Last week, conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court voiced antagonism toward the 2010 Affordable Care Act that extended near-universal medical insurance to 30 million "working poor" Americans. Many observers expect the right-wing judges to kill the landmark law when their vote becomes known in June.
Foremost among the ACA's opponents is Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife runs a Tea Party committee pledged to destroy the 2010 health advance. Decency should require Justice Thomas to abstain from the case, but he won't.
If the ACA is struck down, it will be a sad setback for America. All other modern democracies make health care a human right, guaranteed for everyone. It's shameful that America, the richest nation, can't do what other countries do. It's shameful that U.S. employers are saddled with severe costs of insuring employees and their families. It will be even more shameful if conservatives kill America's partial step toward universal insurance.
While arguments on the law were held last week, throngs of pickets surrounded the high court in Washington. One delegation consisted of Catholic-Protestant-Jewish leaders who called universal care a moral need.
Catholic nun Simone Campbell said: "Jesus challenges us to reach out and care for the vulnerable, respond to needs of the victim, and bind up their wounds. This is exactly what the ACA does."
Methodist minister Cynthia Abrams said: "Health care for all is a deep matter of faith ... . Health care is a moral imperative ... . Cover every single person."
Methodist leader James Winkler said: "Quite simply, we believe the Supreme Court and the decision it makes is a reflection of the moral and ethical character of our people. Providing comprehensive health insurance reform ensures every single person in the United States has access to needed care without regard to their ability to pay. To do otherwise is to elevate private insurance interests above the need of human beings."
If, as predicted, conservative justices topple the 2010 reform, we hope progressive U.S. leaders respond with an all-out crusade to achieve complete universal care. Already, nearly half of Americans are covered by governmental programs -- Medicare, 45 million; Medicaid, 60 million; veterans and military members, 9 million; Children's Health Insurance Program, 7 million, plus scores of public employee plans. Why not close the gap and cover everyone?
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote last week that President Obama and Democrats could turn a U.S. Supreme Court "defeat into victory for a single-payer health care system -- Medicare for all."
The chief Supreme Court objection to the ACA is that it requires Americans to buy insurance from private corporations. Reich contended:
"The president and the Democrats could have avoided this dilemma in the first place if they'd insisted on Medicare for all, or at least a public option. After all, Social Security and Medicare require every American to 'buy' them ... automatically in the form of a deduction from everyone's paychecks."
He continued: "Medicare is a great deal. Its administrative costs are only around 3 percent, while the administrative costs of private insurers eat up 30 to 40 percent of premiums."Medicare for all would save billions now wasted on commercial insurance overhead. Congress should have adopted that strategy to begin with -- and should pursue it if the high court forces a new approach.