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Editorial: Supreme Court’s health care decision is good for America

Supporters President Barack Obama's health-care law celebrate outside U.S. Supreme Court Thursday Washington.  |  David Goldman~AP

Supporters of President Barack Obama's health-care law celebrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday in Washington. | David Goldman~AP

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Updated: July 30, 2012 6:22AM

President Barack Obama’s health care law is constitutional. The Supreme Court settled the matter on Thursday. The law is also good for America, as history will make clear.

But now that the highest court in the land has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act, be prepared for critics to take to the mound like baseball pitchers on steroids in their eagerness to mow the law down. They’ll throw one crazy pitch after another — get ready for “death panels” talk again — and not a few bean balls.

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, led the attack shortly after Thursday’s ruling was handed down, saying “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.”

That is a debate Obama should relish. Obamacare — a nickname that will one day be considered a badge of honor, not a pejorative — brings decency and fairness to health care in America, defeating decades of obstruction by the GOP and the insurance companies. The few and inadequate alternatives Republicans have trotted out in recent years, it’s important to understand, were slow and grudging in coming, and offered mostly to counter Obama’s more ambitious reforms.

Thanks to the Affordable Health Care act, tens of millions of Americans no longer will have to worry about insurance companies jacking up their premiums if they get sick, or dropping their coverage altogether.

Thanks to the new law, Americans who suffer from serious medical problems, such as cancer and diabetes, no longer will be denied affordable health insurance.

Thanks to the new law, Americans won’t be driven into bankruptcy by medical bills because insurance companies put a cap on benefits.

And thanks to the law, young adults, unable to find a job with health insurance in this bad economy, will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.

Beginning in 2014, thanks to the new law, 30 million uninsured Americans will be able to buy — in Obama’s words on Thursday — “quality, affordable private health insurance.”

Our one disappointment is the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a provision of the health care law that would require states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their federal funding. Without questioning the court’s reasoning, we fear this could make it more difficult to include the poorest of the poor in the new health care reforms.

Critics of Obama’s health care reforms have made two key arguments: Obamacare’s “individual mandate” provision unconstitutionally forces Americans to buy insurance or pay a penalty, and the reforms would cost too much and don’t do enough to contain health care spending.

GOP criticism of the individual mandate was always suspect, given that it was a conservative idea to begin with, proposed in 1989 by the Heritage Foundation as a legal and reasonable alternative to President Bill Clinton’s plan for a government-run health care system. But, in a somewhat surprise ruling that had Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court’s four more liberal justices, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the individual mandate is constitutional under Congress’ taxing powers.

As for Obama’s health care law being a budget buster, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has never retreated from its conclusion that the law would slightly reduce the alarming growth of health care spending in the United States. Few suggest that the law does enough to restrain health care costs, even Democrats, and party leaders have to be held to their promise to improve the law as it’s rolled out.

Once again, Justice Roberts’ court has decided a landmark case by the slimmest of margins — 5 to 4, reflecting the contentious tenor of our times, and also reinforcing that contentiousness.

But any American who believes that good and affordable health care should be a right, not a perk for the privileged, should celebrate Thursday’s ruling.

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