In a huge decision whose repercussions will be felt for years by all Americans, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s signature piece of legislation from his first term, offering him an enormous victory just months before the November election and snatching away a major plank in Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s platform.
The court decision said that while the healthcare law’s individual mandate—requiring everyone American to buy health insurance as a way to lower costs for everyone—was going too far in levying fines for those who failed to buy it, the government could impose a tax on those who didn’t get insurance. So in effect the court just changed the method of penalizing people who failed to get insurance.
“Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country,” President Obama said in an appearance at the White House as he listed the law’s major provisions. “Thanks to today’s decision, all of these benefits and protections will continue.”
Obama said that despite the unpopularity of the individual mandate—which he noted he didn’t initially support—it is essential to the health care law.
“People who can afford to buy health insurance should take the responsibility to do so,” the president said. He also noted that the mandate provision has been supported in the past by Republicans, including the presumed Republican presidential nominee.
Obama said he will continue implementation of the law, but said the country should now turn its attention back to concerns about the economy.
“What we won’t do, what the country cant afford to do, is refight the political battles of two years ago,” he said. “Now’s the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time, putting people back to work.”
The decision is especially biting for Romney and Republicans because it was handed out by a conservative court considered vehemently opposed to most every piece of remotely liberal legislation that came before it. Most court observers expected the Supremes to knock down at least the individual mandate, if not the entire law.
So with this decision, the dozens of states that had kept on hold their plans to institute healthcare reform because they expected the law to be struck down will now have to scramble to figure out how to implement the details of the plan.
“As you might imagine, I disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision and I agree with the dissent,” Romney said in response to the decision. “What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States. And that is I will act to repeal Obamacare. Let’s make clear that we understand what the court did and did not do. What the court did today was say that Obamacare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do was say that Obamacare is good law or that it’s good policy. Obamacare was bad policy yesterday. It’s bad policy today. Obamacare was bad law yesterday. It’s bad law today.”
Romney then went on to list all the horrible changes that he says Obamacare will create—all that have been thoroughly debunked by most experts—including raise taxes, cut Medicare, add trillions to the deficit, kill jobs and make 20 million people watch their healthcare changed to a form they don’t want. Every single one of those claims has been rejected for the past two years since the law was passed, yet Romney continues to repeat them everywhere he goes seemingly without consequence.