In the winter of 2010, when things seemed to be rapidly falling apart at The White House, I wrote President Barack Obama an open letter. The fight to secure the president’s signature achievement was kneeling at the executioner’s table, ready for its death blow.
Back then, passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, an item to which the president has anchored his entire first term in office, was under incalculable siege from Republicans to the right and unruly Democratic senators to the left.
“Whatever you do now, you have to move ahead with health-care reform. You cannot scale it back or pass it in bits as I have heard you suggest. Your convictions are what will determine your legacy … Abraham Lincoln was never able to convince a large number of Americans on the savagery of slavery, it took a civil war to find a righteous peace.“
Today, in the summer of 2012, I’m happy Barack Obama stuck to his conviction and fought for it. I’m happier that this past week, after months of furious challenges, in which 26 states challenged the constitutionality of the law at the Supreme Court, a vote of 5-4 ratified the righteousness of the law.
And it is this decision, a victory by the slimmest of margins that has eyes widened with bewilderment and ears buzzing across the nation. That a deeply-rooted conservative justice, Chief Justice John. G. Roberts, Jr. would abandon fellow conservatives on the court to vote with the four liberal justices, and in so doing, prove the decisive vote that gives credence to the biggest landmark legislation in generations was, indeed, a transcendental moment.
For so long, opponents of the Affordable Care Act have and still continue to frame the law as an attack on personal freedoms and economic opportunity. For many conservatives, who most likely have no problem purchasing good insurance policies, the many ills which the law addresses are forgettable and postponable to some future date. Within this law are reforms that stipulate insurance companies can no longer discriminate against children with preexisting conditions; can no longer drop coverage if one gets sick; are required to provide free preventive care like check-ups and mammograms; young adults under the age of 26 are able to stay on their parent’s health care plans; and seniors receive a discount on their prescription drugs — a discount that’s already saved more than 5 million seniors on Medicare about $600 each.
By joining forces with President Obama, Chief Justice Roberts submitted to the opinion that life is sacrosanct and should be treated as such; which, at the end of the day, is what this whole debate about affordable health care boils down to. When it comes to the value of life and its preservation within the constraints of societal laws and norms, there are no ideologies; only what is right—a fact 30million Americans, who will now get health insurance and thus live longer and more fulfilled lives, will eagerly bear out. It is the only peculiar reason a conservative judge would so bravely resist the temptation to stay with his voting bloc on the court, but would rather bless a liberal president’s agenda.
The poor and the less-affluent amongst us demand an equal chance at survival-a right the state should always seek to secure when within its economic means to do so. Life and wellbeing should not be so steep a commodity that hardworking and responsible citizens scrape to afford it. This is what President Obama believes. Turns out, Chief Justice Roberts shares the same belief.