn thing might pass both Houses since it was a Republican proposal. A Democratic President would be willing to sign a bill that fixes some of the shortcomings of the ACA, something that the Republicans only wanted to flaunt as an election goodie to nab a few progressive voters. The current crop of Republicans want to have nothing to do with helping all Americans get health care and will disown anything that smacks of helping people get healthier the d after the 2016 election.

  • Bob Eddy

    They avoided a cataclism for the GOP as well. Those guys have been dirtying their diapers for months in fear that they were going to have to either do something constructive to help save the ACA and try to explain that to their delusional base or explain to about 10 million people why they no longer had health care access. It’s been almost comical to see them pleading with the President to “do something” and watch him sit on his hands and let them know that he wasn’t going to bail them out. Of course if he had done anything the would be ranting about “over reach”

  • Siegfried Heydrich

    BTW, this is for those of you who like to use Disqus, but hate the friggin’ trolls –

    FINALLY THERE’S AN IGNORE BUTTON!!!!! It’s called ‘Blog Killfile’.

    It’s freaking awesome. For those of you who are just flat sick of wading through post after post from gawdawfully obnoxious, childish, pottymouthed lamebrained trolls who are spamming the boards, this is what you’ve been looking for, an ‘Ignore’ button. For years I’ve been asking Disqus for an Ignore button, but I guess they think that might reduce their clicks, and never have. So screw ’em – this is just as good.

    Just install it, and whenever you mouseover someone’s screen name, it pops up with a [hush] or [hide comment] button. If you click on the [hush], it blocks all of that screen name’s posts on that thread. I don’t know if it carries over to another thread, but hey, clicking [hush] and watching the filth just vanish . . . wow. Thank freaking GOD someone finally made this one. It removes Disqus thread posts from whoever you’re tired of putting up with, and also reduces memory needs by cutting Iframes needed to display. And when the trolls are frolicking, that can be a LOT of memory.

    Oh, man . . . what’s really amazing is when you block the children, how adult the conversations get all of a sudden. Not kidding – this is actually going to make posting enjoyable again. And I can only imagine how much screaming the trolls are going to be doing that I’ll never even notice.

    For FireFox:

    For other browsers, just look in their add-on lists for ‘Blog Killfile’. Pass this on if you like it. I think it’s great.